Saturday 29 November 2008

Match discussion: Sevilla

This evening at 10 pm bt,
Barcelona plays the twelveth game of the league against Sevilla.

Read an extensive preview of the game here.

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

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

Marquez: "We're starting a new era"

Barcelona player Rafael Márquez gave an interview to Spanish football weekly paper Don Balón.

Congratulations for the victories, the goals and the play of the team. But aren't you spoiling the fans too much?
I don't think so. The fans should get used to the team playing good and winning, but maybe not in the way we are doing it lately. In the last games we had exceptional circumstances that have lead us to score a lot of goals. But it won't be like that always.

How do you see the games from your position on the pitch? You see the same showpiece as on television?
Of course, you're seeing everything that happens around you as well as the actions by the teammates up front.

You wouldn't like to see the game from the outside, like the other people?
No, I prefer to feel part of it. Besides, everything starts from the back, where the defenders play... The others just have to finish it. But for the team to function well, every piece should act at the same level.

Is it difficult to keep the feet on the ground?
The majority of us already lived good moments and bad moments. So we know with what we are dealing. We all feel an important part of the squad and modesty is a consequence of that.

What is the share of Guardiola in the good performances of the team?
The coach is responsible for fifty per cent. He just gives orders and sets the line we should follow but in the end, the fundamental work, the other fifty per cent, is done by the players. He asks us to do something and we respond to that on the pitch.

He demands more from you than Rijkaard did?
Rijkaard and Guardiola are different coaches. Their way of working is very different. But with Frank we won a lot of trophies and this is something that shouldn't be forgotten. The methods of Rijkaard also lead us to great results.

So how come the team changed that much from one season to another?
The key element is the ambition. Maybe everything had become a routine over the last seasons and things didn't work out well and titles weren't won with the old methods. Now we have changed our mind set and luckily we're again having this hunger to win.

What routine are you talking about?
Well, that is the past. We should let it rest and keep the good things. We're starting a new era in which we all want to keep on making history.

Two of the new transfers, who are playing close to you, Alves and Piqué, have adapted very good to the system. This has surprised you?
Not at all. They are incredible players, they know very well how to play the game and they don't need to adapt. They come from big clubs and that has helped them to settle in. They're already important to the team.

Guardiola said a short while ago that what happened over the last two years wasn't Rijkaard's fault. You think that he means that the players were to blame?
Everyone was to blame. Some for letting ourselves go and others for not stopping what was happening.

This was the first part of this interview. The other parts will follow in the coming days.

Read more:
Marquez could move to Miami in 2010
Guardiola convinced Marquez to stay
Marquez wants to renew his contract

[Henrique] Bayer Leverkusen-Bayern Munich

Bayer Leverkusen played this afternoon their fifteenth Bundesliga game of the season. Bayer was defeated 0-2 by German champions Bayern Munich.

Brazilian central defender and Barcelona loan out Henrique (22) started the match and played the whole game in the centre of the Bayer defense. A header of Henrique, who got booked, hit the bar in the first half.

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.

Friday 24 October - Bundesliga game 9: Bayer Leverkusen-FC Köln 2-0
Starter. Henrique starts the game and plays for 90 minutes.

Tuesday 29 October - Bundesliga game 10: Werder Bremen-Bayer Leverkusen 0-2
Starter. Henrique starts the game and plays for 90 minutes.

Friday 31 October - Bundesliga game 11: Bayer Leverkusen-Wolfsburg 2-0
Starter. Henrique starts the game and plays for 90 minutes.

Saturday 8 November - Bundesliga game 12: Karlsruhe-Bayer Leverkusen 3-3
Starter. Henrique starts the game and plays for 90 minutes. Yellow card.

Saturday 15 November - Bundesliga game 13: Bayer Leverkusen-Schalke 2-1
Starter. Henrique starts the game and plays for 90 minutes.

Saturday 22 November - Bundesliga game 14: Bielefeld-Bayer Leverkusen 2-1
Starter. Henrique starts the game and plays for 90 minutes.

Saturday 29 November - Bundesliga game 15: Bayer Leverkusen-Bayern Munich 0-2
Starter. Henrique starts the game and plays for 90 minutes. Yellow card.

1. Hoffenheim 34
2. Bayern Munich 31
3. Hertha Berlin 30

4. Bayer Leverkusen 28
5. Hamburg (14) 26
6. Borussia Dortmund (14) 24
7. Werder Bremen 23
8. Schalke (14) 23
9. Wolfsburg (14) 22

1st and 2nd place: group phase of Champions League
3rd place: third qualifying round of Champions League, winner enters the group phase, losers enter the Uefa Cup
4th place: qualifies for 4th qualifying round of Uefa Cup
5th place: qualifies for 3rd qualifying round of Uefa Cup

Agreement on Xavi renewal until 2014

Catalan sports apper Sport claims that a deal between the club and the player has yesterday been found on the contract renewal of Barcelona attacking midfielder and Spanish international Xavi (28).

Xavi, whose curernt contract expires in 2010, will sign a new contract until the summer of 2014. The Catalan midfielder will earn a possible year salary of 7,5 million euro (including the incentives) and would that way become the fourth best paid player of the squad, behind Messi, Eto'o and Henry.

The deal hasn't yet been announced, probably because Barcelona sports director Txiki Begiristain wasn't in Barcelona yesterday because of a serious family problem. The club plans to make the renewal deal public at the beginnng of next week, when Begiristain is expected to have returned to Barcelona.

Yesterday afternoon a last meeting was held at the Camp Nou. For part of the club, Barcelona president Joan Laporta, Barcelona sports vice president Rafael Yuste and Barcelona general director Raül Sanllehí participated in the talks. Xavi's agent Iván Corretja was at the last minute urged to come to the stadium and the president called Xavi after yesterday's training session asking him to join the meeting and to put a first signature.

Laporta would have promised Xavi during the trip to Lisbon this week that the deal would be closed before the end of the week. Xavi and his agent left yesterday's meeting with a feeling of satisfaction.

Catalan sports paper El Mundo Deportivo, who reports that Begiristain had to travel to Japan where his brother would have had to undergo surgery, claims that a deal is almost agreed upon and that Xavi will sign his new contract until 2014 next week. With Barcelona accepting to extend the duration of the contract until 2014, Xavi would have agreed to not earn more than Henry.

While Sport claims that Xavi confirmed the deal this morning, Barcelona president Joan Laporta denied the renewal to journalists this afternoon: "It's true that the negotiations are going in the right direction but nothing is done yet. We have to wait until Txiki returns from his trip, because it's him who is directly leading the talks."

Read more:
Again Xavi renewal progress after new meeting
Xavi: "I want to stay at the club of my life"
Xavi is top target for Manchester United

Alves: "If I score, I won't celebrate"

Barcelona player Dani Alves talked at a press conference on Thursday.

How would you describe your feelings after a few months in Barcelona?
I'm very happy. Every day that goes by, I'm more convinced that I took the right decision, because I'm sharing the dressingroom with some of the best players in Europe and the world. It's an honour to live this moment and I hope that it lasts as long as possible.

What do you want to say about your stay at Sevilla?
I want to thank Sevilla for everything the club gave me. I'm sure they will always have a place in my heart.

You think everything you're living is a dream?
The truth is that I will get angry if someone wakes me up. Everything that I'm living is very special and full passion. If this is a dream, I want them to never wake me up. Having the privilege to partcipate and contribute is a very positive thing for me, especially because the more I play, the better I feel.

What's the secret of the success of the team?
Hard work is the base of everything we're living and have been reaching until now. I think that things come your way if you work properly and if everyone is involved. Modesty is the main key to success.

How do you think the Sevilla fans will welcome you?
It's difficult to explain what I expect. I've almost spent my whole professional career there and it's a strange thing that I will now have to play against those who have been my teammates. An undescribable feeling.

This can affect you in a way?
I need to do my job and separate that from my feelings.

Where's the danger in the Sevilla team?
Luis Fabiano and Kanouté are two players who can shoot at goal at every moment, but let me tell you one thing: like we are worried about the strength of Sevilla, I'm sure that they are also worried about the strength of Barcelona.

How about you're personal performances?
I'm in a good moment, I think. Since I arrived in Barcelona, I'm enjoying myself a lot.

You know that Iker Casillas has said that they will win 0-1 in the Camp Nou?
I guess the freedom of expression gives everyone the chance to talk, but after that they still need to perform on the pitch.

What if you score against Sevilla?
I won't celebrate, out of respect for my former club.

Live Match Chat: Sevilla FC - FC Barcelona

(original post by OmarX)

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!

Chat Link:

Sevilla FC - FC Barcelona

(Saturday 29 November 2008 @ 22:00 barcelona time)

Chat starts around 20:00 - 8 pm

Juventus still moving to sign Toure in january

Italian newspaper Libero claims that Juventus is still moving for Barcelona defensive midfielder and Ivory Coast international Yaya Touré (25).

The Italian Serie A club would want to sign Touré in January during the winter transfer window and Touré would be willing to join Juventus because of a bad relationship with Barcelona manager Josep Guardiola (read more

Read more:
Juventus offers Touré five-year contract
Toure denies exit rumours
Arsenal preparing new bid for Toure

Xavi: "I was the first to say that Eto'o had to stay"

Barcelona player Xavi gave an interview to Catalan sports paper El Mundo Deportivo.

You and the team are doing good in the league, but you're about to enter one of the hardest set of fixtures when you face Sevilla, Valencia, Real Madrid and Villarreal. If Barca wins those matches, will the Liga title already be decided?
Not at all, but if we do good, we benefit from these matches and we have an advantage over our direct rivals for the title. But we'll see what happens. They are difficult matches both home and away and we're going to suffer on the way if we want to win them. If we do, well, we'll see what happens but what's clear is that nothing is decided in December.

The team that seems to struggle climbing the La Liga "mountain" is Real Madrid. Do you think they're in a crisis?
No, they're not in a crisis. What happens is that when Barca is doing well both teams are automatically compared, and it's always been like that. Now it's Barca that's getting the praise and it's normal that the criticism now goes to Madrid. But they're not in a crisis and we know they can recover. Even in the first year that they won La Liga, they were in a crisis and they recovered. Mentally they're very strong and they have the talent to turn matches around which I don't think is a crisis.

Then what do you think it is?
They're obviously in a complicated situation but it's also because Barca is doing well. It's Barca's fault because everything is going marvellous for us and we should keep this going.

Is the absence of Iniesta noticeable?
It's noticeable. A player like Iniesta is easily misse, for his talent, approach, touch, passes, and goal scoring abilities. A player like Iniesta is always missed. There are other players and options in the team to make up for the important absence of Andres. When looking at the results, it seems like it doesn't matter, but on the field, it's obvious.

The player that is in great form is Samuel Eto'o.
Samuel has had very bad knee injuries and he has always wanted to recover in time. I've also had knee injuries and I know from experience that they're very difficult to recover from, but he's a very ambitious player. I think that he's currently the best forward in the world. He's proved it by scoring goals and by his hunger for titles, something that benefits the team. He's the first that pressures the opposition, is solitary, humble and hard-working. We're pleased by him. We were the first to say that he was going to stay. I was the first in the pre-season to say that Samuel had to stay and that we needed him, and we've been proved right.

What about Messi's impressive form?
To me he's the best player in the world, very distant to whoever can be considered second best. He's at the level of Ronaldinho's prime of his first two seasons.

Many compare him to Maradona.
It's common because you can see it in the way he plays, his aggressiveness against the opposition, his vertical play and his ability to do anything. Nowadays you can't even stop him, you can only trip him. He's a player of whom, when he has the ball, the rivals know that he's capable of anything, something that we also know and that benefits us. I'm certain that he's the number one.

When one is told that he was the best player at the Euro, what do you think then?
That everything went well, that we triumphed as a team and that they recognized my work well done. But there are others that must be recognized, such as Puyol, Casillas, Senna, Torres, Villa, and any other player from the national team. In this case they picked one player that exemplified the good work of the entire team.

Are there many differences between Del Bosque and Luis Aragones?
Of course there are. Football wise, no, because they have the same philosophy of technical football, including the possession of the ball, that is of course influenced by the current players who are all talented. Personality wise, Luis is very visceral, has much character and the difference is there. Vicente is very relaxed, calm, upright, completely different than Luis was.

Is Spain a favorite to win the next World Cup?
It's one of the favorites after the Euro. Before it wasn't but now after triumphing at the Euro, we must be realistic and know that this team is capable of winning the World Cup. There are other favorites like Brazil, Argentina, Italy and Germany, teams that have historically won more titles than Spain.

What do you think about Maradona being the new Argentina manager?
I think it's great and it's great news for football. He must also start getting familiar with football again, because it's what Maradona knows best and it's great news for the sport and for himself.

Translated by: AL

This was the second part of this interview. Read the first part here:
Xavi: "I want to stay at the club of my life"

Read more interviews with Barcelona players here

Lets March to Victory!

Seville is the artistic, cultural, and financial capital of southern Spain. It is the capital of Andalusia and of the province of Seville. It is situated on the plain of the River Guadalquivir, with an average elevation of 7 meters (23 ft) above sea level.

Put the Marks on the league Maps, because this week we are heading there for one of our most demanding battles in La liga and the gateway for the December Mini league between league table five masters, at least at the moment.

This is the type of games I like most; extremely unpredictable from a tactical prospect, Sevella is a team that has all the tools to perform almost any tactical approach you can think about.

They have a solid defense and defensive midfielders to create a closed locked game and park a train- not only a bus- in their box, but keep being a threat in counter attacks having Aderiano/Capel on the left, and Navas – aside of this game- on the right.

They can play high pressure game trying to press our guys in their own field rather than waiting them in front of Palop, and for that – added to what’s mentioned above- they have players like Renato and Romaric-if in form, without forgetting Fabiano one of the most dynamic strikers in the world, a very mean guy when he put pressure on his opponent’s ball holder – read this, pique.

Their threat? Again, I believe they have one of the best offense structures in La liga , what do you need more than solid Defensive midfielders in front of an already tested defense, then two wingers with pace and technique on the flanks, and a perfect duo of Tall lethal Kanoute and dynamic explosive Fabiano, what’s more is that they both have that scoring instinct and clinical finishing.

Their weakness: Aside of being unstable till now (Sevilla info), I think their main weakness may come from the tactical defect itself, Lately I noticed that the teams who are complicating the game mostly for Barcelona are the teams who enter the game with a “lost but with dignity” mentality, how is that?

As a coach, and when your team face a stronger opponent, you usually do your plans to complicate that opponent night, trying to get anything out of the game, so you give lot of tactical instructions for your players how to deal with each and every danger you know your stronger opponent can cause, in brief, you play to protect your face from your opponent continuous punches during the game.

But some coaches realize that this is an exhausting and inefficient approach to the games where you face not only a stronger opponent, but an opponent like Barcelona who has numerous ways to cause threat. So they feel the best way to approach the game is to prepare their team to fight more than to resist, they take some tactical decisions (defensive ones) to limit the threat as much as possible, but at the same time they don’t kill their players desire to cause damage.

In ancient military strategies there was a fixed fact called “don’t destroy the bridge”, which means, when you surround your enemy, always keep a tiny exit door for them, so they resist you with a hope that at any moment they want they still can run away for their lives thru that bridge on the river behind them, but when you ruin that bridge, you create a stronger resistance from a fierce enemy who know they are now fighting for their lives, or self dignity, not for victory.

Barcelona smashing results ruined all the bridges and thru spreading fear they boosted their opponents’ determination to stand on the way. If they lost, so what? They play against Barcelona the crusher, if they won then, Hail! Hail!

Conclusion: Sevilla performance in this game depend completely on how they will approach it, if they will be over obsessed by Barcelona strength, focusing too much on how to stop the offense tsunami coming from Catalonia, they will lose it. If I would be Manolo Jiménez, I would so much go for a broken bridge strategy, generating my players flame and playing an open game with no way to look back, and there is how I see Sevilla complicating things for their visitors, Kanoute in the box –that alone need two defenders to deal with- Fabiano running and tracking the gaps and spaces, Aderiano/Capel forcing Alves to do more defensive job than waiting him beside Navarro on the left back, Tom de Mul/Renato running the show from the right flank, incase Navas was not available.

Line up expected:

Palop (GK)- Defense: Mosquera, Squillaci ,David Prieto , Navarro on the left (unless if Sebastián Squillaci and Escudé are inform for this game), Fazio plus may be Maresca or Rinato instead of Romaric for more defensive depth, Adriano/Capel on the left, and on the right the absence of Navas could be covered either by Renato, or Tom De Mul ( a player to watch). Yet it’s also possibility that Jiménez may use Capel on the left and Adriano on the right.

More Sevilla Highlights.


Interestingly, what I said about Sevilla attitude is also applied on Barcelona. Guardiola must be aware of Sevilla threat, but if we change our game to overcome that, we lose. Certainly some tactical flavors will be added to the mix but nothing radical, we need to dictate the game that suit us, and that’s how their home turn to become our home.

The defense:

The question of the day, who will be there? Which options do you favorite more:

More tested: Alves-pique-Marquez-Puyol? Keeping in mind that this is a game for Veterans
More promising: Alves - Puyol-Pique- Caceres? Taking in consideration Marquez Shaky moments and Caceres promising performance against Sporting.

Mine is the first option, specially if it is confirmed that Abidal need a surgery if his current treatment program didn’t click, then a back up on the Left back is needed to release some of the pressure off Puyol shoulders and to make sure we don’t torture uncle Sylvinho putting him in an unfair challenging situations – By the way I say it with love and respect for a player and a man I extremely admire.

No matter what you choose, you are wrong, Guardiola will come up with something special that we will sit staring for an hour before we figure out we are still alive! That’s how Pep hit us with surprise all the time.


Yaya – a must play for me, Xavi (yea I am smart I figured that out), I will be fair and leave the third midfielder option for you!
Ok my choice is Kieta, at the moment he is the most balanced choice, good helping in defense and he score goals, beside he is fit for it after benching him against Sporting.


Messi, Eto’o and Henry.

Messi need to choose when to cut inside and when to go on the right in this game, I can see Navarro holding position on the left back of Sevilla defense, so the first mission is to drag Sevilla left wing to entertain Navarro and give him a hand in defense, or else, don’t curse pique after the game. But staying too long on the right (Messi) will also cause lot of predictable traffic and block the flank offensively, besides keeping Eto’o isolated in the box. So he needs to choose when to go right, and when to cut inside.

On the left, I don’t want lot of wide moves to be honest with you, because I can’t see us capable to implement that without Iniesta, so the best move is a Henry-Keita trick, one go to the post and the other patrol on the right corner of Sevilla box.

Eto’O is the guy to create the space, scoring must not be his priority in this game but if Sevella played an open game, he will have a better chance, he can no doubt exhausts Sevilla defense and create the chaos needed there to cause damage. I wonder if he will intentionally earn a yellow card in this game to be suspended against Villareal and guarantee playing the Classico, that’s one of the hidden details I will be wondering about during the game.

Talking about cards, I am sorry to tell you we are going to do another favor to Madrid, suspending Navarro in his following game.

In the other hand lets hope its easy for Alves to get ride of his old favorite habits, or else he may cross the ball on Kanoute head, we all know with Barcelona, he miss having the tall guy in the box to show up how good he is crossing assists. But in any way Sevilla will play without two key members of their winning team, keita and Alves, and we will have them both against Sevilla so it’s like hitting two birds with one stone.

The mini league finally started, and I posted below the table of points for this Mini league so we know who will win it, no matter if we think December will be a decider or not, and I recommend that you follow Stigsby Amazing Statistical analysis about the mini league impact on defining the league Champion as a part of our attempt to turn December to a football event we follow, it will be a very exciting month to live and enjoy, with its up and down, did I just mentioned the option “Downs”?

Ramzi Tanani

Friday 28 November 2008

Stigsby’s Statistics: The effect of rival matches

Hello all, and welcome to the first of Stigsby’s Statistics!

We all have an exciting month ahead of us and with a win against Sporting we can finally focus on it! Lately a subject has been raised by Ramzi that has caught my interest, the effect of wins and losses against rivals, something which is very relevant for the upcoming games. We are all aware of the effect of winning, meaning that you will get 3 points while the opponent will get 0, very easy to see and grasp, but what is more interesting to look at, is the after-effects. Will there be an effect on the next games? Will it have a definite result on the final outcome of the season or will it just apply to the normal point pool?

For most of you out there, I know that you prefer to keep numbers out of football, but stay with me here. Football is a game of 11 vs. 11, the same terms for both teams, but yet one team comes out on top. What is more relevant is, that it is usually the same teams coming out on top and the same teams losing. What I’m trying to say is that there must be some sort of truth in the numbers, after all, everyone predicts Barcelona and Real Madrid to finish in the top 3, and mostly they do. This prediction is a result based on previous seasons, strengths of the teams and a whole lot of other variables, meaning, that your brain basically does a whole calculation for you without you even thinking about it!

To look at the effects of the rival-matches we will first need some statistical data. As we’re not even halfway, the current season will not give us adequate data to perform a precise and accurate calculation, so we will focus on the season of 07/08. During this post I will focus on the top 5 teams, continuing Ramzi’s initial post. One must keep in mind here, that it is not the true rivals we’re focusing on here, but the top title contestants.

Real Madrid 85 2,2 17,9 21
Villareal 77 2,0 16,2 15
FC Barcelona 67 1,8 14,1 7
FC Sevilla 64 1,7 13,5 9
Atletico Madrid 64 1,7 13,5 7

Points Point average Points expected against rivals Points achieved against rivals

The first thing we can look at is the strength of the title contestants within, meaning how well do they perform against each other. To make a fair comparison we will have to do some simple calculations. To begin with we first calculate the point average pr game, this will give us a picture of the general form of the team during the season, by multiplying that with 8, the 8 matches against the other four top 5 contestants, we will get the expected amount of points against rivals. As shown on the first table we can see, not surprisingly, that Real Madrid last season had a very high bottom-level with an average of 2,2, and on top of that, they “over-performed” against rivals, meaning that they in the end took the title. The rest of the top 4 teams have in fact “under-performed” against rivals last season, giving them fever points achieved than statistically expected.

Now that we have looked at the performance of the top teams, let’s look at the effects of the results of the matches. What is normally put forward is the effect on the team moral after a win/loss. It is very difficult to put a number on the feelings of the specific players, so we will have to find another way to calculate the effect. To do that we can look at the results achieved in the first, the second and the third match after the rival match and see how the team performs compared to the seasonal average. In this calculation I have excluded the results after a draw, as a draw will leave both of the teams at point zero compared to each other, and should therefore be expected to have no substantial influence.

Our initial instinct tells us, that a loss against a rival would lead to a loss in team moral and thereby have a negative influence on our future short-term performances, meaning losing a match against a rival, would lead to a greater loss in points in the next three matches than the seasonal average. So let’s look what the actual numbers tells us:

After win
Real Madrid 2 2,3 2,0 2,1 2,2
Villareal 1,4 1,4 1,8 1,5 2,0
FC Barcelona 1,5 3,0 2,0 2,2 1,8
FC Sevilla 1,5 0,0 0,5 0,7 1,7
Atletico Madrid 0 2,0 3,0 1,7 1,7
Overall 1,3 1,7 1,9 1,6 1,9

First match Second match Third match Three game average Season average

After loss

Real Madrid 3,0 1,0 3,0 2,3 2,2
Villareal 1,3 3,0 2,3 2,2 2,0
FC Barcelona 1,4 2,2 2,0 1,9 1,8
FC Sevilla 1,2 1,2 1,0 1,1 1,7
Atletico Madrid 1,6 2,2 3,0 2,3 1,7
Overall 1,7 1,9 2,3 2,0 1,9

First match Second match Third match Three game average Season average

On the first of the two tables we can see the results after a win and on the bottom one the results after a loss.

What is most surprisingly by these results are, that it seems that the teams actually perform better after a loss than after a win. There seems to be a negative effect on the first match right after a rival match, for both a win and a loss. This can easily be explained by the extra effort put into the match by the players, meaning that they will be worn out in the next match. What is interesting here though, is that the effect seems to be bigger after a win rather than after a loss, there actually seems to be a dive in form right after a win, whereas after a loss there seems to be no real effect. What is even more interesting is, that there actually seems to be quite a positive effect after a loss, the team actually performs better over the next three matches after a loss than during the rest of the season.

Keep in mind that this does not have anywhere near enough data included, as I would have to include several seasons and a blend of different leagues, to give a scientifically viable result. This is only a result of the last seasons 32 intra-rival games, however I think it’s safe to draw one vital conclusion: The wins and losses against rivals does NOT have such a vital effect that they are often put out to be. The matches against rivals are merely a battle of prestige and bragging-rights, and are most likely not having a ground-breaking effect on the final season outcome.

Ps: This is merely an attempt to clarify the effects of rival matches. I have chosen to keep the calculations as simple and open as possible, as I do not wish to influence the result of this paper. If you disagree with any of the calculations or have any doubts as to have I made them, please post your criticism.

Pps: Even though my results tends to prove that there is no beneficial effect by winning over the rivals, let’s hope the Barca players never see this article and beat the hell out of them on the 14th of December ;)


Quote of the day: Guardiola

Leagues are won in the last ten games.

Josep Guardiola, Barcelona manager

Gudjohnsen: "Guardiola has changed my life"

Barcelona player Eidur Gudjohnsen gave an interview to Catalan sports paper Sport.

When you're preparing a game, you now get more information about the opponent than last year?
We don't get more, we just get it in an different way.

Guardiola is more demanding than Rijkaard?
No, not at all. Pep is not demanding, Pep is doing his job. He pays a lot of attention to the details of the opponent. Where can we hurt them, what about corner kicks, set pieces... We're well-informed about the threats and the opportunities.

Guardiola keeps on reminding you of Mourinho, like you said during the pre-season?
Yes he does, but not as a person! I was talking about his style of coaching. Both are crazy about football. Besides that, Pep has been a great player and he knows how the players feel cause he felt it too. I was actually talking about the details. Pep is as focused on details as Mourinho.

What about the mentality?
They're also alike. They both work very hard. They are quality coaches who are always on top of the group. They have clear lines. You can relax sometimes, but you also should know when things are getting serious.

You think the team is more competitive than last year?
Could be. It should be clear that we won't win every game with a big goal difference. What happened over the last weeks, was a bit exaggerated. 5-1 or 6-0 can be misleading.

You thought you would leave the club three months ago?
At the end of last season it was almost sure that I would go. I had decided that I would leave because of what I felt and because of the feelings I got from the club and the fans. But everything changed when I talked with Guardiola during the pre-season. Guardiola has changed my life. He surprised me. He said: "Look, Guddy, I believe in you, but you have to convince me and give everything during the pre-season". That changed my way of thinking and I didn't listen to any offers from then on because I wanted to focus on Barça.

You're family must have been happy with the decision to stay...
I've always said that our live here is excellent. We have everything, but I'm a football player and I don't want to stay here just for the good life. I will have time for that after my career.

This was the second and last part of this interview. Read the first part here:

Read more interviews with Barcelona players here

Barcelona is not dependent on Messi

It's not that we're dependent on Messi, not at all! It's just that if Messi plays we always win!



We're not "Messidependent" but...

...Leo is a key element in our blaugrana tower

(click the cartoons to enlarge)

see more cartoons here

Puyol and Toure return to Sevilla list

Barcelona manager Josep Guardiola has earlier today announced the list of 18 players for the twelveth game of the Spanish league against Sevilla tomorrow evening at 10 pm.

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

Puyol and Touré return to the list, while Pedro, Víctor Sánchez and Jorquera are not included. Milito, Abidal and Iniesta are not available because of injuries.

Barcelona will have a last training session in Barcelona tomorrow at 9:45 am. The squad will then fly at 12 pm to Sevilla, where they will play the league game only a few hours after arriving.

Villareal goalkeeper Diego Lopez tops wish list

Catalan sports paper Sport claims that Barcelona is interested in Villareal goal keeper Diego López (27) (read more here).

Barcelona's technical staff would want to sign a new goalkeeper at the end of this season and have been searching the market. Although there are at this moment several candidates, Diego López would be the first name on the list.

Despite Villareal already having made clear to other interested clubs and to the player's agent Manuel García Quilón that the player is not for sale, Barcelona are monitoring Diego López closely and are drawing up reports on the goalkeeper.

Asked about the rumours linking him with Barcelona, Diego López has said at a press conference that he doesn't plan to leave: "It's always nice that you're linked with big clubs like Barcelona, but I my opinion Villareal is also a big club.

Last year, people were also telling that kind of stories and in the end I renewed my contract. I'm feeling very comfortable here and I already made that clear last year. I think I should stay here to keep making progress and to help the club for many more years."

Read more:
Asenjo candidate to be back-up for Valdés
Looking for a goal keeper
Villareal's Diego Lopez to rival Valdes

Medical: Abidal joins group training

Barcelona left back defender Eric Abidal (29), who is recovering from a knee problem, returned to the group training yesterday.

After having to leave a training session on 30 October, a meniscal cyst in his right knee was discovered. The club preferred a conservative treatment (read more

Read more:
Medical: Abidal out for three more weeks
Medical: Iniesta returns to the pitch
Medical: Milito return three to four months away

Poll result - Man of the match: Sporting

This is the final result of this blog's Sporting-Barcelona: Who was our man of the match? poll:

1. Messi 48 %
2. The whole team 13 %
3. Caceres 9 %

See full results here
See other poll results here

Dani Alves about emotional return to Sevilla

A few days before the Sevilla versus FC Barcelona game, Dani Alves is looking forward to returning to his old club. Speaking to Barça TV and he looked back on the first four months of the dream he is living at Barça.

At the end of last season, the Brazilian made the decision to leave Sevilla and he doesn’t regret that move: "I am very happy and every day I feel more convinced that I made the right decision because I am sharing a dressing room with some of the best players in the world. It is an honour and I hope it lasts for as long as possible."

The image of Dani Alves leaving Sevilla was a touching one. With tears in his eyes, he said farewell to a six-year adventure, saying: "I want to say thank you for everything this club gave to me, I am sure it will always have a place in my heart."

But despite the tears on his final day, Dani Alves had a smile on his face when he touched down in Barcelona. It was a new home for him, and a new club. "It has all happened so fast, even our adaptation, because it can be hard to adapt to a new city." Alves says that one of the most important things was for him and his family to feel comfortable in their new surroundings. He got his wish, and "if the family are well, everything else comes with it."

In his first interview, Dani Alves said that it had been a dream come true to sign for Barça, and four months down the line he still feels the same way. "The truth is that if anybody wakes me up, I’ll get angry, because it’s very special and passionate to experience what I am experiencing here in Barcelona."

Not only is he thoroughly enjoying himself, but he is also lucky enough to be one of the players that most features in Guardiola’s first team plans: "It is a privilege to always get to play and contribute, especially because the more I play, the better I feel."

After three months of hard work, Alves could only find good words when asked what he thinks about the team: "Work is the basis for everything we have been seeing and achieving until now. I think that when a job is done well and everybody shows interest, things sort themselves out." He also highlighted ‘humility’ and ‘companionship’ as important factors, as well as "lively football and the commitment of all of the members of the squad".

When he signed for Barça he knew that the day would come when he would have to revisit his former club, but this time wearing a different shirt. It is going to be an emotional day for the Brazilian: "It is very special, because of what I’ve lived and learned there. I lived there for almost all of my professional career, and having to face my old colleagues is something different. But you have to work isolated yourself from your emotions. I hope I have a good game and that we get the three points."

He knows the opposition well, and is aware of their dangers. To beat the Andalusians, Alves reckons Barça should stick to what they know. "We have our characteristics and our way of playing and I don’t think we should change anything. just as we are worried about how strong Sevilla are, I am sure that they will be worried about how strong Barcelona are."

Read the full report here

Read more:
Schuster wanted Alves for Madrid midfield
Barcelona involved in five summer top transfers
Alves: "I'm grateful for the effort the club made"

Barcelona wanted Portsmouth left back Belhadj

Catalan radio station Catalunya Ràdio claims that Barcelona has been considering to sign Portsmouth left back defender and Algerian international Nadir Belhadj (26) in January.

If Barcelona left back Abidal would have had to undergo surgery, Barcelona wanted to sign a substitute during the winter transfer window. With Abidal recovering well, a transfer wouldn't be an option anymore.

Belhadj joined Portsmouth on a season-long loan last summer when French club Lens, which he joined from French champions Olympique Lyon in January, got relegated to the second division.

Read more:

The Points: Sporting

Valdés 5__6__7__7

Alves 6__8__7__7,5
Piqué 6__7__6__6,5
Márquez 5__6__6__7
Cáceres 5__6,5__8__6,5

Xavi 7__7,5__6__7
Busquets 7__8__8__7
Gudjohnsen 6__7__7__6,5

Hleb 6__7__7__6
Messi 8__9__9__8
Henry 6__8__6__7

Bojan 6__8__4__6,5
Pedro 7__7,5__7__6,5
Keita 6__7__*__6


If you have seen the match, you can give your own points. If you know other papers or sites that give points, you can let me know. See previous points here.

Thursday 27 November 2008

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:


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 Sevilla on Saturday.

You put them in the right position, so using the 4-3-3 (or whatever you think they will play) and putting the players from the right to the left, so the right back defender is your first name after the goalkeeper. 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 three hours before the start of the game, in this case: until 7 pm barcelona time.

If you give your line-up before Guardiola announes his match list (or if all the available players or at least 20 players are included in the 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 the most points at the end of the season, can call himself the winner.

This is the twelveth time this game is organized.




mario ch
Dan R

Quote of the day: Bojan

I want to thank Xavi and Gudjohnsen, who gave me the ball to take the penalty. It was a human and affective gesture.

Bojan Krkic, Barcelona player

The Video: Sporting

Gudjohnsen: "We're ready to play against Madrid"

Barcelona player Eidur Gudjohnsen gave an interview to Catalan sports paper Sport.

How did you feel when you got injured after a good start of the season?
It was bad luck, but it was just horrible. After I got injured, I suffered a lot. It was difficult to accept, but it was counterbalanced with the fact that the coach let me play immediately when I came back. The first game I was ready, I could play and I scored a goal. I worked hard to be able to return as soon as possible.

I was surpised to see you come back on top of your game.
I have been working hard during the recovery. Besides that, and with all my respect towards my country and my national team, I got aware that sometimes it's not really "worth" it to play a game with Iceland, if you understand what i mean.

Is it too much of a risk?
It's always an effort, but look, I don't think that Iceland will win the World cup.

You're considering to leave the Iceland team so you can focus on Barcelona?
No, because it's still an honour to play for my country and people expect a lot from me. I enjoy every game I play with them, but with moderation. I will pick the games from now on.

You don't think three points is a too narrow lead looking at the difference in playing styles between Madrid and Barcelona?
Yes, looking at how we have been playing, there's not a lot of distance with the other teams, but winning 6-0 or 1-0 is the same. They both give you three points. The best thing for us is that because of the way we play, we should only focus on ourselves.

What happened to Real Madrid in the Cup, we all could see that coming. Something like that could also happen to Barcelona?
It's not likely these days, but in football there's a thin line between success and disaster. We were lucky to qualify for the next round and now we can put the cup aside until January and focus on the Liga and the Champions League.

The coach thinks the games against Malaga, Valladolid, Recreativo and Getafe are more important that the games against Madrid, Sevilla or Valencia. Do you agree?
I don't think those December games will be decisive. You don't win the league in November or December, but with a bad series you can lose it.

You're anxiously waiting for the Madrid game?
Of course we want to play against Madrid! But we need to keep or even improve our level in the meanwhile. I don't care about Madrid coming today or tomorrow, they can come whenever they want. We'll be ready.

This was the first part of this interview. You can read the second part tomorrow with Gudjohnsen talking - among other things - about José Mourinho and about how close his exit was this summer.

Read more interviews with Barcelona players here

The Pictures: Sporting

(click on the pictures to enlarge)

(click on the pictures to enlarge)


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