Week 1: Spotlight on Real Sociedad

Cales Puyol in last year's match against Real Sociedad/ Photo - Miguel Ruiz - FCB
Real Sociedad, based in the Basque city of Donosti, or San Sebastian, finished 12th in the league last season and enjoyed two good results against Barça, drawing 2-2 in Anoeta and losing just 2-1 in Barcelona

Squad strengthened

Boss  Philippe Montanier has strengthened his squad this summer with the addition José Ángel and the Uruguayan midfielder ‘Chory’ Castro, as well as signing the Mexican Carlos Vela from Arsenal after his successful loan period which included 12 goals for the Basques last season.

Attacking quality

These signings, combined with the experience of Bravo, Prieto and Mikel González and the promise of youngsters like Griezmann, Iñigo Martínez or Rubén Pardo have created an optimism amongst the fans as they go into their third season back in the top flight. In attack, Real have a host of good ball playing options – Prieto, Griezmann, Agirretxe, Ifrán, Chory Castro and Vela. They may notice the loss of the veteran Aranbua, but Montanier has brought through a host of young players with the exciting Iñigo Martínez  aiming to supply solidity at full back. Behind the defence – possibly Real’s weakest line – is the experienced Claudio Bravo who has spent seven seasons at the club and made the keeper’s gloves his own.

Montanier: “Barça have so much talent”

Montanier was naturally cautious ahead of the game, but claimed: “we are impatient to start the campaign after seven weeks working hard in pre-season. This will be one of the hardest matches of the whole season, but we are perfectly prepared”. The Frenchman showed last season that his team can worry Barça and he explained: “Barcelona will have possession because they have so much talent all over the pitch, but anything is possible over 90 minutes – difficult, but not impossible – we have prepared the game with the intention of coming away with something positive. The key to that is being efficient in attack and defence. If you aren’t, then it is difficult to get a result anywhere, but particularly against Barça who are so strong at home”.

“The best team in the world”

Defender Ansotegi echoed his boss, claiming: “Barça are better than us, but they can always have an off day”, whilst new signing Jose Angel reckons : “it’s a good time to play Barça, because they may be not quite up to their best. We’ll do our best and look for a positive result – they are the best team n the world, but they aren’t unbeatable and Real have top quality players who can cause them problems”.

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”.