August 19, 2012
May 14, 2012
Lionel Messi has won the La Liga Pichichi (top goalscorer) award after scoring a superhuman 50 goals in 37 matches. If we consider all competitions, La Pulga's tally adds up to a tremendous 72, which is more than any other player has ever achieved in any major European league.
While Leo Messi's goalscoring record is obviously a legendary individual achievement, I would be much happier if those goals actually meant Barcelona had won at least one of the two major trophies this season.
January 10, 2012
When the ref blew for the end of match, some of the Barcelona fan base muttered something about where his whistle could go. Others yelled about it. Still more tweeted it. Yet the lesson overall is hardly that Turienzo Alvarez is bad referee or, worse, biased - Marca went with a play on words about it and even Raúl Rodríguez, the man who committed the late handball, admitted that it was one - but rather that there are no easy games and never a dull moment when you're the worldwide target.
Perhaps the team were looking forward to Monday’s FIFA gala and Messi's third consecutive Ballon d'Or win (with Xavi coming in 3rd for the 3rd year running as well), but whatever it was, they looked listless and were outplayed. Pochettino put out a squad that, in very imprecise terms, "wanted it more" and filled the midfield. Barca gave the ball away more than Espanyol (88 to 86) while they had fewer shots (9 to 13), which suggests that, in several areas they were outplayed by their city rivals.
December 16, 2011
It was 0-1 and the match was looking good for Barça until David Villa went down awkwardly and immediately signaled to the bench that he was, er, screwed. It was the end of his match, his tournament, his calendar year, and possibly his season. A fractured tibia put him on a plane back to Barcelona while the rest of the team stayed to continue with the FIFA Club World Cup.
Villa is now Barcelona’s second long-term injury for the season, Ibrahim Afellay having torn knee ligaments in practice in September. That both men are forwards puts pressure on the remaining attackers and will probably signal a more regular shift to the 3-5-2 formation (as well as the increasingly usual 3-4-3) Guardiola has been experimenting with. But it’s not just any other forward that Barcelona are losing.
December 12, 2011
At the end, when Fernández Borbolán blew the final whistle, things were put right again. Or so we told ourselves, hoarse and happy, the victors of another Clásico. There were no Madrid fans waiting to challenge Barça’s win as a scandalous refereeing debacle or indictment of the entire European footballing system. In fact, there was no one, at least no one in the bar this writer was in, who even suggested that the match was anything other than a wonderful display and a just scoreline.
And it was certainly both. Yes Madrid had clear chances, but scuffed their lines. Barça too scuffed some lines, however, and then rode its talent to the finish line while Madrid seemed to collapse in slow motion as the exertion of their first 70 minutes took its toll. The winner was the correct one on the night and now the league is fully in play again, with Barça provisionally top. The prevailing mood, however, suggests that Barça will overcome a three point deficit when the squad returns from the FIFA Club World Cup in Japan.
December 7, 2011
You're probably well aware of this already, but El Clásico is bearing down on us all once again. Like a terrible army of dementors, it is preparing to suck your spirit from your face and leave you slack-jawed and lifeless. A husk where once there was vibrant thought. An empty shell where once there was exuberant analysis. There were four in a row late last season and they effectively wiped out this writer's sanity for nearly three months and, if the tabloid headlines are to be believed, left most of Spain in rubble.
• Real blog: Madrid starting XI for El Clasico
Now it has returned and while the game itself should be thrilling given the number of stars on hand and the way the teams are playing, it will also bring about a maelstrom of journalistic and fan-based frothing at the mouth. There's nothing quite like a full-fledged international freak out whenever a referee makes a mistake or, indeed, when he does nothing wrong. There's been eye-poking, red cards, and more bluster than parliament.
October 16, 2011
This weekend, a friend joined my regular watching crew for the Racing match. He doesn't follow the sport and he likes to mess with me, so he put a few dollars on Racing and spent the day cheering against me. When he arrived and announced his decision, it was quickly pointed out to him that the three goal cushion from the bookie wasn't necessarily as large as he thought it was.
His outlook on the game got less rosy when we told him that the three league matches Barça had played at home had ended 5-0, 8-0, and 5-0. In the end, he won a small amount of cash on the 3-0 final score, but it should have been a complete loss for him as Barça dominated the game and created a host of chances that should have ended in a couple more goals. 83% possession and 19 shots!
September 26, 2011
I missed the first few matches of the season for personal reasons (good ones, fortunately), but I returned in time to catch a delayed version of Barça-Atleti and what a show it was. The best defense in the league versus the best offense turned out to be something of a one-sided affair that really could have been a lot worse than its final score of 5-0.
Certainly Atleti was complicit in their own demise, at least in the first half when they sat back and often failed to challenge Xavi in possession: that lack of pressure created David Villa's first goal (though nifty footwork was still required of the Asturian striker) and a host of other chances. Fabregas nearly scored a brilliant chip from distance thanks to a complete lack of off-the-ball marking that left him alone in a good position. But it was also Barcelona's brilliance that put them solidly ahead when Messi smashed in the third after a brilliant, mazy run that left the defense scratching its head.
May 12, 2011
Once again the team celebrates in the Ciutat de Valencia stadium after drawing 1-1 against Levante, with the league-winning goal a header from an African player. Champions! 92 points ensures that no matter what happens in the final two matches (Depor, at Málaga) we’ve earned our third consecutive league trophy.
Given the outcome of the league clasico at the Bernabeu, the title comes as no surprise, but it is no less thrilling and no less enjoyable. It is a monumental achievement, an immense project completed, and a testament to the skill and dedication of the players and coaching staff. There are still 6 points to play for, but so far the squad has racked up 92 points, 92 goals scored, and just 20 conceded. There were a myriad of enjoyable matches, breathtaking moments of magic (mostly from Messi), and the occasional blip that reminds us all that this sport is fickle and fleeting.
May 8, 2011
It looks at first like it would be a far harder contest, but in the end it was the calmest Catalan derby I've ever witnessed. Just as I was thinking that there might not be a single yellow card in the game, Pedro and Luis Garcia came to the rescue with a lame shoving match in the box and then Carlos Kameni picked one up for yelling at the ref moments later. Isaias, who I certainly have a soft spot for, grabbed a late yellow for a handball, but that was really it.
The fouls were fairly even (13-14 with Espanyol just edging out), but the time of possession was, as usual, heavily in favour of Barça: 71-29. Iniesta grabbed a goal off a nice run through the defence and a slightly lucky deflection into his path and then Pique smacked in a header off a poorly defended corner to ensure the points and push Barça to the very brink of winning the La Liga title.
With 9 points remaining and an 8 point lead, the club need to pick up just 1 point over the next 3 matches to officially earn the title. Because Spain's first tie breaker is head-to-head record, even if Madrid were to equal Barça on points, the trophy would return to Catalunya for a 3rd consecutive year. That tie, however, is unlikely thanks to Barcelona's remaining schedule: at Levante, Depor, at Malaga. The last of those will probably have rescued themselves from relegation by that time (they're 4 points above the drop zone right now) and Levante is 1 point better than that, but Depor is in 18th thanks to Osasuna's victory against Real Zaragoza today. And yes, Malaga is in 13th while Levante is in 10th, but they're still in danger of going down.
April 17, 2011
There was a lot of hype going in to the Bernabeu edition of El Clasico. There's always hype, of course, but this year it was turned up to fever pitch because of the coming weeks when the teams face each other three more times. It's being billed as a multi-round fight to the death, so the question becomes who drew first blood?
It was a cagey affair, with one side camped out in their own half and fielding 3 defensive midfielders (or 2 and a defensively minded box-to-box mid, if that's how you think of Khedira) and, really, it was a lot less exciting than the previous several. Perhaps only because Barça didn't win, but probably because a game where one team gets 76% of the possession is generally not as interesting. And there were no actual goals, just some penalties (controversial or otherwise).
With a final score of 1-1, I don't think that there was a La Liga knockout blow, but Barça pretty much wrapped it up anyway. With 18 points remaining and an 8 point lead (functionally 9 thanks to the primary tie-breaker being head-to-head record), there's very little way back for a Madrid team facing away trips to Valencia, Villarreal, and Sevilla. The result itself, while not a win and certainly not a humiliating defeat of an arch rival, was quite the success for Barça. To describe it as anything less than a good result would be to forget where and against whom the match was played. That Guardiola had never failed to defeat Real Madrid as a coach is hardly a reason to lament a solid draw.
April 15, 2011
Saturday afternoon begins a journey. It is four matches long, but actually involved six. It will define the season, perhaps the era. It will supposedly make or break the career in the capital of a certain Portugeezer. It will definitely cement or erase the standard trope about Messi and his scoring abilities when it comes to Mourinho-led teams.
On Saturday the league is in play. On Wednesday it’s the Copa del Rey final. And the following week it’s the Champions League semi-finals. Three competitions that are being taken together, as if each match is a quarter of a single game, or an epic 4-game series. Winner takes all, of course, but it might be difficult to determine who won.
April 11, 2011
Almeria weren't vanquished as easily as I thought, but you can never really guess as to what a new manager will bring to the table. Things were going decently enough at first, but then Bojan got kicked awkwardly and his season ended. That also puts an end to my constant nattering about what to do with the kid, but more importantly it puts an end to the question of squad rotation since there are only three forwards available.
Except that Thiago has stepped up, from a guy I was highlighting as possibly the next big thing, to the next regular (yet also spectacular) thing we all know about. And that means Iniesta is free to play a higher role, more like a second false No.9 with Messi while still maintaining width and the ability to drop deep when pressure forces the ball backwards. It's not his best position as evidenced by his less-than-stellar match against Almeria, but against Shakhtar Donetsk he put together quite the attacking display to silence some critics.
April 3, 2011
A brilliant save is worth almost as much as a goal. Or at least it can feel like that in situations where you've consigned yourself to defeat thanks to the brilliant through ball and the striker's recent form. Valdes came up huge against Villarreal, a complicated match that required Barça's keeper to be alert at all times. From the fourth minute you could tell that Villarreal were ready to pounce, but neither Giuseppe Rossi, level fourth in the Pichichi standings, nor Santi Cazorla could find their way beyond Valdes, even from point-blank range.
Villarreal should be disappointed with how the match turned out – a 1-0 win for Barca. They went out fiery and controlled portions of the match to the point where you could be forgiven for wondering who the league leaders were. With Thiago and Afellay starting, Busquets and Iniesta in unfamiliar positions, and Xavi, Puyol, Pedro, and Abidal all missing from the line-up entirely, Barça looked a shadow of their regular selves. Messi's introduction early in the second half made an amount of difference, but he was also not as active or creative as normal.
March 21, 2011
On September 16, 2007, just 19 days after his 17th birthday, Bojan Krkić Pérez made his competitive debut for Barcelona in a league match against CD Osasuna. He replaced Giovani dos Santos in the 80th minute; coincidentally, the Mexican striker and Gabi Milito started for FCB for the first time in that same game. Three and a half years on, Bojan made his 100th league appearance against Getafe on Saturday.
What should have been a celebratory start was looked upon with little enthusiasm by the average cule. When the match line-up came out an hour before kickoff, you could almost hear the groans from the peanut gallery. "Urgh, Bojan?" With a front line consisting of Bojan, Messi, and Villa, the weak link seemed pretty obvious: the young Catalan. So what has happened to the promising striker who netted 12 goals at the age of 17? Why has he become a pariah of sorts while amassing trophies and contract renewals?
February 25, 2011
He didn't invent it, but he sure took advantage of its existence. He was the man of the manita: clad in the sublime, gorgeous, and all-around brilliance of the blaugrana blue and red, he achieved greatness with a 5-0 thrashing that team; a season later, dressed this time in their drab and unconvincing "royal" garb, he achieved infamy with a 5-0 defeat of the Catalans he had represented just a few months before. From one end of the spectrum to the other in such a short time. Why, my cule hero, would you besmirch your legacy so?
January 24, 2011
Would Barcelona bounce back from its Copa del Rey loss to Real Betis? Would they be able to extend their 13-game league winning streak and 17-game league unbeaten streak? Could Racing Santander pull Hérculean sized upset at the Camp Nou?
It took all of 90 seconds to put that notion to rest. A brilliant combo move between Lionel Messi and David Villa after a short corner involving Messi, Xavi, and Iniesta led to a cross that Pedro put in with his chest. 89 minutes later and the score was 3-0 as the final whistle blew. 73% possession, 11 shots on goal, and 8 saves by Racing's Toño told the basic story. 0 yellow cards told a different sort of story--a far less violent story than anticipated, given the 5 cards earned in the first meeting between the two--but there remained a window of opportunity for Racing that seemed far less dominate than other stats and the final score would imply: 7 shots, 3 on goal. That's fewer shots than the 11(7) they got in the first meeting--in fact they outshot Barça then--but Valdes had to be alert and the team owes him a few pats on the back for keeping a clean sheet.
December 19, 2010
Hyperbole is not often my strong suit and I don't often partake of its glorious bounty of breathless accolades, but having watched a lot of football in my time and having never felt this before, I think it's okay to overindulge. This Barcelona side is, simply put, the best I've ever seen. As a writer, it's hard not to try and find the holes in that statement, but as a fan it's impossible not to revel in the beauty. You don't get these teams more than once in a lifetime. Not really. I was too young for Cruyff's Dream Team, so these, Pep's Dream Boys or whatever silly name you'd like to give them, are my pinnacle.
I can see that already, despite the fact that we're 16 matches into the Liga season, they haven't won any trophies save the Spanish Supercopa, and despite the fact that we've been down this road before. It doesn't matter, not really, that there is a lot of season left. We might not win any trophies this year: we might get bounced from the Champions League in the Round of 16, lose to Athletic Bilbao at that same stage in the Copa del Rey, and we might falter in La Liga at the wrong moment. But it doesn't matter. There is simply nothing like these players, this team, this group of footballers.
December 5, 2010
Apologies for the lack of blogging recently, but I've been busy with family things you're completely uninterested in. Hopefully from here on out I'll be able to post more regularly. Anyway, it's time now for this: WOOOOOO.
We won El Clasico 5-0! We beat Osasuna 3-0! We're top of the league by 2 points and look as good as we ever have! I spent El Clasico at a local watering hole with my penya, chanting, screaming, and generally just celebrating the brilliance of this team. I missed the Copa Catalunya match so my next bit of Barça viewing was the Osasuna match. We weren't quite as good in Pamplona as against Madrid, but we won handily despite a few shaky moments early on.
November 29, 2010
All the players say it won't define the season. They say the winner won't come out the champions of Spain. They're half right. It will define the season, perhaps because it will give one side ammunition until April or perhaps because the winning side's media will continually mention it for the rest of the season. Sure, you're doing quite well in La Liga and Champions League, but don't you remember who won at the Camp Nou?
It will be either a damnification or a justification of Mourinho's time in Madrid. The previous scorelines will either have all be in vain or a build-up to this moment. It will be called defining and it will be called a turning point. It doesn't even matter which way it goes, it will be seen as the center of the season. The fans of both teams--and the fans of plenty of other teams too--circled this weekend as The Big One when the calendars were first released, so, really, it is The Big One, but it's also just 3 points sitting alongside 111 other ones.
November 25, 2010
Because it's Thanksgiving weekend here, I was traveling on Wednesday along with every single other person in the Tri-State area (and, oddly, all of them appeared to be heading north on my particular train). That meant I missed the Panathinaikos match. Somehow spending time with my family jumped above watching a pivotal match in Barcelona's Champions League campaign. Thanks to Rubin Kazan's 1-0 win against Copenhagen, a win in Greece meant we would finish top of the group regardless of the final match day's result.
November 17, 2010
Don't look now, but Spain has become a 2 horse race again. As recently as 2007-08, Villarreal finished 2nd, but it's been since Valencia's triumph in 2003-04 that anyone other than the Big 2 has won the title. Before you harp on that too much, though, remember that it's been since 2003-04 that someone other than Chelsea or Manchester United have won the Premier League. Now that there's a 5-point gap between Barcelona and Villarreal--thanks to a weekend encounter that saw Barça win 3-1 at the Camp Nou--it seems unlikely that the league will re-find the parity that made up the opening 3rd of the season.
October 17, 2010
As Puyol rose above David Navarro and smashed home the winning goal, I sighed in relief between jubilant shouts and hugs. The sigh was for our comeback, for getting out of this match with all three points, and also, and perhaps more importantly, because there's parity in La Liga this year.
Pending their result on Monday night, Villarreal could leapfrog to the top of the table, but if they don't win, five points will separate the top team from the sixth placed team. If Villarreal win, that number would be six. As a quick comparison, the Premier League's first and sixth teams are separated by seven points. It's five in Italy and eight in Germany.
September 25, 2010
San Mamés in Bilbao is located next a bend in the Nervión River and is known colloquially as The Cathedral. It's Spain's oldest stadium, having opened on August 21, 1913 and home to one of the great crowds in the footballing world. Its name--and the nickname for Athletic Bilbao--drives from its proximity to a church named for an early Christian martyr who was thrown to the lions. Los leones often live up to their ferocious name and any trip to Basque Country to face them should be accompanied by extra physios.
September 22, 2010
If you were born near Oviedo, Asturias it might be easy to grow up idolizing a player from your own hometown that made it big, nay, huge on the footballing stage. And so it makes sense that an aspiring footballer from Langreo, a small town near Oviedo, would idolize Enrique Castro González, better known as Quini, one of the greatest strikers Spain has ever produced.
And so, when David Villa joined Sporting Gijon, he looked up to Quini and when, this summer, he donned the Barça shirt, he made reverential reference to Quini's time at the Camp Nou. It was an honor, he said, to once again put on the shirt that Quini had worn. I hope they washed it first, of course.
September 19, 2010
The casual observer probably though he was a star striker, but it was Gerard Piqué, a center back, who chested the ball down off a corner and smashed it into the Atlético Madrid net. It turned out to be the winner in an entertaining match. What looked like it would develop into a walk in the park for the blaugrana after Messi scored in the 13th minute became a dogfight as Atleti began to put the boot in. Raul Garcia got on the end of a corner to equalize in the 25th minute and then Piqué scored the winner in the 32nd.
September 17, 2010
This Sunday, Barcelona travel to Madrid and the Estadio Vicente Calderon to face Atlético Madrid in what of late has been a fairly rough match for the blaugrana. The only league loss of the last campaign took place there, the previous year the squad lost 4-3, and year before was 4-2. That is, in reality, meaningless to this year's squad, but it does suggest that Atléti is a stronger squad at home than you might think. In those two years, when Atléti visited the Camp Nou, they lost 5-2, 6-1, and 3-0.
September 10, 2010
This was original posted at Barcelona Football Blog, but has been edited slightly for this space:
Oh hey there. Didn’t see you sneak up on me like that. You’re so crazy. Here I am minding my own business and suddenly you pop up and make me abandon my family, loved ones, and bathing habits.
Every year La Liga starts and then goes on FIFA break, so this year I planned in both that and my own laziness in the matter and decided not to publish a preview until after the transfer window closed. Thank goodness I did. We begin with the worst and we all the way down from there to 1st, so that you can let the excitement build to the mental drum roll that will accompany the surprising trophy winner. You’ll never see it coming…
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.
Hola! I am Francesc Tomas. Barcelona is my passion and home-town team. I consider myself lucky to have regularly attended matches at the Camp Nou since the early 1980s. My cousin played for the Barça youth academy, sharing the team with Don Andres Iniesta, which gave me a clear inside view of how our club works behind the scenes. I am also the founder, editor and columnist at Barcablog.com.