Tito Vilanova: “We deserved to have the lead earlier”

Tito Vilanova during the match against Celtic Glasgow / PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ - FCB
The Barça manager believes that his team deserved to have the lead well before Jordi Alba’s last-minute effort against Celtic Glasgow

Zubizarreta: “We need to be proud of this team”

The director of football said that Jordi Alba’s last-minute goal is proof that the players approach their games with the right mentality: “This is a team that wants to win, desires to win, that keeps on trying. We have to be proud.” Andoni Zubizarreta added: “We had a couple of chances to score earlier in the game, but it’s true that when Villa’s shot hit the post on the 90th minute, we all thought the game was over. But these players always bring more.”

Tito Vilanova doesn’t believe his team was lucky to beat Celtic Glasgow despite Jordi Alba’s last-gasp effort in the 94th minute, quite the contrary. The Barça manager said that his men were “unlucky,” especially because they “carried the weight of the game throughout the whole match.” Vilanova also said that Barça’s opponent this Tuesday evening was “very strong and very powerful on the counter,” and he reminded the gathered journalists in the press room that “it’s not easy when 10 of the other team’s players defend in their own area.” He added: “We deserved to have the lead before the last minute.”

The team’s attitude

Vilanova, who thanked the Camp Nou faithful for cheering the team on, is proud of the attitude that his players have shown in every match this season: “This team fights until the end, until the last moment. It’s never easy when big teams close themselves off at the back.”

The manager also talked about his decision to name Marc Bartra to the starting line-up: “I made the decision to field Bartra days ago. I was very sure that Marc would play in this match. I knew that he could help us because he’s fast and very good in the air. If he’s in the first team it’s because I want him here.”

He added: “I’ve very pleased with how the players compete and train, they always have smiles on their faces. That’s sufficient for me.”

Jordi Alba: “This is a well-deserved victory”

Jordi Alba. PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ - FCB
The left back, who scored the match winner in the dying minutes of the match against Celtic FC this evening, said: “We hope we can experience more nights like this. We’re pleased to have won nine points, hopefully we can keep the streak alive”

Jordi Alba has shown match after match that he’s the perfect type of player for Barça’s style of play. Games aren’t finished until the referee blows the final whistle, and this Tuesday the defender netted the match winner and secured the three points for Barça in the 94th minute. “This team has shown that you can win the game in the last minute. This is a well-deserved victory,” he said.

The Catalan defender, who was very active both on the attack and on defence, put in a brilliant performance against Celtic Glasgow this evening at the Camp Nou. When asked about tonight’s match and Barça’s position Group G, he said: “We hope we can experience more nights like this. We’re pleased to have won nine points, hopefully we can keep the streak alive.”

Here are the statements made by the players after the game:

Marc Bartra

“Tito told me to be clam, to play like I know how; to play easy football.”

“We presented a good case to win the three points and we played an excellent match.”

“We weren’t too lucky when they scored. We played very well, we almost didn’t let them have the ball at all.”

“We’re almost in the knock-out round, that’s our objective and to keep on moving forward.”

“Tito has helped me tremendously, he picked the ideal moment to let me play. He knows me well and he knows Barça well. This is one of the happiest days since I came to the Club, every player dreams of this moment.”

Andrés Iniesta:

“After their goal that they closed themselves off at the back and it was very difficult [to break through], it would have been unjust if we hadn’t won.”

“We were convinced that the ball would go in. It could have happened earlier, but the game isn’t over until the final whistle.”

“It’s never easy to maintain your concentration on defence when the team is on the attack all game long. Marc and Mascherano were fantastic.”

“The objective was to win nine points, our position in the group couldn’t be better.”

Javier Mascherano:

“The team doesn’t get tired of pushing forward, we could have given up but we kept on trying up until the end.”

“I think justice was served, we had 11 or 12 shots on goal to only one of theirs. Justice was served.”

“This season is teaching us that a match isn’t over until the final whistle, this isn’t the first time that this has happened to us.”

“If I hadn’t touched the ball I think Víctor would have saved it. Lady luck hasn’t been on my side lately.”

“We had no problems on defence, they didn’t create any chances. I think we put in a good performance.”

Pedro Rodríguez:

“We’ve had a couple of games where we needed to mount a comeback, it’s never easy and we have to give credit to the team. This team doesn’t give up.”

“I felt good on the pitch, it’s a shame that I wasn’t lucky in front of goal – just like the whole team.”

“When you lose possession on offence, you need to win the ball back on defence; that’s my job too.”

FC Barcelona- Celtic Glasgow: Justice in the 94th minute (2-1) (Match report)

Jordi Alba's goal against Celtic Glasgow. PHOTO: ÀLEX CAPARRÓS-FCB.
A Jordi Alba goal in the final minute of injury time sparked off celebrations at the Camp Nou. It was just reward for Barça against a Celtic side that only wanted to defend its early lead

Barça are now top of their Champions League group with a five-point lead over the Scots

The 2-1 win has ultimately consolidated FCB’s place at the top of their Champions League group, and a berth in the last sixteen is already within touching distance. But Barça don’t half do things the hard way! Once again they battled in the face of adversity – Celtic took an early lead, with Iniesta levelling affairs on the edge of half time. After a tense second half, and just when it looked liked things were set to end all square, Jordi Alba came to the rescue with a last second strike. On the basis of the football displayed this evening, Barça really should have made sure of the three points much earlier. But the ultra-conservative tactics employed by the Glaswegians, as they desperately tried to make the most of their somewhat fortunate opener, meant Barça struggled to create chances, with Messi almost entirely marked out of the game.

Barça stayed faithful to their trademark possession football and waiting game, and just when it looked like time had run out for them, they clinched a last-gasp winner that sent Celtic home with nothing to show for their defiant display.

Unlucky start

Vilanova had to improvise in order to cover for his injury-struck defence, and opted to play Bartra in the centre alongside Mascherano, with Adriano at right back and Alba on the left. Song, meanwhile, covered for the suspended Busquets in the defensive midfield role.

Everything started according to plan, with some confident football and convincing combination plays against a Celtic team that Neil Lennon had clearly decided was going to be focusing its attentions on defending. It wasn’t long before the visitors were warned just how difficult a job that was going to be when Iniesta, following a delightful team move, broke down the Scottish wall for the first time, but Alexis’ failed to find the target. The game was only two minutes old and Barça were already looking dangerous.

Some might have imagined that Barça had already used up all their bad luck at Riazor on Saturday, but that was not the case. In an incredible move from a corner involving all of Xavi, Messi, Iniesta and Bartra, it was a wonder that they didn’t score, and yet just moments later, Celtic went ahead. A 17th minute free kick skimmed off Samaras’ head and was turned by Mascherano into his own net. There had always been concern about what Celtic would be able to do with high balls into the area, and one of just two such crosses in the whole first half had Valdés picking the ball out of the back of the net.

Iniesta’s golden touch

The goal made Barça hungrier than ever, but also got the Scots concentrating even more earnestly on keeping things as tight as physically possible at the back. It wasn’t pretty football, but it was remarkably effective, with Barça in almost total control of the ball but failing to produce much in the way of real chances in the first 45 minutes.  

It needed a little piece of magic, and that finally came a matter of seconds before the break. When Messi, Xavi and Iniesta combine to create an attacking move, you always suspect that something special might happen. And indeed it did. A pinpoint strike from Iniesta finally had Forster beaten. All square at half time.

High tension football

Barça knew how important it was not to let Celtic get any corners, for that is where one of their main dangers lies. And indeed it was from one of few the Catalans did give away that Wanyama came close to restoring his side’s lead. Despite having lost Samaras to injury, this chance seemed to be the impetus Celtic needed. They started playing slightly more daring football and produced the occasional threat on the counter, while Barça suddenly found that they weren’t quite as much in command of the situation as they might have felt.

But just when they were playing their sloppiest football, Barça paradoxically started creating more occasions. Forster produced a wonderful 67th minute save to deny Messi following a spectacular move involving Alexis and Pedro, and just moments later, the Hoops’ keeper was called upon again to thwart efforts from both Alexis and Messi. The play was back in the Celtic area.

Alba the hero

With a quarter of an hour to go, Vilanova sent on Tello and Villa for Pedro and Alexis. The Asturian was played as an out-and-out striker in search of a second goal, while Tello and Alba slotted in on the wings. It was a risky move, even though by now Celtic were clearly quite happy to settle for a draw. But Barça wanted more, and made the green-and-whites pay for their lack of ambition.

In the final minute, it looked like Villa had finally done it, but his shot struck the post. However, the best had yet to come. With the referee just seconds away from blowing time on an intense footballing spectacle, Jordi Alba pounced on a killer pass from Adriano. Of all people, the two full backs had combined to bring Barça a goal just when it looked like they had left it too late. The Camp Nou went wild. And had every right to do so. An extraordinarily tense evening had ended in the most dramatic of fashions. And the upshot of it all is that Barcelona maintain their one hundred per cent record and a five-point lead over Celtic, who stay second. A place in the last sixteen is already well in sight.

Xavi, 150 international games with Barça

PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ-FCB
The Catalan midfielder is the first player in the Club’s history to play 150 international matches

Xavi has figured in 129 Champions League, 13 UEFA Cup, 5 World Club Cup and 3 European Super Cup games

Xavi Hernández continues breaking Club records and this Tuesday he became the first Barça player to play in 150 international games. He made his debut on the European stage on September 16th 1998 at Old Trafford and has now gone on to make 129 Champions League appearances, as well as 13 in the UEFA Cup, 3 in the European Super Cup and 5 in the World Club Cup. In those 150 games, he has scored 12 times – 10  in the Champions League and once in the UEFA and World Club Cups.

Xavi is followed by an illustrious list of Barça players, including Puyol, Víctor Valdés, Iniesta, Migueli, Messi, Guardiola, Sergi, Zubizarreta and Cocu and also figures in the top ten European players with most international appearances. Paolo Maldini leads that group with 181 games played, followed by Raúl González, Clarence Seedorf, Javier Zanetti and Ryan Giggs, legends of European football who Xavi is fast catching up on.

Seven titles

Those 150 games have seen Xavi win three Champions League titles (2005/2006, 2008/09 and 2010/11), two European Super Cups (2009/10 and 2011/12) and two World Club Cups (2009/10 and 2011/12). Seven international titles to add to the seven league titles, two Spanish Cups and five Spanish Super Cups which he possesses and which have made him an outstanding figure in the Club’s history, with 641 appearances in all competitions for the team he has dedicated his career to.

All available first team players plus Barça B's Sergi Roberto and Tello trained at the Camp Nou this morning

Tito Vilanova / PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ-FCB
All available first team players plus Barça B’s Sergi Roberto and Tello trained at the Camp Nou this morning

The 18 players named to the squad by Tito Vilanova for this evening’s match against Celtic Glasgow trained this morning at the Camp Nou. It was a light sessions for the 16 available first team players and Barça B’s Sergi Roberto and Tello. Sergio Busquets, who is suspended for the match, also trained with the team.

Resting at the team hotel

The players are currently resting at the team hotel, where they’ll stay until kick off time. The match at the Camp Nou is scheduled to start at 20.45 (TV3 and La 1).