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Nov 30, 2009

FC Barcelona won the first edition of this season's Clasico with a solitary strike from Zlatan Ibrahmovic. Zlatan scored in the 56th minute after being introduced five minutes before in the place of Thierry Henry. After the sensational display at Bernebeu last year, people might have been disappointed by Barca's display tonight. This wasn't a typical Barcelona performance and it shows that the team has not yet hit the top gear. The most important thing from tonight's match is that we have regained the lead from Real Madrid and now has a two point advantage at the top. Guardiola lined up Alves, Pique, Puyol and Abidal in the defense. The midfield had Busquets playing along with Xavi and Keita. Iniesta, Henry and Messi formed the attacking trio. Ibra surprisingly started from the bench; maybe Guardiola thought it was risky to start both Messi and Zlatan after coming of injury.

Nov 29, 2009

Real Madrid visits Camp Nou tonight with a one point lead at the top of the table over FC Barcelona. Real Madrid has not reached their top form, and the fact that they still holds a lead over Barca say how tough this league is going to be this season. In my last post, i have written abou the El Clasico being the most pivotal matches in this season. FC Barcelona has not yet set the league on fire and has been very inconsistent away from home. But their home form has been good and we will be pinning on that to see us through this game. Guardiola has almost the entire squad back with him. After beating Inter with three of their regulars missing, confdence will not be missing in this team. Butstill Guardiola has a tough job. He has to make the call where he has to bring Messi, Ibrahmovic and Toure back to starting eleven straight after the injury lay off. Usually any injured star will be brought back into the game gradually, but then this is no ordinary match - it is the El Clasico. No player would want to miss this match.

Nov 27, 2009

The "El Classico " is almost upon us and football lovers around all over the world will be making sure that they don't miss this one. On Sunday, November 29 the world of football will be brought to a standstill as the gods of football clash at the Camp Nou. The Real Madrid - Barca rivalry is one of the oldest rivalries in the world of football. No footballing rivalries might have so much political influence like the El Classico. May be the Inida - Pakistan clashes are the only one which is similiar to the Barca - Real clash. It has always been considered as the clash of two political ideologies, rather than footballing ideologies. Definitely Real Madrid vs Barcelona clash is a clash of two footballing philosophies, but the political reasons have always dominated these clashes. For Barca supporters it has been always a clash between the oppressor and the oppressed. The closeness of Real Madrid to the centre of power has resulted in Real Madrid being branded as the club of the dictator, Franco. Even though Real Madrid supporters and management has also suffered at the hand of Franco, this notion still remains across the world. In that sense FC Barcelona supporters always believe that a clash against Real Madrid is against the ideals of Franco. Many may not agree with me, but I have seen in many discussion groups - sentiments of the same. It was during the reign of Franco, FC Barcelona truly became "More Than a Club"(as their moto say). FC Barcelona matches was the place where the progressive thinking Spanish nationals gathered to voice their protest. Catalunya was the birth place of all the modern thinking in Spain and subsequently became the centre place of protest against the cruelty of Franco.

Nov 25, 2009

For the second time in a row, I got my Champions League prediction spot on. FC Barcelona registered a 2-0 comfortable victory over Inter at the Camp NOu keeping their qualification hopes very well alive. In the other match in the group, Rubin drew with Kiev; that was a great result for Barca. Now if Barca can avoid a 3-0 defeat at Kiev, we will be in the knockout stage. Courtesy of this performance from the thoughts of qualification, the focus has shifted to topping the group. When Guardiola announced that Barca didn't need Ibrahmovic and Messi to defeat Inter, everyone had their doubts. The goals from Pique and Pedro proved him right. Abidal was earlier reported to have H1N1 flu, but it turned out to be false. So Guardiola had the familiar formation of Alves, Pique, Puyol and Abidal in defense. The midfield as expected had Xavi, Busquets and Keita. Iniesta , Henry and Pedro formed the attacking trio. In my preview I have written that moving Henry to centre-forward position may prove counter productive. Henry did struggle in his role but Pedro was exceptional on the left and two goals at the right time also meant that we wasn't bothered by the fact that Henry had an average game.

Nov 24, 2009

Nou Camp is gearing for undoubtedly the most important match of this season in not so confident fashion. A failure to win here will see Barcelona's hope of retaining their European crown vanishing into thin air. A number of regular starter are already missing from the squad and there are doubts about some others participation. Toure and Abidal will be missing out of the clash after being affected with H1N1 virus. Abidal could be replaced with Maxwell but Toure's replacement is one of the serious problem for Barca. Ibrahmovic, Messi and Marquez are the players who are doubtful to feature in this match. My intuition says - Messi and Ibrahmovic will be included in the bench with a chance of Ibra featuring in the second half, depending on the situation. But one thing is for sure, even if Messi is fit he will only see the action in the last ten minutes, if necessary. Inter on the other hand has all of their usual starters ready for this match. The much awaited return of Eto'o to Camp Nou is the highlight of this match and all the Camp Nou faithfuls will be hoping to see him being contained. From Inter's perspective they don't have to win this game to proceed to the next stage. A draw fro them will be a good result, but anything less than a win here will be disastrous for Barca.

Nov 22, 2009

Barca vs Athletic PicsBarca vs Athletic Pics
Barca vs Athletic PicsBarca vs Athletic Pics
Barca vs Athletic PicsBarca vs Athletic PicsBarca vs Athletic Pics

For the third time in row Barca failed to win their La Liga match after an international break. They are known to carry their form in La Liga to the UEFA Champions League, and if that happen we will definitely see holders Barca getting knocked out of the Champions League in the group stage. In the preview of this match I have written about my concern about our away form. What irritates me most is Guardiola's attitude after the match, he made a statement which is in line with his usual standing - that he is unconcerned with Barca's dip in form. I don't understand when he will start taking the dipping form into account - after we are kicked out of the Champions League? In my preview I also pointed out the importnace of not moving Messi to the middle and keeping him on the right. I wrote it because I feared Guardiola will overlook Bojan again. I do agree that Pedro has been much better than Bojan this season, but Bojan also have performed well whenever he has started. And he ideally was the only centre forward option left for Barca with Ibrahmovic injured. I won't be surprised if Bojan makes a move from Camp Nou in January or next summer. Guardiola looks like has a problem with youngsters promoted by Rijkaard, and Bojan looks like the latest victim of it. Now to make matters worse Messi has been injured yesterday and is certain to miss Inter match and in most probability will miss the El Classico. Now does anyone smell getting kicked out of Champions League?

Guardiola moved Messi to the top of the attack with Pedro and Iniesta on either side. The midfield had Xavi, Busquets and Keita. The defense had Alves, Pique, Chygrynskiy and Maxwell infront of Valdes. It was Barca who had the first shot on goal. Xavi teed up the ball to Messi but his shot was saved by goal keeper, Iraizoz. In the 13th minute Chygrynskiy played a terrific pass to Pedro on the right, Pedro dribbled past one defender but looked like was more interested in dribbling and taking the shot, losing the window of oppurtunity. In the 16th minute Messi had the best chance of the match when Xavi sent in a great through ball for Messi who only had to beat Iraizoz, but his shot was too confortable for the Iraizoz to save. Inn the 17th minute keita saw his header from a Messi cross go agonisingly close to the goal. In the 29th minute Messi showed great pace to capitalise on a defensive mistake, he raced past two defenders got up after been brought down and then played a cross to Xavi in the far corner who couldn't force a shot at goal. Athletic had a great chance to go into the gbreak with a goal lead. In the injury time of first half Javi Martinez saw his header went wide form a completely unmarked position.

The second half saw Athletic come out with much more intention. This has been the way our recent matches all have went. Opposition tries to keep a clean sheet in the first half and looks to attack us in the second when we are more desperate. In the 54th minute Barca went 1-0 ahead with a great finish from Alves. Xavi held off a challenge and sent in a great through ball to Alves who did excellent with his finish. In the 63rd minute substitute Toquero equalised for Athletic with a great finish after Alves failed to stay with him. The rest of the half went without much fanfare. The only meaningful event was Messi getting substituted after getting injured. Bojan replaced him and Henry replaced Xavi for some strange reason.

There is need to panic at this present time for Barca fans. We are without the service of Toure, Abidal, Marquez and Messi for the Inter clash. Busquets performance does not instill confidence. Iniesta looked like he is not interested in what is happening on the pitch. With the injuries we can't take a stern action with him. But Guardiola needs to have a strong talk with him. If he is noty improving we have to consider the option of dropping him from the squad temporarily. But I would attribute last night's performance to one man - Guardiola. He should have started with Bojan in the centre and used Messi on the right. Messi would have combine much better with Alves on the right. But then Guardiola looks have no confidence in Bojan and it is better for both the part to let him leave the club this summer. Why hold back a player when you are least interesetd in using him?

Nov 21, 2009

The last two times Barca returned from international break, we failed to win our away games and subsequently had a bad result in the Champions League encounters. We always have struggled after an international break, but this time it is a make or break time for Barca. We cannot afford to lose or draw against Bilbao as it will definitely show in our all important encounter against Inter on Tuesday. Guardiola has announced his squad which will travel to San Mames - Valdés, Alves, Piqué, Márquez, Puyol, Xavi, Iniesta, Messi, Bojan, Pinto, Henry, Keita, Sergio Busquets, Pedro, Maxwell, Txigrinski, Jeffren, Jonathan dos Santos. Ibrahmovic has been sidelined with a thigh injury. Meanwhile Abidal and Toure both have been diagnosed with H1N1 flu and will be out of action for at least a week. Toure getting flu has come at a very bad time as he was a surety to start in the match against Inter.

Nov 20, 2009

After an extended vacation, I am back writing the blog. The coming week could turn out to be the most important week for FC Barcelona this season. After achieving a historic treble, no team would like to be thrown out of UEFA Champions League in the group stage, but the chances are pretty high for that to happen. First there is a visit to San Mamés Stadium tomorrow. Then it will be the all importnat clash between Inter and Barca at Camp Nou, a game which Barca has to win to keep their hopes alive. Then it will be the El Classico that will be on next week. There is no doubt about which one is the most importnat clash - the Inter clash. A failure to win against Inter will see Barca most probably crashing out of the Champions League. Inter meanwhile would be very happy with a draw and will most probably employing tactics to yield such a result. El Classico, may not be as important as the Inter clash; but from the historic point of view no Barcelona side can afford to take that match lightly. To make matters worse these matches come after the international break and it has to be seen how the team cope with the break.

Nov 5, 2009

FC Barcelona has essentially put their Champions League qualification at risk by drawing against the Russian champions. With this draw we stand at second in standing and have a chance to end the night at third in overall standing if there is anything other than a draw in the match against Inter and Kiev. Barca now have to win their remaining two matches to go through to the next round. A failure to see off the Ukranian Champions will effectively kick us out of the competition. FC Barcelona struggled to come to terms fully with the slowness of the pitch and it didn't aid their attacking play. At Kiev the condition will be similiar to Kazan's so Guardiola needs to think up something big to get the team through. Guardiola with his stupid idea of not using his substitutions early is not aiding the team at all. Tonight Henry was introduced in the 82nd minute, too late to make any impact. Guardiola started Alves , Puyol, Pique and Abidal in the defnse. The midfield was made up of Keita, Toure and Xavi. The attacking trio were Iniesta, Ibrahmovic and Messi.

Nov 3, 2009

Nobody would have ever imagined that Barca's travel to Russia would turn out to be this significant in terms of Barca proceeding to the group stage. A lose against Rubin tomorrow night will reduce Barca's chances of proceeding to next stage very much. A draw might not be bad, but may result in Barca seeking help from others in the group for qualification. Hence the ideal and only option left for Barca is to win this match. This is the most important match for Barca since the start of this season. After the dissappointing show against Osasuna Barca would be looking to bounce back in style. The omens are not good as the last tiome Barca drew in La Liga they followed up with a loss against Rubin. But this team last season has shown enough character to pick up from dire-strait situation and win matches. There will be no way Barca players are going to be complacent for this match. Guardiola has announced teh squad for Russia - Valdés, Alves, Piqué, Márquez, Puyol, Xavi, Iniesta, Ibrahimovic, Messi, Bojan, Pinto, Henry, Keita, Sergio Busquets, Pedro, Maxwell, Abidal, Touré and Jeffren. Dani Alves has returned back from injury but may not start the game.

Nov 1, 2009

FC Barcelona squandered two points with a last second own goal from Pique to help Real Madrid close the gap on top to one point. In a game where the defenses held their fort, Barca went ahead with a strike from Keita in the 72nd mnute but they had to pay dearly for wasting a host of chances after the goal. The last time we drew a match in the league, we followed it with a loss against Rubin Kazan. With Rubin Kazan around the corner, I bet this was the best way to prepare for such a high profile game. It was one of the most boring game involving Barca and it wasn't any surprise that the defenses were on top for majority of the game. Guardiola again selected Puyol, Pique, Chygrynskiy and Abidal in the defense infront of Valdes. The midfield was made up of Keita, Busquets and Xavi. Messi, Ibrahmovic and Iniesta formed the attacking trio.

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