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Mar 31, 2009

Victor Valdes attempt to get himself a new much improved contract is not new. Actually few weeks back he has kind of issued an ultimatum and that resulted in Barca looking for a decent option. But recently there were reports emerging that FC Barcelona were ready to offer him what he demands. Aparently the Catalan establishment has come to a decision that "Valdes is the best of the available lot". Many of Barca fans could be annoyed with such a finding, For the fans Valdes has been the weak-link in a near-perfect side. But I always believed that he is the best we can have. My previous post emphasise on that - Being Valdes. Nobody can dis-respect his contribution to the team - especially two one on one saves he pulled up against Henry in Champions League final and another splendid save against Real Madrid earlier this season. But between these remarkable feats he has performed unbelievable blunders and that worries the fans. With Valdes we all feel that we can be never sure about a low scoring victory.

There is no doubt that a club of Barcelona's stature needs a better Goal Keeper - Someone like Buffon, Iker, Cech, Van der Saar etc. But none of these exceptional goal keeper's are available. Once you take them out of the lot, we won't be surprised why Barcelona technical team came to the before-mentioned conclusion. Victor Valdes is one of the best available when you take the Buffon's out of the pool. But Valdes' agent Gines Carvajal does not agree with me. He rated the player with the likes of Buffon and Casillas - ""He has demonstrated over the years that he is at the same level as Iker Casillas, or [Gianluigi] Buffon, or any others. I have no doubts.” I have no doubts. " It will be quite difficult for me to find people or fans who would agree with that statement. He also has hinted a possibility of Valdes moving out of the club if the disagreements over the contract could not be resolved. What will be Barcelona's reaction to such a move is not yet clear. But I feel that the club would not be too sad seeing him leave. The club has made it clear that they would like to retain the service of their current shot stopper; but I believe they would like to do that in their own terms. If pushed much they would definitely prefer to let go off the player. For the club the immediate task would be to negotiate the contract terms of two African players - Eto and Toure. But in the eventuality of Valdes moving out I believe we can find many decent replacement - Diego Lopez, Sorensen, etc would definitely relish a chance to be with one of the best club in the world. As a fan what you guys think of Valdes - Should he be retained? If no, then who would be the ideal replacement?

Mar 29, 2009

The first edition of international break has been partially over. Many of the Barcelona players emerged victorious with two of them scoring crucial goals in their team's victory. Gerard Pique and Lionel Messi scorted in their team's crucial victories. Samuel Eto was the only one whose national side was somehow surprisingly defeated. I will preferrably start with my favourite national side - Argentina. The match against Venezuela at Monumental Antonio Vespucio Liberti was the official debut of Diego Maradona as Argentinian coach. Maradona handed the honour of wearing the No.10 shirt to Lionel Messi. Argentina went ahead in the 26th minute from a goal from Lionel Messi. Lionel Messi received the ball on the left and placed the ball to Tevez in the middle. Tevez gave the ball back to Messi spotting Messi's run and messi curled a low shot past goal keeper. Tevez scored the second one for Argentina in the 47th minute after great work by Messi on the left. Maxi made it 3-0 in the 51st minute when his volley from a Aguerro cross was deflected into goal. Aguerro completed the score sheet in the 73rd minute with a great goal.

Spain won against Turkey at the Bernebeu courtesy of a Gerard Pique strike in the 60th minute. It was not a classical Spanish performance and it once again shows how crucial is Iniesta in the entire scheme of play. Pique is slowly establishing himself crucial to Spain's fortun3es. France also emerged victorious from a great strike from Frank Ribery. Thierry Henry starteed for the "The Blues" but was nowhere near his Barcelona form. Ribery showed his talent with a great long range strike. eturning back to South American Qualifiers - Martin Caceres team Uruguay emerged vitorious by two goals against Paraguay at home. Goals from Diego FORLAN and Diego LUGANO saw off the Paraguayan challenge. In Africa, Cameroon was defeated by Togo by courtesy of a goal from Emmanuel ADEBAYOR in the 11th minute. Samuel Eto started in the Cameroonian side butcould not prevent his side from going down. Seydou Keita featured in Mali's 1-1 draw against Sudan away from home. Frederic KANOUTE scored for Mali in the 20th minute but sudan equalised in the 24th minute through Tahir.

Mar 25, 2009

Andres Iniesta travelled to the Spanish capital for joining his national side mates eventhough he would not take part in the current international fixture. Iniesta is said to have informed the Spanish coach about the extend of his inury and did reveal about his apparent dissappointment with his recent spate of injuries. This is the third time he is getting injured recently and Barca fans are a bit worried with the frequency. He is definite to miss the clash against Real Valladolid but most probably will feature in the home leg of Champions League clash against Bayern Munich. The absence of Iniesta against Real Valladolid may not be troubling many of the fans but if he is set to miss the Bayern clash , then alarms bell would be ringing. But this rest could be a boon to him as he will have enough time to rest and re-coup once again.

The last time when he was injured we went down a downward spiral. At that time also he got injured before the crucial Lyon tie. But this time he should have enough time to get ready for Bayern tie. Actually we were in a downward fall at that point and Iniesta's injury seemed to accelerate it a bit. But this time we look more confident and are back to playing some great football once again. What we don't need a repeat of his injuries anymore down the line. Barca as a team is not heavily depended on Iniesta , but to dominate the proceeding we need Iniesta in the middle especially against well organised sides. Without Iniesta we have seen many times Xavi getting marginalised in the attacking front. It becomes easy for teams to double-mark Xavi and cut the supply. So as every Barca fan I am eagerly waiting with my fingers crossed. It also shed light to the need to buy a attacking midfielder player who can be a decent cover for these two. Maybe we can find some in our youth setup. What's your opinion?

What I am trying to do here is a round up of teams left in Champions League of this seasona nd their chances going forward. Ok, we will start with the defending champions Manchester United. Machester United is targetting an unprecedented five trophies this season. But their chase for the coveted five has received serious draw backs rercently. The signs were there in the second leg clash against Inter Milan. But an unambitious Inter side was brushed aside by ManU team with ease. But Liverpool dented a huge hole on their confidence with a 4-1 drubbing that too at Old Trafford. Add to that the 2-0 victory of Fulham against Manchester United at their home; that is the first time after 1964n Fulham has managed to upset ManU at their home ground. When Barcelona was brushing past sides at La Liga, the English media ridiculed us saying that we will never be able to do against a Manchester United defense. But now in two matches they have conceded six goals and scored once. The English media which made a fuss over Barca's recent blip is likely to term this as a mere lack of concentration. Alex Ferguson will be looking to have his team back on track as early as possible. Their recent catapulation at Fulham might have raised hopes at Porto but I don't see Porto beating ManU in Quarter finals. Manchester United should reach semi-finals with ease and that means they have time to pick up their form in Europe. But the same cannot be said about their challenge at EPL.

Liverpool is the in-form team at this moment. Their 4-0 and 4-1 drubbing of Real Madrid and Manchester United respectively has raised their prospect in Europe. In the last three matches they have score 13 goals and conceded once. Gerard looks to be in form of life and so does Torres. They could be our semi-final opponents if we get past Bayern. The key for Liverpool's recent victories against Manchester United and Real Madrid was that their opponents allowed them to dictate possession and speed. With Barca's possession football that would be difficult. But a Barca vs Liverpool semi-final is the most anticipated match at this moment. Chelsea's prospect of reaching the semi-final looked bright after the draw as it was revealed that they have to play second leg at home. But Liverpool's recent form and a lack of assertion from Chelsea's side have put them in serious doubt.

Arsenal maenwhile have found their footing back and playing some delightful football. But they will be deprived of the service of Andrei Arshavin in Europe and has to see how they cope without him in Europe. They didn't give a good account for themselves against Roma. Villareal has been written off by English media; I have no idea why. The truth is that Villareal is a very organised team and will be out for revenge for their earlier semi-final final defeat. They are pretty strong at home and have a very high chance of holding on their own at Emirates Stadium. Bayern who is Barca's opponent is having an Up-down season. Their form in Europe has been excellent but cannot be said of their domestic form. Barcelona has not beaten Bayern in Europe till now and that record has to be broken to proceed to the next round. To make matters worse we are going to play second leg away from home. Whatever Bayern vs Barcelona will produce the best football of all the Quarter final draws. FC Porto, the surprise quater-finalist has an uphill task of eliminating Manchester United. The fact that they have to play the second leg at home and Manchester United's recent form should give some hope.

Overall the draws look pretty balanced. Arsenal can write off Villareal on their own risk; they should remember Villareal's performance against Manchester United in the group stage. Manchester United looks to have one foot in the semi-fianls but if they can't pick up their Premier League form then they might become more vulnerable. Liverpool's drubbing of Aston Villa made sure that they now lie with just 1 point drift of Champions ManU. At this moment FC Barcelona and Liverpool are the best bet to lift the cup. Then we can't predict anything when it comes to Chamipons League, can we? Remember Porto's triumph. Aston Villa who opted out of UEFA cup to qualify for Champions League looks like have blown everything away. Martin O'Neil should have remembered the saying - "A Bird in Hand is Worth Two In BUsh".

Valdes - 8 - Didn't have anything to do in the first half. But made three crucial intervention in the second half to make sure that a clean sheet has been kept. There were reports suggesting that he would be presented with a new contract and this performance will surely speed up things.

Alves - 8 - Great performance offensively on the right flank. Defensively he might have left spaces but it is necessay for us to have this gentleman in great form. Took his goal really well.

Marquez - 7 - Good performance, Was calm and confident throughout the match.

Caceres - 7.5 - Questions were raised about his ability. Did really well and was the better of both the centre backs.

Sylvinho - 8 - Great performance on the left flank. He is constantly defying his age and improving with each game. Guardiola could think of retaining his when Puyol comes back. Played a part in two goals.

Xavi - 9 - Sensationa Performance!!! He was back to his best. Took his goal well, produced a gem of passes to creat Henry's goal, put Eto ahead in Eto's first goal; What can we ask for now?

Toure - 6 - Was taken off very early.

Iniesta - 8.5 - Continuied his great recent form. Greta pass to create Alves goal. Only downside would be the injury and may be the fact that he failed to get into the scoresheet.

Messi - 8 - Good performance. What a goal, simply out of this world. But wasted some pretty easy chances. Was involved in most of attacks.

Eto - 8 - Linked deep in attack. Was involved well. Great finish for the first goal and took the second goal well.

Henry - 8.5 - Another great perfomance from the Frenchman. Scored one, created one and had shots saved by goal keeper. Went deep to help the defense too.


Keita - 7 - Good performance. He needed to be solid whne others are going forward and did just that.

Gudjohnsen - 6 - NOthing spectacular.

Bojan - 6.5 - Had a shot saved by goal keeper.

Man Of The Match - Xavi Hernandez

In a sensational display which could be sending shivers across Europe, FC Barcelona destroyed the visiting Malaga team by half a dozen goals. The display was so phenomenol that a 6-0 final scoreline was indeed injustice to Barca. Barca was also helped with the Malaga team's attitude and plans which saw them defending deep and trying to crowd Barca out of the box. Then you can't blame them either as it could be suicidal for them to come and attack Barca and leave spaces all over the place. Once again our brilliant attacking midfield pair of Xavi and Iniesta set up this vitory. There were some concerns with injury picked up by Xavi, Iniesta and Toure. But the good news is that they all are set to recover well in ten days time. Iniesta now will not be available for Spain's match against Turkey. Barca were 4-0 ahead by half time with goals from Xavi, Messi, Henry and Eto; after the break Eto and Alves struk to complete the tally. Guardiola lined-up a starting eleven as expected - Alves, Marquez, Caceres and Sylvinho formed the defense infornt of Valdes. Xavi, Toure and Iniesta formed the midfield. Messi, Eto and Henry formed the usual front three.

The game started with Barca completely in control. In the 3rd minute Iniesta's shot was vlocked by Malaga goal Keeper, Goitia after a neat one-two between Iniesta and Eto. In the 14th minute Henry headed wide from a great Alves cross. Alves seemed to have found his form back and was a revelation in attack in the right flank. Eto was linking deep and that was causing all kind of havoc for Malaga. Then in the 19th minute Xavi took Barca deseringly ahead with a low shoot past after receiving a pass from Eto. Then in the 25th minute , Messi showed again why he is way ahead of other in the world at this moment. Xavi sent in a long aerial cross to Messi, what happened after that was purely magical. Messi chested the ball ahead of the defender and sets of on another magical Messi run into the box; inside the box he played a magical little dribble to take away the ball from the two defenders; but then I thought he might have miscontrolled it but he still found the upper right corner of the goal with a great right foot shot. The little dribble he did was so magical that my friends (one is a ManU fan and other a Chelse fan) was silenced. Here on it was clear that Malaga has to endure a long and tough night. In the 32nd minute Xavi produced a defense splitting pass putting Henry ahead, who rounded off the Goitia and slotted the ball into the goal with inside of his foot. In the 39th minute Eto saw his shot blocked after being fed by Iniesta after a great run into the box. In the 40th minute Henry saw his good shot from outside the box tipped over by Goitia. In the 42nd minute Messi saw his shot saved by Goitia; the defenders gave the ball away to Messi who had only the Goal Keeper to beat. That was just an unbelievabl miss and the reaction of Guardiola to that miss was simply awesome. In the 43rd minute Eto entered the scoresheet after a great move. Iniesta laid the ball to Sylvinho on the left; Sylvinho send the ball to Messi through a defenders leg; Messi played the ball to Xavi who gave the ball to Eto on the right inside the box; Eto clamly slotted the ball home with a fierce shoy through Goitia legs. Then in the 45th minute Messi saw his fierce shot blocked off Eto.

Barca was again the first one to take the initaiative in the second half. In the 47th minute Messi wasted another easy chance when he allowed Goitia time to make a save after he has earlier blocked off Xavi's effort. Then in the 49th minute against run of play Valdes was called into action. Valdes pulled out a great one hand diving save to deny Salva's header. Then in the 51st minute Iniesta send in a beautiful chipped cross ahead of the defense on to an advancing Alves; Alves produced a neat header over the keeper to register Barca's fifth of the night. In the 54th minute Valdes pulled off another save to keep a clean sheet intact. In the 57th minute Eto scored his second of the night. Sylvinho who is improving with more matches he is playing blasted a great shot from 25 yards out; Goitia saved it but the rebound fell to Henry who unselfishly squared the ball to Eto for a simple finish. It was surprising to see Barca not able to increase the lead even with half an hour left. Soon after the goal Guardiola took off both Iniesta and Xavi. Camp Nou faithfuls gave both the players a deserving standing ovation when they were taken off and was replaced with Bojan and Gudjohnsen. That substitution put almost five starikers on the pitch. The tempo of the game dropped after that and the only decent chance was for Bojan who shot his shot saved by Goitia off a great Messi pass.

Iniesta is said to be out for ten to fifteen days. That means he will not be available for International duties; but should be back in the squad for Barca's next match. Eventhough the performance at attack was great but we were troubled at times at the defense. But credit to Caceres and Marquez for holding firm. Keita who filled in for Toure played well; but it also showed that Toure is the best option we have in that position. Overall this was great result and a great step forward. We have clearly gotten over the little slump we had and what we need now is to have our players to escape any injuries.

Mar 22, 2009

Albert Jorquerra has been given the green signal for tonight's match, but Barca is definite to miss Gerard Pique for tonight's encounter. Gerard Pique is suffering from fever and the press reports suggests that he has been send home in a bid to recover as early as possible. This means that our defense will be stretched completely with alreasy Puyol, Milito and Abidal injured. Barca Atletic defender Alberto Botía has been called up to train with the first team and is expected to make the squad along with Sanchez. FC Barcelona will be looking to continue theirn ruthless form which was refound in the recent matches. Last time these two team mets it was Barca who came on top at a wet pitch in Malaga by a scoreline of 4-1. Malaga has been impressive since then taking themselves to sixth position in the table. But a trip to Nou Camp is not the easiest one to make for them. Barca has an impressive record against Malaga at Camp Nou winning 24 of 27 games. But still the lack of defenders will be something for Guardiola to worry on.

Guardiola will be expected to call on Caceres to do the defensive duties along with Marquez at the centre. Sylvinho who has been impressive in recent matches once again is expected to fill the left-back position whereas Alves should occupy his usual position. At Camp Nou with a fragile defensive line-up it is essential for the midfield to retain possession for most part of the game. Hence there is a necessity to have both Xavi and Iniesta playing alongside with Toure. The front three has to be unchanged with Henry, Eto and Messi. The midfield battle will be crucial for tonight's match. We cannot give any hope to Real Madrid so we have to be at our clinical best. Messi looked like coming back to a bit of his early form in recent matches. But one man I will be eagerly watching would be Dani Alves, he had a decent second half last week so we expect him to build on it. Malaga may be lying sixth with troubling everyone, but we can expect Barca to see off them easily. My prediction would be a Barca victory with a scoreline of 3-0.

Mar 20, 2009

FC Barcelona is drawn to face Bayern Munich in the Quarter-finals of this season's Champions League. The draw happened hours ago at Nyon, Switzerland. Everyone expected FC Barcelona to line-up against one of the English Giants; but they are drawn against the German giant, Bayern Munich. English Premier League fans dream of an all English semi-finals has been dashed off as Liverpool meet Chelsea in the Quarter finals. These two teams met each other last year but at the semi-final where Chelsea emerged the winner. Chelsea once again hold the upper hand having to play the second leg at home. The other spanish side Villareal has been drawn against Arsenal. These two teams met at the semi-finals of Champions League 2006 with Arsenal emerging the winner. The defending Champion Manchester United were handed down the easiest of draws - against FC Porto. But they still have to travel to Porto for the second leg.

The semi-final draws has been also made with the winner of Barcelona vs Bayern facing the winner of Liverpool vs Chelsea match. The first leg of quarter finals will be hel on Aril 7th and 8th; the return leg will be on 14th and 15th. The semi-finals date are April 28 and 29; the return leg will be on May 5th and 6th. Many of FC Barcelona supporters will be happy with the fact that we avoided facing any English opponents. But Bayern Munich will be a tough opponent; they destroyed Sporting Lisbon in the knock-out by scoring twelve goals altogether. The likes of Podolski, Klose, Schweinsteiger, Ribery, and Lahm will send shivers through any line-up and to make matters worse Barca has to play the tricky second leg away from home. But Bayern can be expected to play a bit more attacking style of play giving FC barcelona players enough space to manoeuvre. Klose very much is likely to miss the Quarter-finals with injury. Bayern's season has been erratic to an high extend this year. Eventhough we have to play the second leg away from Camp Nou, the current form of players and team should see us through. Plus we might have our Captain back shortly and can hope to count on the service of Abidal also against Bayern atleast in the second leg. There were reports of Milito also returning abck to training. Everything looks pleasant for the moment; let's keep our fingers crossed.

Mar 18, 2009

FC Barcelona seemed to have put behind their recent stumble, which saw many fans raising quetions about the Treble chances. But the recent recovery was so assuring that once again Barca fans have started dreaming about a treble. FC Barcelona's recent form has been good one, and does give considerable hope for a silverware this season. But the chance of achieving a treble is quite distant at this moment. The best silverware we can hope is the Copa Del Rey at this moment. La Liga is a very much bright possibility but there are enough rounds to go into the final lap and Real Madrid had showed no sign of easing down. So La Liga and Champions League is at the moment a distant possibility. Therefore it is necessary for the team and fans to go slow in the Euphoria surrounding the re-emergence of the team from the slump. The truth simply is that another stumble could be round the corner; especially if another pair of main team members get injured. Secondly it is clear that in Europe we have to negotiate tough English challenges to go forward; to make matter worse Real Madrid has only one trophy to aim at and they would whole heartedly go for the defnse of their title. That means a slight miss in concentration and focus we could be in serious trouble in La Liga and we already have a habit of taking the confidence of one competition to another competition. So it's better to be cautious as the truth still is that we are trophyless for last three year till now.

Now that's all the bad news that could happend and should not happen. Now time for some good news to lean upon. It looks like Iniesta has hit his top form, or is close to his best. Xavi, Eto, Messi, Henry all have not rediscovered their pre-december form. But everyone of them looks like returning back to their form. Especially Messi; he was a bit on-off in recent matches but when he was in on mode he destroyed the opposition. Xavi when partnering Iniesta at the middle looks very close to getting back to his best. Eto still may be goal starved by his standard, but he did look so good in last two matches he started. Henry meanwhile has looked to have found a new heart these days. Toure after a small blip (surpisingly that coincided with the team's blip) have looked more composed and solid in the middle of midfield. Alves, who has been very poor in last few matches also did produce a good second half display. But for Barca's quest at Europe we want this guy at full form and force. Puyol and Abidal should return shortly and that should add some more stability to defense. So, in short there is still a big hope for more than two silverware this season but a treble could require some fortune and form.

Mar 16, 2009

Valdes - 6 - Nothing much to do. Came out and sniffed out the danger when bot Marquez and Pique was compromised. I would have given him a higher score if he hasn't given that stupid pass which put Pique in danger.

Alves - 7 - Wasn't much effective in the first half. But woke up and did some damage in the second. Played a good part in the second goal. Overall a better performance than his recent matches.

Pique - 8 - Rarely troubled in the match. Did well to draw the foul when Valdes put him under pressure. Was clam and composed throughout the match.

Marquez - 7.5 - Like his partner was composed throughout the match.

Sylvinho - 7.5 - Did well defying his age. His crosses still has that venom. Worked really hard.

Xavi - 8 - Defensively he was master. Controlled the defense. In attack he was kind of subdued. He was suppoesed to provide the attacking instinct from middle and to a larger part failed in that.

Toure - 8.5 - Majestic. He was a defensive czar. Cut down any pass and move from all over the field.

Keita - 6 - Was practically ineffective. But he has this habit of getting into box and that almost paid in the 10th minute.

Messi - 7.5 - Was good in parts. Played a part in both the goals and that says for his talent.

Bojan - 6.5 - Was quite throughout the match. But took his chances well.

Iniesta - 9 - Brilliant! Absolutely Briliant. He is back to his best after the injury. Like Messi played a part in both goals. He was a constant threat all over the place.

Gudjohnsen(6), Hleb(5) and Eto(5).

Man Of The Match - Andres Iniesta

FC Barcelona successfully kept a second consecutive clean sheet with a 2-0 victory at Almeria. Courtesy of this win Barca has restored the lead at the top to six points. The 2-0 victory does not necessarily tell the entire story of the match. But it is a testimony of the desperate defending of Almeria who were well assisted by Diego Alves, their Goal Keeper. If it was not for Diego, Barca would have scored half a dozen goals by half time. Bojan who was given a rare start ahead of Eto and Henry, repaid his coach with two match winning goals. This would have reduced lot of pressure on the youngster. Guardiola decided to reshuffle his attacking options for the Almeria match. The front three was made up of Messi, Iniesta and Bojan. The midfield was more physical with Keita, and Toure partnering Xavi. The defense lined up as expected with Sylvinho and Alves playing the full back roles and Pique and Marquez at the centre of defense ahead of Valdes.

The match started in a sub-dued pace. In the 7th mnute Messi spotted Keita's advancing run and played a great ball but Diego Alves rushed out of his line to clear the danger. In the 10th minute Keita had Barca's first shot on target; the move started with Iniesta picking up Alves run with a great cross; Alves shot cum cross was deflected to Keita but Diego brought out a one hand save of the strong Keita shot. In the 19th minute Xavi headed wide from Iniesta cross. These two have great understanding with each other. Then came a phase where Barca look least interested in penetrating Almeria defense; the only player who was looking really good in attack was Andres Iniesta. Then in the 35th minute Messi saw his shot from a Xavi cross blocked. With half time approaching there was a serious push by Barca to break the dead lock. They pounded Almeria defense one after other and Diego Alves great goal keeping saved Almeria for the half. As expected it was Iniesta who tested him first; Iniesta in the 42nd minute saw his shotb saved after great trickery in the box. Then in the 44th minute a great free kick by the "World Player of the Year in Waiting" Messi was well saved by Diego. Then in the 44th minute Pique saw his header being saved by Diego from a great Xavi cross.

It was clear that if Barca played the game at the tempo which they stopped the first half a goal would eventually come. The dead lock was finally broken when Iniesta and Messi combined together and Bojan was the beneficiarry. In the 53rd minute Messi gave the ball to Iniesta who held on the ball for a second and placed the ball back to Messi's path in the box; Messi's resultant shot hit the post but the rebound fell to Bojan who neatly obliged. Almeira knew that they have a herculean task ahead; but their task was made an impossible one in three minutes. In the 56th minute Bojan scored his second of the night to seal the match. The goal did have a touch of fortune but the build up was exquisite. Alves sets up on a great run into the box and passes the ball to Messi; Messi back heeled the ball to Iniesta who flicked it back to Alves who fed Bojan; Bojan looked to have wasted a great chance when he took a few touch more but his shot looped up into the goal from a defenders deflection. After that it was Barca teaching the Almeria players a new lesson in possession football. The Almeria players never saw the ball for long spells. In the 65th minute Valdes comes out of his line to clear danger from a through ball which split bot Marquez and Pique. In the 67th minute Guardiola replaced the goal scorer Bojan with Eto. Then in the 77th minute Valdes showed again that he can do the most stupid of stuffs with no pressure on him. Valdes seemed to have held on to a pass for more time; then he gave a non-sense kind of pass to Pique; the ball bounced awkardly for Pique putting him under pressure but he handled it well. Then in the 81st minute Keita was replaced by Gudjohnsen. Then in the 83rd minute Iniesta was taken off to bring on Hleb. Iniesta received huge applause from both visiting and home team fans.

This was a great result. We completely dominated the match. It was good to see Pep giving Bojan a start. Many may not agree but we should have our back-ups in good form so that they can take over when somebody gets injured. Iniesta once again was the best player on the pitch. Messi looks like getting back to his best. Toure was great once again. But this match also showed one fact that it is always best to have Iniesta in the middle if Henry is fit and in form. Without him we miss the creativity in the centre.

Mar 15, 2009

With Real Madrid's win at Bilbao, FC barcelona's lead at the top has been cut to three points. That means FC Barcelona have the continue there good works of last game. Alemria is a tough place for Barca to travel; but they have to keep history aside and win convincingly to avoid any resurgence of defending champion. With FC Barcelona slowly finding their form back there is no reason to think that they will fail to win at Almeria. The last time when these two teams met at Camp Nou, Barca routed Almeria by five goals to nil. Barca is still without their captain Puyol and left back Abidal. Guardiola has announced a 19 man squad consisting of Valdés, Pinto, Alves, Piqué, Marquez, Caceres, Sylvinho, Victor Sanchez, Toure, Busquets, Xavi, Keita, Gudjohnsen, Iniesta, Hleb, Messi, Bojan, Eto'o, Henry. But how he will line-up the starting eleven is not clear.

First of all we have to see whether he will have Caceres at Left back instead of Sylvinho. There could be a chance of that happening as Guardiola don't want to tire his old left back especially with Puyol absent. That could see a defensive formation of Alves, Marquez, Pique and Abidal infront of Valdes. Guardiola might opt for a more physical midfiedl with Busquets and Toure partnering Xavi. This could ba a rare match where Henry gets a rest. So I expect Iniesta to fill the wide left position forming the attacking pair with Eto and Messi. This one would be pretty tough for Barca, especially with Real winning yesterday. But Barca's excellent form which took them past Lyon should again show them the way through this challenge.

My Prediction : Almeria -0 : 4- Barca

Mar 13, 2009

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