Gerard Piqué trained apart from the group, while eight Barça B players participated in the first team training session
After 10 days without its internationals, FC Barcelona was back to nearly full strength for this Wednesday’s training session at Sant Joan Despí. The Spanish internationals (Valdés, Alba, Busquets, Iniesta, Xavi, Pedro, Cesc and Villa), the U-21 Spanish internationals (Bartra and Montoya) and the Brazil international Ardiano, all returned to Barcelona and joined their team-mates this afternoon in preparation for this weekend’s clash with Deportivo.
On the other hand, Mascherano, Messi and Alexis, who played in Chile, and Song, who was delayed, were not able to arrive on time for today’s training session. All four FC Barcelona first team players are scheduled to join their team-mates in tomorrow’s session.
Piqué returns to training on the pitch
Gerard Piqué took a big step towards recovery this afternoon as he trained for the first time on the pitch since he picked up his injury. Eight Barça B players joined their first team counterparts for this afternoon’s session: Tello, Patric, Lombán, Sergi Roberto, Sergi Gómez, Masip, Deulofeu and Grimaldo.
Alex Song and Cameroon’s shock exit from the African Cup of Nations against Cape Verde means that there will be no Barça players involved in the finals in South Africa next January and February. It is the first time in nine years that Barcelona will not be missing anybody to the biennial tournament.
Eto’o and Keita regular participants
In 2006, Samuel Eto’o left the team midway through its Liga and Champions League campaigns to defend the famous green and red of Cameroon in Egypt. Two years later, the same player led the team to the final in Ghana, which they lost to Egypt. Another FCB player, Touré Yaya, finished fourth in the same tournament with the Ivory Coast.
Barça also lost their Ivorian midfielder in the winter of 2010, when the Cup of Nations was hosted by Angola. That tournament also involved Seydou Keita, playing for Mali. In 2012, Keita was back for an extraordinary time in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea, in which Mali finished third, their highest ever placing
The defeat to Cape Verde is bad news for Cameroon, the four-time winners who miss out on the tournament for the second time in a row. But there is a positive note for Barça fans, because it means they will be able to enjoy the uninterrupted services of Alex Song, the first time since 2004 that a Barça manager has not lost a single member of his squad to the African continental championship.
The midfielders clocked up the most time with 900 minutes
Nine first team players played all 180 minutes of their two games this week
If including players from Barça B, the minutes count rises to 2,437
The FC Barcelona first team internationals played a total of 2,075 minutes for their national teams this week. That’s 300 more than the last time, despite only 13 players travelling, as opposed to 17 last time. The following is a review of all of their activity, classed by positions.
Goalkeeper (did not play)
Valdés. No minutes played. The Barça keeper, along with Villa, was the only one of the 15 internationals that didn’t play this week. Casillas was selected as keeper for both Spain matches.
Defenders (630 minutes)
Montoya. 180 minutes played. The right back played in both games for the Spain U21 side against Denmark in which they ensured passage to the European Championship in Israel. He performed well. Jordi Alba. 180 minutes played. The left back played both games for Spain. Now regular starter for the team, he scored the opening goal for Del Bosque’s team in Minsk (0-4).
Adriano. 180 minutes played. With Alves injured, Adriano was picked as right back for the entirety of Brazil’s two friendlies against Iraq and Japan.
Bartra. 90 minutes played. A key member of the Spain U21 team, he played all of the 5-0 win over Denmark in the first leg, but sat out the return.
Midfielders (905 minutes)
Mascherano. 180 minutes played. As always for Argentina, he played both games as a defensive midfielder. His country won both matches this week against Uruguay and Chile.
Busquets. 180 minutes played. With his FCB colleagues Puyol and Piqué both injured, Busquets was asked by Del Bosque to provide cover at centre back, as he has done in the past at club level. He played both matches.
Iniesta. 110 minutes played. Substitute against Belarus (35 minutes), and one of the outstanding players against France (75 minutes). He can’t be blamed for the draw, for he had left the field when ‘les bleus’ equalised.
Xavi. 165 minutes played. The central playmaker, he was on the field when it mattered most. He was only rested in for the last section of the game in Minsk, when the win was already assured.
Cesc. 180 minutes played. Playing as a ‘false centre forward’, Cesc featured in the whole of both Spain’s matches. He missed a penalty against France that would have made it 2-0. Song. 90 minutes played. Cameroon has only one game this week, in which they beat Cape Verde 2-1. Song played the full ninety minutes, but the win was not enough to qualify for the African Cup of Nations.
Strikers (540 minutes)
Alexis. 180 minutes played. The star of the Chile side in both matches, but he could do nothing to save his country from two defeats against Ecuador (3-1) and Argentina (1-2) that have put their World Cup hopes in danger.
Messi. 180 minutes played. There can no more questioning of best player in the world’s ability to produce the same kind of magic for his national team. He scored two goals against Uruguay (3-0) and then grabbed the opener against Chile (1-2).
Pedro. 180 minutes played. The Canary Islander got a hat-trick against Belarus (0-4) and also played the whole game at the Vicente Calderón (1-1).
Villa. No minutes played. Like Valdés, he spent both Spain matches against Belarus and France on the bench.
Barça B players (362 minutes)
Planas. 180 minutes played. Planas was the most used Barça B player by Julen Lopetegui. He played at left back in both matches with Denmark.
Sergi Roberto. 25 minutes played. Made a testimonial appearance against Denmark in the second leg (1-3) when the tie was already decided.
Tello. 152 minutes played. Started both games against Denmark and only got some rest in the return leg.
Deulofeu. 5 minutes played. Though he usually gets more time on pitch, this week he only played the last five minutes of the 5-0 win against Denmark.
Only Sevilla and Osasuna, with 13, have been on the receiving end of more Villa goals
David Villa has a habit of making life a misery for Deportivo la Coruña in league matches. The international break over, FC Barcelona now take on a side against which the Asturian has scored an impressive 11 goals in 14 matches.
With Zaragoza, Valencia and Barça
The first of Villa’s massive collection of goals against Deportivo came back in 2004/05, when he was still at Zaragoza. His was the only goal the Aragonese side scored that day. It was when he moved to Valencia that he really started inflicting damage on the Galicians, scoring nine goals. The eleventh and final of his tally against the blue and whites came in the 2010/11 season, now as a Barça player, in a 4-0 win at Riazor.
That makes Deportivo the third most common victim of Villa’s extraordinary effective ability to find the net, the only teams to fare even worse being Sevilla and Osasuna (13 goals). Of these eleven goals, four were scored at Riazor and the other seven in games in which Deportivo were the visitors.