Claudio Bravo out with right calf strain

Claudio Bravo trains on Monday at the Ciutat Esportiva in Sant Joan Despí. / MIGUEL RUIZ-FCB
Testing confirms injury for the Chile goalkeeper; team takes wait-and-see approach to determine his availability in the immediate future

Analysis by FC Barcelona‘s medical personnel has revealed that first-team goalkeeper Claudio Bravo has suffered a muscular injury to his right calf. The muscle in question is Bravo’s right soleus. He will be closely monitored over the coming days and his availability for this weekend’s match at Atlético de Madrid will be determined based on how the injury evolves.

First session of the week before game away at Atlético

Luis Suárez during training on Monday / MIGUEL RUIZ - FCB
After two days rest, the available first team players have trained at the Ciutat Esportiva as the team awaits the return of those on international duty

FC Barcelona have returned to work. After a weekend off, the available first team players have trained at Pitch 2 at the Ciutat Esportiva Joan Gamper in preparation for the weekend’s game against Atlético Madrid.

It was the first session of a week in which Luis Enrique will, little by little, welcome back the members of his squad who have been away on international duty. Those players will return this week once they have been released by their national sides.

Organiser of the International Champions Cup still raving about Barça's visit to the United States

Charlie Stillitano with Juliano Belletti at the presentation of the game between Man Utd and Barça in Santa Clara / Relevant Sports
Charlie Stillitano, the president of the company that organised the International Champions Cup, is still raving about the amazing response to the team’s visit to the United States

FC Barcelona’s trip to the United States this summer, on which the team played matches in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington, was a huge hit in every imaginable way. Charlie Stillitano, the chairman of Relevent Sports, the company that organises the International Champions Cup, had nothing but good words to say about the presence of the five-time European champions in his country in an interview with Catalan daily sports paper Mundo Deportivo.

There had been some concern that with two of the biggest stars in the Catalan squad, Messi and Neymar, absent after playing in the Copa America, that ticket sales for Barça games might be affected. The fears were totally unfounded – there was not an empty seat in the house for any of the three games. “It was a shame that they couldn’t be here because they were getting a well-deserved rest” says Stillitano. “But Barça came with seven of the eleven players that started the last Champions League Final. That all three games were sell-outs goes to show how popular the club is in North America.”

Traditionally, ‘soccer’ is the game of the Hispanic community in the USA, but the demographic of people attending Barça’s games this summer didn’t suggest any particular bias. “The cultural connection is very important for understanding who comes to watch Barça, but there isn’t really any direct incidence” said the former general manager of the New York MetroStars in the MLS. “Barça is one of the most popular clubs in the world because of their talents and successes. American fans, like those elsewhere in the world, are fascinated by the greatness that Barça has achieved in recent years.”

Celebrity status

Asked if there was any one moment in particular that he remembers from the summer tour, Stillitano highlights “the atmosphere at the FedEx Field in Washington for the game between Barça and Chelsea. It was awesome. The noise was deafening and the crowd cheered and enjoyed every minute of it. It was an amazing experience. They also told me that at every hotel where Barça stayed in the US, hundreds of fans waited for hours outside in the hope of getting an autograph or just getting a glimpse of stars like Piqué, Iniesta and Suárez in the distance. The Barça footballers were treated like celebrities this summer in the United States.”

He also commented on how much he hopes to see Barça back at the International Champions Cup in 2016. “Nothing is official yet” he insisted. “But we are hoping to be able to organise tournaments in Asia and Australia too.” All will be revealed at a later date, but wherever Barça go next summer, we can rest assured that there will no shortage of fans eager to welcome them.

US TOUR SPECIAL CONTENT

Atlético Madrid v FC Barcelona: The last ten years at the Vicente Calderón

Leo Messi on the last Barça visit to the Calderón / MIGUEL RUIZ - FCB
Five wins, four defeats and one draw for the Catalans at a ground where they have not lost a league match since 2009/10

 

FC Barcelona return to Liga action on Saturday with what tends to be one of the toughest games of the season. They’re off to the Vicente Calderón, home of Atlético Madrid, the same place where a 1-0 win in the second-to-last game of last season secured the title in manager Luis Enrique’s first year in charge.

Despite the traditional difficulty of the fixture, the Catalans have managed to win half of their league games at the Calderón in the last decade, the other five matches resulting in four home wins and a draw. In fact, Barça are unbeaten in league encounters away to Atlético since 2009/10, when they lost 2-1, although they did go on to win the title that season.

Six goals for Messi

The most common result of the last decade has been a 2-1 victory for Barça, which happened three times in row from 2010/11 to 2012/13. And the biggest win was a stunning 6-0 for the visitors in 2007. With Frank Rijkaard on the bench, the goals that day were scored by Messi (2), Zambrotta, Eto’o, Ronaldinho and Iniesta.

In the last ten years, Barça have scored 20 goals and conceded 15 in league games away to the ‘mattress-makers’, and have kept clean sheets on both of their last two visits. Barça’s highest goalscorer in the last ten Liga games at Atlético has been Lionel Messi, with six.

Other meetings

Barça have also travelled to the Calderón four times in the last decade in other competitions, where the results have also generally been positive. In the Copa del Rey they won 3-1 in 2009 and 3-2 in 2015, and both times progressed to the next round on aggregate. In the 2013 Spanish Super Cup, a 1-1 draw was enough for Barça to win the trophy on away goals, and the only reverse came in the 2014 Champions League, Atlético winning 1-0 at home and going on to qualify for the next round with a 1-1 draw at the Camp Nou.

Season Result Barça goalscorers
2005/06 2-1 Eto’o
2006/07 0-6 Messi (x2), Zambrotta, Eto’o, Ronaldinho & Iniesta
2007/08 4-2 Ronaldinho & Eto’o
2008/09 4-3 Henry, Messi & Alves
2009/10 2-1 Ibrahimovic
2010/11 1-2 Messi & Piqué
2011/12 1-2 Alves & Messi
2012/13 1-2 Alexis & Gabi (og)
2013/14 0-0  
2014/15 0-1 Messi

FC Barcelona first team to play seven games in 22 days

There are seven games for Barça in between two international breaks / MIGUEL RUIZ-FCB
With games in la Liga and in Europe, the next three weeks are going to be a busy time for Luis Enrique and his squad

Once the current international break is over, the FC Barcelona first team will start preparing for an extraordinarily packed schedule. Over the next three weeks, from September 12 to October 3, they have a game every three or four days, both in the Liga and in the Champions League.

Five in Liga, two in UCL

It all starts with the tricky trip to 2014 Liga champions Atlético Madrid on Saturday 12 September (8.30pm). After the game at the Vicente Calderón, the next stop is Italy for the first game in the Champions League group stage. On September 16, Barça are away to AS Roma. Back in Catalonia, the team then has a trio of league games in the space of a week. First they entertain Levante (20/09), before a midweek visit to Celta Vigo (23/09) and another game at the Camp Nou, this time against newly promoted Las Palmas (26/09).

Three days later their European campaign resumes at home to Bayer Leverkusen (29/09), and after that comes one of the most difficult road trips of the Liga season, the game at the Sánchez Pizjuán against Sevilla (October 3).

Once all that is over, some of the players will be able to get some well-earned rest. But for the majority, there will be more hard work to come, this time in the final round of international matches of 2015. These games include the final two matches of the Euro 2016 qualification groups, as well as the first games in the South American zone of World Cup 2018 qualifiers.

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