Vilanova back in charge of training

Vilanova, en l'entrenament d'aquest divendres. FOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ-FCB.
The first team coach took charge of this morning’s training after his two-day visit to the UEFA Coaches Forum

All five available first team players trained, together with three from the reserve teams (Bañuz, Rolón and Sanabria)

Tito Vilanova was back on the training pitch at the Ciutat Esportiva this morning for the final session of the week, once again marked by the absence of 17 international players. The boss was in Nyon for the UEFA Coaches Forum on Wednesday and Thursday.

Vilanova worked with the five players available from the first team squad –Puyol, Thiago, Pinto, Fontàs and Dos Santos – and rather than train together with the B team squad, who are travelling for their game in Guadalajara, B team keeper Miguel Bañuz, midfielder Toni Sanabria and striker Maxi Rolón from the Youth team joined the session.

The squad have been given a break until their next training session on Tuesday afternoon.

Barça’s Champions League rivals make important squad changes in summer transfer window

Witsel (left) leaves Benfica, Jurado (middle) joins Spartak and Miku (right) signs for Celtic
Benfica, Spartak and Celtic make important changes to their respective squads in the final days of the summer transfer window

Witsel and Javi Garía leave Benfica, Jurado joins Spartak, and Miki and Lassad sign for Celtic

The teams that will face Barça in this year’s Champions League group stage jumped on the chance to make important changes to their respective squads in the final hours of this summer’s transfer window. Since the day of the Champions League draw, Benfica sold two of its most important players, while Spartak and Celtic have signed players that are well accustomed with the Spanish league.

60 million euros for Javi García and Witsel

Of Barça’s three rivals, the team that made the most money in this summer’s transfer window was Benfica. The Lisbon-based team sold Javi García to Manchester City, and just recently sold Witsel to Zenith. In addition, Benfica also sold Saviola (Málaga), Capdevilla (Espanyol) and Nelson Oliverira (Deportivo). In total, the Portuguese side have accrued 60 million euros through the sale of its players.

Talent for Spartak and Celtic

Barça’s first rival in the group stage, Spartak Moscow, have brought in new talent for the upcoming season. The Russians brought in José Manuel Jurado, ex-Atlético Madrid and Schalke 04 player, Kallstrom (Lyon) and Insaurralde (Boca Juniors).

Celtic strengthened their front line with two forwards that have La Liga experience, Lassad (Deportivo) and Miku (Getafe). The two new signings will content for a starting line-up spot with Samaras.

Crunch international fixtures

Messi, celebrant un gol amb l'Argentina.
The Barça internationals are involved in several important qualifying matches for official competitions this week

Cameroon are looking to go to the 2013 African Cup of Nations, Spain, Chile and Argentina are seeking berths at the 2014 World Cup and the Spain U21 team has its eye on the next European Championship

Some of the international matches this week will have a huge bearing on whether the respective Barça players will be going to major tournaments or not. Fifteen players are contesting slots at the 2014 World Cup (as Brazil is the host nation, Alves and Adriano are already guaranteed places), the 2013 African Cup of Nations and the U21 European Championship.

The road to Brazil

Valdés, Piqué, Cesc, Xavi, Villa, Iniesta, Busquets, Pedro and Jordi Alba start the week with a friendly in Pontevedra against Saudi Arabia, managed by former Barça boss Frank Rijkaard. Their World Cup bid starts on Tuesday away to Georgia in Tbilisi. The other teams in Spain’s group are France, Belarus and Finland.

Argentina, with Messi and Mascherano in the team, have two more games in the CONMEBOL qualifying zone this week. They start at home to Paraguay in Cordoba on Friday and then travel to Lima to face Peru on Tuesday. Argentina are currently third with ten points from five matches and will fancy their chances against the two teams currently occupying the bottom two places in the nine-team group

Alexis Sánchez’s Chile are currently top of that South American section with twelve points from six matches. They only have one qualifying match this week, on Tuesday in Santiago against sixth placed Colombia.

Two friendlies for Brazil

Brazil, of course, are hosting the 2014 finals, and therefore qualify automatically. Instead, Dani Alves and Adriano will be involved in two friendly fixtures. The first is against South Africa on Friday in Sao Paulo, and on Monday they entertain China in Recife.

Make or break time for Cameroon

After missing out on the previous finals, Alex Song’s Cameroon are aiming to qualify for the African Cup of Nations. Having beaten Guinea-Bissau in the previous round, they now face a direct elimination tie against Cape Verde, with the winners going to South Africa for the finals in 2013. On Saturday, Cameroon will play in the capital of the archipelago, Praia, and they will welcome the islanders to Yaoundé in October for the second and decisive leg.

Under 21s also in action

Finally, there are also two Barcelona first team players, Bartra and Montoya, who have been called up for the Spanish U21 team for the last two matches in their qualifying group for the 2013 European Championship in Israel. With six wins out of six, Spain are five points clear at the top of their group, and a draw against Switzerland in Sion would be enough to ensure direct qualification without the need of a playoff. And they still have another game to come against Croatia in Alicante the Monday after. Barça B’s Tello, Sergi Roberto, Deulofeu and Planas have also been included in the squad.

Inici de trajecte per a les seleccions

Messi, celebrant un gol amb l'Argentina.
The Barça internationals are involved in several important qualifying matches for official competitions this week

Cameroon are looking to go to the 2013 African Cup of Nations, Spain, Chile and Argentina are seeking berths at the 2014 World Cup and the Spain U21 team has its eye on the next European Championship

Some of the international matches this week will have a huge bearing on whether the respective Barça players will be going to major tournaments or not. Fifteen players are contesting slots at the 2014 World Cup (as Brazil is the host nation, Alves and Adriano are already guaranteed places), the 2013 African Cup of Nations and the U21 European Championship.

The road to Brazil

Valdés, Piqué, Cesc, Xavi, Villa, Iniesta, Busquets, Pedro and Jordi Alba start the week with a friendly in Pontevedra against Saudi Arabia, managed by former Barça boss Frank Rijkaard. Their World Cup bid starts on Tuesday away to Georgia in Tbilisi. The other teams in Spain’s group are France, Belarus and Finland.

Argentina, with Messi and Mascherano in the team, have two more games in the CONMEBOL qualifying zone this week. They start at home to Paraguay in Cordoba on Friday and then travel to Lima to face Peru on Tuesday. Argentina are currently third with ten points from five matches and will fancy their chances against the two teams currently occupying the bottom two places in the nine-team group

Alexis Sánchez’s Chile are currently top of that South American section with twelve points from six matches. They only have one qualifying match this week, on Tuesday in Santiago against sixth placed Colombia.

Two friendlies for Brazil

Brazil, of course, are hosting the 2014 finals, and therefore qualify automatically. Instead, Dani Alves and Adriano will be involved in two friendly fixtures. The first is against South Africa on Friday in Sao Paulo, and on Monday they entertain China in Recife.

Make or break time for Cameroon

After missing out on the previous finals, Alex Song’s Cameroon are aiming to qualify for the African Cup of Nations. Having beaten Guinea-Bissau in the previous round, they now face a direct elimination tie against Cape Verde, with the winners going to South Africa for the finals in 2013. On Saturday, Cameroon will play in the capital of the archipelago, Praia, and they will welcome the islanders to Yaoundé in October for the second and decisive leg.

Under 21s also in action

Finally, there are also two Barcelona first team players, Bartra and Montoya, who have been called up for the Spanish U21 team for the last two matches in their qualifying group for the 2013 European Championship in Israel. With six wins out of six, Spain are five points clear at the top of their group, and a draw against Switzerland in Sion would be enough to ensure direct qualification without the need of a playoff. And they still have another game to come against Croatia in Alicante the Monday after. Barça B’s Tello, Sergi Roberto, Deulofeu and Planas have also been included in the squad.

Second training session with reserves

Puyol, in thursday's training session FOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ-FCB.
The five available members of the first team once again trained on Thursday with Eusebio Sacristán, as Tito Vilanova is away at the UEFA managers meeting

The penultimate Barça training session of the week was held at the Ciutat Esportiva Joan Gamper. Like on Wednesday, the five players that are not off on international duty (Puyol, Pinto, Dos Santos, Fontàs and Thiago) worked out with the reserve team. Carles Puyol wore a protective mask during the parts of the session that involved physical contact.

Eusebio Sacristán ran the session because Tito Vilanova is, for the second day, away at a manager’s meeting organised by UEFA. The first team coach should be back at the club on Friday morning for the final session of the week.