Azulgrana RoundUp, Week 8

Leo Messi and Xavi Hernández / PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ - FCB
Leo Messi sits down with El Mundo Deportivo for a rapid-fire interview, r/Barça takes note of Tito Vilanova’s line-ups this season, and Sergio ‘El Kun’ Agüero recounts his first encounter with Messi

• “Barça is my home” – Leo Messi

Leo Messi sat down with the Barcelona-based sports news outlet, El Mundo Deportivo, for a uniquely structured interview where Joan Josep Pallàs posed one-word questions to the three-time Ballon d’Or winner.

When asked about Xavi Hernández, Messi said: “Besides being a good player he’s an amazing human being, I hold him in high esteem. We’ve been together for a long time and the truth is that we’re good friends.” The Argentinean also had words for Xavi’s best partner in the Barça midfield, Andrés Iniesta: “He’s the same as Xavi. They both play very similar styles of football. Andrés is a spectacular player and as a person he’s humble and not complicated. He’s a great person.

“Barça is my home. I’ve been at the Club for a long time. Since I was a child, I’ve experienced a lot of beautiful things [at Barcelona]. I grew up at the Club, in this city. I have great affection for Barça,” said Barça’s number 10 when asked about FC Barcelona.

Mr. Pallàs also asked Messi about a Real Madrid’s Portuguese contingent. “Cristiano is a fantastic player, I don’t know him personally but he’s one of the best footballers in the world,” said Messi on Cristiano Ronaldo. On Jose Mourinho and Pepe, Messi defined the man in charge at Madrid as “a brilliant manager” and the centre back as “a great defender.”

You can watch the interview in its entirety here.

• Tito’s line-ups in Barça’s 16 matches this season

Tito Vilanova hasn’t repeated the same starting XI once so far this season. The folks over on Reddit’s r/Barça – egcg119 to be precise – have kept tabs on the players Tito has named to the team’s starting line-ups. The results are a bit eye-opening.

Check out all of Tito’s starting teams here.

• Sergio Agüero explains his first encounter with Messi

In an interview with DirectTV Sports, Sergio Agüero recounts how he met Leo Messi before an international friendly in The Netherlands. What makes the encounter interesting – and rather comical – is the way El Kun, who had no idea who Messi was at the time, tells the story.

Watch the entire interview here.

FC Barcelona's week marked by two matches away from the Camp Nou

Xavi / PHOTO: ARCHIVE FCB
The first team will face Celtic in the Champions League in Glasgow on Wednesday, four days later the team will play away to Mallorca in La Liga

Barça will travel to Glasgow on Tuesday, a full 24 hours before the Champions League match against Celtic FC. In addition to the clash against the Scottish team, Barça’s schedule this week will conclude with another match away from the Camp Nou. Tito Vilanova’s team will face Mallorca on Sunday at 17.50.

Monday

10.00 – Training session at the Ciutat Esportiva

Tuesday

9.30 – Trip to Glasgow
19.00 – Training session in Celtic Park (Catalan time)

Wednesday

20.45 – Champions League match between Celtic FC and FC Barcelona

Thursday

13.45 – FC Barcelona returns from Glasgow

Friday  

11.00 – Training session at the Ciutat Esportiva

Saturday

17.00 – Training session at the Ciutat Esportiva
18.45 – Trip to Mallorca

Sunday

17.50 – Liga match between Mallorca and FC Barcelona

Free-scoring defenders

PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ-FCB
The FC Barcelona backline has scored seven goals so far this season with contributions from Adriano (3), Jordi Alba (3) and Puyol (1)

FC Barcelona has a free-scoring defence. With the campaign still in its early days, Adriano (3), Jordi Alba (3) and Puyol (1) have chalked up seven goals between them.

Here are just a few more of the stats thrown up by the win against Celta:

– Of the 46 Barça goals this season, seven have been scored by defenders. Adriano has hit three in the league, Alba has scored two plus one in the Champions League, while Puyol has added one in the league.

– Saturday night was the first time in a year that Barça defenders have scored twice in a match. On 19th November 2011, Piqué and Puyol contributed two of the goals in the 4-0 defeat of Zaragoza.

– Both of Alba’s league goals have come against Galician teams (Deportivo and Celta) while in the Champions League he scored against …Celtic.

– Villa has a personal tally of 6 goals in 12 competitive games. Celta keeper Javi Varas has the worst record against Barça’s Asturian striker, having conceded three.

– The win against Celta, together with the 2-0 defeat of Atletico Madrid away to Valencia, mean that Barça have pulled away from Atletico after three match days sharing the top spot. Barça led the table from day one until Atletico went level on points the weekend that Barça drew at home to Real Madrid (2-2).

– Once again, Barça comfortably dominated possession: 69% to 31%.

– In terms of goal scoring opportunities, the match was more balanced than usual. Even so, Barça were superior in total shots (13 to 11) as well as shots on target (6 a 4). However, in terms of passes, Barça were streets ahead with a total of 914 to Celta’s 395, and 847 completed passes to 315.

– Cesc and Valdés are the only members of the squad to have started all ten league matches.

– Vilanova has used 22 players in his starting line-ups in 17 competitive matches. In the first team squad, only the injured Muniesa, Abidal and Cuenca have yet to appear, together with Jonathan Dos Santos. Barca B players Sergi Roberto and Tello are also still waiting for their chance in the starting line-up.

Busquets: “We know how hard it is to win so many points”

Sergio Busquets in action against Celta / PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ - FCB
The Blaugrana midfielder, who played parts of the game against Celta in the centre back position, said that “Barça had more control of the match in the second half”

Training session on Monday

Barça will train this Monday at 11.00 at the Ciutat Esportiva ahead of the Champions League clash with Celtic FC. After the session, Marc Bartra will hold a press conference.

Sergio Busquets played a crucial role for Barça against Celta as he alternated his position between the team’s back line and the midfield. Barça started the match with a three-men at the back, with Busquets playing in the holding midfielder position, and on various occasions the player dropped to plug the holes in the team’s sparse defensive line. On the positions he played this evening, the player said: “I’m a midfielder but I can play in the centre defender role as well. It’s about helping the team, always.”

In addition to the three points won against Celta, the team broke the Club record for the best-ever start in La Liga. When asked about the team’s new record, Busquets said that “records are a part of history and we know how difficult it is to achieve them.” The midfielder was also pleased with how the team played against Celta: “It was a bit difficult at first and Celta created a couple of chances, but in the second half we had a lot more control and they weren’t as dangerous.”

Injuries, the only piece of bad news from tonight’s match

With the addition of Adriano to the team’s long injury list, Barça will be without yet another defender for at least three weeks. “The injuries are the saddest thing about our start to the season, I really hope all the injured players can return to competitive play soon,” he said. When asked about the upcoming match against Celtic, a match he cannot play due to suspension, he said: “The players are very eager to clinch qualification to the next round of the Champions League and we’ll try to seal our passage to the knock-out round in Scotland.”

Here are the statements made by the FC Barcelona players after the 3-1 victory over Celta:

Jordi Alba:

“We knew that we could break the record and we’re really happy that we managed to do it”

“I’m a left back, but I like to go forward and it’s always nice to score goals”

“We read the game well after Celta’s first counterattacks. We had more control in the second half”

“I feel great, I’m very comfortable on the pitch and I’m sure that I’ll improve as the season goes on”

Andrés Iniesta:

“The fact that we broke the record says a lot about the team. We’re very eager to do a good job and I’m sure the team will improve”

“I’m sure that we’ll have difficult moments this season, but we have to take advantage of this situation”

“It’s almost impossible for Messi to have a bad game. He had a couple of chances today but he was unlucky in front of goal”

“A good result against Celtic would give us a lot of tranquility ahead of the last two matches in the Champions League group stage”