International friendlies mark final week of preparation ahead of Barça's La Liga debut

First team training session /PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ-FCB
Tito Vilanova prepares FC Barcelona’s La Liga debut with a depleted roster due to this week’s international fixtures

The internationals are due back in Barcelona on Thursday

The Liga is right around the corner and FC Barcelona are scheduled to kick off the 2012/13 Liga at the Camp Nou against Real Sociedad next Sunday, August 19, at 21.00. Before this weekend’s match, however, many FC Barcelona players will feature in mid-week international friendlies.

A total of 11 first-team players have been named to their respective national teams for the upcoming international friendlies. Therefore, Tito Vilanova will only be able to work with 11 players on Tuesday morning: Puyol, Xavi, Villa, Pinto, Jordi Alba, Adriano, Dos Santos, Montoya, Fontàs, Bartra and Tello.

On Thursday, however, all the international players are due back in Barcelona for the team’s evening training session, with the exception of Alexis Sánchez, who will play for Chile in New York City on the same day. It won’t be until Friday that Tito Vilanova will have his entire squad at his disposal, not counting the injured players, to prepare for the first match of the Liga.

Monday, August 13

Day off

Tuesday, August 14

9.00 Training session

Wednesday, August 15

9.00 Training session

Thursday, August 16

19.00 Training session

Friday, August 17

9.00 Training session

Saturday, August 18

9.00 Training session

Sunday, August 19

21.00 First match of the 2012/13 La Liga season, against Real Sociedad

Pre-season overview: Unbeaten Barça well prepared for new season

Leo Messi against Bucharest. PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ- FCB.
Barça have ended their five-match preseason without losing a match, and the squad is now fully back into rhythm, having also welcomed back some important players

Messi has broken his own record for preseason goals

The worst news was the serious injury suffered by Marc Muniesa in the first match

Minutes (goals)

Alves 303 (2)
Sergi Roberto 291
Mascherano 285
Alexis 276 (2)
Bartra 273
Messi 272 (5)
Afellay 264 (1)
Pinto 251
Adriano 216
Rafinha 202 (1)
Valdés 180
Busquets 166
Dos Santos 150
Xavi 138
Pedro 138
Cesc 120
Iniesta 120
Planas 120
Piqué 120
Montoya 114
Puyol 90
Ilie 86
Tello 84
Espinosa 75
Deulofeu 75 (2)
Jordi Alba 69
Balliu 66
Patri 66
Sergi Gómez 66 (1)
Lobato 66
Román 45
Gustavo 30
Femenía 30
Fontàs 27
Lombán 21
Oier 19
Villa 18
Muniesa 17

Bucharest was the venue for the last of FC Barcelona’s five preseason friendlies. The series has
ended with three wins, 2-1 in Hamburg, 8-0 against Raja Club Athletic and 2-0 at Dinamo, and
two draws, 2-2 in Paris and 0-0 with Manchester United. Good results and positive feelings,
with the team displaying many of the virtues that have brought so much success in recent
years, dominating the possession and generating constant pressure.

As ever, the most important thing about these matches was simply giving the players the
chance to get back into the routine of playing football. The first two matches involved a large
presence of reserves, who rose to the occasion in exceptional style. It was not until game three
against PSG that the Spain internationals were involved and Tito Vilanova could field a side
that resembles what will be his first eleven for the forthcoming season. Parc des Princes also
marked the return to action of Carles Puyol after an absence through injury.

The last stage of the preseason also saw Jordi Alba, the club’s new signing, make his first
appearances in a Barça shirt in the mini-tour of Sweden and Romania, while the second of
those two games, in Bucharest, also saw the long-awaited returns of both David Villa and
Andreu Fontàs, who have been sidelined for several months.

Messi sets new record

Leo Messi was the top Barça scorer in the preseason with five goals. That’s the Argentinian’s
best tally ever, and that was despite missing the first game with a minor injury. Dani Alves,
Deulofeu and Alexis all hit the target twice.

Alves was also the player who got the most minutes of playing time (303). He was followed by
Sergi Roberto (291), who was very active in midfield, Mascherano (285), Alexis (276) and
Bartra (273). The centre back has been one of the revelations of the preseason, displaying
security, elegance and the ability to bring the ball out of defence with remarkable
effectiveness.

Muniesa, the worst news

The returns of Puyol, Villa and Fontàs have been the high point of the preseason, but the worst
news was the serious injury suffered by Marc Muniesa. The defender tore cruciate ligaments in
his right knee in Hamburg and will now be out for about six months.

Tivo Vilanova: "The team is playing at a good level"

Tito Vilanova / PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ - FCB
The Barça manager is satisfied with the work his players have put in during the pre-season: “We’ve had a group of players that have trained for two solid weeks. Others haven’t had that much time to prepare”

“I wanted them to have more playing time, but the condition of the pitch ruined my plans,” said Vilanova

Tito Vilanova is optimistic after FC Barcelona’s five pre-season matches: “the team is playing at a good level ahead of the start of the Liga. We’ve had a group of players that have trained for two solid weeks. Others haven’t had that much time to prepare.” The manager noted that the second group of footballers, the internationals, needed to get more playing time this Saturday: “I wanted them to have more playing time, but the condition of the pitch ruined my plans.”

“The players are at a good level,” said Vilanova, who also noted that he doesn’t want to think about possible line-ups for the Real Sociedad clash until later this week: “when the players come back from international duty we’ll make a decision on who will play in the Liga based on how they’re feeling.” When asked about the players called up to the Spain squad, the manager was clear: “Del Bosque picks the players that he wants and we don’t have anything to say on the matter. This time six players are leaving, but if he had wanted ten, they would have gone too. It’s his responsibility to pick the best players for the national team.”

Lastly, on Puyol, the manager said that “he a very small injury, he’ll be ready to play soon.” Vilanova also noted that the decision to sub Sergio Roberto out in the second half was made before the match.

Dinamo de Bucarest-FCB: Pre-season ends with Villa and Fontàs back (0-2)

La reaparició de Villa a Bucarest. FOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ-FCB.
Barça rounded off their pre-season with a 0-2 win over Dynamo Bucharest this evening, with an early opener from Messi and a late second goal from Afellay, as well as the much awaited reappearance of Villa and Fontàs

The pre-season finished on a high note for Tito Vilanova’s team with both David Villa and Andreu Fontàs taking part in the team’s 0-2 win over Dynamo after their long injury layoffs. Leo Messi got an early goal, whilst Ibrahim Afellay got the second in injury time to give Barça the win in a game in which they were easily the superior side in terms of talent.

Messi opens scoring on 4 minutes

Puyol was rested with a muscle strain and Iniesta started on the bench, but Barça still put out a strong team and after just 4 minutes Leo Messi latched onto a pass from Alexis to fire past the keeper and open the scoring  and soon after, the two again combined with Alexis crossing from the left and Messi firing over.

Barça dominate

The team were purring and not even the uneven pitch could put them off their game, as Dynamo were unable to do much more than simply defend and pack their defence, and only a bit of inaccuracy with the final pass stopped the score line from increasing.

Comfortable

On 28 minutes, Cesc found Messi but the Argentinean fired wide under pressure as the chances began to flow and Pedro seemed to have already built a good working relationship with the tireless Jordi  Alba down the left. Barça were looking much more comfortable than the one goal advantage suggested, but just after the break, when Tito made six changes, Victor Valdes – the only man to play the whole game –  was forced into a good stop from Tucudean header, as Dynamo began to open up a little.

Welcome reappearances and second goal

On the hour, as both teams continued to bring on subs, came the highlight of the evening in many ways, when Andreu Fontàs came on for his first game after his long injury absence and soon after, on 72, David Villa also appeared for his first game since his terrible injury last December. Villa’s presence lifted the team and Afellay rounded off the game and the pre-season with an injury time goal from a lovely lob to make it 0-2.

Welcome back, @Guaje7Villa!

David Villa against Dinamo / PHOTO: Miguel Ruiz - FCB
The Spanish forward made his return to competitive football after nearly eight months on the sidelines due to the injury he picked up in the Club World Cup semi-final against Al-Sadd

Tito Vilanova subbed Sergi Roberto out for Villa on 73 minutes in FC Barcelona’s match against Dinamo Bucharest

‘El Guaje’ made his eagerly-anticipated return to the football pitch. Tito Vilanova subbed off Sergi Roberto and sent the forward in on 73 minutes. The striker enjoyed a little over 15 minutes of playing time after being sidelined for nearly eight months due to injury.

After the match, the Azulgrana manager stated that “I spoke with the doctors and the physios and Villa was ready to play for at least 15 minutes. It’s very important for us to recover players, especially if they’re well-loved like Villa.”

Furthermore, the manager highlighted Villa’s role as vital to Barça’s strategy on the pitch. “Last year we missed him because he’s a player that guarantees goals. He’s very necessary,” said Vilanova.

Eight months of work to get to this point

David Villa fractured the tibia in his left leg in the semi-finals of the Club World Cup, which was played in Japan in December. El Guaje missed the second part of the season as well as the Euro.

The first bit of good news for the forward came on July 31st, when he was given the medical green light to play. Since then, he’s increased his work rate in order to be match fit and this Saturday against Dinamo Bucharest he made his return to competitive football. Therefore, Tito Vilanova will be able to count on the Azulgrana goalscorer for the 2012/2013 season.