Demanding week for Barça as Celtic and Rayo clashes loom

The players prepare for the match against Celtic FC / PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ - FCB
The men managed by Tito Vilanova hope continue their good run in the Champions League on Tuesday, and on Saturday they will travel to Madrid to face Rayo at the always complicated Vallecas

After the victory away to Deportivo de la Coruña, the men managed by Tito Vilanova are focusing on thier Champions League match against Celtic FC. Barça will train this Monday, at 18.00, in the Camp Nou. On Tuesday the Blaugrana will once again take to the pitch at noon ahead the match against Celtic FC, champions of the Scottish Premier League. On Wednesday and Friday the players will train at the Ciutat Esportiva and on Saturday the team will travel to Madrid to face Rayo Vallecano (22.00) for Week 9 of the Liga.

Monday, October 22

18.00 – Training session at the Camp Nou

Tuesday, October 23

12.00 – Training session at the Camp Nou

20.45 – FC Barcelona – Celtic FC

Wednesday, October 24

11.00 – Training session at the Ciutat Esportiva Joan Gamper

Thursday, October 25

Day off

Friday, October 26

11.00 – Training session at the Ciutat Esportiva Joan Gamper

Saturday, October 27

22.00 – Rayo Vallecano – FC Barcelona

Sunday, October 28

12.00 – Training session at the Ciutat Esportiva Joan Gamper

Messi, King of the stats

PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ - FCB
Messi has already scored 71 goals in 2012 and is now just four away from Pelé’s long-standing record

He has also now scored more hat tricks than any other player in the Club’s history

Here’s everything you need to know about these and other stats from Saturday’s match

– Saturday night’s hat trick means that Messi has beaten his own goal-scoring record. He’s scored 59 league goals up to now for Barça in 2012 – one more than in 2010.

– In total, Messi has scored 71 goals (12 with Argentina) and is just four goals short of Pelé’s record. ‘O Rei’ scored 75 goals in 1959.

– Messi (11 goals) is the top scorer in the Spanish League, followed by Cristiano Ronaldo (9) and Falcão (8).

– His latest hat trick means that Messi has scored three or more goals in 15 league matches, overtaking the record previously held by César (14). It was Leo’s first hat trick this season.

– Cesc Fàbregas provided the assist for 0-1, 0-3 and 2-4, all in the first half.

– Saturday night’s match set a new scoring record in Corunna. Until now, the most goals scored had been seven (0-7 in 1955/56 and 1-6 in 1956/57).

-It’s the second time Barça has won an away match 4-5. We have to go back to the 1963/64 season and the match against Levante to find the same score line.

– In the last six games that followed on from an international break, Barça has won all six.

– Tito Vilanova has equalled the best ever debut of a Spanish coach in the first Division: 7 victories and one draw set by Díaz Novoa in 1979 with Sporting Gijón.

– Mascherano was red-carded for the second time as a Barça player. The first sending-off happened on 11 February 2012, away to Osasuna (3-2). Strangely enough, it was the same referee on both occasions.

– Barça hasn’t conceded 4 goals since 1st March 2009, when Atletico Madrid won 4-3 in the Vicente Calderón.

– It’s the first time since 2002 that Barça has conceded 11 goals in the opening 8 matches.

Sports Illustrated senior writer talks about FC Barcelona's growing popularity in the United States

Grant Wahl / PHOTO: theoriginalwinger.com
Grant Wahl, senior writer for Sports Illustrated and author of ‘The World’s Team’ article, talks to fcbarcelona.com about the Club’s growing popularity in the United States

“Barça has a fascinating story, both historically and in recent years, and it’s clear that the club is a part of the U.S. sports culture now,” says the author

“Messi has gotten big in North America. One survey has shown that Messi is more popular in the U.S. than NBA star Dwyane Wade and all but two baseball players”
“We were hoping to give our readers an inside look at perhaps the most successful team in any sport globally over the past five years”
““Barça has a fascinating story, both historically and in recent years, and it’s clear that the club is a part of the U.S. sports culture now”

Grant Wahl, author of Sports Illustrated’s exposé on FC Barcelona that hit the stands last week, sat down with fcbarcelona.com to talk about Barça’s growing popularity in the United States.

While football is by no means foreign to the magazine, content has historically focused on sports that are popular in North America like american football, basketball, baseball and hockey, among others, which makes Wahl’s nine-page article on Barça all the more interesting. The author explains that “Sports Illustrated has shown a growing interest in soccer over the last 10 years, and we were hoping to give our readers an inside look at perhaps the most successful team in any sport globally over the past five years.” Wahl adds: “Barça has a fascinating story, both historically and in recent years, and it’s clear that the club is a part of the U.S. sports culture now. You see Barça shirts everywhere in New York City these days.”

La Masia, a perplexing and intriguing concept for the American public

FC Barcelona’s commitment to its famed youth program hasn’t gone unnoticed on the other side of the Atlantic either. “Most top European clubs—Manchester United, Real Madrid, Chelsea—are lucky to have even one homegrown player in their starting lineups. But La Masia’s track record of developing champions is unprecedented, the evidence visible every time FC Barcelona takes the field,” writes Wahl in his Sports Illustrated piece. When asked about what he thinks will surprise the American public the most about his article, Wahl says “the success of La Masia and the idea that so many players on Barça’s senior team started at La Masia in their early teenaged years. It’s hard for us to imagine players on the New York Yankees or Miami Heat or New England Patriots being part of the club since they were 12 years old—mainly because that would never happen.”

It’s not just La Masia that’s making waves in the U.S. but one of its most accomplished and talented graduates is as well: “Messi has gotten big in North America. One survey has shown that Messi is more popular in the U.S. than NBA star Dwyane Wade and all but two baseball players.” Wahl also notes that “Iniesta isn’t as big as Messi here, but soccer fans know Iniesta well, and general sports fans know him as the guy who scored the winning goal in the 2010 World Cup.”

Football’s growth in the U.S.

While the MLS, the professional football league in the U.S., plays a large part in the continuing growth of the sport in North America, Wahl notes that “television has played a major role” in bringing European football to American shores. He adds: “You can now see up to 80 live broadcasts of soccer games every week on television in the United States. Ten years ago there might have been four or five live games on television every week. All of Barça’s games are on TV in the States, so we can see this amazing team just as much or more than any other country.”

Even though it’s a bit more difficult for football-loving Americans to watch La Liga after beIN Sports scooped up the rights to broadcast the league in the country, Wahl says that the situation “will change as the channel gets more providers. Fewer people watch the Spanish league here than the English league, but there are still a good number of viewers for Barça games, especially those against top Spanish league opponents and in Champions League.”

You can read Grant Wahl’s The World’s Team article in its entirety here.

Cesc: “Winning the three points was the most important thing”

Cesc Fàbregas i Messi han estat protagonistes a Riazor / FOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ - FCB
The midfielder, who gave three assists, was one of the best players on the pitch in Barça’s 4-5 victory over Deportivo

Messi scored another hat-trick and he broke his personal goal-scoring record in a calendar year (set in 2010), which now stands at 59 goals: “Statistics are only numbers. I’m only concerned with winning the three points whenever possible”

Celtic FC clash on the horizon

Barça will start preparing for this Tuesday’s Champions League match against Celtic FC after the team returns from La Coruña. On Sunday, at 12.00, the first team will train at the Ciutat Esportiva Joan Gamper.

Cesc Fábregas was one of the standout players on the pitch against Deportivo de la Coruña last night. Playing in the midfield, the Catalan put in a solid performance and gave three assists. After going up 0-3, Barça saw its lead cut down to two after a penalty was awarded to the home side, but Cesc said that “in general our first half was excellent. With the exception of a couple of plays, we dominated and we were the superior side.”

“I’ve always been confident in my ability and I’ve been working really hard. Since the start of the season I’ve been very comfortable with the system,” said Cesc. When asked about the controversial calls, the midfielder only said that “these things are a part of football.”

The Catalan commented that “we won the three points, and it was very hard, but it’s clear that we have to analyse the four goals that they scored on us.” In the second half Tito Vilanova brought in Xavi for Cesc to give the midfield more continuity. On the manager’s decision to sub him off, Cesc said: “When Xavi comes in for you, you can only sit and enjoy his football.”

Messi’s three decisive goals

Leo Messi once again played a crucial role in Barça’s victory. Beyond securing the three points with his hat-trick, he also set another personal record. With 59 goals scored in so far in 2012 for Barça, the Argentine has beat the record he set in 2010, when he scored 58. The new mark, however, isn’t important for Barça’s hero: “Statistics are only numbers. I’m only concerned with winning the three points whenever possible.”

The match at Riazor came after the international break, a precursor that the Argentine was well aware of: “It’s always important to win after international breaks because we come back tired and it’s difficult to win the three points.” When asked about the referee’s performance, Messi simply said: “The referee’s job is extremely difficult. I’m told that the two yellow cards [for Mascherano] could very well have not been called, but we shouldn’t spend time thinking about it.”

Here are the statements made by FC Barcelona players after the 4-5 victory over Deportivo de la Coruña:

Cristian Tello:

“We jumped to a big lead really early but after two isolated plays we were in trouble again”

“I’m very pleased that I scored and for the confidence the manager has in me. I like to help the team and I hope I can continue doing it for years to come”

“It’s always more difficult to win the three points after international breaks, we have to be positive about our victory”

Andrés Iniesta:

“We could have killed the game off in the first half, but Deport are dangerous and they caused us a lot of problems on defence”

“We’re leaving with the sensation that we won a very difficult match”

“We have to learn a lot of things from this match”

Jordi Alba:

“It was a very hard-fought victory, but it was very important. The important thing is that we won the game and that we’re returning with the three points”

“At 2-3, the game was fairly even and it ended up being a crazy game”

“My own goal was bad luck. I didn’t want to pass the ball to Valdés”

“The team played an excellent match but we conceded four goals”

“Leo is the best player in the world at the moment”