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Feb 28, 2008

Barcelona vs ValenciaXavi's last gasp equaliser gave Barcelona a very well deserving equaliser in the first leg of the Copa Del Rey semi final tie. Valencia went ahead against the run of play with a free flowing counter attack which was well finished by David Villa. For almost all the 90 minutes it looked like a match where Barcelona will never find a way past the Goal Keeper. But Xavi found the equaliser in the dying moments when he found the net after a wonderful run by Eto. Barcelona would have been hard done if they were to be condemned to defeat after having almost all the chances in the match. Any other season Valencia escaping from Nou Camp with a away goal would mean the end of the story for Barcelona, but then this season Valencia is nowhere near the best and the way they played at Nou Camp gives ample hope for Barcelona to beat them at Valencia.

The match began in the expected fashion with Barcelona having a tremendous triple chance in the seventh minute. He denied Xavi from a close range, the rebound was struck fiercely by Eto at the defense and Lionel Messi effort from the resulting rebound was chested away. Soon Joaquin's goal was disallowed for offside. In the 15th minute Milito saw his shot go high after a wonderful free kick from Deco. In the 28th minute Henry had a powerful shot saved by Hildebrand. Just before half time, Abidal's effort from over 25 yards was saved by Hildebrand. Hildebrand was the busiest man in the pitch and he was not going to have any reprieve in the second half also.

After the restart it was Messi who tested Hildebrand for the first time, his low shot would have found the net any day but not today. Then in the 58th minute Hildebrand denied Messi again with a wonderful save. In the 67th minute, Rijkaard opted to bring on Andres Iniesta and Bojan Krkic in place of Henry and Deco. That soon produced the result but at the wrong end. David Villa played a neat exchange before passing to Javier Arizmendi to the right; David Villa again made sure that he reached the end of Javier's excellent low cross. Barcelona then pushed forward for an equaliser. In the 81st minute Messi's another effort was saved by Hildebrand , Messi tried to be a little too smart there after his wonderful run past defenders from the left. In the end Hildebrand had all of Messi's effort under control. In the 84th minute an excellent long range effort from Milito was well saved by guess who Hildebrand. Then in the 89th minute Toure saw his wonderful curving kick from outside box parried away by Hildebrand . Then in the injury time about to finish Eto made a wonderful run in to the box (there were doubts whether he has handled the ball) his shot was blocked by Hildebrand but only to see Xavi finishing off from the rebound.

Barcelona did play well and was denied by Hildebrand for most of the time. Barcelona's defense in recent match has been caught sleeping at some times. There is no doubt that we can finish the game off at Valencia with a little more clinical finishing.

HighLights Of Match

Feb 27, 2008

Barcelona vs Valencia - Copa Del reyRijkaard have excluded Ronaldinho from the crucial first leg of the Cop Del Rey Semi Final against Valencia. The decision came as a surprise especially considering the fact that Valencia will have an advantage of playing the return leg at home. Along with Ronaldinho, Rijkaard has rested Sylvinho, Gudjonsen, Giovanni and Rafael Marquez also for this match. Marquez is out with pain in his foot and others are excluded as he can have only a 16 man squad for Copa Del Rey as opposed to the 18 in the league. Deco and Henry are back in the squad. Henry should start the match on the left along with Eto and Messi. But the unluckiest one will be Iniesta who is sure to miss out of a starting role and have to wait for his opportunity on the bench. There should not be much change in the back four, but the only thing that has to be seen is where Pinto will get an opportunity under the Goal.

For Valencia, their last encounter with Barcelona was a forgettable affair. The Catalans ran riot in their defense, but this Valencia side for the first time in this season has started showing some consistency which was expected from them. Still the absence of Miguel and Marchena will be a blow to the team when considering the fact that Camp Nou is one of the most difficult place to travel. For Barcelona it’s essential to close out this leg in this match itself. The last time we traveled to face a decent opponent in the second leg; we were out of the competition. But the recent resurgence should give them enough encouragement to perform well. It’s crucial not to think of the return leg at this moment. It’s better to consider one game at a time.

Always Remember "If you chase two rabbits, both will escape."

"Concentration is the factor that causes the great discrepancy between men and the results they achieve... the difference in their power of calling together all the rays of their ability and concentrating on one point." - Orison Swett Marden

Feb 25, 2008

Barcelona vs LevanteWith a scintillating performance against Levante at Home, Barcelona's return to the beautiful football they play is complete. They looked very comfortable, and is no surprise that all this is happening because Ronaldinho is finally enjoying his football. With Getafe condemning Real Madrid to their first home defeat of this season, Barcelona finds the leaders a mere two points away. The best thing is that everything now lies in the hands of Barcelona. If they can continue their good form at worse they can decide the title race at Barnebeu. Nobody expected miracles from Levante; the entire match was watched or looked upon to decide whether the good signs shown at Celtic park were just a Mirage. But Barcelona with their performance has reignited the hopes of a wonderful treble. I know its a little premature, but then human minds can't stop dreaming isn't it?

Barcelona started the match with Henry and Deco given a break from the hectic schedule. Messi, Eto and Ronaldinho joined together to recreate the magic of the fantastic three. Iniesta and Xavi paired with Toure who for me was the best player on the pitch, he won most of the tackle and his vision for that Eto goal was simply awesome. Puyol got back his customary position with Zambrotta and Sylvinho joining him and Milito. Barcelona showed their intent pretty early and in the fourth minute there was a wonderful 1-2 between Ronnie and Messi in the box, but the final ball to Iniesta was well intercepted by defense. Then in the 12th minute an excellent cross form Ronnie finds Messi in the box, Levante Goalkeeper Kujovic makes an excellent interception to deny Eto of the final ball. Then in the 14th minute as everyone expected, Barcelona takes the lead with a Xavi Goal. Iniesta plays the ball to Eto, the defense some how manages to throw up a desperate successful tackles but the rebound fell in the path of Xavi. In the 16th minute Ronaldinho should have doubled the lead when he failed to keep his shot low. Xavi send a wonderful pass to Eto who sets up the whole chance with a beautiful decoy by Iniesta, Ronaldinho was trying to put it into the top corner. In the 27th minute Geijo cuts inside Puyol but his shot hits the inside of the post and somehow stays out. In the 32nd minute Sylvinho shoots high after a brilliant inter play between himself, Ronaldinho and Iniesta. Then in the 39th minute Eto couldn't find a decent header onto an excellent cross from Ronaldinho. Barcelona were made to pay for their lapses after Mustafa Riga coverts the penalty which was given away by Zambrotta for handling the ball in the box. Within four minutes Barcelona responds well to take back the lead through Lionel Messi. He played a beautiful 1-2 with xavi and converts from the narrowest of angles and from a non existent gap.

In the 47th minute Xavi sends in a beautiful flick spotting Eto's run but the Goal keeper responds quickly. Then in the 55th minute Eto makes the score line 3-1 with a wonderful finish after Messi set him up. In the 62nd minute Eto adds one more to his tally when Messi unselfishly placed the ball on ton Eto's path; after a delightful Toure flick above the defense which found Messi. Eto should have completed his hat trick in the 65th minute when Ronaldinho placed a terrific through pass to Eto, but his first touch was too heavy. Then in the 74th minute Messi produces terrific football to stay of the challenges of Levante players and finds Eto with a beautiful pass. But Eto hits it straight at Kujovic. By the time Ronaldinho was taken off and Bojan was brought in. In the 78th minute Bojan tries for a long range shot from outside the box, but loses his footing. In the 85th minute Levante tried to catch Barcelona back four by surprise but Valdes managed to save Riga's shot. Then in the 87th minute Eto completes his hat trick with a bizarre finish, after Bojan unselfishly gave the ball to Eto. Then in the 91st minute Bojan's puts a great pass towards Giovanni who came in for Messi, the Goal Keeper intercepts hit. By that time Referee had decided to put Levante out of their misery and blew the final whistle.

For Barcelona this was an excellent display of attacking football but the result is made sweeter by the fact that Madrid loses to Getafe. Yaya Toure's presence in the midfield is reassuring and Ronaldinho's return to form is the most promising. He may not be 100% fit but very soon we can see him in his real avatar. Messi has found his goal scoring touch and Iniesta and Xavi both are becoming more and more consistent with each match. It looks like everything is going well for Barcelona (touch wood) and nothing for Madrid. That's a strange reversal of luck.

Messi Goal see the reaction of Defender

Feb 21, 2008

Celtiv vs BarcelonaAfter a long time, indeed a very long time we got a chance to witness the awesome firepower in the Barcelona ranks. With their performance against Celtic they might have again reignited the hope of seeing the magnificent Barcelona again. One of the main reason of Barcelona's awesome display was a very much improved performance, may be his best this season by the biggest of all stars - Ronaldinho. As I described in the Zaragoza match report he looked very comfortable on the pitch. Rijkaard threw up some surprises when he put Ronaldinho in the starting eleven. Eto rightly was not rushed into competitive match and started in the bench. But biggest surprise for me was Deco's presence in the starting line up, he was erratic in the early matches and i expected him to be dropped. Rijkaard decided to place his trust on him and he did absolute justice to his manager's decision making skill. With a 3-2 win Barcelona almost have placed a foot in the next round. But complacency will be Barcelona's enemy, they just have to look back to last year Copa Del Rey tie with Getafe for evidences. But then Barcelona in this scenario has the advantage of playing the second leg at home and it will be too tough for Barcelona to concede two goals in Camp Nou without scoring at least one, then nothing can be predicted.

Barcelona started with Ronaldinho on the left, Henry donning the centre forward cap and Messi back in his Favorite right position. The midfield was made up of Yaya, Deco and Iniesta. Yaya's presence indeed calmed down the nerves of Barcelona team and he had an excellent game. Milito and Marquez formed their formidable partnership in the centre of defense with Puyol on right and Abidal on left. As expected the atmosphere at Celtic Park, Glasgow was more than electrifying. Barcelona looked very sharp from the beginning and took very little time to settle down. In the 2nd minute Ronaldinho gave long through cross to Messi, but he fails to convert. This was no spectacular moment in the match, but was enough to reassure the Barca fans that he has not lost the good touch which he displayed at Zaragoza. In the 13th minute Iniesta saw his hot saved by Celtic Goalie Artur Boruc after the defense gave the ball away. A minute later Henry was denied by the Caddis just in front of line from a corner, which Henry skillfully controlled by his chest and volleyed. In the 16th minute Celtic shocked Barcelona by scoring their first goal from their only attack till then. It all started from a poorly taken free kick by Ronaldinho which found McGeady in the far right, Puyol, was not able to stop MCGeady's run and his cross was not cleared by the defense. It eventually found McDonald and his clear cut cross in to the box was turned in to the net by a diving Vennegoor of Hesselink. If Celtic goal shocked the entire Barcelona team, then Barcelona equaliser went unnoticed for a moment. The stadium hardly started celebrating the first Celtic goal Barcelona struck back through Messi after a beautiful one two with Deco. Barcelona slowly started taking control of the game from that moment. Ronaldinho was involved in every move and has been successful in dragging defenders along with him to create spaces for others. In the 22nd minute Marquez wins a free kick in a good position outside the box, Ronaldinho's free kick was just a little high but was not bad. Barcelona was constantly raiding the Celtic defense but the final clear cut ball was not coming. In the 28th minute Deco was indeed very lucky not to pick up a yellow card, as he grabbed the ball claiming a handball. Deco could not wait too much for that yello as he managed to put his name in referee's book after two minutes when he did not back up from a free kick. In the 34th minute Puyol crosses into the box and founds Messi, who tries to volley but couldn't control. The angle was too tight. In the 36th minute Abidal muscles out Nakamura and sends a great pass towards Henry in the box, but Henry shot over the bar. Then as in the first Goal after Barcelona wasted a chance at Celtic goal, Celtic went ahead with debutant Barry Robson's header. Again the all attack started with the same man Aiden McGeady who lifted the ball into the area which was lobbed past Valdes by Robson, who came in late and avoided Milito's notice. In the 40th minute Deco and Messi tried to replicate the first goal but this time Boruc comes early and collects it. In the 43rd minute Ronaldinho finds Messi in the box, but to shoot awfully wide. In the 44th minute Robson steals ball from Abidal and passes to McGeady who shoots slightly wide after cutting inside Puyol. Barcelona went into the first half with a goal down; this was the first occasion in 2008 where they have conceded more than one goal in a match.

After the break it was a complete Barcelona show. In the 51st minute Messi shot was deflected; Iniesta volleyed wide from the resulting corner. In the 52nd minute Henry restore parity with a trademark Thierry Henry goal. Ronaldinho placed the ball in to the path of Henry who moved inside the box and curled the ball into the far right corner. What a finish!!!! Maybe this might be the start of the Henry era. In the 55th minute Puyol places a very good pass to Messi inside the Box, but Robson did well to kill the chance. In the 58th minute the fantastic three - Henry, Messi and Ronaldinho displays why they are revered such high. Messi give the ball to Ronnie from the right and cuts in, Ronaldinho gives it back with an exquisite back heel, inside the box Messi gives the ball to Henry but the defense somehow managed to cut off the final ball from Henry to Messi. In the 62nd minute Messi shoots straight at the Goal Keeper after a great run into the box. In next minute Henry misses agonizingly close after Abidal finds him in the box. In the 75th minute Xavi's wonderful free kick finds Puyol in the box but heads straight at Boruc. Then in the 78th minute Messi put Barcelona in the lead for the first time in the match when he latched on to a poor clearance from defense. The match ended with Samaras getting booked for a dive inside the penalty box.

Barcelona looked sharp and may be this is a sign for things to come. Milito was for me the best player on the pitch. Messi looked like rediscovering his touch, Henry looks dangerous when he slotted in the left and most importantly our Hero Ronaldinho is slowly coming back.

Messi First Goal 1-1

Henry Goal 2-2

Messi Second Goal 2-3

visit FutBolCuyuz for rest of Goals

Feb 17, 2008

I don't think there is anything which is more God send than this victory at Zaragoza. The second Barcelona Goal came through a penalty, which got even the most optimistic Barcelona supporters surprised. Barcelona entered the match after receiving the good news that Real Madrid has slipped in Betis. Earlier I have written a post Accepting The Inevitable in which i described how difficult is for Madrid to lose matches now. I was proven wrong in the second successive occasion when Madrid lost their second consecutive away match. In that post I have written that it is hard for this Barcelona team to win all the matches, I was again proved wrong by God this time. AnywayBarcelona successfully cut down the lead to five points as if now. Zaragoza may feel hard done by luck as they expected to take away atleast a point from this match, but then inability to convert for the second time from a string of chances might have proved their nemesis.

Barcelona started with Giovani, Henry and Messi upfront and Deco, Xavi and Edmilson in the middle. Rijkaard made another return to his trademark ploy of using Puyol as a Right Back. Why is he persisting with Deco is a mystery, he has been one of the worse players on the pitch eventhough he made the Henry Goal. As expected Zaragoza had the majority of oppurtunity in the early exchanges. In the 4th minute Marquez did really well to cut off a wonderful run from Brazilian Oliviera. In the next minute Diego Milito had the first shot of the game when he shot straight at Valdes.In the 6th minute Zaragoza should have gone one up, Oliviera rounded off the defense wonderfully and sends a cross from left side of box, but Sergio Garcia makes a mess of it by shooting high. Zaragoza were always successfully isolating Messi, whenever he gets the ball he is sorrounded by three defenders. This also has been the Deco's worst season in terms of Goal scoring for lat eight year, and he was giving a very well crafted display of why. In the 15th minute Puyol makes a wonderful run from the right, a run which is a trademark of Messi. He has seriously improved as a Right Back, but still send him back to where he belong Frank. As usual Deco wastes the free kick. In the 20th minute Messi failed to control a very good long pass from Abidal, has he been successful in doing so that would have been interesting. In the 24th minute Oliviera shoots just wide from the box, after he created a seemingly non existent angle. In the 26th minute Barcelona got the first shot at goal when Messi played a wonderful through ball to Giovani, which was well saved by Zaragoza Goal Keeper. In the 34th minute Sergio Garcia reacted very slowly to receive a wonderful cross from oliviera. In the next minute Henry finds the net from an exquisite Deco pass. The chest control of Henry was awesome and he never wasted a single second there. In the 39th minute Valdes does well to come sliding forward and collect a through ball to Diego Milito. In the 40th minute, deco saw his shot saved after an excellent exchange with Messi. In the next minute Marquez conceded a penalty which Diego shoots high. There was no doubt about the penalty claims.

Zaragoza came back from the break with a sense of purpose. In the 52 minute Diego denired by Valdes legs, the rebound was shot wide. That was an excellent save by Valdes. In the 53rd minute Oliviera scores from a great pass from Sergio Garcia. In the 58th minute Edmilson was taken out and Yaya was brough in. In the 60th minute Diego Milito heads a free header wide. In the 66th minute Barcelona almost conceded the second goal when Valdes failed to reach the ball from a free kick - Milito somehow scrambled the ball away. As in the earlier matches Barcelona passing has become somewhat like school children, actuall they will pass better. In the 73rd minute Xavi sets up Deco but he shoots wide, he should have atleast tested the Goalie from that angle. In the 74th minute Ronaldinho camein place of Giovanni. In the 75 th minute Sergio Garcia long range effort went high after Abidal gave away the ball, if it had gone in it would have been the Goal of the season. In the 79th minute Henry shoots high after Ronnie beautifully sets him up. But the most controversial decision came in the 81st minute when Barcelona was awarded the penalty after the referee somehow got convinced that Juanfran has handled the ball. Replays suggest a completely different thing, but the worst thing was there was no Barcelona players around him and none appealed also. In the confusion and mayhem which arose after that i don't knbow exactly how many zaragoza player got yellow card. Ronaldinho as cool as ice converts the penalty to take barcelona 2-1 up and five points near to leaders. But there was no doubt thet the penalty was very harsh, when considering that not even a single barcelona players was in any kind of position to use the ball. The last chance of match went to Ronnie when he shoots wide after an excellent pass from Puyol, Ronnie's control and technique was awesome.

For some game running, Valdes was the best player on the pitch. But for me the man of the match should be Oliviera, whenever he got the ball our defense simply trembled. Ronaldinho looked very sharp today as he was trying to setup other players rather than trying to score by himself. He should get a much better playing time against Celtic. In the end my conclusion was that was a very undeserving victory but a very important one.

Ronaldinho Penalty

Feb 11, 2008

Rijkaard and MourinhoAfter his failure to win a substantial trophy last season, Rijkaard is under immense pressure to avoid the same this season. His best chance lies in landing the Copa Del Rey cup. Many sections in Media and fans are asking for his removal, but does removing Rijkaard will solve Barcelona’s entire problem? Rijkaard for me have been very soft on some of the superstars in the team, but then it does not surprise you - as they have done so much for him. Or in other words, they all together have climbed many heights. A person who has been linked too much for the Barcelona job in the wake of Rijkaard leaving is - José Mário dos Santos Félix Mourinho. Everybody expected Mourinho to fill the job for his previous experience with Barcelona. But anyway John Laporta for the time being, rightly has put an end to all those rumours by giving the boards backing for Frank Rijkaard. But by the end of season, especially if they can't create a spectacular turn around in the League, we might hear those calls for Rijkaard's head again.

But if in any case Rijkaard leaves, Is Mourinho the man we want to see at the helm of Barcelona? I would prefer anybody except him. Firstly it is because of the fact that he is a very defensively minded coach. Will he fit into the current playing style of Barcelona? Especially when we consider the young players available in Barcelona - the likes of Messi, Iniesta, Bojan, Giovanni etc, they will never fit into his style of play where even the centre striker is expected to defend in the box. So obviously when he arrives he has to bring a group of players who fits into his style, which also automatically forces many of the above mentioned players leaving Barcelona.

Secondly, his relationship with Barcelona is not any cordial level. Barcelona players and fans I believe hate him to the core. So it will be difficult for him to work along with them, especially if he suffers some early setbacks. Barcelona players can be expected to be professional - but I don't think Messi will ever forget the way he called him names after the leg at Stamford Bridge. This wonderful persona was solely responsible for making the Barcelona- Chelsea matches in recent times so violent, in and off the pitch. He calls himself a "Special One ", but for me if there is a special one in today's coaching fraternity it is undoubtedly - Guis Hiddink, he can do wonders with whatever you give to him. If we decide to call him the "Special One" for his achievements, then the current English National Coach - Fabio Cappello is a "Very Very Very Special One".

Thirdly and most importantly, I don't think that he will fit into the Barcelona club values. F C Barcelona indeed is something "More Than A Club". The commitment for the club not only is in the soccer front but also is in the social front. The recent agreement with ACNUR and UNICEF are testimony on this front. Barcelona on all fron believes in the fact of giving respect to their opponents and competitors. I am not saying that no untoward incidents have happened which involve Barcelona players and fans, but they are so few in between. If Mourinho arrives, he will change all these. This "Special One" is indeed known more for his verbal taunts and will take out all the respect the world has for Barcelona players and the club. He has done that with Chelsea and almost made Chelsea the most hated club in the world (consider only non Chelsea fans). There may be people who argue that people are jealous of Chelsea's success, but then why people around the world are not that jealous or critical of the Barcelona (previous two seasons), Milan, Brazil teams. They all have tasted success at a rate very similar actually more than Chelsea has. Wise men says "Its difficult to be grateful in defeat rather than victory", but Mourinho can't do both. Rijkaard to a great extent has upheld his personality and the Clubs pride with the way he dealt with his opponents and has been very graceful in both victories and defeats.

Mourinho on doubt is a good tactician, but there is no guarantee that he will bring success. When ManU and Arsenal slowly started to find parity with Chelsea he had no idea to deal with it and it resulted in his exit from Stamford Bridge. Mourinho according to me, if he arrives in Barcelona will do more bad than good to the Club. The above mentioned views are my personal ones and everybody else is welcomed to either agree or disagree with these. We can have a great debate on these. But sitting at a distance of almost 6000 miles from Barcelona (in India), bombarded with all the English premier League details left and right if I am addicted to F C Barcelona - there should have been something more to the Club than its players and achievements. And I truly don't want to see F C Barcelona lose its soul and become "a typical another" club in Europe.

"Will always remain a Cule, despite of whatever happens".

Feb 10, 2008

Sevilla might be cursing their luck after Barcelona managed to take a draw from a match in which they shut off barcelona completely till the 75th minute. Sevilla showed the signs of the previous season, which took them to enormous sucess. If it was not for a sudden, unexpected Goal from Xavi and sending of Keita, Barcelona might have staing again at a nine point lead. Now it will only become eight point lead, is that too much of variation - God Knows? In contrast to Sevilla's goal, which came everyone expected it to come, Barcelona's Goal came from no where. Sevilla will have only themselves to blame as they could have shut off Barcelona with atleast a dozen goals. The official Barcelona site reports " With commitment and a desire to win, Barça managed a draw in the always difficult Sevilla stadium. " Maybe I was sleeping as I didn't see any above mentioned commitment or desire. Maybe only the clever gets to see it, and obviously I am dumb.

Rijkaard staretd with Oleguer at Right Back joining hands with Thuram, Milito and Abidal. The midfield position was occupied by expectedly Edmillson, Xavi and Iniesta. Messi started in the centre along with Henry on left and Giovani on Right. The game started with Barcelona matching Sevilla with some agressive running into the Box, but soon Sevilla was to shut off Barcelona. Luis fabiano and Kanoute was creating havoc for Barcelona defense, with an understanding which remembers the way Eto and Ronnie used to play two season ago. As expected almost all the problem for Barcelona was coming from the wide angle in the two wings, especially Capel was at his menancing best. In the ninth minute Capel gets a free kick for a foul on him by Oleguer, Dani Alves took the resulting free kick and valdes has to produce the first of string serious of saves he made yesterday. The rebound somehow found fabiano and Valdes produce another good save to deny him. Barcelona responded with Xavi placing a cut through pass to henry in the 12th minute, but he couldn't find a final pass to Messi in the box. In the 14th minute kanoute misses a very good chance in the box from a cross from the left. By that time Sevilla has taken full control of the game and every time the ball reaches Dani Alves or Capel Barcelona defense were having nightmares. In the 18th minute Milito gets booked for a desperate lunge on Keita. In the 21st minute Xavi finds Giovani in the box but he is blocked comfortably by the Goal Keeper, he should have taken the shot a bit earlier. By that time Luis fabiano was creating havoc in Barcelona defense - 25th minute he gets a free kick in a very promising position but Alves wastes it. In the 30th minute Alves finds Kanoute through a long pass, who places the ball back to Fabiano whose shot was saved by Valdes. In 32nd minute Valdes throws up another wonderful save to deny Kanoute header from a Capel cross. then in the 35th minute as everyone expected Capel scores with an easy tapping from Jesus navas cutting cross across the goal mouth. Again it was Alves who cleverly slipped the ball to Navas. If anyone expected that barcelona would be shaken by the Goal, they were all wrong - Barcelona was struggling to find the ball. In the 41st minute Keita fails to convert from a free header of a corner. Barcelona was really lucky not to have a much bigger goal difference by half time.

After the half time the only thing that changed was Sevilla allowed Barcelona to take a little more of position. barcelona players looked not interested in getting the goal back. Its one thing that Sevilla was shutting them off, but not trying hard has no excuse. Rijkaard put on Ronaldinho and Marquez in place of Thuram and Edmilson but things did not improve much. To top it all every one of them is ready to fall over for the slightest of touch by defenders. In the 50th minute iniesta found Henry on the left of the box with a wonderful pass, who did well to cross the ball across the Sevilla goal mouth but none of other players seemed to be interested. In the 61st Xavi's long range went wide. In the 58th minute Gudjohnsen came on for Henry and messi moved to the right - he looked so comfortable there. In the 68th minute milito saves Barcelona with a desperate intervention which some how save navs wonderful run and subsequent shot. The frustration of Barcelona players were eveident when Messi got booked for an unwanted challenge. In the 75th minute Marquez almost scored the goal but in the wrong goal, when he truned a Luis Fabiano shot to his own Goal. Valdes was sheer lucky to save that and that save proved so dearly as Barcelona against the run of play found the equaliser within 3o seconds. gidjonsen placed the ball to Messi who placed a absolutely inch perfect pass to xavi who made no mistake. In the 78th minute Keita was sent off after a second yellow card for a foul on Messi, who suddeny seemed to woke up from his deep slumber. Keita was really unlucky as his first yellow came for nothing. That sent off changed the match and Barcelona slowly took control of the game. Messi was finding so much space ahead of him and utilising it. In the 81st minute another woinderful Messi run creates havoc resulting in another free kick, this time Ronnie hits high. In the 84th minute Oleguer makes a mess of a high bouncing long ball and let Capel free with the ball who shoots high. In the 85th minute Ronnie free kick earns a corner, Messi plays back the resulting corner on to the Goal line, but nobody reaches it. In the 89th minute messi gets another free kick and Ronnie again hits on to the wall.

Barcelona should consider themselves very lucky to get a point out of this match. The lack of commitment from players was evident throughout the match. If it was not for valdes we would have been in deep trouble. Messi looked like he was not at all interested to play along with the team till the first goal came. Its time he start from the bench. The Sevilla forward line were defending upfront but Barcelona forwards were not willing to do that.

Feb 9, 2008

Bojan and GiovaniIn the begining of this season it was clear that the two wonderfully talented kids - Bojan and Giovani ,from Barcelona youth Academy will get their first taste of first team football. But a series of injuries and loss of form of the senior players have made sure that both of them remain an integral part of Barcelona team this season. In the start of season , there was too much of pressure on Rijkaard to include them in the side inorder to avoid other clubs robbing them. In contrast to some of their seniors who went in search for better shores, these two had made it clear in advance that their future lies with Barcelona. Giovnani was expected to make a sizeable number of appearances and Bojan was expected to make his debut this season. But as destined they both have made a sizeable number of appearances and also have made it into starting eleven on many number of occasion. This also has a downside with fans and media criticising them (like Giovani was criticised some game before) for the lack of impact in some games. The media and fans will do a world of good to the club if they take the time to remember that they just made their debuts this season. Messi, when he debuted some season ago was similiar to them, but ofcourse had more talent.

Of these two, Bojan Krikic looked to me more comfortable with rigour of La Liga football. This may be of the fact that he is an out and out striker, and (apart from Eto we don't have one also) he gets to play in his favourite position more often. Giovani had made much bigger impact when he was brought as a substitute but in matches where he started have to admit he was a dissappointment. Don't have to look too far the last match against Osasuna will act as a testimony for what i have written here. But I believe this may be because of the lack of centre forward in the Barcelona player setup. He is asked to do so much more than he might be capable of. Bojan already has four goals from 18 apperances which is very good as debutant, but also reiterates the fact that he is a out and out Centre Forward. Along with messi, these two will for the future of the Barcelona attack line up. But overall we can confidently say that these two kids have taken their baby strides in the big leagues of football very firmly.

Rijkaard's trouble in the match against Sevilla doesn't looks like ending - now Deco and Sylvinho has been declared unfit for the tie. The three reserve players - Espasandín , Víctor Vázquez and Víctor Sánchez have been named in the squad. Out of which Víctor Espasandín has a high chance of making his debut as he is considered as a solid Left back. As i said in my last post it maight be time for Messi to justify world's belief that he is the New Maradona. This match will depend upon him a lot. Thinking about Ronaldinho, some strange idea came to my mind - we can place him in the Midfield may be in the position Gudjonsen is playing. That will cut down the expectation on him of scoring Goals and will surely help him in assisting more. Every time I see him on pitch he looks like trying too much for scoring Goals, because of which he is not assisting his fellow players or creating chances.

Feb 8, 2008

barcelona vs SevillaNow its confirmed that Barcelona will miss the service of Bojan and Zambrotta for the upcoming crunch match against Sevilla. Zambrotta will be out for a week with the injury he picked up in the match against Portugal. Bojan, who is still suffering from gastroenteritis, which has delayed his much published debut for Spain. Barcelona is unbeaten in the last eight away matches in all competition - in the league they have drawn twice and won twice. But remaining unbeaten does not solve Barcelona's problem. As everyone knows they have to pick up every available point in order to launch a final assault on the Championship. Mexican internationals Rafa Márquez and Giovani dos Santos are expected to be back in Barcelona by Friday after a friendly match against United States. Rijkaard had a depleted squad for yesterday's training because of the international duties (i will not call it a commitment) of the players. The players who trained at La Masía are Milito, Oleguer, Xavi, Valdes, Edmilson, Gudjohnsen, Iniesta, Messi and Ronaldinho.

The injury to Zambrotta would be a serious setback to Rijkaard as Oleguer will be the only person left to take up that job. Edmilson should be able to fit into the defensive midfielder job. Oleguer never had any competitive game since last October or so, should be expected to be a little rusty. Another question is that whether Sylvinho be picked ahead of Abidal. I expect so. When the last time Barcelona went to Sevilla they came up with a spirited 1-1 draw. They opted for a defensive minded approach that time, but that will not help their cause this time. That was a two legged tie and Barcelona di plan well. But anything less than a victory here now will spoil all the good work done last week when Madrid slipped. Adding up to the Barcelona's worries are the fact that Kanoute, Fabiano and Alves will be available for Saturday’s tie. These three especially will be a very big headache for any defense. Therefore Barcelona has to show their offensive strength more over here. They need to surprise them in the early encounters and need to make sure that Sevilla does not dominate game for extended time. If they get to dominate for more time they will surely crack the Barcelona defense. Barcelona still have a very dangerous side even with all the injuries. We can expect Milito and Marquez to make up the defense. The attacking lineup would be made up of Messi, Henry and Iniesta, with Gudjonsen and Xavi pairing Edmilsson in the middle. To win they have to dominate, they have to defend upfront and importantly not to give away possession cheaply. My prediction will be Barcelona winning 3-1 with Messi scoring a brace. This is the time when Messi has to move out of the shadow of his legendary colleagues.

There is a sense of resentment among Barcelona fans - that the international duties will be the one harming Barcelona's chances. I always believe that a player belong to his Country more than the Club. Barcelona has a very big squad to work with and the unavailability of some players should not harm them. If Barcelona is finding them in a very tough situation, it’s solely because of their lack of commitment, not because of any international duties.

Feb 6, 2008

Its with great hapiness I am writing that this blog has been nominated for the 'Best La Liga Blog' award at SoccerLens Readers Choice Award. It also give me great pride to be placed in the league of best in the blogging world such as, Forca Barca etc. This nomination would provide me enthusiasm to continue my work with more passion. If you like this blog and think high about this Please take the time to vote for me Vote For Me. Let the best blog win.

Feb 4, 2008

Xavi's Goal against OsasunaIt took an 87th minute desperate goal from Xavi to keep Barcelona's title ambitions from sinking down. Barcelona is now six points away from the leader and if they can keep winning their rest of the games, it will only take a single help from one team to overcome Madrid. With Madrid's loss of Saturday Barcelona knew what they have o do and did that in some unconvincing fashion. They looked much better than the 1-0 goal line suggested, but it was the Camp Nou turf which almost proved to be their nemesis. Camp Nou had a great share of rain and the turf was soaked in water at almost everywhere. Osasuna looked much better to handle the turf than Barcelona.

Barcelona started with Thuram joining Milito in the back, which was a surprise to me. I thought Marquez will move back. Anyway I was luckily proved wrong as if it was not for Thuram we would have been in deep trouble. He was the best Barcelona player on the pitch and the only one who looked to have adjusted to the wet turf. Barcelona players and fans looked like motivated from the beginning and controlled the first half completely. Bojan started with Messi and Henry upfront and Iniesta and Deco partnered Marquez in the middle. Barcelona started well in the attack which resulted in a 6th minute free kick by deco which found Milito in the box, but his shot was blocked well by defenders. In the 7th minute Henry back heel found Messi after a wonderful one two with the same player, but Messi shot went wide. In the 10th Minute Messi fails to convert from a very good corner from Deco. But the next minute Osasuna counter caught Barcelona defense napping, who somehow managed to scramble it away. In the 11th minute henry saw his shot comfortably saved by Osasuna Keeper, Ricardo. In the next minute Bojan's low shot was well saved by Ricardo, Bojan showed wonderful vision to create the chance in which he used the defender as a cover. In the 16th minute a dangerous cross from the left found Plasil in the Barcelona box, luckily for Barcelona Plasil slipped. By that time the trouble for Barcelona defense was becoming evident. Milito looked good but Marquez, Abidal and Zambrotta looked horrible at times. In the 25th minute Juanfran was booked for a challenge from behind on Marquez, who himself escaped a caution for his dangerous foul on Plasil. In the 26th minute Thuram has to intervene to block a clear chance after Milito gave the ball away cheaply. In the 29th minute Iniesta might have thought he scored after Bojan beautifully sets him up only to see a desperate goal line clearance denying him. With the half time approaching Barcelona upped the tempo. Henry header was denied well by Ricardo in the 33rd minute and he again denied Bojan this time in the 39th minute. Messi who had a very quiet night showed his talent in the 41st minute- he dribbled past defenders in to the box but shot wide. In the last minute Deco sends a wonderful cross from the right but none of the Barcelona players were able to reach the end of it. In the attacking front Bojan looked more comfortable and Thuram was Barcelona's savior in many occasions.

In contrast Barcelona started the second half very quietly, the inability to find a goal and the sate of turf looked to unsettled them. Everyone of them passing ability was put to question and Osasuna players didn't have to work that hard to get the ball. Rijkaard made his first substitution of the match when he took Henry off and brought Giovanni in - which in the end proved to be very crucial. From the moment he came Giovanni looked more comfortable than others. In the 68th minute Rijkaard granted fans their wish by bringing Ronaldinho in place of an out of sort Messi. That had an immediate impact when Deco shot wide in a move started by Ronnie himself. By that time Barcelona players were very disorganized and their frustration were also shown as they found to get a good share of the ball. In the 83rd minute Sola's header was well saved by Valdes, by the time it was pouring again. Rijkaard made his final substitution as he brought an Xavi in place of an average looking deco. That turned the table. In the 88th minute Giovanni did well to control an aerial ball in the box, but there was no opportunity until he turned around the defender and set Iniesta but desperate defending blocked Iniesta and the rebound fell in front of Xavi who did well to keep the ball down and slot pass the hapless Goal keeper who have already dived to save Iniesta shot. I had a fear whether Osasuna's time wasting tactic throughout second half will come to haunt Barcelona, luckily the added time was only four minutes. In the 93rd minute Valdez did well to hold on to a fearsome shot from javi Garcia.

Most of the players for me looked in good touch today but the pitch was undoing them. Anyway Barcelona has cut Madrid's lead by six points and have to do a lot of thanking to Thuram.

Xavi Goal against Osasuna

Feb 3, 2008

Its strange how Hope chose to resurrect itself from its deep slumber now and then. Barcelona's title hopes were revived yesterday by the most unlikeliest source of it all - Almeria. Almeria are currently at the seventh spot but nobody expected to beat Real Madrid - and that too by a 2-0 margin. Juanito Gutierrez put the hosts ahead after 18 minutes through a goal which might be put on question about its validity. Alvaro Negredo doubled the lead just after half-time from the penalty spot after he had been brought down by Fabio Cannavaro. It didn't come as a surprise that they kept another clean sheet, five in a row.

Almeria buyoed by their excellent defensive record faced the with a defensive mind set up. They were clinical in defense and when they got the window of oppurtunity, they made Madrid pay. But the real beneficiary would be Barcelona which may find themselves reducing the lead to six points, provided they win. With last week draw with Athletic every hope seemed to lose. But this unexpected turn of events have changed the complete scenario around on its axis. Rijkaard is expected to pick his strongest side. A side without Puyol, who is out with injury. But that should not trouble Rijkaard as Milito and Maruez combined well early this season. Marquez should be expected to move to the back with Edmilson taking up the Defensive Midfielder role.

But the real trouble might be finding goals. Osasuna cannot be taken lightly and Barcelona should make sure that they kill the game off well in advance. Any lapse in concentration may shut this wind of oppurtunity completely. Its essential that they win this match well so that they make a strong statement to the leaders.

As a Bulgarian Proverb says - " Seize the opportunity by the beard, for it is bald behind."
Second Goal By Almeria

Feb 1, 2008

With the 1-0 victory over Villareal, Barcelona steps close to a coveted Copa Del Rey glory. Barcelona should have won more comfortably but they failed to find the second killer blow. Anyway this victory takes them one step closer and they look the most strongest among the other semi final contenders.

Match started with Villareal allowing Barcelona to dominate. Barcelona started the match with four of their very best guarding the defense - Abidal, Milito, Puyol and Zambrotta. Marquez as expected donned the role of defensive midfielder, but the most surprising selection was Deco getting the nod ahead of Xavi. Iniesta joined these two in midfield and Henry, Bojan and Messi made the front three. barcelona's back four had an excellent night as there were very few chances created by Villareal and the best of which was Rossi's effort which went wide in the 17th minute. Messi, indeed was the player to watch and created all sort of trouble with his excellent dribbling skills which accounted for pascal Cygan being sent off.

Just before the half time Thierry Henry scored the only goal in the match as he headed home a wonderful free kick from Deco in the 41st minute. Whatever be his goal scoring voes in La Liga, Henry really enjoys playing in the Spanish Kings cup. Messi had an excellent night where he showed signs of returning back to his usual best. The only blemish in his performance was the missed penalty, but i solely blame Rijkaard for that as he brought Ronaldinho when he was about to take the kick. Whatever we saw of Ronaldinho today, should convince Rijkaard not to bring him in starting lineup. He should be slowly brought back to game.

Highlights of the Match

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