Tito Vilanova's Barça will make its official Liga debut this evening at 21.00 (C+)

Tito Vilanova’s Barça will face Real Sociedad this evening (21.00, C+) in the Club’s Liga debut. The manager’s challenge is clear: maintain the level of success of recent years

Cuenca, Abidal, Muniesa and Thiago do not have the medical green light to play, while the FC Barcelona’s newest player, Alex Song, won’t be presented until Monday

Football is back 86 days after last season’s Copa del Rey Final. Tito Vilanova’s FC Barcelona will make its debut this evening (21.00, C+) in the Liga and it will also be the team’s first official match of the season. The match is against Real Sociedad, a team that denied Barça the three points at the beginning of last season when both side drew two-all at Anoeta. It will be, therefore, a tricky start for Vilanova, whose project has generated quite a bit of excitement among the Barça faithful. Vilanova’s challenge is clear: maintain the level of success of recent years.

The run-up to the season

The Azulgrana pre-season, just as Vilanova said on Saturday, invites optimism. The team played five friendlies this summer, won three of them, against Hamburg (1-2), Raja Casablanca (0-8) and Dinamo Bucharest, and drew twice, against PSG (2-2) and Manchester United (0-0). Now that the pre-season is over, it’s time for the first important matches of the year.

Alex Song

For the first match of the season, Vilanova will be without a couple of his players. Cuenca, Abidal, Muniesa and Thiago do not have the medical green light to play, while the team’s newest signing, Alex Song, will undergo his medical on Monday before he signs his contract. Therefore, the manager will have 21 footballers at his disposal, including the two Barça B players Tello and Sergi Roberto. The match against Real could also see Jordi Alba make his official debut for the Club.

Dangerous Real Sociedad

FC Barcelona’s first La Liga game of the year will be against one of last season’s most dangerous teams, Real Sociedad. The Basque side finished 12th last year, and was led by the young Carlos Vela and Antoine Griezmann. The two players stayed on with Real, and the club boast a couple of new faces, like José Ángel (on loan from Roma) and Chori Castro (from Mallorca). Just like last year, Phillippe Montanier will attempt to put a damper on FC Barcelona’s opening act in La Liga.

FC Barcelona and Arsenal FC have agreed to terms for the Cameroon international Alex Song

Alex Song / PHOTO: Arsenal
FC Barcelona has agreed a deal with Arsenal FC for the transfer of Alex Song to the Camp Nou. The fee is 19 million euros

The Cameroon international midfielder will sign for the next five seasons with a release clause of 80 million euros

On Monday he’ll have a medical and then join the rest of the squad for the official team presentation at the Gamper

FC Barcelona and Arsenal FC have reached an agreement for the transfer of Alex Song for 19 million euros.  The player will sign a contract for the next five seasons with a release clause of 80 million.

The schedule for his presentation is as follows:

Monday, 20th August

 • 09.30: Photo session in front of the Club offices

•  10.00: Medical at the Hospital de Barcelona                                                

•   Following that, a medical at the Joan Gamper Sports City

• 17.00: Signing of contract at the Club offices

• Immediately after that, a photo session in front of the offices with Club president Sandro Rosell

• 21.10: In the Camp Nou, presentation with the rest of the first team squad at the Joan Gamper Trophy

 

Tuesday, 21st August

• 12.00: Presentation press conference in the Paris Room.

Alex Song: Experience, versatility, power and skill

PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ-FCB
After seven years at Arsenal, centre back and midfielder Alex Song has proven to be a powerful figure who distributes the ball wonderfully

Alexandre Dimitri Song was born in Douala, Cameroon on December 9, 1987. In 2004, he moved to France to play professional football for Bastia when aged just 17. After making 32 appearances in his first season, he caught the eye of Arsenal, but despite joining the London outfit, towards the end of the 2005/2006 season he went out on loan to Charlton Athletic.

A year later he returned to the Gunners, and from 2007 started featuring regularly in Arsene Wenger’s line-ups. By the age of 24 he was a first choice defensive midfielder, and he has gone on to make more than 150 appearances in the Premier League, scoring seven goals.

Song is also an important member of his national team, for whom he has been an automatic choice since signing for Arsenal. He has more than 40 caps to his name, and was in the side that finished second at the 2008 African Cup of Nations, held in Ghana and won by Egypt.

Moving forward

Although he started out as a centre back, Song’s combination of powerful aerial play, rapid movements and solid defending also made him ideal as a defensive midfielder, a position where he is now regarded as one of the finest in the world. He is also extremely skilful and distributes the ball well. Being just 15 cm shy of two metres, he is also a valuable asset at set pieces.

Tito Vilanova: "I’m hoping to win it all this season"

Tito Vilanova, a la roda de premsa prèvia a l'inici de Lliga / FOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ - FCB
Just a few hours before the 2012-2013 season kicks off, the Barça manager is aiming high and told reporters today: “We have a good enough team to win any match”

After several weeks of preparations, Tito Villanova’s Barça side get their league campaign going on Sunday against Real Sociedad in the Camp Nou at 9 pm. Speaking on Saturday morning at the last press conference before Sunday evening’s match, Vilanova was looking relaxed despite the huge expectancy surrounding his debut, and told reporters: “I don’t feel pressured”.

“It’s difficult for us to get going”

However, in spite of his customary calm exterior he admitted that he couldn’t help being a little anxious about how his players would respond in the first league match of the season, given Barça’s often indifferent start in recent seasons: “It’s difficult for us to get going. Our preparation is different because what we want to do is maintain the same level throughout the year. At the beginning we may start a little behind the rest but the quality of these players will reach where the preparation doesn’t”.

Ambition from day one

Clearly Vilanova has complete faith in his players and he made it clear today that his ambition for the team has no limits: “I’m hoping to win it all, that’s what I’m hoping for this season. We have a good enough team to win any match. We’ll have to think one match at a time. Barça is used to winning everything, especially in the last few years. We have to try and keep the ball, have the ambition to win and know who we are competing against”.

Finally, he insisted that the players have the same level of ambition as last season: “Last season we won four titles including the World Club Championship. We certainly did win, and a lot. And they look just as ambitious to me as always”.

Training continues ahead of Real Sociedad clash

L'equip jugarà aquest diumenge el seu primer partit de Lliga / FOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ-FCB
All the available players from the first team squad were put through their paces on Saturday morning while Thiago carried on with his individual training programme.

It was the last but one training session for the players ahead of Sunday evening’s La Liga debut against Real Sociedad. Tito Vilanovahad all the available players to work with except for ThiagoAlcántara, who continued with his personal training programme.

As was the case on Thursday and Friday, Carles PuyolandJonathan dos Santos took a full part in training alongside their team-mates. Also taking part in the session were Telloand SergiRoberto from Barça B.

The next –and last – training session before the league campaign gets underway against Real Sociedad(Sunday, 9 pm) will be at 12 noon on Sunday.