Saturday, 18 April 2009

Match discussion: Getafe

This evening at 8:00 pm bt,
Barcelona plays the 31st league game of the season against Getafe.

Getafe squad list:
no list announced

Barcelona squad list:
Valdés, Jorquera, Alves, Puyol, Piqué, Márquez, Abidal, Sylvinho, Xavi, Touré, Busquets, Keita, Gudjohsen, Iniesta, Messi, Eto'o, Bojan, Henry

Read a match preview here

Re-live the first round game here


From two hours before until two hours after the game you can join a match chat (read more here)

Before (what are your expectations, what's your prediction, what should be the line-up,...), during and after the match, you can also comment on the game here.

Preview : Getafe

Venue : Coliseum Alfonso Perez, Getafe

The irksome Getafe are up next on the road for a meandering Barca. In the context of the tough fixtures up ahead, the bench strength of the squad assumes vital importance as they would be relied upon to deal with ties such as these. Pep Guardiola has been short-changed by the inadequate performance of his reserves and as the season draws into its final and most arduous stage the rotation policy that was enthusiastically pursued earlier in the season seems to be churning ever slower.

Getafe with Madrid socio card waving President Angel Torres are eager to play a critical part in the title battle. A poor run of results since the winter break has seen Getafe slide close to the relegation zone and a win against Barca will buy them considerable breathing space too. The club which partly traces its origin to a bunch of Madrid supporters who couldn’t break into the capital, host matches in its 17 000 capacity Coliseum Alfonso Perez. The stadium is named after the player Alfonso Perez who played for Madrid, was the leading light at Betis, spent 2 seasons at Barca and popularised the use of white football boots.

The staid and practical Victor Munoz as coach of Getafe has never been the recipient of any popularity awards and his approach to the game is very much inclined to functionality rather than flair or entertainment. Nevertheless, he has knit together a compact and disciplined side which are likely to be well organised in defence and direct in their attacks. Besides this, Getafe’s consistency in ending the last 4 seasons since their promotion (in 2004) in mid-table is indicative of their resilience and growing confidence.

Getafe have won just 3 of their last 15 league ties, drawing 4 and losing 8. They keep talking about turning the 17 000 seater stadium into a fortress but their home record is only marginally better this season, than their away, 56% of their points being garnered at home and 44% away. The goal scoring and conceding percentages are similar with 55%of their goals scored at home and 45% conceded. Yet, they have proved troublesome for Barca over the last few years with the last win at the Coliseum for Barca coming in March 2006. These are the results over the 2006-07 and 2007-08 seasons.

Copa Del Rey

Apr 07 : Barca 5 – 2 Getafe
May 07 : Getafe 4 – 0 Barca

La Liga

Apr 08 : Barca 0 – 0 Getafe
Nov 07 : Getafe 2 – 0 Barca
May 07 : Barca 1 – 0 Getafe
Jan 07 : Getafe 1 – 1 Barca

Thats 2 wins, 2 losses and 2 draws.
The first leg at the Camp Nou this season ended in 1 – 1 draw, breaking a 9 match winning streak for Barca. Currently, Barca are on a 5 match winning streak.

Pep Guardiola cannot ignore the fixtures(8 matches against the top 4 Liga teams besides the Copa Del Rey final and the CL semis) coming up in the next 2 weeks as he decides his game plan for this encounter. Against Sevilla and Valencia (the next 2 games), Guardiola will have to put the big guns out since their greater attacking potential will warrant more edge in attack from Barca. Getafe do not have such potent attacking options to trouble the Barca defence. So Barca can go into this game with fewer regular starters and possibly come out with the same result.

But expecting a tough encounter, Pep will probably opt for more physical presence in midfield in order to break down any Getafe attack easily. So Busquets might get the start next to Toure in midfield rather than as the lone defensive midfielder. This will afford the forwards and Xavi the luxury of not having to chase down the Getafe midfield in trying to regain possession. Xavi was rested during the Recré game therefore seems the likely choice to start in the playmaker role but for this sort of game Iniesta might be a better option with his ability to beat defenders one-on-one and work his way into the box, giving Barca the possibility of winning penalties which could decide the game.

Thus, predicting a scrappy encounter with less of the neat build-up play we have seen from Barca for most of the season I would put Etoó in the starting eleven for his sharpness in finishing off loose ends, such as in a goal-mouth scramble. However Henry having sat out the Bayern game is the more rested and might be partnered with Bojan up front. Alexander Hleb has been left out of the 19 member squad named and that is a strange one perhaps indicating that either Messi or Iniesta has to start in one of the wide positions, perhaps with Gudjohnsen manning the central midfield.

Dani Alves could do with some time on the bench as well since a more solid defence capable of functioning independently will be preferable for this game. That means Puyol could slot in at right-back with Marquez and Pique pairing up in the centre while Abidal continues his reintegration into the system at left-back. 3 goalkeepers were named in the squad since Valdes suffered a minor knee injury so Pep could save his rickety legs and reward Pinto with another start.

The Azulones usually start with 2 up front in Soldado and Uche. Soldado has scored 10 goals this season and feeds on the service from Granero, Casquero and particularly ex-Valencia man Jaime Gavilan in midfield. Casquero is suffering from an injury however and may be replaced by Manu with Granero slotting in at the centre or by Celestini. Goalkeeper Jacobo can be expected to make a return after being suspended for the Sevilla game.

Predicted Lineups

Getafe 4-1-3-2 : Jacobo, Cortes, Mario, Belenguer, Licht, Polanski, Granero, Celestini, Gavilan, Soldado, Uche

Barcelona 4-3-3 : Pinto, Puyol, Marquez, Pique, Abidal, Toure, Busquets, Xavi, Bojan, Henry, Iniesta

A scrappy encounter may be in the offing. Barca have tougher games coming up and will be looking to finish this one off with the least expenditure of energy.

Prediction : Getafe 0 – 1 Barcelona

Barcelona is an option for Ajax forward Suarez

Asked about the rumours linking him with several European clubs among which Barcelona (read more here), Ajax forward and Uruayan international Luis Suárez (22) has said that he only wants to leave Ajax for a European top club this summer:

"AS Roma, that's an example of a club I wouldn't leave Ajax for at this moment. Villarreal in Spain, same story. If clubs like that make an offer this summer, I will surely stay. I want to do it like Huntelaar. He had set his mind on the absolute top after Ajax and he didn't accept any other offers. And now he's succeeding at the top. Another step forward in between wasn't necessary for Klaas.

The two Spanish top clubs are an option for me. I know the city of Barcelona well since my family-in-law is living there. My wife Sofia and I are going to visit them regulary, not every week though. I love it there. But will I join Barcelona one day? Or when? You just cannot know that.

I've intensely thought about it over the past weeks. We're one year before the World cup. Uruguay is competing for the qualification an I'm a fixed started in the national team. So I don't want to risk that spot for a club under the absolute top. At Ajax, I know what I have and what I still can win next season. Personally, I think I can be happy about this season. I feel good on the right wing. I prefer that position over being centre forward. Coming from the wing, you have more room for the one-on-one."

Read more:
Ajax striker Suarez closely monitored
Bojan monitored by half of Europe
Ajax forward Suarez dreaming about Barcelona

Watch a video of Suárez here:

Ten youth players nominated for prestigious award

The final list of nominations for this year Fútbol Draft trophies, the most prestigious Spanish awards for youth players, have been announced.

55 Spanish players between 16 and 21 years old are nominated (five for each position) and on 7 May a Golden, Silver and Bronze Eleven will be announced.

Besides two former Barcelona players - Fran Mérida (Arsenal, 1990) and Iago Falqué (Juventus, 1990) - ten Barcelona players are among the nominated players.

Rubén Miño (1989)

Right back defender
Albert Dalmau (1992)
Martín Montoya (1991)

Left central defender
Marc Muniesa (1992)

Left back defender
Carles Planas (1991)

Right central midfielder
Sergi Busquets (1988)

Left winger
Jeffrén Suárez (1988)

Attacking midfielder
Thiago Alcántara (1991)

Centre forward
Bojan Krkic (1990)
Rubén Rochina (1991)

Read more:
Bojan fourth in Golden Boy trophy
An introduction to Ruben Rochina
English and Italian clubs monitoring Barça youth

Pichichi and Zamora (day 30)

With Barcelona players competing for the trophies of best goalscorer and best goalkeeper of the Spanish league, this blog will follow the events during the second round.

26 Eto'o (Barcelona)
22 Villa (Valencia)
20 Forlán (Atlético Madrid)
19 Messi (Barcelona)
17 Negredo (Almería)

0,80 Víctor Valdés (Barcelona)
0,93 Palop (Sevilla)
1,03 Casillas (Real Madrid)
1,29 Toño (Racing Santander)
1,38 Aranzubía (Deportivo)

Camp Nou (second) greatest sporting venue

British tabloid The Daily Mail has put together a list of the 50 greatest sporting venues in the world.

Barcelona's Camp Nou stadium finishes second in the ranking, behind the old Wembley stadium that disappeared a few years ago.

The top ten:

1) The old Wembley Stadium, London
2) Nou Camp, Barcelona
3) Lord's (cricket)
4) All England Club, Wimbledon
5) Anfield, Liverpool
6) Augusta National (golf)
7) Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
8) Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid
9) St Andrews (golf)
10) Melbourne Cricket Ground

in an alternative list, the Camp Nou comes out on top before Madison Square Garden and the Bombonera stadium of Boca Juniors (read more here)

Read more:
Camp Nou voted best sports stadium in the world

Marquez hopes to renew this year

Asked about the renewal of his contract that expires in 2010 (read more here), Barcelona central defender and Mexican international Rafael Márquez (30) has said in an interview with Catalan newspaper Avui that he hopes that a deal will be found this year:

"I want to stay at Barça as long as possible. I'm very happy at the club and the city and I hope that the renewal talks will be reopened when the club wants that. There's a time for everything, I'm not in a hurry at all.

I trust that what I've done until now will give me the chance to stay here longer. I'm happy with what I've done: very few foreign players have been at the club for that long. The best thing for everyone would be that I renew this year.

I've always had offers to leave, but my wish to stay has always been stronger. If I would have seen that someone here didn't agree with me staying or when I would have noticed that I don't have the necessary level anymore to play here, I would have left already, but I didn't feel that. I've always wanted to stay last summer but it's true that I had to recover my best level and the arrival of Guardiola has given me a lot more confidence."

Read more:
Barcelona wants to renew Marquez until 2012
Marquez: "Sometimes I get mad and lose control"
Barcelona plans at least four summer transfers

Live Match Chat: Getafe CF - FC Barcelona

(original post by OmarX)

Getafe CF - FC Barcelona
(Saturday 18 April 2009 @ 20:00 barcelona time)

Chat Link:

Chat starts around 18:00 - 6:00 pm

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?

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.

To make all this work, we're setting up a moderator's system. Until that's in place, please keep in mind the following basic rules:

- on the public chat the main language is English

- you can hold private conversations by using the appropriate button you find below at the right of your screen
(mark the person you want to have a private talk with and click the button)

See you there!

[2008] Sylvinho accepts renewal offer

this post was published exactly one year ago:

Barcelona left back defender Sylvinho Mendes (34), whose current contract expires at the end of this season, has said in an interview with Catalan radio station RAC 1 that he will accept the one-year contract renewal that was offered to him by the club: "I'm staying one more year and I'm very motivated. We're talking with the club. They have said that they count on me and there are just some details left. I'm grateful the club appreciates the job I have done over the last four years."

Catalan sports paper El Mundo Deportivo claimed yesterday that Sylvinho took some time to reply to the offer because he had some doubts. The Brazilian had the feeling he didn't get enough chances to play this season, certainly giving the latest troubles of Eric Abidal, and the expected exit of the majority of the Brazilians, especially his close friend José Edmílson, made him think a while about continuing or not.

The fact that he could leave on a free transfer, would have put him also in a good position to negotiate the economic conditions of a new contract with other clubs. The paper claimed that Italian club AS Roma could have been interested in Sylvinho.

pep's opinion:
excellent decision, I would have made that one year with an option for another year, good back-up for Abidal, great player both on and off the pitch, a well deserved renewal

Read more 18 April 2008 news:
Van der Vaart to replace Ronaldinho
Pique still dreaming in blaugrana
Lippi likes the port of Barcelona
Kuranyi is on the long list

Friday, 17 April 2009

The weak points of Barcelona

author: Ian Hawkey
source: The Times

date: 12 April 2009

Joan Laporta, the dapper president of Barcelona, called the first 45 minutes against Bayern Munich "the best first half in the history of Barça". Franz Beckenbauer, the honorary president of the defeated Germans, called it the "worst half in Bayern’s history".

According to Laporta’s history, Barcelona’s first half at Camp Nou against Olympique Lyonnais in the previous round of the Champions League would have to rank high in an all-time list, too. Against Lyons, Barca scored four times before the interval, their trio of strikers, Leo Messi, Samuel Eto’o and Thierry Henry, sharing the goals, just as they did against Bayern. But, oops, just before half-time Barça conceded a very careless goal, headed in from a corner by the diminutive Jean Makoun. And, oops, they let in another against the French side just after the break.

Guus Hiddink enjoys advertising his gimlet eye for spotting an opponent’s Achilles heel. He will need it to exploit those areas where Barcelona can be vulnerable. They do exist. One feature of the demolition of Bayern was that the eye was not drawn especially to the attacking energy of Dani Alves, who plays at right-back but interprets the position loosely. On one of the very rare occasions when Bayern shovelled something resembling a counter-attack beyond the halfway line, Franck Ribery engineered it by slithering cleverly past Alves. An in-form Florent Malouda might be encouraged by that, even it seems just a chink of light.

The footage of Barcelona that Chelsea would do best to study would be taken from the four consecutive matches the Catalans did not win, between the middle of February and the second week of March. Lyons drew 1-1 with Barcelona in the last-16 first-leg meeting in France, their goal coming from that master of the dead ball, Juninho.

Defending free kicks, either direct ones or crosses hoisted into a busy, crowded penalty area, used to be a significant flaw in the Barcelona teams built during Laporta’s successful reign as president. When Frank Rijkaard’s Barça were eliminated from the Champions League by Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea in 2004-05, one such goal, when Ricardo Carvalho seemed to impede goalkeeper Victor Valdes, was their undoing.

Under Pep Guardiola, who took over from Rijkaard last summer, and with the tall Gerard Pique adding some inches to the centre of their defence, they have tidied up their efficiency in this area, though they often concede an overall height advantage defending dead balls in the penalty area. Messi, Xavi and Andres Iniesta have magic in their soles but no special springs in their heels. Valdes is no giant, either, and is prone to errors in higher-profile contests.

When Atletico Madrid beat Barcelona 4-3 in the Spanish capital last month, they exploited the space behind the adventurous Alves. They tested the other flank, too, where the France international Eric Abidal is nominally Barcelona’s first-choice left-back. His cover is captain Carles Puyol, who is right-footed, fast, strong and more accustomed, since he assumed his senior status at the club, to playing at centre-half.

But Pique’s rising reputation has discouraged Guardiola from disturbing the partnership between the 22-year-old, sold by Manchester United last July, and the Mexican Rafa Marquez. His trust has every justification. In 20 matches as the middle pairing in his back four, Pique and Marquez have let in just two goals from set-pieces. Hiddink may still have something to surprise them with, though one imagines the card that is Branislav Ivanovic as spare, unpoliced target man is a joker that has now been used up.

Marquez is an important footballer for Barcelona, often responsible for the initial impulse to move their play forward from defence. Hassle Marquez and you can disrupt the finely tuned passing machine operated by Xavi and Iniesta. Atletico did that to good effect in Madrid and won.

At Camp Nou, Barcelona have lost only once in La Liga under Guardiola. That was against Espanyol, in the city derby, a defeat that had some familiar symptoms — a Valdes error; a cross headed in by a titch, Ivan de la Pena — and, alas for purists, some reward for the sort of strategy other big rivals have brought to Camp Nou over the past nine months.

Espanyol were pugnacious and sly in their 2-1 win, a match of 14 cards, including the red that deprived Barça of Seydou Keita from the first half. When Real Madrid came to the home of the league leaders back in December, they lost 2-0 after setting out to be hard and aggressive, apparently sharing around the XI the task of fouling Messi.

Guardiola thought he saw Bayern doing the same — around 85,000 shared his view — which explained his hot-headed reaction when Messi was booked by Howard Webb for simulation. The Barça coach thought the English referee had mistaken victim for villain. He may even have remembered how Jose Mourinho once tried to persuade the public that the diving Messi was a “good actor who should be in the theatre” after one of the feistier Barça-Chelsea confrontations of recent years.

Barcelona fans laughed about that and printed thousands of T-shirts saying “We don’t do theatre, we do great football”. Many will be soon be dug out of wardrobes, ironed and ready to wear again for another Chelsea visit.

read the full and original article here

Read more:
Why are Barcelona scoring so many goals?
Barcelona Is Winning With Style

Barcelona ready with transfer summer preparation

Asked about some players - among which Ribéry - being linked with Barcelona, Barcelona president Joan Laporta has said in an interview with Catalan radio station Catalunya Ràdio that he doesn't want to speak about the issue at this moment but suggested that Barcelona is ready to act quickly when the season ends:

"To talk about possible signings at this stage of the season, when we are still competing for everything, could well lead to destabilising some clubs involved. That's why we don't do that. When a season begins, the sticker book is complete and what you then have to do is start planning for the next season. That's the job of Txiki Begiristain and he has almost finished the planning for next season."

Read more:
Txiki talks about the summer transfer market
Barcelona plans at least four summer transfers
Guardiola wants goalkeeper, left winger and striker

ReLive: Barcelona-Getafe 1-1

Hleb and Caceres not in Getafe list

Barcelona manager Josep Guardiola announced earlier today a list of 19 players for the 31st league game against Getafe tomorrow evening at 8:00 pm.

The list:
Valdés, Pinto, Jorquera,
Alves, Puyol, Piqué, Márquez, Abidal, Sylvinho,
Xavi, Touré, Busquets, Keita, Gudjohnsen, Iniesta,
Messi, Eto'o, Bojan, Henry

Hleb, Cáceres, Pedro and Víctor Sánchez aren't included in the list. The latter will play with Barcelona Atlètic this weekend. Guardiola has selected the three goalkeepers because Valdés has some minor knee problems. Milito is still recovering from his injury. The squad will travel tomorrow morning to Madrid.

Barça Classic: Newcastle-Barcelona (march 2003)

Newcastle 0 - Barcelona 2
(Kluivert, Motta)

Pinto only goalkeeper who will certainly stay

Madrid sports tabloid As claims that Barcelona goalkeeper José Manuel Pinto (33) is the only one of Barcelona's three goalkeepers who will certainly stay at the club this summer.

The future of Barcelona first goalkeeper Víctor Valdés (27), whose contract expires in 2010, will depend on his renewal talks with the club at the end of the season (read more
here), while Barcelona goalkeeper Albert Jorquera (30), whose contract also expires at the end of next season, is willing to listen to offers by interested clubs (read more here).

Read more:
Barcelona won't sign a new goalkeeper
Pinto is music producer in his free time
A goalkeeper, a left back and a striker

Barcelona has first option on Ribery

Catalan sports paper El Mundo Deportivo claims that Barcelona has a first option on Bayern Munich attacker and French international Franck Ribéry (26) (read more here).

Barcelona president Joan Laporta would have closed a deal with Bayern Munich chairman Franz Beckenbauer that states that Barcelona has a preemptive right to sign the Frenchman.

This means that if Ribéry leaves the German club, he will go to Barcelona if the club offers as much as the highest bidder. Laporta would have been able to reach the agreement thank to his good relationship with Beckenbauer and Bayern Munich president Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and the support of American sports supplier Nike.

The paper gives ten "key issues" relating a possible summer move of Ribéry:

1. He prefers Barcelona over Madrid
2. He doesn't want to leave Bayern in a bad way
3. His entourage is pressuring him to join Madrid together with Zidane
4. His wife travels between Munich and Spain, where the couple has a house
5. Barcelona has reached an agreement with Bayern to have the first option
6. Bayern would want the player to stay one more year and to sell him then to Barcelona
7. Guardiola sees his as a priority target
8. Barcelona won't enter a bid race
9. The personal friendschip between Laporta, Beckenbauer and Rummenigge is Barcelona's main card
10. The interest of Nike to see the player join Barcelona since Ribéry is one of their star players and Bayern is an Adidas team

Read more:
Guardiola wants goalkeeper, left winger and striker
Txiki talks about the summer transfer market
Deal with Ribery and pre-agreement with Bayern

Chinese youngsters visit Barcelona

Twenty of China’s top young footballers visited the Camp Nou earlier this week, accompanied by one of their country’s most famous players, Fan Zhi Yi. The group of under-16 players belong to Shanghai FA, which represent a number of local teams, and have been in Catalonia to take part in the Mediterranean International Cup.

(read more about the visit here)

Youth: Interest in Athletic talent Ruiz de Galarreta

Spanish football site Airfutbol claims that Barcelona is interested in Athletic Bilbao Cadete A midfielder and Spanish youth international Iñigo Ruiz de Galarreta (15).

The player's agent Egoitz Basurto confirmed the interest of several clubs to the site but said that the player is very happy at Athletic and has no intention of leaving soon, unless there comes an offer he cannot refuse and he gets the permission of the club.

Ruiz de Galarreta, who has a sponsorship deal with German sports supplier Adidas, has already trained several times with Athletic's first team. Chelsea, Liverpool, Real Madrid and Atlético Madrid would also be following the Basque player.

Read more:
Youth: Jean Carlos Chera (Santos)
Youth: Interview with Juvenil A coach Garcia
Youth: Interest in Calasancio talent Cabanelas

[Valiente] Sevilla B-Alaves

Spanish second division team Sevilla Atlético, the second team of first division club Sevilla, played last weekend their 32nd league game of the season, drawing one all with Alavés.

Former Barcelona Atlètic player Marc Valiente (21) started the game and was replaced twenty minutes before then end, just after he was booked.

Because Barcelona has the right to buy Valiente back at the end of this season (read more here), this blog will follow the performances of the central defender during the season.

Sunday 31 August - League game 1: Albacete-Sevilla Atlético 2-1
Injured. Valiente has pubis problems.

Sunday 7 September - League game 2: Sevilla Atlético-Salamanca 1-1
Starter. Valiente starts the game and plays for 90 minutes. Central defender.

Sunday 14 September - League game 3: Córdoba-Sevilla Atlético 1-1
Injured. Valiente has an ankle injury.

Sunday 21 September - League game 4: Sevilla Atlético-Rayo Vallecano 0-0
Substitute. Valiente plays the second half. Defensive midfielder.

Sunday 28 September - League game 5: Levante-Sevilla Atlético 2-0
Starter. Valiente starts the game and plays for 90 minutes. Defensive midfielder.

Sunday 5 October - League game 6: Sevilla Atlético-Real Sociedad 1-0
Starter. Valiente starts the game and plays for 90 minutes. Central defender.

Saturday 11 October - League game 7: Las Palmas-Sevilla Atlético 2-0
Starter. Valiente starts the game and plays for 90 minutes. Defensive midfielder.

Saturday 18 October - League game 8: Sevilla Atlético-Zaragoza 0-4
Starter. Valiente starts the game and plays for 90 minutes. Central defender.

Sunday 26 October - League game 9: Murcia-Sevilla Atlético 2-0
Starter. Valiente starts the game and plays for 90 minutes. Defensive midfielder.

Sunday 2 November - League game 10: Sevilla Atlético-Hércules 1-2
Starter. Valiente starts the game and plays for 90 minutes. Central defender.

Sunday 9 November - League game 11: Alavés-Sevilla Atlético 2-2
Starter. Valiente starts the game and is excluded in the 87th minute (2-2). Central defender. Red card.

Sunday 2 November - League game 12: Sevilla Atlético-Elche 0-2
Suspended. Due to red card.

Saturday 22 November - League game 13: Sevilla Atlético-Xerez 1-2
Starter. Valiente starts the game and plays for 90 minutes. Central defender. Yellow card.

Saturday 29 November - League game 14: Girona-Sevilla Atlético 1-0
Injured. Valiente has an injury.

Sunday 7 December - League game 15: Sevilla Atlético-Castellón 1-0
Injured. Valiente has an injury.

Sunday 14 December - League game 16: Gimnástic-Sevilla Atlético 3-1
Starter. Valiente starts the game and plays for 90 minutes. Defensive midfielder.

Sunday 21 December - League game 17: Sevilla Atlético-Eibar 0-0
Starter. Valiente starts the game and plays for 90 minutes. Defensive midfielder.

Sunday 4 January - League game 18: Tenerife-Sevilla Atlético 2-1
Starter. Valiente starts the game and is replaced in the 65th minute. Defensive midfielder.

Saturday 10 January - League game 19: Sevilla Atlético-Huesca 1-1
Starter. Valiente starts the game and plays for 90 minutes. Defensive midfielder.

Saturday 17 January - League game 20: Celta Vigo-Sevilla Atlético 2-0
Starter. Valiente starts the game and plays for 90 minutes. Defensive midfielder.

Sunday 25 January - League game 21: Sevilla Atlético-Alicante 2-3
Starter. Valiente starts the game and plays for 90 minutes. Defensive midfielder. Yellow card.

Saturday 31 January - League game 22: Sevilla Atlético-Albacete 1-1
Starter. Valiente starts the game and plays for 90 minutes. Defensive midfielder.

Sunday 8 February - League game 23: Salamanca-Sevilla Atlético 6-0

Saturday 14 February - League game 24: Sevilla Atlético-Córdoba 0-2
Starter. Valiente starts the game and plays for 90 minutes. Defensive midfielder.

Saturday 21 February - League game 25: Rayo Vallecano-Sevilla Atlético 1-0
Injured. Valiente has an ankle injury.

Sunday 1 March - League game 26: Sevilla Atlético-Levante 1-2
Injured. Valiente has an ankle injury.

Sunday 8 March - League game 27: Real Sociedad-Sevilla Atlético 1-0
Starter. Valiente starts the game and plays for 90 minutes. Defensive midfielder. Yellow card.

Saturday 14 March - League game 28: Sevilla Atlético-Las Palmas 2-2
Substitute. Valiente replaces Cabral in the 56th minute (1-2). Defensive midfielder.

Saturday 21 March - League game 29: Zaragoza-Sevilla Atlético 4-0
Substitute. Valiente replaces José Carlos in the 52nd minute (2-0). Defensive midfielder.

Saturday 28 March - League game 30: Sevilla Atlético-Murcia 3-3
Starter. Valiente starts the game and plays for 90 minutes. Defensive midfielder. Yellow card.

Sunday 5 April - League game 31: Hércules-Sevilla Atlético 8-0
Suspended. Due to yellow cards.

Saturday 11 April - League game 32: Sevilla Atlético-Alavés 1-1
Starter. Valiente starts the game and is replaced in the 68th minute. Defensive midfielder. Yellow card.

1. Xerez 60
2. Tenerife 59
3. Rayo 56
4. Hércules 56
5. Zaragoza 55
6. Real Sociedad 50
7. Salamanca 49
8. Levante 46
9. Castellón 45
10. Huesca 44
11. Gimnástic 43
12. Elche 42
13. Girona 42
14. Albacete 40
15. Celta 39
16. Murcia 39
17. Las Palmas 37
18. Córdoba 36
19. Alavés 32
20. Eibar 29
21. Alicante 28
22. Sevilla Atlético 13

The top three are promoted to the Primera División. The bottom four are relegated to the Spanish third division.

Bayern preparing a bid for Hleb

French sports paper L'Equipe claims that Bayern Munich is still interested in Barcelona attacker and Belarus international Alexander Hleb (27) (read more here).

The paper unconfirmedly claims that Bayern Munich was encouraged by informal talks between officials of both clubs during the Champions League tie on Tuesday. The German club is now expected to make a formal bid in the next few weeks. Barcelona could be willing to accept an offer of around 8 million euro°.

Asked about the rumours linking Hleb with a loan move to Bayern, Barcelona president Joan Laporta is meanwhile quoted as saying in an interview with German sport weekly paper Sport Bild that the clubs will discuss transfer issues when the time is there: "I cannot say what will happen in the summer. If anything happened than Kalle (Bayern Munich president Karl-Heinz Rummenigge) would be the first one I would call. We have to deal with this kind of issues at a club level, we cannot become instruments of agents and advisors."

Read more:
Hleb still believes in Barcelona future
Guardiola denies Van Persie-Hleb swap offer
Hleb could be part of Ribery deal

Ribery wanted to travel with Barcelona squad

Hey guys, can't I come with you to Barcelona?
I want to play football...

(click the cartoon to enlarge)


see more cartoons here

[2008] The Guardiola report

this post was published exactly one year ago:

Because he is, together with Getafe manager Michael Laudrup (43), the main candidate to succeed current Barcelona manager Frank Rijkaard (45), Barcelona B manager Josep Guardiola (37) was asked by Barcelona to prepare a report explaining his view on the club and the team (read more here).

Catalan sports paper Sport apparently traced a copy of the report, since they published a summary earlier this week. The former Barcelona captain wants to bring some change to the way of working and playing of the team. These are the headlines of the Guardiola project:

Time at the club
The players have to spend more time at the club in order to get more unity in the squad and to enable the club to better control the food and resting habits of the players. The Barcelona training centre in Sant Joan Despí should therefore be used more by the first team. The players will gather there in the morning for a first training session. Between the first and the second session, late in the afternoon, the players will have to stay at the centre to eat, to rest, to attend the press, for physical treatment and tactical classes.

Medical staff
The structure of the medical staff should be changed. There's a need to have the best diagnosis people because the players want to know inmediately which injury they have and how long they will have to recover.

Physical preparation
The way the team is physically prepared for the season should be changed, new people have to be brought in. The commercial summer tours should be more adapted to the training schedule and not the other way around.

The sports director has to ask the permission of the manager to transfer a player. Related to the current squad, there is a lack of players with power and pace that should be dealt with in the summer transfer window.

Way of playing
The team should have an attacking style, but should not always hold on to a 4-3-3 when another scheme is better adapted to the characteristics of the opponent team.

More 17 April 2008 news:
Inter wants Henry on loan
Milan also wants Marquez and Deco

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Barcelona: System Analysis

Barcelona: System Analysis

By: Ramzi Tanani

All the Data included in this article exclude any game played after the international break.....The attachment in the bottom of the Article represent a more detailed demonstration in numbers about the relation between barcelona offense and defense, use Vertical scroll to move down and horizontal scroll to Browse the Charts.....

"Throughout the history of FC Barcelona, one part of Barcelona has trailed behind in terms of effectiveness and reliability, and that is defense. The 2008/2009 season has been no different, with the soft underbelly of arguably the best attacking club in the world once again exposed."

A look at Barcelona's defense

By: Nzuu Ranwaha

arcelona is in a big trouble! Not only Nzuu in his article hits on the reliability of Barcelona defense this season, but also dooms Barcelona to be defensively exposed for ever! There is nothing worse to throw on a team than saying: You are bad, that’s how you were, and that’s how you will always be! He started with the previous intro, and ending by the following conclusion:


"Barcelona's defensive problems cannot be resolved right now,
maybe not in the next two seasons, maybe not ever."

The doctor said it! You have a Xevolontonia, there is no treatment for that. But look to the bright side: you will badly suffer, but will live for ever!

Check no dictionary, I just made up that Xevolontonia word. Sweat while spelling, then Sue me!

Nzuu article was published on March 13, 2009, following a draw against Betis, a defeat against Espanyol, and another against Atletico. They say that timing is the most important factor for the success of an article. And there is no better timing than that to hit on Barcelona defense.

But who blame him? When the team concedes as many goals, no one can argue that the defense is having naps and gaps. Questioning the defenders' quality and Slamming their performance become inevitable. True, unless…

The way Barcelona Defend

In order to make a good diagnosis about how Barcelona can improve their defense, we need to understand the way Barcelona defends. Not only our offense structure is one of its kind, but also the way we defend is unique.

The most common way of defense, is to demand a direct transition and positioning from the defenders and midfielders the moment the team loses the ball, creating a Zonal shield in your team's own half. The details about players positioning and roles vary with teams.

Liverpool for example, employs Xabi Alonso to assist Mascherano in front of the four defenders guarding the box. Babble and Kuyt close the way on the flanks in front of the fullbacks but at the same time help Gerrard creating pressure on the opponents ball holders, while Torres do his runs to avoid letting the opponent defense comfortable enough to build up the game from deep.

Use one Defensive midfielder, when available. Napoli, till lately, was possibly the only team in Europe Applying the 3-5-2, with almost everyone bouncing back to their own half. And so on.

I can claim that most teams in the world, if not all of them, lean on their defenders to do the biggest slice of defensive jobs. The rest of the team offer help, cover and support.

So we just figured out that: Defenders defend? How smart this conclusion sounds! Not in Barcelona.

At Barcelona the defense is mainly the job of the players who attack the opponent territory. This season, it’s the work of three forwards, two midfielders and an Alves (you can make up a position name for him. May be: the wing back forward?). The role of the defensive midfielder (Call him Yaya) is to create cover, and the role of the three defenders left behind is to create depth.

It’s a kind of win-win deal between defense and offense. Defenders agree to take the risk of guarding a wide sector of the field without sufficient number of players, which save more players for the offense section of the pitch (we are barcelonists and we like it!). Offense in return pay for that by applying high pressure in the opponent's half, winning the ball as fast as possible, increasing possession time, and creating a Y2K problem on the scoring sheet that lacks a third digit to count the goals scored by the Catalan slaughters. All that contributes to keep the defense enjoying a sun bath, and keep Valdes in an Auto extended vacation.

The Dangerous Compromise Between Defense and Offense

When the Pressure on the ball drops by 15 %, it doesn’t demand 15% more effort from the defenders to cover that declination. It actually leads the whole system to collapse. Because the defenders role then switch from creating depth and Freezing the opponent’s last man standing upfront, to become a mission impossible of standing and facing a counter attacking tsunami, to mark, tackle, cover, with continuous re-positioning and pressure. And still falling under the obligation of building up the game from behind with accurate passes, Nonsense clearance is a crime in Barcelona. That’s too much for a defensive trio, right? This is not something we train our defenders to do. This is not something we like. And it's not something Defenders of any team can handle.

If we agree on that, then we know that the periods when the team face a drop in form, we need to evaluate the whole team defensive contribution (and specially those who are upfront), before looking for the scapegoat who made the last mistake before the goal. More pressure upfront means fewer counters, leading to less catastrophic mistakes. That’s the magic of probabilities.

Our offense and defense performance is interrelated. The systems we play say it, and the records approve.

In the Charts attachment I represented the Variation of Barcelona goals scored/Conceded this season, Not only by numbers but also by Value, as explained in more details in the attachment.

Offense efficiency vs defense Fragility

Extensive details about the charts in the attachment below.

Based on all that, the drop in form we witnessed after winter break was basically a result of slight drop in form when the team momentum got distracted by the Winter Vacation. Beside, there was a decline in the pressure intensity made by our players on the opponents.

Where do Barcelona struggle sometimes defensively?

We made lot of guesses, and it was different by game. But if we cruise through all the games played already, we will notice that goals conceded variation is independent of who plays, and where. Definitely we have better defense selections than others. My best so far is: Alves-Puyol-Pique-Abidal. But knowing the system dynamics and the Defenders share in defense, I think the names are a secondary factor compared to what's more crucial, the output of the collaborative defense.

Beside, the Chart support the football common sense that abandons the Myth that says:

"it's ok if defensively Barcelona suffers, as long as it can manage to always score more than we concede".

It clearly shows that Offense and defense improve together or collapse together. Every time our offense and midfield face a drop in form, it doesn’t only decrease the offense efficiency, but also increase the defense fragility as well.

I am not saying Defense does no mistakes. Yet, not only the last mistake, is the one we count. The last mistake is the one we count last.

Two factors contribute more than anything to weaken our defensive solidity:

1) Counter attacks threat: With the "Vacuum tunnel" I mentioned in Roads leading to Rome.

2) Fitness level: It is vital for the quality of pressure our offense put on the opponent, and it's also vital for the quality of defensive transition when the initial pressure fails to win back the ball.

The counter attacks threat is something we discussed previously, and will do an upgrade on that discussion in the following article.

Fatigue is a common concern for Barcelona fans. The games pressure was the main factor for the performance decline after the winter period. The reasons and solutions for the Fatigue curse is something to discuss. What's important first is to make sure we do the right diagnosis. So we know the fact and fake in the previous Nzuu Conclusion:

"Barcelona's defensive problems cannot be resolved right now, maybe not in the next two seasons, maybe not ever."

/ Slash/ Off record whisper, open Brackets [I couldn’t understand how did he come up with the "Not in the next two seasons…" timeline. Why not three seasons and two months for example? Is it a kind of "You are doomed for two years!" spell? A Nostradamus call from the dead? Or he expects Puyol to win the lottery and retire? Valdes will get a good price for his gloves so he switches to play as a forward sending Messi to bench? Or we will hire The Ghost of Helenio Herrera as a new coach to fix our defensive misery? I'm Just Curious to know, for real.

That’s how that conclusion sounds, out of any context. The only bright side about it is that the diagnosis was not accurate.] Close brackets, and stop yawing!

This was a needed intro for the article suggesting a system upgrade. We need it to create an extra shield for our attractive system and stunning performance and to guarantee continuity, and more efficiency. Things went better recently after the team left the "fatigue tunnel". But it's not a history that will never be repeated. We entered the intensive period of February/March with a reasonable fitness level, but still faced a nightmare that deducted our twelve points lead in the liga to four points, before earning back additional two. Now we will never be as fresh as we were in January, and what will be scarier than another intensive February-like period?

I remember raising my concerns while Barcelona was acting as a teams' smasher till January. It was obviously coming, and it did. We witnessed in February how much calories we burned since the beginning of the season. Something we were able to avoid without compromising the results. Now we bounced back fitness wise, to some extend. What will come is the tough part of the season, the vital games in the Liga and the champions' league. And we need to be as fresh as possible when we approach the Live-or-die games. It only happens by saving energy in the games where we can. If you think "Nah…the most difficult part is over" then:

Enter your room, close all your doors and windows, and stare in the following schedule:

18 April: Getafe vs Barca
22 April: Barca vs Sevilla
26 April: Valencia vs Barca
29 Apr Champions League Semi-finals

03 May Real Madrid - FC Barcelona

5 May Champions League Semi-finals

10 May FC Barcelona - Villarreal CF

13 May Copa Del Rey Final

17 May RCD Mallorca - FC Barcelona

24 May FC Barcelona - Osasuna

27 May Champions League finals

31 May Deportivo - FC Barcelona

Just don’t scream and wake the neighbors.

Barcelona fans always show more relief every week after a win in the liga. It’s a "one game less". But I think it doesn’t have a bad psychological impact on Real Madrid that we are keeping the margin of six points. They have a clear objective: "they MUST keep it 6 points till May", that’s when two important things will happen:

1)We will play against them in Madrid.

2)We will enter the intensive period the same time while we play the best teams in the Liga. And the most exhausting battles in the Champions' league.

Let's not argue if they will win in Madrid, if they will win all their games in May, or if they can keep it six points margin till then. That’s their only hope. How to avoid falling in that trap? And how to be the most attractive team, and yet the most fresh and fit in the last phase of the season?

Soon you will find a new post on the blog with a weird title, something like "Barcetalia", and we will continue this ramble there.

But till then, the stage is yours'.



Detailed Analysis about the relation between offense and defense
Use the scrolls to browse, or click the chart to open it full page.

Generating the Data:

1) Liga scoring/conceding rate per game per team:

I took the league table, the number of goals scored by all teams in 28 weeks is: 824 goal in 280 games. Deducting Barcelona Games, Goals scored, and Goals conceded, Means that in 252 Games the other Liga teams scored 716 goals against each other, Making the average goals scored/conceded by a team per game is:

Liga Average Rate (LAR) = 716 / (2x252) = 1.421 Goals/team/game.

2) Calculating Each Team conceding/scoring Average per game:

In the initialized table (without Barcelona goals) Dividing number of goals every team scored by the number of games played. For example:

Villarreal: Scored 44 goals in 27 games (deducting the goal scored against Barcelona in their 28th game). So their Goal scoring Average (GSA) = 44 / 27 = 1.63 Goals per game.

Villarreal Conceded 35 goals in 27 games (deducting the 2 goals conceded by Barcelona in their 28th game). So their Goal Conceded Average (GCA) = 35 / 27 = 1.296 Goals per game.
And the same goes for all the Liga teams to measure there average performance in order to benchmark it with their performance against Barcelona, and Barcelona performance against them.

3) Goals Value:

A goal Scored against Sevilla (GCA = 0.852) for example, must have a higher value than a goal scored against Almeria (GCA = 1.5) or any other team with weaker defense than Sevilla. The same for goals conceded. Its important to take in consideration the opponent Defense/offense strength before comparing Barcelona performance against two different opponents.

To demonstrate that, I will take two games as an example:

21 Feb 09 FC Barcelona 1 - 2 Espanyol
1 Mar 09 Atlético Madrid 4 - 3 FC Barcelona

Espanyol Scored two goals against Barcelona. Atletico scored four. But that doesn’t mean Barcelona Defense against Espanyol was better. Espanyol Scores 0.846 goals per game in the Liga. Atletico scores 1.889 goals per game. So to evaluate the Values of numbers of goals conceded in the two games, we need to evaluate the value of the two results if the two teams had the same offense strength. The only way I found to do so, is to calculate the goals value based on a fixed common factor, and that is the LIGA Average Rate (LAR).

The logic here is: If Espanyol (0.846 goals/game) Scored two goals against Barcelona defense in that game, Relatively, how many goals a team of 1.421 Goals/game (LAR) would have scored back then?

0.846 -------- > 2 goals scored
1.421-------- > Goals Relative value = (1.421 X 2) / 0.846 = 3.359 Goals.

While Atletico ( 1.889) scored four goals, so the Relative goals Value Based on (LAR) is

1.889 -------- > 4 goals scored
1.421-------- > Goals Relative value = (1.421 X 4) / 1.889 = 3.01 Goals.

And it shows that Even though Atletico scored two times more goals against Barcelona than Espanyol did, yet Barcelona Defense was more fragile against Espanyol.

So the general criteria to evaluate goals scored by any team against Barcelona, takes the number of Goals netted and the opponent Goal scoring average (GSA) is:

Opponent GSA ------ > Number of Goals Scored
LAR------ > Goals relative value (Calculated).




The same goes for goals scored by Barcelona taking in consideration the opponent conceding average per game (GCA). Espanyol (GCA = 1.607) , Atletico (GCA = 1.308).

Opponent GCA ------ > Number of Goals scored by barcelona
LAR ------ > Goals relative value (Calculated).

Based on that, the goal scored by Barcelona against espanyol has the value of ( 0.884 ) while their three goals against Atletico has the Value of ( 3.259 ).



Scoring Average Variation- Numbers Vs Values

4) Offense efficiency by game: is an indicator that compares Barcelona offense efficiency against a certain team to the efficiency of the other teams against that team.

Taking Valencia as an example, their GCA is 1.334 Goals per game. This means that the other teams in the liga had the offense efficiency to score an average of 1.334 Goals per game against Valencia. Barcelona scored 4 goals against Valencia with a scoring value of 4.261. That makes Barcelona offense efficiency in this game exceeds the average Liga efficiency against Valencia by: 4.261 – 1.334 = 2.927

While against Getafe (GCA=1.519), Barcelona scored one goal with a relative value of 0.935. That makes Barcelona offense efficiency in this game inclined under the Liga offense efficiency against Getafe: 0.935 – 1.519 = - 0.584

Offense efficiency Variation

5) Defense Fragility by game:

Governed by the same logic used to calculate Offense efficiency, the defense Fragility is an indicator that compares Barcelona defense performance to the over all defense performance of liga teams while playing against a specific team.

Taking Osasuna as an example, their Scoring average against La liga teams is (GSA = 0.963 goals per game), that’s the average number of goals Osasuna scores against La Liga teams. They scored two Goals against Barcelona with a relative value of 2.951.

That makes Barcelona defense fragility compared to la liga teams defense fragility average against Osasuna = 2.951 – 0.961 = 1.99.


Keeping in mind that, the Offense efficiency rate show the minimum efficiency value, taking in consideration the scoring opportunities missed and the fact that when Barcelona score a certain number of goals they automatically decrease their over all performance offensively.

In the other hand, the fragility rate indicates the minimum fragility level, taking in consideration the opponent offense failure to score clear opportunities, leading to less conceded goals for Barcelona, because of the Opponent mistakes, and not Barcelona Defense quality. (And again, when we say defense we are talking about the defense system, not the defenders). The only exceptions are the games where Barcelona ended with a clean sheet, that’s when the opposite is true. The defense was much better than needed to overcome opponent offense quality, so ended with clean sheet. It means that defensively we were better than the needs of the GSA of the opponent, but it's impossibly to know to what extend we were better.

Per Game- Goals Conceded Value Vs Goals Scored Value-Detailed

Finally, to make a more accurate indicator, we need to measure the GCA, GSA, and LAR during the period of the evaluated game (a segment of 5 games before and 5 games later) rather than the overall rate of 28 games. This way you take the periodic form in consideration, rather than the gross form. And there is also a need to take the away/home impact in consideration. I am not sure how far all that will change the results, but knowing that it will need a huge work to achieve that level, I had to accept the level I based my analysis on, as a more accurate method than taking the rough goals numbers and base the analysis upon.

And it was encouraging because the charts and numbers met the observation methodology to evaluate the team performance.

Yet, any other criteria will be more than welcomed to be discussed on the table.


* Note: We appreciate the effort done by any writer who spend time analyzing Barcelona performance. And so we extremely respect Nzuu Ranwaha For his article and appreciate his opinion. Nothing in this article was mentioned to underestimate his point of view.

Ramzi Tanani

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