VIDEO – Do you remember the goals against Spartak Moscow?

Romàrio, contra l'Spartak al Camp Nou / FOTO: ARXIU FCB
The Dream Team experienced one of its most magical European nights against the Russian, which was won 5-1 in the Champions League 1993/94


FC Barcelona: Zubizarreta, Ferrer, Guardiola, Koeman, Nadal, Iván, Bakero (Goikoetxea, min 65), Stòitxkov, Amor, Romário (Begiristain, min 85) i Sergi.

Spartak Moscow: Stauce, Khlestov, Ivanov, Tsymbalar, Ternavsci, Nikiforov, Onopko, Karpin, Piatnitsky, Lediakhov (Rodionov, min 45) i Bestchastnykh (Pisarev, min 72).

GOALS: 0-1 Karpin (min 3), 1-1 Stòitxkov (min 34), 2-1 Amor (min 75), 3-1 Koeman (min 78), 4-1 Koeman (min 80), Romário (p)(min 85)


Messi zeroes in on titles for 2012/13 season

Leo Messi against Raja Club Athletic / PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ - FCB
The Argentine, in an interview with ESPN Deportes Magazine, opens up about his aspirations for the 2012/13 season, the Guardiola-Vilanova transition, and his career in the Champions League

““I’ve always said that Tito Vilanova was the ideal man to take over for Guardiola. I believe he’s the best manager for this team and for the Club”

“I’m as eager as ever,” said Leo Messi to Enrique ‘Quique’ Wolff in an interview with ESPN Deportes Magazine. In the interview, which just hit South and Central American news stands (digital copy here; note: version optimized for tablets), the Argentine talks about Guardiola’s impact on FC Barcelona, the transition to Tito Vilanova, his aspirations for the current year, and his career in the Champions League.

Josep Guardiola’s FC Barcelona

“Guardiola changed everything,” said Messi when asked about the manager that ushered in the most successful era in FC Barcelona history. “We were coming off of two years without winning anything, the mood in the dressing room wasn’t good; it was sad. He is very intelligent. Not only did he prepare us for matches brilliantly, but he also knew what to say to us on an individual level.”

The Argentine added: “You went into every match knowing what you had to do, you knew what had to be accomplished to get the job done. Guardiola knew how each and every opponent was going to play. He always prepared us to build the play up from the back and focus on going forward. That’s a beautiful thing for players that like attack-minded football.”

Tito Vilanova named head manager

At the end of last season, Guardiola announced that he would not continue on the Barça bench. Sandro Rosell and Andoni Zubizarreta, in Guardiola’s farewell press conference, announced that Tito Vilanova would take the reigns from the outgoing manager. “I’ve always said that Tito Vilanova was the ideal man to take over for Guardiola. I believe he’s the best manager for this team and for the Club. Things have gone well for us in the past, there’s no reason to change [our approach] now,” said Messi.

Hopes for the future, remembering the past

When asked about last season, Messi noted that “last season was unforgettable, though I would have liked to finish with fewer goals and more titles. Hopefully this season will be similar. I don’t have a specific number of goals in mind that I’d like to score this year. The more goals the better, the more titles, even better.”

Messi also admitted that he would have liked to play in the 2006 Champions League final in Paris: “I thought that I would at least be on the bench, maybe get a couple of minutes of playing time.” He added: “at the time I didn’t feel the victory all that much, but after the game I said to myself ‘what am I doing, of course I can celebrate!’ You never know if you’ll be able to experience another moment like that.”

Little did Messi know that he would go on to feature in two Champions League finals, the first in 2009 and the second in 2011. Before the first final against Manchester United, another Argentine – Gabi Milito – pulled the (not yet) three-time Ballon d’Or aside and told him: “he told me ‘be calm, you’re going to score a goal.’ I didn’t know which British team we had just played against… [Arsenal] but people were saying that I had never scored against a British team.” Milito’s words proved true. Messi went on to score the championship-winning goal against Manchester United in the 2009 Rome final, and then went on to do it again, against the same team, in the 2011 final.

.@AndresIniesta8 and Leo Messi set sights on Champions League final

Iniesta and Messi during the UEFA Gala in Monaco/ PHOTO: ARCHIVE FCB
The midfielder and the forward sat down with after the group draw in Monaco to discuss Barça’s upcoming Champions League campaign

Iniesta: “We have a new coach, a new way of doing things, and we’re very happy about Vilanova being with us. He knows us very well, and I’m confident that things will go well”
Leo Messi: ““I don’t think there are easy groups in the Champions League, I think all the opponents are complicated”

Andrés Iniesta, winner of UEFA’s Best Player in Europe Award, and Lionel Messi sat down with in Monaco after the Champions League Group Stage draw in August. The two Azulgranas are eager to improve on last year’s trophy haul (Spanish and European Super Cups, Club World Cup, Copa del Rey) and are especially motivated by the fact that the Champions League final will be hosted at Wembley this year.

Guardiola-Vilanova transition

Josep Guardiola led Barça to two Champions League crows (and four semi-final berths) during his four-year tenure at the Club. This year, however, it’s Tito Vilanova pulling the strings on the Barça bench. “Everybody is different, it’s not just Tito Vilanova and Pep Guardiola. Everyone has a different way of expressing themselves. The philosophy and the method of work is basically pretty similar. But we have a new coach, a new way of doing things, and we’re very happy about him being with us. He knows us very well, and I’m confident that things will go well,” said Iniesta.

Last year’s semi-final against Chelsea

When asked about last year’s semi-final fixture against Chelsea, Iniesta said: “I think we basically did everything well, the only thing is that they scored their goals in extra time both away and at home. We were close to making it into the final, just that bit of luck was missing. It just wasn’t going to happen. Chelsea did an exceptional job and took advantage of their chances. If nothing else, we can learn from this.

Messi agreed with his team-mate in that the tie between the London-based side and the Azulgranas was very close: “We were lucky enough to win the Super Cup, the Club World Cup, the Copa del Rey, these are all important competitions. Obviously we didn’t win the Champions League and the Spanish League like people expected. The elimination against Chelsea was a very close one and I missed that penalty. But this year we are going to try again, and we are ready to try and win it.”

Gunning for glory at Wembley

Wembley will host the final of the Champions League this year, a stadium that saw two FC Barcelona teams lift the European club titles (1992 and 2011). Messi, who is eager to get this year’s Champions League campaign underway, warned of the difficulty that awaits his team in the group stage: “I don’t think there are easy groups in the Champions League, I think all the opponents are complicated. It seems like some groups are more complicated than others but it’s all decided on the pitch. You have to play the matches first, we know from experience that every team can make it complicated for you, they are difficult games.”

“Wembley is important to Barcelona because we won two Champions League trophies there,” said Iniesta. While the midfielder admitted that Barça are “focused on getting to the final,” he also shares his team-mate’s caution: “there’s still a very long road ahead of us. Football today is so balanced out that’s it pretty difficult to make it into the final and win it, but we take it with anticipation.”

Good record of home debuts

Lionel Messi / PHOTO: ARXIU FCB
Barça, who kick off their Champions League campaign on Wednesday against Spartak Moscow at the Camp Nou, have won 7 and drawn the other in their last 8 home European debuts

The team average 3.4 goals in the opening games they’ve played at home

Last eight home openers

11/12 FCB 2-2 AC Milan
10/11 FCB 5-1 Panathinaikos
08/09 FCB 3-1 Sporting Lisbon
07/08 FCB 3-0 Lyon
06/07 FCB 5-0 Levski Sofia
02/03 FCB 3-2 Bruges
00/01 FCB 4-0 Leeds
94/95 FCB 2-1 Galatasaray

Barça have never lost their first game in the Champions League when it’s been played at the Camp Nou. Over the last eight games when they have opened their campaign at home, Barça have won seven – with last year’s 2-2 draw against AC Milan the only time they’ve failed to claim an opening home victory.

The only elimination

Starting the campaign with a home win has almost always meant classification for the next round too, with the team failing to make it through only in the 2000/01 campaign. On all the other occasions when they’ve started out at the Camp Nou, the team have made it through to the next round.

Points and goals

It’s not just the wins that have impressed though – it’s the goals, with the team averaging 3.4 goals in those eight games – the biggest win coming two years ago when they beat Panathinaikos in the first game and then went on to win the Club’s fourth European Club.

Happy Birthday #Tito44

The Barça boss will be celebrating his 44th birthday this Monday – at a moment when the team head the La Liga table and are about to make their 2012 -13 Champions League debut

Tito Vilanova is 44 this Monday, September 17th and for the first time he can celebrate his birthday as the Barça manager after taking over from Pep Guardiola in the summer

Tito has also imposed his personality on the group, imbuing them with his winning mentality

Three months and ten days after his official presentation as Barça manager, the team are sitting unbeaten and with maximum points at the head of the league table, with four wins from four games, 12 goals scored and just 3 conceded. The only blot on the landscape so far since Tito took over was the defeat to Madrid on away goals in the Spanish Super Cup.

The Vilanova style

Vilanova’s team are showing many of the characteristics of the successful last four years, with a commitment to an elegant, intense and attacking passing game and to bringing through young home grown players. Tito has also imposed his personality on the group, imbuing them with his winning mentality.

Barça top La Liga and are about to begin their challenge for this season’s Champions League with the game against Spartak Moscow on Wednesday and Vilanova has given the squad a well deserved day off today, with the next training session scheduled for Tuesday evening at the Camp Nou.