Saturday 21 February 2009

Match discussion: Espanyol

This evening at 8 pm bt,
Barcelona plays the 24th game of the league against Espanyol Barcelona.

Espanyol squad list:
Kameni, Cristian, Javi Ruiz, David García, Lacruz, Sergio Sánchez, Beranger, Nico Pareja, Torrejón, Jarque, Román, De la Peña, Ángel, Moisés, Callejón, Luis García, Nené, Coro, Tamudo, Iván Alonso, Juanjo

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

Re-live Espanyol-Barcelona 1-2

match data


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.

Barcelona following Ivorian striker Gervinho

Catalan sports paper Sport claims, based upon unconfirmed English sources, that Barcelona is still monitoring Le Mans forward and Ivory Coast international Gervinho (21) (read more here).

Gervinho would be one of the young and promising player Barcelona sports director Txiki Begiristain is keeping an eye on. French clubs Paris Saint-Germain and Olympique Marseille and English Premier League clubs Arsenal and Tottenham would also be following the Ivorian striker.

Read more:
Ivorian Le Mans striker Gervinho being scouted
Hleb could already leave this summer
New bid for Adebayor being planned

Watch a video of Gervinho here:

Puyol returns to Espanyol list

Barcelona manager Josep Guardiola announced earlier today that 20 players are called-up for the 24th game of the Spanish league against Espanyol Barcelona this evening at 8:00 pm.

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

Puyol received the green light from the medical staff today and returns to the list. Pedro and Víctor Sánchez have been called-up to play with Barcelona Atlètic this weekend. Iniesta suffered an injury this week while Milito is still recovering. The final list of 18 players will be announced later today. On Thursday, Barcelona Atlètic players Botía and Abraham trained with the first team.

Barcelona had a last training session at 12 pm. After they had a lunch together, the players have the afternoon off and are expected back at the Camp Nou at 18:15, one hour and 45 minutes before the start of the game.

Caceres doesn"t want to leave on loan

Asked abut the rumours linking him with a loan next season (read more here), Barcelona central defender and Uruguay international Martín Cáceres (21) has said at a press conference that he doesn't want to leave the club:

"Nobody has proposed me anything and I don't want them to propose me anything either. I will stay here, no doubts.

I want to continue here for many years and therefore I don't want to hear anything on those stories about me, saying that I will go to another club or talking about a loan.

Every week I feel better and I'm more happy at Barça. I'm feeling more confident now that the coach has given me lately more playing time than at the start of the season. I have adapted better to the club and I have caught the rhythm of the team. I want to stay here so I don't need those rumours regarding my future."

Read more:
Caceres will leave on loan next season
Olympiacos offer for Caceres rejected
Henrique to return and Caceres to leave on loan

Pichichi and Zamora (day 23)

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.

23 Eto'o (Barcelona)
18 Villa (Valencia)
16 Messi (Barcelona)
15 Forlán (Atlético Madrid)
13 Higuain (Real Madrid)

0,78 Víctor Valdés (Barcelona)
1,17 Casillas (Real Madrid)
1,35 Diego López (Villarreal)
1,43 Riesgo (Recreativo Huelva)
1,57 Gorka (Athletic Bilbao)

[2008] Pique return looked at

This post was published one year ago:

Because the transfer of Santander central defender Ezequiel Garay (21) could be troubled by the salary demands of the player (see more here), Barcelona is said to have started looking at alternatives for in case the Garay option fails.

Madrid tabloid As claims that Barcelona sports director Txiki Begiristain held a meeting a few days ago with Arturo Canales, the agent of Manchester United central defender Gerard Piqué (21) to discuss the situation of the player, whose contract expires in 2009. It seems for the moment unlikely that Manchester would want to let go the Barcelona youth product for a reasonable price.

Read more 21 February 2008 news:
Lahm battle coming
Analysis: Cruijff’s new job and the Barcelona manager debate

Live Match Chat: FC Barcelona - RCD Espanyol

(original post by OmarX)

FC Barcelona - RCD Espanyol de Barcelona
(Saturday 21 February 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!

Ronaldinho and Eto'o on possible Milan reunion

Is it true? Are you coming?

I can't tell you yet.

How are you?

I miss you. Now it's Guddy who puts on the music and I'm fed up with Björk.

Over here, nobody makes fun of me like you used to do.

And those parties at your place...

I also miss you... Kisses.


(click the cartoon to enlarge)


see more cartoons here

Messi: "With Ronaldinho, everything was easy"

Barcelona player Lionel Messi gave an interview an interview to Champions, the official magazine of the UEFA Champions League.

Barça organise their game around you. Halfway through, can you be the star of this UEFA Champions League?
Even though this is just the beginning of Josep Guardiola's era, and early to talk about such things, I don't think my role is any different to the one I played under Frank Rijkaard. All I can say is that I love playing in front of goal and making the difference in that part of the field; that's where I can be most dangerous and really hurt the opposition.

How much do Barça depend on you for creativity?
I am just one member of the attack. Any team that depends on just one player can't be a true football team.

Pep Guardiola comes across as much more of a disciplinarian than Rijkaard. Is that true?
Every coach follows his own rule book. As I see it, it is not true that Rijkaard lacked personality. That's a very hasty judgment. Under Rijkaard, Barcelona achieved a lot, and nobody criticised the way he was managing the squad while we were winning.

You missed last season's quarter-final with injury. How was it watching your team-mates?
It was one of the saddest moments I've experienced in my career so far. I wouldn't wish it to happen to anyone. And last year I had to go through that kind of thing several times. That's the reason I reacted so badly the moment I picked up the injury to my thigh. [He burst into tears when he tore a thigh muscle in his left leg.]

Is last season's disappointment behind you now?
I put that behind me from the very first moment. I'm not someone who lives stuck in the past. The only important thing for me is that Barcelona have huge challenges ahead of us.

How did Ronaldinho's exit affect the team?
The team hasn't been affected at all. You devote yourself completely to the team or you don't – everything comes down to results. Ronaldinho gave a lot to this club, nobody can deny that. But from time to time, a cycle comes to an end. For him, last season was the end of one of those cycles. Barcelona might have lost some important players, but we have an excellent squad, one that can mount a really strong challenge on the Spanish title. And the same can be said for the Champions League.

What influence – if any – did he have on your development at Barça?
He helped me a lot when I was starting out. As soon as I made it into the first team, he went out of his way to take care of me and helped me a lot with the day-to-day things and in my relationships with the rest of the squad. I will never forget the attention he paid to me. It is with things like that that you recognise the truly great people. On the field, he was one of the best partners I have ever had. With him, everything was easy.

Are you still in touch with him?
Absolutely. He is my friend, and I will never forget him. We were very close when we worked together, and as I say he has always been good to me.

There was a lot of talk about the party culture. How come you have not been caught up in that?
My family are my support. They help me keep both feet firmly on the ground, and I lean on them all the time. I don't care what people say, the only thing that matters is how you perform professionally. I am a very calm person and I live a quiet life.

You are now one of the leaders of the team. How does that kind of responsibility sit on your shoulders?
I'm ready to take on all the responsibilities the coach sees fit to trust me with. It's as simple as that. Barcelona are a very important part of my life. They have helped me during crucial moments, such as when they took care of my health problems. I was discovered by them, they have helped in my development and have always been very good to me. I feel at home at this club.

Finally, was your goal against Espanyol, the one that needed a helping hand, some kind of tribute to Diego Maradona's Hand of God goal against England?
Diego is the best football player in the history of the game. He is one of my heroes. I idolise him. Diego is unique and nobody can compare with him. But as far as that goal I scored things just happened that way. I wasn't thinking about Maradona's goal while I was running. It was only later, when I left the dressing room and talked to my family and saw it on television, that I became fully aware of what I had just done.

read the full and original interview here

Read more:
Messi Free, Winning Dynamics.
Higher buyout clause for Messi
Medical: X-ray picture reveals Messi's secret

La Liga Jornada 24 Preview


Heading into a strange derby with the two teams positioned at the top and bottom of La Liga, Barca will be looking ahead as well as behind them. The fixture list ahead looks like this :

Liga Sat 21 Feb : FC Barcelona - RCD Espanyol
Champions League Tue 24 Feb : O. Lyon - FC Barcelona
Liga Sun 01 Mar : At. Madrid - FC Barcelona
Copa 2nd leg Wed 04 Mar : RCD Mallorca - FC Barcelona
Liga Sun 08 Mar : FC Barcelona - Ath.Bilbao
Champions League Wed 11 Mar : FC Barcelona - O. Lyon
Liga Sun 15 Mar : UD Almería - FC Barcelona

After this we get a week off again. A week’s rest seems such a luxury at this stage.

But Barca will also look back at last week’s game against Betis and the worrying defensive errors that cropped up before they came from behind to salvage a draw. Playing with a more aggressive defensive set-up Betis seemed to have found the right tactics to harry Barca. With their attacking forwards pressurizing Barcelona’s defense when on the ball and their defense staying relatively deep Betis found that expanding the field of play rather than compressing it might be the answer to containing Barca.

The danger presented has a chain reaction effect in that center-backs when closed down on the ball tend to pass back to Victor Valdes who often instead of clearing the ball directly, passes around to another defender forcing a hurried clearance or loss of possession. The isolated defenders then tend to foul to regain possession hence giving away free-kicks or corners in dangerous areas. This leads to our next nightmare : Set-pieces.

Tiredness must certainly have played its part in the last game and a week’s rest should find the players alert and refreshed. Pocchetino on the other hand has key players returning from injury and Espanyol have never shied away from playing attacking football against Barca. This may however be to our benefit. Espanyol have a clever left winger in Nene and it will be interesting to see how he is dealt with while Alves persists with his forages up-field. A tight defense will be a great positive to bring out of this game and I would be happier seeing a clean sheet than a 5-goal romp in the park.

In pre-game comments Pep has stated that Messi won’t start and since he never so-far indulged in Fergie-style mind-games I would take him at his word. Messi though I am sure will make the bench.

The return of Marquez to the backline should see the ball moved up the field more quickly combined with Xavi starting his playmaking from deeper up the field. Puyol strained his hamstring the last time we played Espanyol in the Copa. Hamstring strains are deceptive and Puyol being our defensive lynchpin, Guardiola will probably not rush his recovery again and leave him on the bench tonight.

My starting line-up would therefore have Pique and Marquez as center-halfs. Some respite for Abidal before tackling his old team Lyon would see Sylvinho taking his place at left-back. An option Guardiola could have tried was Abidal as center-half but he has put his faith in Caceres as the back-up for that position and its probably too late to experiment now. Dani Alves may tear up the flanks but he will have to watch out for fellow Brazilian Nene who had an impressive outing against Sevilla.

Presuming a policy of using more home-grown players for derby matches such as these, Busquets would start ahead of Yaya. Gudjohnsen who is my favourite for the left midfield position hasn’t started a league game since the first week of Jan and must figure its his turn. With Guardiola indicating that Messi might be kept on the bench for this game and with Iniesta unavailable Xavi will be needed to keep Espanyol busy in their own half.

Bojan has been eager and enterprising in the few opportunities he has had while Hleb has for most part been a spectator on the pitch. It would be nice to see Bojan get his first league start of the season. Instead of risking Eto’o and Henry together Pep will probably give Hleb another chance to get into form before the CL resumes. Eto’o having started last game could be the one to get some time on the bench to mull over his future and the controversies he insists on creating.

Espanyol and Pocchetino have both Tamudo and De La Pena back. The mercurial De la Pena is the creative force Espanyol have been lacking for much of the season. The Little Buddha who at Barcelona got lost somewhere between the end of the Guardiola reign and the emergence of the Xavi one, came on at half-time against Sevilla. Tamudo is a thorn in the flesh during these derby matches and if he is ready might take Luis Garcia’s place in the line-up. Garcia’s inability to find the goal this season has compounded Espanyol’s problems. While he paired up with Tamudo successfully in seasons past, an alternative in the more physical presence of Ivan Alonso or Callejon to add to the threat during set-pieces might be Pocchetino’s option on the night. Espanyol’s list of attacking players doesn’t end there with Coro or Rufete likely to take the right wing.

Inspite of conceding two goals against Sevilla the robust backline of Sergio Sanchez, Torrejon, Pareja/Lacruz and David Garcia with Angel or Roman Martinez playing in front of them will probably remain unchanged.

Set-pieces will surely have been the theme of the week at the training sessions. Handling the tall Espanyol center-backs well at corners and free-kicks tonight will give considerable confidence to the team for the upcoming fixtures.

A solid performance will be what the team is looking for against a nagging Espanyol side which has taken delight in derailing our title hopes in the past.

Prediction : FC Barcelona 2 – 0 Espanyol

kamikaze kontiki

Friday 20 February 2009

Number of the day: 36,7


the percentage of goals scored against Barcelona on set pieces
during all official games so far this season

Roads Leading to Rome (part 3)

Related News and info:Champions League2008/2009 Statistics(Click Here)....Compare Barcelona stats to other teams records (Click here)....Champions League Page on Wiki(Click Click Here)

In the First part we discussed more the nature of Champions' league, the kind of challange it require, and we started to figure out where Barcelona stand at the moment.

After a break in the Second Part with some of the consepts involved in nowadays football universe, we bounce back in this part to continue discussing things Barcelona needs to improve to enhance champions' league hopes.

We didn’t solve the “Counters' Blind Tunnel” we create when we move forward.

Thats a defect in our system: when we move forward, we create a three central backs line, one defensive midfielder, while the rest of players move to serve the offense operations in and around the box. The first clear return of this structure is the space created between our midfielders on the edge of the box and our defenders stepping on the midfield line. That’s more than (30m X 68 m) area where we only have one player – defensive midfielder- to cover. If the defensive midfielder moved closer to the offense operation lines, he will be able to gain the middle range opponent clearance. Yet, a long range clearance may catch the defensive midfielder out of position. It gets worse if we play Marquez and Pique together as Central Backs, or if we miss Abidal. Abidal is the only proved defender who has enough pace to catch a counter that pass the highly positioned defense on the edge of the Midfield line. Puyol also has the fighting spirit to create a cover as well, to some extend.

During the group stage, the defense weakness was completely covered by our offense brilliance. To give a clear idea about how fragile our system make us when we face the counters, this is a short report:

In our group we had to play against:

Sporting: so far in the third place in Portugal league.
Shakhtar:Fifth in Ukrain league.
Basel: Second in switzerland league.

Keep all that in mind, because thats far from the kind of clubs we will meet in knock out stages.
I will avoid pointing on our rank defensively based on the other teams reaching the knock out stages, because most of them had a more difficult teams to play against in knock out stages, yet they conceded less goals, most of them at least.

Instead I will compare our defense to the defense of the other teams in our group. Even though they played a more conservative games against us but the numbers show an unexpected sign:

- Basel and Shakhtar (together) failed to score any goal against Sporting in 4 games played home and away. They scored 2 goals in 3 games against barcelona, 5 goals in 4 games if you take the last game against Shakhtar in consideration.

- Basel and Sporting scored 3 Goals in Shakhtar net in 4 games, they scored 4 goals against Barcelona in 4 games.

- Sporting and Shakhtar scored 10 goals against Basel in 4 games, they scored 4 in 3 games/7 goals in 4 games including the last game barcelona Played against Shakhtar.

This is a very direct comparison. It shows that even though our offense forse the opponent to get squeezed in their own area, the opponents are still finding it relatively easier to score against Barcelona than scoring against each other. Only our scoring machine upfront covered this defect. But it will not be the case against those who are better than third,fifth and second in their own leagues.


As a living scenario, I will pick Man Utd (the current champions of the world), and imagine their coach playing a 4-3-2-1 at the Nou Camp. Four defenders plus three Defensive-midfielder-like players to create the defensive Bus, with the trio Tevez-Ronaldo-and Rooney rotating for the three other roles (yes I dropped Berbatov). Giving the instructions for Ronaldo to run through Alves Territory, and instructing Rooney or Tevez to stay close to Barcelona deepest defender while the third player with his high work rate bark for any cleared ball, racing the wind for it. The first result is the insecure feeling Barcelona will get when Alves move forward while Ronaldo positions himself on the right. We cant afford losing Alves in the offense operations, so one central defender will have to move wide to cover the right flank. One marker without support will not be enough so: either our defensive midfielder take Ronaldo in the midfield- unlikely because it leaves the field empty, or the other Defenders will be forced to create depth in case Ronaldo passed the fake right back. Moving the backline deeper will enlarge the space between backline and the rest of the team, while keeping them on the midfield line means getting beaten by the Man Utd trio pace in the counter. With the absence of sufficient cover infront of our defense, the opponent counters will be too fast for the midfielders transition to take place. Result? Man Utd defense clear the ball to the empty space mentioned above, a Man utd player receives it and plays it to the other empty space between our defense and Goalkeeper, then a race between Pique-Marquez and Ronaldo-Rooney/Tevez for the ball. Keeping in mind that Valdes is not the best libero-Keeper you can think about.
Before Betis game, it was understandable that some barcelona confident fans will find this scenario as "Unlikely". Watch Betis counters and you will definitely know what I mean.

This case study brief most of the alerts covered in this article. The solution is the mixed of everything discussed, we need to approach the champions’ league knock out stages as it needs, not as we succeeded to do in the liga. May be considering two defensive midfielders as a must for any tactical structure we apply in the Champions’ league will be a good start. At least after we pass Lyon. Last season, I was calling for a three players in the back when the team move forward instead of giving the two backwards the instructions to attack. It is happening this season when needed, we have more balance in the team this way and I like it! Now my new call is to have two defensive midfielders in front of our back when we play out of home in the Champions'. Let a combination of five players from the panel of Messi, Alves, Xavi, Iniesta, Gudjhonsen, Hleb, Bojan, Eto’o and Henry move forward squeezing the opponent box with no concerns. Noting that having two defensive midfielders is not less lethal at offense than the system currently applied. I can assure you its even more productive and generate more scoring opportunities, because we Barcelona fans know it well: dominate the game, and then enjoy your victory.

The Two legs Approach:

When I question our system compatibility with the Champions' league needs, I do not mean its less powerful. But the Champions' league force you to install more elements in your Game management. For example, your approach to the first leg game away from home must take the following in consideration:

- If you will play the second leg at home. you don't need to be so obsessed to finish the opponent away. All what needed is to come back home with a result that will make your life easier.

- When you play abroad, time is on your side. No need to rush to crush! Let the opponent feel they are running out of time, they need to score or else! Then you will hunt the result you are seeking.

- Keep being loyal to Barcelona Philosophy about earning back the ball fast, and dominating possession. Scoring will come as an unavoidable outcome of dominating the opponents at their homes.

You need to make sure the opponent do not score early. Dominate the possession (pst!Control the midfield) . Then you get advantage of their need to score a goal opening spaces at the back and you generate fast counters. Our Classical tactics of 4-3-3 do not serve these objectives. It either win you the game or throw you out of the Champions' league. One of the recommended tactics goes as follow:

This is one sample of possession+Counters strategy. A 4-2-2-2 can also be another option, where Messi play on the free role around the striker, with two midfielders and two Defensive midfielders behind. What I like about the one represented above is that it pulls the opponent out of their area, or else their stadium fans will put more pressure on them to get a good home result. It creates more spaces in the opponent half. It will insure that you dominate the midfield, and the match in return. And with fast counters you can score at least once, while the opponent will find no spaces to generate counters. The star on the right top show where I believe most of the game will be played. I don't think we will have to go deep in our half that often. Barcelona players are well known for being able to earn back the ball fast, and With this structure it will get faster. The red Zone show the area where we are fragile when we use our classical 4-3-3 as shown in the last frame of the animation to compare. Instead of having one player to cover your back(classical approach), this way you will have two, and without damaging Barcelona offense power. you do not need More than Messi-Iniesta-Xavi-Alves-Eto'o/Henry combination to move forward and hunt goals when you play outside Catalonia.

The impact of the domestic status of the opponents in their Champions’ league adventure.

This is a very important factor. The previous factors focus more on our own situation, but the opponent situation while approaching the game against Barcelona is as important. If we consider Italy, England, Germany and Spain as the main threats for us in this competition, we need to keep an eye on how things are going in the respective leagues. The more competitive it is, the better opportunity we will get to knock our opponents out of Champions’ league battle.

The Premier League: Man Utd may create a margin at the top of the premiership before heading to the Champions’ league semi Finals, especially after sacking Big Phill at Chelsea and the flu Benitez suffers from before every premiership match leading him to another bunch of weird decisions. The question is: Will Chelsea and Liverpool keep fighting for the second place till the end? Though it may not has the same energy-sucking impact on their CL chances. Aston Villa is the good news, if they can keep the pace with Liverpool, Chelsea, and Arsenal then they can keep the big three alerted to continue fighting domestically for next year European competition seats till the end.

The new Chelsea coach makes them more dangerous in the Champions' league. My only doubt about him is that he never succeed with teams having Mega stars in their squads. Other wise, he is a tactical genius!

Man Utd are always dangerous, they have the squad and they have the coach who know how to manage and prepare his team for the big games, nothing they need more.

Liverpool Coach is a cup games expert, so there is no way you can exclude them, While winning back the injured players will make Arsenal a different team than what we have seen up till now.

Serie A: Roma will fight for the European seat till the end, while Milan is our hope to keep Juventus and Inter busy competing for the domestic title. Its a Priority for Inter to win the champions' -may be over winning the league. If Milan and Juventus failed to keep pace, they will be a team to beat. Juventus and Roma? You never know! when they ae in their good days they can beat any team.

La Liga: I believe Barcelona will end up creating the relaxing margin-yea I heard about the last draw. If Villarreal, Sevilla and Valencia kept on dropping points and losing form, they will secure the second place for Real Madrid. I think no matter how it goes the Champions’ league will be Real Madrid priority. More about our own Domestic Competitions status, beside the impact of Knock stages Draw on the club opportunity to win the Champions league, you can find in RoadMap to Titles:Trible?

Bundesliga: TSG Hoffenheim, good luck!

Though the impact of domestic games may not look crucial, but in the champions’ league every little detail counts, including the fact that close hard domestic competitions end up increasing the fatigue and injuries, if you know what I mean.

I am a believer in Barcelona chances to reach the final, to the extend that I am planning to be there if it happens – that’s if I succeeded to hunt a seat this time…- but if this article weavers some of your confidence that we will definitely be there, if you feel stressed, worried and uncertain. Now you are in the right state of mind and heart to enjoy the adventure of Champions’ league knock out stages.
Thats My saying regarding Barcelona challenge in the champions' league, now the stage is all yours.

Ramzi Tanani

FCB Miami: Barcelona reconsidering MLS deal

Barcelona CEO Joan Oliver has said at a press conference today that Barcelona is reconsidering their bid for the American football competition Major League Soccer due to the global financial crisis:

"The situation in the US is very delicate and that's why we are evaluating if that situation leads to the model we had foreseen for Miami still standing firm or not.

We still want to be part of the MLS but this will only go through if this means no financial risk for the club. Our partner, Marcelo Claure, is also analyzing if the business plan is profitable or not. He's a businessman and he also doesn't want to get involved in an adventure when he's not certain about the consecuences.

The probabilty that our participation won't become a reality is now bigger than when we announced the project in October. We cannot be part of a bid without being sure about the financial structure behind it being solid enough. Barcelona cannot take any risks regarding to its image. We're looking at the issue because we want everything to be waterproof. There's still time to decide to withdraw, although a decision cannot take long anymore."

Read more:
FCB Miami: Team could start in 2010
FCB Miami: Obstacles for Barcelona's MLS bid
FCB Miami: Azkargorta to become sports director

Alves: "I enjoy more when I gave an assist"

Barcelona player Dani Alves gave an interview to Catalan sports paper Sport.

Tomorrow there will be another derby, with the two teams being situated at both ends of the table. You'll act differently knowing what's happening to your colleagues?
It's not a nice thing to see colleagues going through such a bad time. I never experienced that but it's clear you don't wish that to anybody. I think that it's the baddest thing what can happen to you. If you lose a title, that is probably because the opponent has been stronger than you, but being relegated is very painfull. But when the whistle goes, one forgets that and even more in a derby when you don't have any friends. I feel bad for Néné, whom I know, but we'll do everything to defeat them. I hope things will go well for them but that the good results only come after the Saturday game.

A pity that Iniesta is not around.
It's a bad thing. Basically because it's not the first time it's happening to him and because things were going so well for him. When you're making progress it's the worst thing that can happen to you. It leaves a bad taste but Andrés is a great guy who will quickly return.

Why are you all so cautious when people talk about the three titles?
Because we didn't win anything for two years and you can't expect the change to be so radical. You have to do things little by little and in the right way. The team wants to win something to stop the bad series and once we have won the first, we can go for the second. But it's only February and there's still so much ahead.

But it all seems to go that easy, everything turns out right, no?
It seems like that, but it's not. When people get used to it, it seems that a big win isn't something difficult. They should be aware that we won't always win 5-0. The opponent intends to slow the games down and people can become impatient but three points are three points.

You seem to have a great connection with Messi.
We feel more comfortable every day and everything goes better. But the team is working good as a whole.

What nobody will put in doubts is your solidarity, because of your twelve assists.
The task of a full back is to assist his team-mates and I enjoy more giving an assist than scoring a goal myself. It's what we have to do. That's how I learnt it and that's how I see it.

You think Real Madrid is far away?
Although they are saying that's not the case, we have an important lead. Not enough to get overconfident but it's big. In Madrid they say they won back two points last weekend but even then they're still far away.

The stands applaud you and they're not just being polite. Your goal celebration against Sporting was distinctive.
I enjoy myself and I want the people to do the same. Celebrating with my arms open, I invited them to have confidence in us and that's the case, right? But now we even need them more because we're at a key moment. Every game is like a final and they need to be there to help us. Since I joined Barça everyone has treated me very well.

A cup final Barça-Sevilla is coming close...
It would be special and nice but if we reach the final we won't be able to decide who will be the opponent.

Read more:
Alves: "I have more energy every day"
Dani Alves about emotional return to Sevilla
Alves: "We're building a great team"

Madrid fans certain about comeback win

Customer f:
I see you're nervous, we're already at ten points, the Liga is slipping through your hands, we're preparing a big comeback win, it will be like in the year of Capello.

Customer c:
Since they gained back two points, it's the same every morning. And then they say that those who have to deal with the pressure are the players...

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Poll: Who should replace Eto'o if he leaves?

Benzema postpones decision on future

Asked about his future and the rumours linking him with several European top clubs among which barcelona (read more here), Olympique Lyon forward and French international Karim Benzema (21) has said in an interview with Lyon regional newspaper Le Progrès that he didn't yet make a decision on where he will play next season:

"I feel good at Lyon. But I also like big foreign clubs like Barça, Real, Inter and Milan. The ideal thing would be to win the Champions League with Lyon. I'm not talking about leaving yet but if that would be the case, the main criterion will be the football project. And I didn't yet learn any foreign language...

I'm not thinking about it now. I'm playing at a big club and we will see what will happen after the tie with Barcelona. It's true that there's a world cup next year and when you start a new adventure just before, there are always some question marks. But I don't want to let all that have an influence on me when I would decide to leave in June."

Read more:
Benzema could stay one more year at Lyon
Benzema not a transfer target anymore
Cash plus Abidal bid for Benzema on the table

Iniesta: "The Liga title is the most important one"

Barcelona player Andrés Iniesta gave an interview to Catalan sports paper Sport.

It's been a month since you re-appeared against Mallorca in the league. How are you feeling? (note: the interview dates from before his new injury)
Very well. I was focused on gaining my form little by little and getting back into the rhythm of matches. The matches in January and the training sessions have helped me improve to get into top shape.

What are your personal expectations in the current 2009 season?
My goal is to show the best I have. The team is working well and this helps each player to play at their best.

Do you get the impression that the supporters appreciate you more now than before you got injured? It seems like after losing you for a few months, there have been culés that have valued you much more...
To me, it's been important to notice all the support on behalf of the fans every time that I've played in the Camp Nou after my injury. I always knew that the supporters cared, but you never knew how they would react after some time without playing and it's been very special. I'm very grateful.

On top of that, your comeback couldn't be better, a goal against Mallorca and three important points...
It was very emotional. Since I was promoted to the first team, the fans have been with me and without a doubt, it's motivating when the fans appreciate you. Although, the satisfaction of the supporters enjoying the team is much more important. We're playing well and we hope to maintain a good streak until the end.

Are you one of the people that dares talk about the treble or is it better to stand by Guardiola's message of caution?
Everyone dreams and I think that it's good to hope to do something great. Obviously, there are many matches left, and the path is still long and it's true that everything is going great, but we're still far from any treble. Still, we're aware that a club like Barça can't go a third year without winning any title and we're going to aim for it in any way possible.

If you only end up winning the Liga title, which is the title that gets closer by the day, do you think that the supporters may feel a bit disappointed?
To me, the Liga title is the most important one. It's a result of an entire year's work and it would be a great achievement to win it. The Spanish league is a difficult championship to obtain and it's very prestigious.

In the last FIFA World Player voting process, your name finally came up within the first nominees and your worldwide recognition has finally taken off. Is this finally fair? After many years with the spotlight on other players that seemed more important to the media.
That's something that I never stopped to think about before or now. What I'm interested is in playing well with my team and winning many titles with Barça. Obviously, everyone wishes to have their work recognized and to be on those lists, even though I insist that first and foremost I'm concentrated on the team's game and the best for Barca.

Translated by: Al

This was the first part of this interview. You'll be able to read the second part in the coming days.

Read more:
Iniesta: "Victor Valdes is great at one on one's"
Medical: Iniesta out for two weeks
Busquets: "Sometimes I think I'm dreaming"

Keirrison dreams of Barcelona move

Asked about the rumours linking him with several European top clubs among which Barcelona (read more here), Palmeiras forward and Brazilian youth international Keirrison (20) has said in an interview with Brazilian news site Terra that he's a Barcelona fan since childhood:

"I have a four-year contract with Palmeiras. I'm quite relaxed. When I played with Coritiba last year, I also just kept on working when all kinds of rumours appeared, and that's the same now that I'm playing with Palmeiras. I've just arrived here one month ago and the press is already asking when I will leave.

It's true that ever since I was little, I have identified a lot with one country and especially with one team. I don't have anything against the others, but I identify with Barcelona, because I saw a lot of Romario and Ronaldo when they played there. So it's a very big dream of me to play for Barcelona. Besides that, I also dream of playing with a great player like Messi."

Read more:
Barcelona in pole position for Keirrison
Transfer of Aguero is well underway
Barcelona sounded out Brazilian striker Keirrison

Debate on future Eto'o evaporates




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[2008] Mourinho on campaign trail

this post was published one year ago.

Spanish news site El Confidencial claims that former Chelsea manager José Mourinho (45), who would be the best placed candidate to become the next Barcelona manager, has started a campaign to win the hearts and minds of the Barcelona fans. His attitude during recent Chelsea versus Barcelona games has created fierce opposition amongst a part of the culés.

Mourinho would have contacted several journalists, who he knows from his time in Barcelona as assistant coach, to tell them he always has kept the club and the city in his heart. The negative attitude of Johan Cruijff towards Mourinho, who would be very closely following the performances of Barcelona, would also have changed in recent weeks.

Read more 20 February 2008 news:
Does Lampard wear the breeches?
Garay transfer in doubt

Thursday 19 February 2009

Roads Leading to Rome (part 2)

Related News and info:Champions League2008/2009 Statistics(Click Here)....Compare Barcelona stats to other teams records (Click here)....Champions League Page on Wiki(Click Click Here)

When we split “Roads Leading to Rome”, we were aware that long articles make readers panic. But at the same time I can’t avoid sticking to my objective behind writing on the blog. I do not aim only to describe or predict Barcelona staff approach, but more to create a stage where Barcelona fans can express their own ideas, and share general football knowledge through the gate of discussing Barcelona issues. I believe this may lead to more understanding of the game in depth, so we all come out with something new after every debate. This is the only way that makes spending time reading long articles and commenting on it profitable.
After "Roads leading to rome, Part 1" I would like to introduce this part with some general yet crucial remarks for the subject we are discussing in this article.

Not only in Barcelona Orbit, but it’s something you can find in so many debates within the football universe. There are some mixed terminologies that we take for granted even though in real they point on completely different areas. Clearing up some of the concepts may serve our understanding to the Champions' league Mission Barcelona aims to accomplish. So here we go!

My Humble Criteria to evaluate a tactical structure:

First of all I only believe in one tactical methodology, and it’s called building a balanced tactical structure starting from offense. In general, this is not the trend of nowadays tactical schools where most of coaches start from the back and up. And that’s why most teams’ performances are more practical than adventurous. Starting with defense drag you to hand the game to the opponent, then hunt a win. Starting with offense while keeping in mind the need to create balance, put you in the position of “I will kick you hard, and I know what you are planning but it will not work, I already prepared my boys to deal with that as well!”. Yet, even when we demand attacking mentality, we must not judge tactics offense share by counting the number of attackers in the game. Offense tactics means five things for me:

1) Dominating Possession. when you have the ball you are the king.

2) Opening spaces in and between the opponent lines. It’s easier to penetrate through tunnels you open than breaking down the walls you face.

3) Generating attacks. The ONLY offense attempts I count are shots on target, plus the number of times you succeed to get your players to opponent area in a scoring position, so the “Roaming around stuff are called build up operations” (point#1), not offense.

4) Keeping in mind that the most dangerous players are those who come from behind, not the ones who camp upfront. The players who position themselves high are easily contained, while the players who move forward from deep unsettle any defense for being less predictable. You can predict they will make a move, but you can’t guess when and you can’t guess how. “Be a surgeon not a butcher” That’s my favorite Slogan for this trick. The Knife cutting the Butter is smoother than a hammer smashing a rock, at least you sweat less! It leads you to build up your offense based on strategies, not only on tactics.

5) And its as important, to create a strong defensive backbone so the players who are doing the offense Mission feel secured and completely focused on offense without the need to keep looking backward being over concerned about what’s happening behind their backs. Four players completely focused on offense are more lethal than six players who need to burn half their energy on transition. This is not a basket ball field, its football, and the transition here cost a lot. When my players are surrounding the box, I want to make sure to keep them there as long as possible, because when they bounce back they will need time to set offense again. Time is the only thing a team can’t afford to waste if it has the winning mentality based on offense ideology.

The tactics that support the five principles the most is the tactic I will recommend to apply. Being able to get the ball into the box is as important as having enough players there to score. And Vise versa.

In World cup 1986, they asked Maradona about the tactics applied by Argentina, he answered:” we play like a sponge, we absorb our opponent then we bounce to offense!”, I am not sure if he was only explaining the national team methods or he was effected by playing in Italy. I wouldn’t recommend this tactic for Barcelona as a standard, but no one can complain about Argentina performance in that world cup. When you score three times against Germany in the final, that’s an offense sign as well.

If the number of attackers in a tactical structure has a direct impact on the offense power, Barcelona would have definitely played the Pyramid tactics (2-3-5) or the (1-1-8) applied originally by England against Scotland in 1872, Scotland was more conservative back then and played (2-2-6). At least we will find at least one team in the world still applying the 4-2-4 structure.

Cruyff Dream Team played a 4-4-2 Diamond – some people mix it with the 4-3-3 applied now- but when you watch the team performance you can barely figure out who move forward and who cover in that total football style.

The new football tactics are getting closer to the 4-6-0; Man Utd played a stunning offense game striker-free last season. They inherited that idea from Roma, after 2007 CL game between the two clubs. Roma played the most offensive-attractive football in Italy striker-free. Well I know there is no translation for the world attractive in the Italian football dictionary but still.

Attractive Vs. Boring Styles:

The most sarcastic joke I heard in the last few years was the news of Real Madrid Sacking Capello for not entertaining the fans. Chelsea did the same naïve step later on sacking their special one, even though champions’ league failure was the direct reason back then. All what I can say is:”Poor coaches never got the fair treatment in the world of football” .

Calderon wanted to look as Attractive as Laporta. We can argue who is more handsome based on looking and age, but one thing for sure is that:
A squad of : Pablo García, José María Guti , Thomas Gravesen, Emerson, Mahamadou Diarra, David Beckham, Raúl, Robinho, Ruud van Nistelrooy. With a fat Ronaldo, and not well adapted Robinho can NOT play the game Deco,Iniesta, Xavi, Eto’o, Messi and lead by Ronaldinho the great can perform. The italian coach can design a tactical structure to win using the names mentioned above, but not to intertain.

The attractive football is more attached to the players quality in the squad than to the tactical structure performed. Tactics has an impact, but if Chelsea applied the Barcelona 4-3-3 with the kind of players they have, don’t expect a show. Mourinho actually applied a 4-3-3 to some extend. The same as, even if Barcelona played the Catinaccio, you will still have the beautiful passes of Xavi and the fantastic penetrations of Messi and…and…Hey I am not promoting it by any mean, just so you know!
Its not whats right or wrong, but whats available and possible.

Active Vs. Passive performance:

In my opinion, This is the most valid method to evaluate a football team performance. Clubs pick the suitable tactics, whether attacking or defensive based on the squad nature and opponent. But what makes the output positive or passive is the objective behind the style. You can play Passive offense or passive defense. The same as you can play an active defense or passive defense.

Keeping in mind that a defensive game is out of Barcelona dictionary, we need to keep in mind that even the Offense highly possessed games could be labeled as a passive performance as well, when it’s aimless, fruitless, and lack productivity.

That’s exactly what I meant when I said in the first Part:” Sometimes and after we score only one goal, we become over obsessed to turn each and every game to an attractive carnival of passing and dribbling skills”. I was talking about the passive obsession that seems like “Hey! Look how nicely I can pass the ball”, “Lets see how many passes we can play without losing the ball”, that’s a passive approach in my books. I enjoy the passing skills when it’s a build up for a direct pass to the box, when it open spaces, when the players pass the ball with an eye on the opponent defense, not when they pass the ball just for the sake of it. It happened before, and we paid for it. This season you can see how the guys keep focusing on scoring another goal directly after they score the first; it’s a clear instruction from the bench. That wasn’t the case in previous years, and it show pep is aware of this rooted bad habit.

Attractive performance Vs. Titles:

It’s really beyond my understanding to figure out how to put the two gains on two different scales. For me winning titles is a part of over all show. The same as a show without titles is a joke. This is not a free-style football. And more over, this is Barcelona. “Just show a good performance” is a slogan that fit –with all respect – teams like Villarreal, Sevilla, Espanyol, Napoli, Aston Villa and the list is long. Barcelona success needs titles. Barcelona progress needs titles. Barcelona financial, Marketing, and Image need titles. And most importantly, Barcelona attractive performance needs titles to survive. Only when the team win, the players feel confident and pressure free to perform. Only when the team win champions’ league, it will have enough budget and attraction to sign the most attractive players in the world to extend the sexy life cycle the fans enjoy and praise.
And to win titles you need to be less predictable tactically. There is no perfect uncontainable tactic. Coaches of the other teams are not playing cards in their free times. They are studying the teams they will play against. The more your tactics are stable, the more it will be unlikely for you to catch an opponent by surprise. Against Sevilla we played a perfect second half when we changes our offense and midfield structure. Against Real Madrid it was our worst game tactically, we played as Juande Ramos predicted.

I understand that Barcelona fans see Barcelona club as a beautiful sexy woman, they whistle and flirt. But I don’t want Barcelona to be a woman you would love to date but not to marry. That’s why the best Barcelona is the Barcelona that is Beautiful AND Smart.

Barcelona can play 58 games per season in the league, Champions’ and Copa del rey. If 18 out of 58 needed a more tactical less open strategies to keep the team in the hunt for all the titles. Then don’t be greedy, 40 games of sexy performance per season plus titles are more attractive than playing only 45 or 50 sexy games in the season with only one title or non. Being too demanding will make your woman break up with you, just so you know.
Again, I am still calm about this one. From what I saw up till now, Guardiola and co are working on more than an alternative. Unlike previous seasons, I always find lot of remarks to write on my notebook after each and every game, positive remarks and new ideas I see and like in each and every game. Not only at the start of the matches but most importantly the tactical changes during the game. But its all still in its primary stages. Thats why I mentioned in the First Part, that time is needed to reach where we can say we have a perfect situation to win the champions'.
I will be surprised if Guardiola didnt switch the 4-1-2-3+Alves played at the moment, to 4-2-1-3+Alves when we play at home the big games of the season. Or even a 4-2-2-2 with iniesta and Xavi in midfield. This is a quality squad, so no need to squeeze our options. Better Barcelona is possible!

I wish to believe that good performance alone is satisfying enough for Barcelona fans even with the lack of results. Even after winning 4 consecutive leagues, UEFA cup, and Champions Cup, a copa del Rey, a European Super cup, and three supercopa de España. It only needed two seasons without a title to give Cruyff a boot even though he reached the Champions’ league final before losing to Milan. From there and on, a long game og “Hire and sack” took place and drove the club into a dark tunnel.

And why digging that far in history, remember the reactions after the first two games in the league and you will know what the current performance hide. Things look perfect only when the team is winning.

If we need more titles in Europe, we need to improve our football approach, from leaning completely on Individual brilliance and luck-as it happened two years ago- and instead creating a more balanced mix between individuality embraced in a tactical coat, and systematic structure that get advantage of gifted players but also offer more stability and balance.

When the season started I said I will give it a chance till January before hunting for defects. I defended Guardiola options all the way up till now in the ups and downs. I still believe in this project. But while the whole world shower this team by praise, some need to step in and make the balance keeping Barcelona feet on the ground, digging for things to improve and things to install. I am in! But dont worry I am not going to confuse the team, Guardiola smsed me that he is too busy lately to read my articles *cough/Joke*. So it’s more a fan-to-fan chat.

Ramzi Tanani

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