August 31, 2010
The La Liga season kicked off on Saturday, with Barcelona playing their first match on Sunday at Racing Santander's El Sardinero stadium. Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta, and David Villa all found the back of the net while Víctor Váldes stopped a spot kick and several other blistering shots to ensure his clean sheet and a solid start to the season. The final scoreline, 0-3, was not indicative of the sometimes sloppy and shaky match the team played, but it was indicative of the firepower that the team brings to the table as well as the depth the small squad has.
August 22, 2010
When Abdoulay Konko stabbed the ball into the wrong net for Barcelona's first goal, it felt unlucky for Sevilla. When Lionel Messi fired home his third and Barcelona's fourth off a layoff by Andres Iniesta, it felt justified. It was not, as some have suggested, a one-man show by the Argentine, but rather a comprehensive destruction by the entire team.
As the trophy was presented at the end, I tried to think back to all the dangerous opportunities for Sevilla, but could come up with no true tests of Víctor Váldez. The best player for Sevilla in the first leg, Diego Perotti, came on in the 61st minute for the anonymous Alejandro Alfaro, and subsequently disappeared from play just like his predecessor. The same is true for Luis Fabiano replacing Diego Capel and Luca Cigarini replacing Romaric. Sevilla's trip to Portugal to face FC Braga in midweek in Champions League qualifiers and the looming return leg of that tie certainly preoccupied Sevilla and their manager, Antonio Álvarez, but the team still lacked both defensive discipline and commitment to harrying Barcelona's possession-based game.
August 16, 2010
In the end, Saturday night was forgettable for the majority of Barcelona fans. As Freddie Kanoute celebrated his second goal and Sevilla's third, the message boards and twitter accounts of the blaugrana fans were humming with anger and angst. Some proposed Zlatan be sent immediately to Milan (as the rumor-mongers in the Spanish press currently have it), others that Bojan be relegated to the darkest depths of la tercera, or that Rubén Miño, making his first competitive start for the first team, should be put in stocks on the Plaça de Catalunya. Metaphorically, of course.
Guardiola took his chances with his lineup, knowing he couldn't risk his Spanish international players before they'd had two full days of training with the club. So he left them all in Barcelona and relied on the youth system against a tough, physical Sevilla side (plus Jesus Navas, who is neither tough nor physical) that was playing the vast majority of their regular starters. Luis Fabiano versus Sergi Gómez sounded like a disaster; Oriol Romeu and Jonathan dos Santos would be ground into find dust by Renato and company. Yet for 60 minutes and certainly the first 45, the team was superior to Sevilla.
August 13, 2010
As the current La Liga champions, Barça face Copa del Rey champions FC Sevilla in the Supercopa español (Spanish Super Cup), a two-legged affair starting tomorrow, August 14 in Sevilla and ending next Saturday, August 21, in Barcelona. It is the return to competition for both teams--though technically Sevilla competed in the Ramón de Carranza Trophy competition, playing RCD Espanyol and CF Cádiz--but the first leg is not necessarily going to be the showdown one would otherwise expect between these two clubs.
Barcelona have yet to have more than one day of training with the full squad thanks to the late return to camp of the Spanish internationals after their friendly in Mexico City on Wednesday. Despite fairly few minutes on the Azteca pitch (243 total between 6 players), I do not expect any of them to start. Manager Pep Guardiola has preached faith in the cantera and I expect that faith to take the form of starting spot for several up-and-comers, including midfielders Jonathan dos Santos and Thiago Alcántara.
August 7, 2010
Tomorrow, August 8, FC Barcelona take on Beijing Guoan FC at the Beijing National Stadium, better known as the Bird's Nest. It's the final pre-season stop for Barça before the team heads to face Sevilla in the Spanish Super Cup. That's a two-legged affair starting a week from today on Saturday, August 14. The trip to South Korea and China has mostly been about the Barça B team getting reps with Pep Guardiola, but it's now also about getting them prepared to face Sevilla thanks to the Spanish FA (Real Federación Española de Fútbol) and national team manager Vicente del Bosque calling up 7 of Barça's stars for a friendly against Mexico in Mexico City on August 11.
Because the Cesc Fabregas deal--long rumored in the Spanish press to have been complete except for that dastardly detail of the other club involved not negotiating--is now kaput (official press releases here and here), there is little left for daily newspapers Sport and El Mundo Deportivo to howl about except this decision by RFEF and del Bosque. And howl they are, though in truth, there's something vexing about the decision to call up so many star players so soon after a World Cup victory.