Saturday, 18 October 2008

NEW blog feature: FC Barcelona Match Chat


(post by OmarX)


Dear Culés,

Have you ever sat infront of your TV or computer while you were watching a FC Barcelona game and hoped you could share your excitement, feelings, and opinions with other fans LIVE as it happens?

Starting this weekend, we are proud to present you the new FC Barcelona Match Chat. Now you will be able to communicate before, during, and after the match. The chat will be available from two hours before until two hours after the match. In the future this could turn into a 24/7 chat.

The chat is designed to be very user friendly and just requires you to enter your desired nickname and join (no registration required!). It is open to everyone, therefore make sure to invite your friends and spread the message. If you encounter any troubles or difficulties please put them here in the comments section or contact omarx in the chatroom.


Chat Link:
http://fcbarcelona.hopto.org/

Match:
Athletic Bilbao - FC Barcelona
(Sunday 19 October 2008 @ 19:00 Local time)

Chat starts at 17:00 - 5 pm

[Henrique] Eintract Frankfurt-Bayer Leverkusen

Bayer Leverkusen played this afternoon their eight Bundesliga game of the season. Bayer defeated Eintract Frankfurt 0-2.

Brazilian central defender and Barcelona loan out Henrique (21) started the match and played the whole game in the centre of the Bayer defense.


Barcelona bought Henrique this summer and decided to loan him out to Bayer Leverkusen for one season (read more here). This blog will follow Henrique's performances during this season.





Sunday 10 August - Cup round 1: Rot-Weiß Oberhausen-Bayer Leverkusen 2-3
Starter. Henrique starts the game and plays for 120 minutes.

Saturday 16 August - Bundesliga game 1: Bayer Leverkusen-Borussia Dortmund 2-3
Starter. Henrique starts the game and plays for 90 minutes.

Saturday 23 August - Bundesliga game 2: Vfb Stuttgart-Bayer Leverkusen 0-2
Starter. Henrique starts the game and plays for 90 minutes.

Saturday 30 August - Bundesliga game 3: Bayer Leverkusen-Hoffenheim 5-2
Starter. Henrique starts the game and plays for 90 minutes. Right back.

Saturday 13 September - Bundesliga game 4: Hamburg-Bayer Leverkusen 3-2
Starter. Henrique starts the game and plays for 90 minutes. Right back.

Friday 19 September - Bundesliga game 5: Bayer Leverkusen-Hannover 4-0
Starter. Henrique starts the game and plays for 90 minutes.

Tuesday 23 September - Cup round 2: Augsburg(2)-Bayer Leverkusen 0-2
Starter. Henrique starts the game and plays for 90 minutes. Yellow card.

Saturday 27 September - Bundesliga game 6: Bochum-Bayer Leverkusen 2-3
Starter. Henrique starts the game and plays for 90 minutes.

Saturday 4 October - Bundesliga game 7: Bayer Leverkusen-Hertha Berlin 0-1
Starter. Henrique starts the game and plays for 90 minutes. Yellow card.

Saturday 18 October - Bundesliga game 8: Eintracht Frankfurt-Bayer Leverkusen 0-2
Starter. Henrique starts the game and plays for 90 minutes.



Table
1. Hoffenheim 16
2. Hamburg (7) 16
3. Bayer Leverkusen 15
4. Hertha Berlin 14
5. Wolfsburg 13
6. Stuttgart 13
7. Borussia Dortmund 13
8. Köln 13
9. Schalke (7) 12
[...]

[Crosas] Inverness-Celtic Glasgow

Celtic played this afternoon their nineth league game of the season. The Scottish champions defeated Inverness by 1-2.

Former Barcelona midfielder Marc Crosas (20) started the game as central midfielder in a 4-5-1. He got booked and was replaced at the end of the game because of an injury.


Marc Crosas joined Celtic Glasgow in 2008. Since Barcelona can buy Crosas back in the summer of 2010 for two million euro (read more here), this blog will follow the performances of the midfielder over the next two years.





Sunday 10 August - League game 1: Celtic Glasgow-St Mirren 1-0
Non-selectable. Crosas has signed his contract and is presented to the fans before the match.

Sunday 17 August - League game 2: Dundee United-Celtic Glasgow 1-1
Bench.

Saturday 23 August - League game 3: Celtic Glasgow-Falkirk 3-0
Substitute. Crosas replaces Brown in the 73rd minute (3-0).

Sunday 31 August - League game 4: Celtic Glasgow-Rangers 2-4
Bench.

Sunday 14 September - League game 5: Motherwell-Celtic Glasgow 2-4
Starter. Crosas starts the game and is replaced by Nakamura in the 80th minute (2-4).

Wednesday 17 September - Champions League group stage game 1: Celtic Glasgow-Aalborg 0-0
Bench.

Sunday 21 September - League game 6: Kilmarnock-Celtic Glasgow 1-3
Starter. Crosas starts the game and is replaced by Hartley in the 74th minute (0-2).

Tuesday 23 September - League Cup 1/8 finals: Celtic Glasgow-Livingston 4-0
Not selected.

Saturday 27 September - League game 7: Celtic Glasgow-Aberdeen 3-2
Starter. Crosas starts the game and is replaced by McDonald in the 72nd minute (1-2).

Tuesday 30 September - Champions League group stage game 2: Villareal-Celtic Glasgow 1-0
Bench.

Saturday 4 October - League game 8: Celtic Glasgow-Hamilton 4-0
Starter. Crosas starts the game and plays for 90 minutes.

Saturday 18 October - League game 9: Inverness-Celtic Glasgow 1-2
Starter. Crosas starts the game and is replaced by Hartley in the 95th minute (1-2). Yellow card.




Table
1. Celtic 22
2. Rangers (8) 19
3. Kilmarnock (8) 13
4. Hibernian (8) 13
[...]

Keita (2): "Every player should feel important"

In an interview with Catalan sports paper Sport, Barcelona midfielder Seydou Keita talked about his first months at the club.


(you can read the first part of the interview here)


You feel comfortable with how Guardiola sees the game?
I do. Barcelona plays always good. All the players are very talented and technically they are very good. It's very easy to play together with them. Besides that, we now also have the winning mentality. It's not easy to talk about my coach because there can be misinterpretations. It's logic that I'm saying good things, but I'm being sincere when I say that we're working very good. He talks with every player and although there are a lot of great players, everyone should feel important. You cannot play a season with 11 or 12 players. Every player should feel important.

You're refering to the rotations?
Let's see. To play at Barcelona you need to have some talent. So everyone here can play and add something to the team. If we're all important, that will sure benefit the club.

You also feel the need, like Abidal said, to go out with your team-mates?
Every three days, there's a game. You arrive at 10 in the morning, you train, you eat here, so you don't have a lot spare time. The time we have is for the family. It can be important to go out together but for me a group needs to have the same objective: winning trophies. You should work for that and, if possible, go out one day. But that's not a problem. Abidal was talking more about the mentality of the group than about going out together. Personally I like to spend time at home, with my family, listening to african music and watching television.

Alves says you don't need to be friends with every team-mate, as long as you play well together on the pitch.
I agree. He has a winning mentality. If you want to win, you won't be able to do that if you don't talk with your team-mates. We're all coming alone very well, both on and off the pitch.

Football is the same everywhere?
I think so, yes. It's the same everywhere. In France, England, Spain...

Also at a passion level?
In Sevilla people live football very intense, like here. There are clubs that are more calm and that don't have the atmosphere you have here before the games, with a lot of people in the streets. Every club has its own fans.

You think Europeans have a correct view of African football?
No. African football wasn't that good before but now you have a lot of African players who play with European top clubs and the level has increased.

What's the difference between African and other players?
I don't know. Africans are physically strong and technically good. But I don't hink there are real differences. Every player is different. Before African players maybe weren't as good tactically becuase you didn't have the youth academies. But now Africa also has them and you see the difference.

You already feel like a European player?
A little.

But you're missing Bamako?
Yes, Bamako is my city, that's where my friends live, my family, my brothers and sisters, my mother. Everybody lives there. Bamako is the most important city in my life. I have everything there. Every time I can, I go and visit everybody. It makes me happy.

You're a muslim.
It's a way to have some guidance in life. Thanks to my beliefs, I don't have problems with anybody because that's the way to act. Being a muslim is not that easy these days. We have generally a bad image, but a muslim is a person who is very calm and has respect for everything, someone who doesn't want to hurt anybody.



This was the second and last part of this interview.

Read the first part here:

Xavi not included in Athletic list

Barcelona manager Josep Guardiola has earlier today announced the list of 18 players for the seventh game of the Spanish league against Athletic Bilbao tomorrow evening at 7 pm.

The list:
Valdés, Pinto,
Alves, Puyol, Piqué, Márquez, Abidal, Sylvinho,
Hleb, Busquets, Touré, Víctor Sánchez, Keita, Iniesta,
Messi, Eto'o, Bojan, Henry


Hleb (after injury) and Víctor Sánchez return to the list. Sylvinho makes his first Liga list of the season.

Jorquera and Cáceres are not included. Xavi, Gudjohnsen, Pedro and Milito are not available because of injuries.

Ramzi Rambles: With Elisa!




DAVID VS GOLIATH?



Two guys having a coffee break in a crowded café’… One of them supports Los Leones and the other is a fan of the Blaugrana



Ramzi: Hey Elisa, how is it going in the Basque Camp?


Elisa: Well, Athletic continues the fearsome foursome run. This time they face FC Barcelona at El Catedral, what used to be called the Fortress. Athletic has gotten off to a very slow start with only five points and two losses in their last two games. What about the Catalans?

Ramzi: Barcelona is on the way up! Did you see our come back against Espanyol? Betis? Shakhtar? Did you see how we smashed Atletico Madrid?! We are the best! Who is next? Athletic Bilbao? We will have ANOTHER SCORING CARNIVAL NO DOUBT! Hm… that's the atmosphere in the Barca camp…and that's exactly what makes me worried… the over confidence virus is filling the air! The way you talk about Athletic makes it feel as if its time to pack the bags and prepare for a relegation battle? Already?!

Elisa: Well no, it's still early days and if you recall last year, Athletic started off extremely slow, but went on a dynamite run after the Winter break, so now is not the time to panic. Yes the socios are upset, they expected a solid start (after a loooong pre-season) and the return of the Copa del Rey. They are all still possible, but the play on the pitch needs to improve, here and now. The team needs to play as a cohesive unit and when the going gets tough... you know the cliche.


Ramzi: Yes I know, Elisa, maybe that’s why I think Barcelona needs to take this game seriously. No doubt Athletic can't match the quality of the Catalan giant, not at the moment anyway, but what about Numancia? In brief this game must be taken seriously or else… The guys of the Basque are well known for their dedication and fighting spirit, they will not welcome Barcelona with chains of roses, nah... This is not Hawaii! This is San Mamés, if you know what I mean… Barcelona will play against a team that has a point to prove after a bad start of the season, a team that may play a very defensive game and count on counter attacks, yeah… Barcelona worst scenario.

Elisa: Here's our record at home against the Catalans:

2007-08 1-1
2006-07 1-3
2005-06 3-1
2004-05 1-1
2003-04 0-1

Ok, nothing stellar, but we do have a fighting chance of making it a game. Rumor has it that Pep may rest Messi, due to the long flight from Argentina and upcoming Champions League games, but ya never know. They have a solid team with an extremely deep bench and they are on fire.

Ramzi: Even though Barcelona usually does not enjoy a nice come back after international break, but it will not be the case this week. I have all the confidence that Barcelona can win this game, REALLY win it – another scoring carnival! But that will only happen if we saw another copy of that wild performance we enjoyed against Atletico, how do you think Athletic will play their cards?

Elisa: Well its Joaquin Caparrós' 50th game with the team and he hasn't come out with a squad yet, because well, it's murky. The head honcho is unsure of his midfield. Javi Martinez looks like he is recuperating quite nicely and may be available for this weekend's game. But sheesh, he was supposed to be out for three to four weeks due to a knee injury. Easy now, the kid is not superman! Joseba Exteberría, El Gallo, looks like he has recovered as well. But I would assume that both players will start on the bench and only brought in if needed.

So there are two rules of thought for the starting 11 - 4-5-1 or 4-4-2? Here we tinker again! Athletic has had a lot of problems with a holey defense, so a 4-5-1 could be the way to go. But the goal production has also proved an issue, so there is an argument to go with the old 4-4-2. Athletic needs to impose a very physical game, clog the midfield and pathways. If you allow Barça to play their fast passing game, well... game over. Frankly, I would be happy with a point or a low scoring loss, no more embarrassing 4 nil games puleeze.

Here's the potential line up with 4-4-2: In Goal - Iraizoz, In Defense - Iraola, Aitor Ocio, Amorebieta, Balenziaga. In Midfield - Gurpegi, Orbaiz, Yeste, David Lopez Upfront - Susaeta or Gabilondo and Fernando Llorente

For 4-5-1: In Goal and Defense no change, In midfield move Susaeta back on the right wing and play Llorente upfront as the lone striker.

There are other iterations, I can go on. Most probably Caparrós won't make up his mind until match day. I feel that Athletic needs to go with experience especially upfront and in midfield. That's why Ion Velez and Iturraspe are not listed above. Being a fiscally prudent club with a very strict Basque policy makes it very difficult for the club to be successful. The key is to play as a collective unit with a system or strategy that picks at the weaknesses of each opponent. I don't think that we are there yet, but I see the potential. Let's go at the Cules with some high balls and some very physical play. Still, I don't think we have a chance in hell of winning the game. I just want a respectable result and an inspired battle, what about Barcelona?

Ramzi: Its easier to guess the lottery numbers Elisa, Pep is an unpredictable coach, specially for a game that introduce a champions league week, so don't blame me if I became more confusing while trying to figure out the right selection, but let's make an attempt to read how pep and co do the decision making and pick their starting eleven.

Ramzi moving the coffee cups aside and opening a roll of papers on the table, While Elisa move his eyes around the place, I don’t know this guy, what the hell is he doing?!!

The typical, automatic, theoretical – put any other weird description you want – selection is:

Valdes, Alves, Puyol, Pique, Abidal – Busquets, Xavi, Hleb – Messi, Eto'o, and Iniesta.

In the perfect world this is the selection recommended, seal a result then make your substitutions getting Caceres in for Puyol to rest the captain for the Champions league game, or for Abidal to figure out how he can perform on the left, and then use Bojan to save Messi batteries for the following battles.

But some factors will shake that up, first, it may be too early for Hleb to start, the Iceland could have been the player who take Hleb role then, but again, Gudi is not ready - injured- and pep may give the priority for the players who had no international games to play, or came back earlier than the others, and based on that, he may pick Rafa Márquez, and Seydou Keita, as starters instead of Puyol/Abidal and Hleb.

Touré Yaya came back early too but has picked up a minor injury in the internal meniscus of his right knee. It is not yet known whether the injury is serious enough to cast any doubt on his presence in the game at San Mamés on Sunday – as mentioned on the Club official site... So if he is ready he may take Busquets place.

Tactically, if Bojan or Hleb started the game instead of Messi, we will have no tactical changes, the same 4-3 -3 with Bojan playing as a second striker beside Eto'o, Iniesta on the left and Alves running on the right flank.

What about my favorite selection? I will be more unpredictable than pep, and in the photo below is a sample of the Offense selection that may work for this game, keeping in mind that Messi played two internationals in South America and may be there is a risk of using him from the start.

As for the defense, when losing the ball Alves bounce back to do his role as right back, the trio Puyol, Pique and Marquez are appropriate for this game, they will form a solid back line but most importantly they will have their saying to cause threat through set pieces – corners – which may prove being the key to unlock Athletic defensive game. But if pep wants the two fullbacks to go forward instead of having three central backs, then Abidal is a starter. Offensively, If Hleb is not completely fit, then Keita will be the guy for the mission, unless if Pep wanted an Ultra offensive game using Iniesta in the middle and Bojan as a third striker, even though knowing that Bilbao fans are well known for putting lot of pressure on the visitors, its better to start Bojan on the bench. Final note, There are whispers that Xavi may not be able to play this game, if so, then iniesta presence in the midfield is Vital to insure ball distribution”.

Elisa: “Oh and a last minute referee change. Mejuto Gonzalez got injured during the International play, so Undiano Mallenco will be the man. Don't worry, even though he is a Basque ref, Athletic will still get no favors.”

Ramzi: “Good luck, Elisa, I think you will need it ;) “

************************

Thank you Elisa for the great cooperation to make this preview come true, click here to visit his Athletic Bilbao blog on "The Offside".

Celtic Glasgow interested in Sylvinho and Jeffren

Catalan sports paper El Mundo Deportivo claims that Scottish champions Celtic Glasgow is interested in Barcelona left back defender Sylvinho (34).

The contract of Sylvinho expires next summer and Celtic thinks he could bring some international experience to the club.

Celtic would also be looking at the option of offering Barcelona Atlètic wing attacker Jeffren Suárez (20 - picture) a loan deal and could already make an offer in January (read more
here). Jeffren, who is represented by his father Efrén, is also followed by other clubs but would like to take part in the Champions league or the Uefa cup.

Read more:
Barça B: Valencia, Sevilla and Villareal want Jeffren
OFFICIAL: Sylvinho renewal
Barça B: Celtic wants Jeffren on loan

Asenjo candidate to be back-up for Valdés

Catalan sports paper El Mundo Deportivo claims that Barcelona is seriously interested in Real Valladolid goalkeeper and Spanish youth international Sergio Asenjo (19). The player has already been watched by Barcelona scouts three times this season (read more here).

Asked about the rumours, the player's agent Fernando Redondo is quoted as confirming the interest of Barcelona: "Asenjo is followed by Zaragoza, AC Milan, Manchester United and indeed also Barcelona. No official bid has been launched until this moment."

Barcelona would be looking for a young goalkeeper with a great future who should for now act as back-up for Víctor Valdés. Asenjo, who has a contract with Real Valldolid until the summer of 2011 and a buyout clause of 5,5 million euro°, would prefer to join a Spanish club where he can be the number one.

Asked about the rumours linking him with several clubs aongst which Barcelona, Asenjo said yesterday at a press conference that this is an extra motivation for him: "If it's true that teams like that are interested in me, it means I'm doing a good job. Personally I haven't been informed by the club or my representatives, I only know what I read in the press. It's an additional motivation to work hard and get better.

Until december I don't want to think about it. Then we can make a decision although my first option is to stay. At this moment I'm focused on Valladolid and the game we will play this weekend. Last summer I already had the chance to leave but I preferred to look at more things than only the financial side. At nineteen, you cannot ask more than the chance to play in the Liga."


Read more:
Barcelona closely following Asenjo
Looking for a goal keeper
Valladolid goalkeeper Asenjo monitored


Watch a video of Asenjo:

Xavi (2): "The Golden Ball belongs to Messi"

In an interview with Catalan sports paper Sport, Barcelona midfielder Xavi talked about the season so far.


(read the first part of the interview here)


The problem with being on such a high is that you can only go downhill now.
I don't plan on being successful forever. I've spent 10 years in the first team and I'm aware of the player that I am. I'll never think of myself as a great player. I'm not better than anybody else.

Well, you're probably a candidate for the Golden Ball.
I'm flattered that people say these things, but this year the Golden Ball belongs to one person: Lionel Messi.

Don't be modest...
No, it's the truth. When I see him in training, I think to myself: this guy is two or three steps ahead of everybody. Then I see him play and I think: "Incedible! How can I do that?" I assure you that you can't train that. You carry it in your blood.

Carrying the armband feels good, right?
To be honest, my role remains the same as before.

Well, now you're second captain and the homegrown players are an influential part of the squad.
The truth is that Guardiola has given us a bigger role. He wants us to help the newcomers and the youth, who are sometimes lost. Being a captain is more than just wearing the armband.

How do you feel about the accusations that Frank Rijkaard was the one responsible for Barca's worst moments?
It's a lack of respect to a manager that gave us everything and took us very far. The cowardly thing is to criticize somebody who isn't here anymore and I don't think it's right nor adequate to do so. Both Puyol and I are very calm about the subject as it is often brought up and we comment on it. You can say what you want but if the other doesnt listen... The past, for better or worse, is the past. I don't want to point the blame at individuals because it's not right.


Translated by Al

This was the first part of this interview. The third and last part will follow later this week.

You can read the first part here:
Xavi (1): "Home-grown players are easier criticized"

Friday, 17 October 2008

Txiki (4): "We were right giving Eto'o a new chance"

In his first interview to a paper in two years, Barcelona sports director Txiki Begiristain talked to Catalan sports paper Sport about the past months and the current situation of the club.


(you can read the earlier parts of this interview here)


A lot of the key figures of last seasons' team stayed at the club, like Eto'o... He's still there because nobody signed him.
Guardiola said that if he would stay, he would give everything to get him back at his best level and that Eto'o would be one of the guys. You shouldn't forget that phrase. It's true that until the 21st of July, there was one situation and after that we had another. Guardiola talked with Eto'o and both took the shared and right decision to continue together at Barcelona and it has been proven that somtimes in life giving someone a second chance can turn out very well. Samuel has today the same ambition as the first day.

Rafael Márquez is another player who seemed to be on his way out and who is now performing at a great level...
Here it also was Guardiola who talked with the player and who decided he should stay. I gave Guardiola all the information that I had and then he took the decision what to do. Márquez is without any doubt a very important player for our team. There are few players in the world who understand the game that well. He's an intelligent guy and tactically he's helping the coach a lot on the pitch. He reads the game very well.

Xavi and Iniesta have this season definetely become key players...
You won't find two players like them on the market. They're taking a lot of responsibility and that's good for the team. Iniesta is incredible in the one on one and, like Xavi, he's never hiding himself. They are two homegrown players who go out there and play as if the Camp Nou is their backyard.

We finish with Henry. His game doesn't convince and sometimes he shows to be very little integrated...
Thierry came here at a very difficult moment, because of his personal problems and the crisis of the team. He needs to take up a more important role within the team. And we're starting to see that because in every game he has a big chance or he scores. Guardiola is very satisfied with his work.

This team is hungry for trophies?
I like what I see. You just have to watch how they celebrate the goals. Last time, they celebrated the sixth goal as if it was the first one. That says something.



This was the first and last part of this interview.

Read the previous parts here:
Txiki (1): "Messi is the best player of the planet"
Txiki (2): "The players are very loyal to the coach"
Txiki (3): "Champions win couldn't save Rijkaard"

How things stood: Centre forward

At the end of last season, this blog looked forward to the coming transfer summer under the title "How things stand". Five months later and knowing what we know now, it's interesting to take a look back.




2007-2008
Due to the injury of Samuel Eto'o (27), who kept him away from playing until December, Thierry Henry (30) initially took the place in the centre. Since Henry had to move regularly to the left cause of the troubles Ronaldinho was facing, Bojan (17) got his chance up front.

Out
Bojan will certainly stay and will probably sign a renewal this summer (read more here). At this moment it looks like Henry will also stay, although he has been linked with a return to the Premier League (Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham, Manchester City, Newcastle, West Ham, Aston Villa), with a move to the Major League Soccer (Seattle, New York) and with clubs like Inter Milan and Fenerbahçe.

Since he declared one month ago that he would leave Barcelona if the team does not win a trophy next season (read more here), Samuel Eto'o is in the middle of a transfer storm. Tottenham would have been pushing hard for the striker but it seems for now difficult he'll end up with the club, both for economic and sports reasons. Clubs like AC Milan, Inter Milan, Juventus, Fenerbahçe, Chelsea and Arsenal could also be following the Cameroonian.

In
Karim Benzema (Lyon - 20) is the dream candidate but will not leave Lyon in the summer. Since Guardiola was named as manager, there are rumours about him wanting to bring in a strong, tall striker, with Emmanuel Adebayor (Arsenal - 24) apparently being the back-up for Benzema.

Other names that were mentioned include Adriano (São Paulo/Inter - 26), Jozy Altidore (New York - 18), Amauri (Palermo - 27), Dimitar Berbatov (Tottenham - 27), Diego Milito (Zaragoza - 28), Didier Drogba (Chelsea - 30), Dani Güiza (Mallorca -27), Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (Ajax - 24), Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Inter - 26), Kevin Kuranyi (Schalke - 26), Luis Fabiano (Sevilla - 27), Rodrigo Palacio (Boca Juniors - 26) and David Trezeguet (Juventus - 30).


How things stood:

Marquez wants to renew his contract

Catalan sports paper Sport claims that Barcelona central defender and Mexican international Rafael Márquez (29) wants to renew his contract that expires in the summer of 2010 (read more here).

He would have informed his agent about his wish and the latter has left Barcelona a first note and had several telephone calls with Barcelona sports director Txiki Begiristain. Márquez' agent will travel later this month to Barcelona to meet with Begiristain. Barcelona would be willing to renew the contract.

Márquez would want to sign one last "European" contract, if possible until 2014, before he returns to Mexico to play a last season with his former club Atlas (read more
here). Italian club AC Milan could also be interested.

The Mexican defender would prefer to reach an agreement before the end of the year and Barcelona manager Josep Guardiola wants a deal as soon as possible but Barcelona first wants to finish some other negotiations.

Asked about his future at Barcelona, Márquez repeated last week to journalists his wish to renew with Barcelona: "I would be delighted to renew and finish my career in Barcelona, where I'm very happy. We will talk later with the club about the issue, but this is my stand. Personally I feel very comfortable in Barcelona and I'm convinced we can achieve a lot this season."

Read more:

Medical: Green light for Hleb

Barcelona attacker Alexander Hleb (27) received yesterday the green light from the Barcelona medicall staff. After one month, Hleb is ready to play again.


On Saturday 13 September, Hleb suffered a sprain of the external lateral ligament of his left ankle (degree 2-3) and the middle toe of his left foot during the Racing Santander game (read more here).

Read more:

Keita (1): "I will bring more in the future"

In an interview with Catalan sports paper Sport, Barcelona midfielder Seydou Keita talked about his first months at the club.





Several weeks have passed since your arrival but you haven't yet showed your best, why is that?
In other clubs, the player are running a lot, here it's the ball that's running. You always have to be at the right place. The football we're playing is totally different compared with my previous clubs. Here the team always has the ball and every player has his zone. If you don't have the ball, you have to wait. It's all about adaptation. It's easier to adapt to other clubs than to this one. Other clubs have a different philosophy.

Playing with Barcelona is very different?
It is, because in France and with Sevilla I always played 4-4-2. But that's not an excuse, a player should be able to adapt to the system of his club.

Being 28, you're arriving here at the right time or you should have come earlier?
Nobody knows what can happen tomorrow. Today I'm here and I wait to see what will happen because it's difficult for a player when the team doesn't win trophies. The most important thing is winning matches and trophies. When the team plays well, it's better for the indivduals. If the team doesn't play well, I won't be good either.

Are you giving everything we can expect?
Of course I should offer more but I'm just here for a few months. Joining another club is always difficult. I arrived a few months ago and I still have to adapt. But I sure will bring more in the future.

The club is what you expected?
Before arriving here, I knew it was a very big club. So in that sense, the pressure doesn't surprise me. Nothing has surprised me actually.

You felt really comfortable in Sevilla. How do you feel here?
I also had some difficult months when I arrived in Sevilla. It's not really difficult here but I just had to show more in my first months. There are eight months left and the season is very long. The most important thing for everyone, including the press, is that the team is playing well.

Maybe you need some extra motivation, like when they appointed you as captain in Lens and you grew as a player.
I'm a player who needs to have responsibility and to feel that my game is respected. I'm new here so I have to win everybody's respect. It's a matter of time before I will be able to feel totally integrated, regarding my team-mates, the coaches, the club and even the fans.

Scoring would do you good...
Yes, it would mean a lot to me. Although I'm not a goalscorer. At Sevilla I scored my first goal after eight matches against Real Madrid. I like to score but my main qualities are others.



This was the first part of this interview. You will be able to read the second and last part in the coming days with Keita talking - amongst other things - about the atmosphere in the dressing-room and about being a muslim.

Youth: Chelsea confirms monitoring Deulofeu

Asked about the rumours linking Chelsea with several Barcelona youth players (read more here), Chelsea head scout for Spain and Portugal Juan Cruz Sol has denied in an interview with Catalan sports paper Sport that Chelsea is interested in Barcelona Atlètic attacking midfielder and Spanish youth international Thiago Alcántara (17) or his younger brother, Barcelona Cadete A midfielder and Spanish youth international Rafael "Rafa" Alcántara (15).

Cruz Sol nevertheless confirmed that the English Premier League club is monitoring Barcelona Cadete A wing attacker and Spanish youth international Gerard Deulofeu (14), although a transfer is not an option at this moment: "I saw Deulofeu play and I will keep on following him, but Chelsea didn't talk with him or with Barcelona. Everybody likes Deulofeu but this doens't necessarily means we will sign him.

We know that a lot of clubs are following him. Which is normal because he's a very talented player who can be decisive. Technically he's great and he's very intelligent, although you should always see which progress he will make in the future."

Read more:
Youth: Chelsea all over Barcelona youth academy
Barça B - Youth: Chelsea talks with father Thiago
Youth: Deulofeu wants to stay in Barcelona


Watch a video of Deulofeu:

Xabi Alonso transfer in January unlikely

Catalan sports paper El Mundo Deportivo claims that, although the player would be delighted to join Barcelona, Liverpool midfielder and Spanish international Xabi Alonso (26) most probably won't come to Barcelona in January.

Liverpool manager Rafael Benítez would be holding on to Xabi Alonso, while Barcelona manager Josep Barcelona doesn't plan to let go Yaya Touré, whom Xabi should replace (read more
here).

At this moment, there wouldn't be any deal agreed upon between Barcelona and Alonso or between the two clubs.

British tabloid The Sun claims that Barcelona would be preparing a 15 million euro° offer for Xabi Alonso in case Touré would leave in January.

Asked about the rumours linking him with a winter move to Barcelona, Xabi didn't want to enter the issue when speaking to journalists earlier this week: "I am content at Liverpool and I have still not decided on a concrete date for my return to the Liga."

Read more:

Medical: Gudjohnsen misses next two matches

Barcelona has officially announced that Barcelona attacker and Iceland international Eidur Gudjohnsen (29) came back injured from international duty.

Gudjohnsen has a slight tear in one of the hamstring muscles in the back of the thigh of his left leg.


Gudjohnsen will almost certainly miss the next two games, on Sunday against Athletic Bilbao and next week against Basel. On Friday he will undergo a further set of exams to determine precisely what is wrong and then start a recovery program.

Catalan sports paper Sport claims that Gudjohnsen will be out for at least one month.

Read more:
Medical: Pedro out for four weeks
Medical: Toure uncertain for Bilbao game
Medical: Alves has recovered from injury

The Ultimate Game: Get Inside Guardiola's Head


With Frank Rijkaard you couldn't get any honour by predicting Barcelona's starting line-up. Even hockey moms could. But this has dramatically changed this summer. Until this very day, nobody has been able to crack the code of Josep Guardiola's brain. Nor has anyone got inside his sleeves.

So this is your chance to prove not only your knowledge about the game of football but also your psychological insight:


PREDICT BARCELONA'S STARTING LINE-UP


This is not (as in: NOT) a place for discussion on team tactics or personal player preferences. You just give the system and the eleven names you think will start the game against Athletic Bilbao on Sunday.

You put them in the right position, so using the 4-3-3 (or whatever you think he will play) and putting the players from the right to the left, so the right back defender is your first name after the goalkeeper. Note: the central defenders should also be put in the right position (centre right and centre left). If your line-up isn't clear, my interpretation counts.

Don't forget to add your (nick)name by clicking Name/URL under the comment box and fill it in, otherwise your after-game claim to glory will be dismissed.

You can give your starting line-up until four hours before the start of the game, in this case: until 3 pm barcelona time.

If you give your line-up before Guardiola announes his match list, you get one point for the correct line-up. If you do it after that announcement, you get half a point. Who will have 10 points somewhere down this season, can call himself the winner.

Last time (against Atlético Madrid), nobody gave the correct line-up.

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Ramzi Rambles: A new day has come! (part 3)

This is the last part of Barcelona Overview, in the first part we sent a message of gratitude to Frank Rijkaard and tried to learn the lessons from that era (Click here), in the second part it was more about Barcelona defense and midfield beside Barcelona goalkeepers (Click here),
In this last part we talk about Barcelona forwards and of course, about Pep Guardiola.
Here we go...


Upfront!

Reengineering their forward line was one of the most complicated challenges for Barcelona during the transfer period, and to evaluate the output we have to admit that they failed to do so. I use the term "failed" based on the team announced objectives when they started the reengineering project and how things ended up.

The plan was to sell Ronaldinho and Eto’o, and buy a left winger and a target man to be the in-box striker whom Barcelona missed dearly last season when they played against the teams that park their buses in their box, in such situations when there were no spaces, Eto'o and co failed to unlock the block and score, and being the kind of players who move out/in rather than sticking in the right positioning in the box, Eto’o and co turned to help the opponent to narrow the spaces more.

The solution, in Pep's point of view, was simply to get Adebayor from Arsenal, a tall-huge player whom Pep can plant in the box, and no matter how many players the giant striker will have around he will still be tall enough to keep his head high to welcome crosses and bounce the ball to the net, besides creating spaces for those who come from behind or flanks.

Practical approach, but simply wasn’t meant to be, getting Ade wasn’t possible, not for a reasonable price anyway, neither the other options worked, for a reason or another, so Barcelona ended up leaning on the same old guys, Eto’o – Bojan – Henry and Messi.

Saying so, I don’t mean that this is a disaster, it just created the challenge of how to avoid passing through the same situation that happened again and again last season when Barcelona failed to threat a stacked team in their box.

I can't claim that the first few games proved that the problem is definitely solved, but I believe Pep partially overcome that problem using Messi as a second striker so Eto’o is not isolated anymore in the box, the striking duo is clicking perfectly recently, though I believe the concern will always be there.

The big question is: will this be the Messi season we are all waiting? If no serious long injuries blowed that possibility, there are lot of reasons to believe so. He is a matured talent now, with a new role that will make him express himself more, less international friendlies, and with the team having better resources this season to rest him when needed, Messi can be so messy this season, shaking defense and causing terror.

We have seen an Eto’o whom we can feel excited about. A great start for the season and most Barcelona fans feel relaxed that the summer transfer collapsed, imagine a team without Eto’o, especially if we failed to get someone in his place!

Iniesta, the great left winger! Who said there is a problem left on the left? Till now, it seems to be our strength, Amazing performance, he is even becoming more and more dangerous in front of the goal. Have you seen the Gudi goal against Atletico? That’s a sample!

The player who used to pass the ball after dribbling the keeper vanished, and now we have a player who want to shoot and score, even though he need to pick his shots to increase accuracy, and if he keep improving the way we are witnessing, he will not need a long time to be labeled as the best winger in the world, I am not carried away, but may be I am little bit excited because I have always believed in Iniesta the winger, from the beginnings.

Backing up this line, the team has Bojan as a player who can be used in Messi's position, after Messi switched to become a second striker, Bojan may not have as much responsibilities as last season - which is good for his age - but I think this season will be the last before he turn to become an established star who will play a huge role in the future of this club.

Pedro will be more an Iniesta back-up, he needs to take advantage of the promotion to the first team, there are a chain of wingers coming up from the youth ranks in the following few seasons so he dont have lot of room to slow down his progress, a good talent and good luck.

Henry is the striker who can take Eto’o place or play beside Eto’o when Pep feels he needs two strikers in the box. When I have a look on all European clubs, I can barely find a team having that much quality in a player who is not considered as a first option - till now he is second in the picking order behind Eto'o, but will he accept playing a secondary role? One thing that I am not happy about is that he is doing lot of talking recently, positive and negative comments in almost more than one interview per week, I hope he focus more on his role with the team, and I believe he can play a great role, as a striker.



I can't pick another team that have a forward line that match Barcelona forward combination, so I will not hide a secret if I say there is no need to seek any changes in January, unless if the team got an offer for Henry (I doubt), an offer that neither the club nor the player can resist then we will need to sign another striker.

What are the transfer options in January? Well, I only have one unpopular option for January - only in case Henry leaves - and that is Crespo. He is a player who can play the Larsson role, experienced in the box and is willing to be benched. It will be better than his current situation in Inter, where the kind of strikers they have give no chance for him even to warm the bench, he can also play in Champions league because he is not registered with Inter for Champions league games.

He is a short term option, may be till summer, and Inter will be willing to accept a loan offer, they surprisingly may prefer a loan offer over a sale, because in a loan contract they can put a condition that Barcelona is not allowed to select him against Inter if the two teams met in Champions league, while that’s not possible if they sell him, and he don’t have a big market value so Inter will not feel greedy to sell. That’s only if Henry left, again, unlikely.

What about summer? Still too early, but I think we need to make a change, the team need that big striker to give some other options the team miss at the moment, a young big striker who can offer that added value on the short term, and complement Messi/Bojan on the long term, and I have my reasons to write the previous phrase in bold. So in order to have that striker, we need a space for him, so we need to sell before we buy, but not selling both Eto’o and Henry, that will be insane! You cant start a new season with no guaranteed tested striker, what will Barcelona do if the new players needed time to adapt, or even flopped? At the end, every transfer is a risk, isn’t it?

I cant find any reason for Barcelona to take that risk, I think the best scenario is to keep Eto’o by renewing his contract – and I don’t take that pay cut news seriously. Here is my case:

If Barcelona wanted to sell Eto’o this summer, they will get around 15 M because his contract is expiring, and selling him with Henry will make them start the season with no certainty, instead they can sell Henry (the older and less crucial), renew Eto’o contract and buy a new striker. This way they start the season with guaranteed card in hand - Eto’o, and a promising striker.

If the new striker accomplished himself and proved being a successful transfer, and if based on that Barcelona felt they don’t need Eto’o anymore, they will be able to sell him for at least 15M, the same amount they will get if they take the risk of selling him next summer, because the new contract conditions will put the team in a stronger position. If the new striker failed, at least you will still have Eto’o whom we know what he can offer.

I had a thought that may be keeping Eto’o will make new strikers hesitate to join Barcelona, but then I ignored that idea, because the strikers who panic if there is competition for places is a striker Barcelona simply don’t need, in a big team the competition will always exist and the rotation is a must, so who will be signed must be welling to welcome this fact.

If selling both Henry and Eto'o is a must, then we better find our striker some where in South America and sign him on January so we have a close eye on him to make sure if he will be our winning card for next season, and whenI say so I have no name in mind, we read a new name every day, and I think my cousin who lives in Brazil is the only name that is not mentioned yet as a Barcelona transfer target, but the way things are going, I guess I will read his name soon if he got lucky enough to score a blind shot while playing with his two children.


Josep Guardiola i Sala
He was my third option, behind Wenger and Scolari, but now that he was appointed, I have a good feeling about it, even though he made the second worst start for Barcelona in the season (first six games) since 2004, as the following table show:

Season
2004-2005 W W D W W W (16 Points)
2005-2006 D W L D W D (9 Points)
2006-2007 W W W D W W (16 Points)
2007-2008 D W D W W W (14 points)
2008-2009 L D W W W W (13 points)

What makes me feel good is the fact that this guy has been masticated with Barcelona colors, so he know exactly where he stands, and how things go in this club.

Secondly, his tactical structure contained lot of modifications that proved its worth already, changing Messi positioning, using Iniesta on the left flank – though he was used there before - and playing three central backwards when needed are some of the changes. But the change was more radical when we talk about the mentality, and when we go in details about players roles on the field, but I will stop it here without testing your patience to read.

He also created a big technical/medical staff to assure each and every detail will be taken seriously, he remind me, to some extend, of France coaching staff in world cup 1998.

Of what we read and saw, it’s obvious that there is more diversity in training now, especially physically and for set pieces, players admit it, and Xavi was so clear regarding set pieces, while Abidal sound to be more satisfied with the physical aspects.

One serious challenge for Guardiola will be the size of the squad, he has lot of first class players in his squad competing for limited positions, how will he keep them all satisfied is a question. No doubt this confident charismatic coach has a plan including a certain rotation strategy, but will it work? And for how long? Time will tell...

He is showing enough character treating all the players on the same level, and substituting as it suits the team even if that will mean sometimes taking Eto’o of and see how he look when he is upset. Also, pep is showing enough vision working on a rotation system that will prove its worth on the long term, will that make him a great coach? Certainly it’s too early to jump to that conclusion, but it’s fair enough to offer him enough time to express himself.

Barcelona is certainly one of the teams to beat domestically and in the Champions League, not the only horse in the race, but certainly an exciting one.

My final conclusion is that Barcelona can count on the resources they have for now, In this long overview splited on three parts, I tried to express a pont of view, which is certainly not a definite judgement, but based on what I mentioned, I create my opinion regarding players who come or go, because If we look outdoors there will always be dozens of talents we wish to have them in our team, but when we look indoor, we can see first what are the needs of the team before browsing the best options to fit those needs.

Now based on your own evaluation, do you think we need to buy in January? Why and for which role? What will that improve? What about summer? Do we already have definite targets? Let us know!

International: No wins for Barça's Latin Americans

On Tuesday, Uruguay drew two all in Bolivia. Barcelona central defender Martín Cáceres played the whole game.

Brazil were yesterday held to their third successive home goalless draw in the FIFA World Cup qualifiers, this time against Colombia, on Wednesday. Barcelona right back defender Daniel Alves didn't make the bench.

Argentina lost 1-0 against Chile yesterday. Barcelona right wing attacker Lionel Messi played the whole match. Barcelona central defender Gabriel Milito is still injured.





1. Paraguay (10) 23
2. Brazil (10) 17
3. Argentina (10) 16

4. Chile (10) 16
5. Uruguay (10) 13
6. Ecuador (10) 12
7. Colombia (10) 11
8. Venezuela (10) 10
9. Bolivia (10) 9
10. Peru (10) 7


The top 4 teams qualify for the 2010 World Cup. The 5th placed team enters a home-and-away playoff with the 4th placed team North, Central America & Caribbean team.


Mexico drew two all against Canada. Barcelona central defender Rafael Márquez was suspended.

1. Mexico (5) 10
2. Honduras (5) 9
3. Jamaica (5) 7
4. Canada (5) 2


The three goup winners and the three runners-up will form one group. The top 3 teams qualify for the 2010 World Cup. The 4th placed team enters a home-and-away playoff with the 5th placed South-American team.



Coldplay on the Barcelona bus



Catalan sports paper El Mundo Deportivo claims that Barcelona manager Josep Guardiola puts on music from the British band Coldplay each time the team bus drives before the match from the hotel to the stadium.



Renewal negotiations with Busquets have started

Barcelona sports director Txiki Begiristain met yesterday afternoon with Josep Maria Orobitg, the agent of Barcelona defensive midfielder and Spanish youth international Sergio Busquets (20) to start the negotaions about a contract renewal.

Several media claim that Busquets, whose current contract expires next summer, has been offered a four-year deal consisting of a fixed salary plus incentives. Catalan sports paper Sport claims that Barcelona has offered a very low fixed part, that would be comparable to a B-team contract, with high incentives.

After the two-hour meeting, Orobitg told journalists that an agreement isn't even close at this point: "This was a first contact, we're not anywhere near a deal. I've listened to the proposal that, to my judgment, clearly isn't high enough and I've informed my client about it. Sergio of course deserves far more than a B-team contract. Several clubs are interested but he wishes to stay with Barcelona. So I'll soon meet again with Txiki Begiristain. The negotiations will continue next week."

French football site More Foot meanwhile claims that both English Premier League club Arsenal and Italian club Juventus are interested in Busquets.

Read more:
Busquets wants to renew as soon as possible
Marquez wants renewal before returning home
Busquets wants to renew despite Milan interest

Medical: Toure uncertain for Bilbao game

Barcelona defensive midfielder and Ivory Coast international Yaya Touré (25) returned this week to Barcelona with an injury.

The Ivorian suffers a problem at the internal meniscus of his right knee.

On Tuesday Touré didn't particpate in the training session, yesterday he did some exercises. His availability for the Sunday game against Athletic Bilbao depends on the evolution in the coming days.

Read more:
Medical: Pedro out for four weeks
Barcelona wants to clarify Toure situation
Medical: Hleb probably out for three to four weeks

How things stood: Wing attackers

At the end of last season, this blog looked forward to the coming transfer summer under the title "How things stand". Five months later and knowing what we know now, it's interesting to take a look back.



2007-2008
On the right wing, Giovani dos Santos (19) got a lot more playing time than expected due to the two serious injuries of Lionel Messi (20). Bojan (17) and Eto'o also moved away from the centre to the right side a few times this season.

First choice on the left wing Ronaldinho (28) had a season full of injuries and was rarely fit and on top of his game. Andrés Iniesta (24) and Thierry Henry (30) were the players who used to replace him. Santiago Ezquerro (31) did not get many opportunities.

Out
Despite interest from
Chelsea and Inter, Messi will certainly stay. The situation of Giovani is not clear. He could leave on a loan or a permanent deal. Manchester City, Inter and Chelsea are rumoured to be interested. Both players could also be used more on the left wing next season.

Ronaldinho will most probably leave in the summer.
AC Milan is the main candidate for the transfer, with Manchester City and Inter Milan as the most important challengers. The contract of Ezquerro expires in June and the player didn't receive a renewal offer.

In
Franck Ribéry (Bayern Munich - 24), who can play on both wings, is probably the main candidate but is very unlikely to leave the German champions after one year. The other name that has been sticking out is left winger David Silva (Valencia - 22).

Further there were rumours about
Hatem ben Arfa (Lyon - 22), Diego Capel (Sevilla - 20), Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United - 23), Andrés Guardado (Deportivo La Coruña - 21) and Mancini (AS Roma - 27). Gai Assulin (17) could be promoted from the Barcelona B team.


How things stood:
Goal keeper
Right back defender
Central defenders
Left back defender
Defensive midfielder
Attacking midfielders

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