Guardiola, unbeaten at El Sardinero

Pep Guardiola in El Sardinero, during the 2009-10 season /PHOTO: ARXIU FCB
This Sunday’s match is Pep Guardiola’s fourth match against Racing Santander as first-team manager; the Catalan has never lost to Racing in Santander

Pep Guardiola will go to the Sardinero for the fourth time as manager of FC Barcelona’s first team. In his past three visits he’s led his team to three victories.

Last season, on Matchday 1 of La Liga, Barça beat Racing 0-3, with an early Messi goal on three minutes, and two more from Iniesta and Villa. In the 2009/10 season Barça was victorious in Santander (1-4) as well. Guardiola’s men conceded a goal to Óscar Serrano on 72 minutes, after Ibrahimovic, Messi (2) and Piqué netted for the Azulgranas.

Finally, in Guardiola’s first match at El Sardinero as manager, in the 2008/09 season, the Azulgranas won by 1-2. Zigic put his team in front but Messi, with two goals, overturned the home side’s advantage.

Barça B out to show what sets them apart in the Catalan derby

The Barça B players celebrating a goal /PHOTO: ARXIU FCB
The Barça B side will take on Sabadell this Satruday (18:00, Esport3) in the Catalan derby; both teams are level on points

Eusebio Sacristán: “we’re going to play against a team the have different arguments, options, than many of the teams in Segunda A”

Barça B and Sabadell are in a very similar situation. Both teams play similar styles of football and they both have 35 points in the Liga. The Barça reserve side nor Lluís Carreras‘ team were able to beat their respective rivals last week. For this reason, Saturday’s match will mark the differences between the two Catalan sides.

Barça B wants to play a “good game”

The team led by Eusebio Sacristán comes into the Catalan match-up after drawing in Huelva against Recreativo. However, of the 13 games played away from the Mini, the Azulgranas have only lost 5 so far. Even so, the Barça manager said that his team is ready “to play a good game.” In fact, all the Barça B players are available with the exception of Miño and Ilie, who are both injured. Eusebio will also be missing Tello, Sergi Roberto, Muniesa, and Bartra, all of whom have been with the first team all week.

However, in the first half of the season, on October 1, Sabadell won at the Miniestadi by 0-1. The goal was scored by Juvenal after 40 minutes of play; the goal proved decisive in the Catalan derby that day. Barça B’s most offensive player was Tello, who now plays with the first team. On the day, however, Sabadell boasted a high position in the table: “we were under construction and we didn’t have consistency,” said Sacristán on the first match.

Sabadell, a strong rival

Despite being level on points with Barça B, Sabadell currently sits in the 14th spot of the standings. They have only lost two game at home, against Valladolid and Córdoba, and they’re currently on a four-match unbeaten run at home. However, they lost their last match against Hércules this past weekend by 1-0.

“We’re going to play against a team that have different arguments, options, than many of the teams in Segunda A. They play similarly to us, it will be necessary to compete for possession and control of the game,” said Sacristán, who also highlighted the differences between the two sides: “they, when they don’t have the ball, are accustomed to defend as a group in the back, while we go out all look for our rival.”

The Azulgrana Roundup, Week 7

Lionel Messi
On this week’s Azulgrana Roundup: ‘AMC’s’ Don Draper and Josep Guardiola, why Andrés Iniesta is the best midfielder in the world, why young Cristian Tello doesn’t go unnoticed, and of course, opinions on Lionel Messi’s historic five-goal performance in the Champions League

After Barça’s stellar performance in the Champions League the worldwide press was ablaze with praise for the Catalan side. While the 7-1 scoreline, Messi’s five-goal performance, or Keita’s brilliant strike took the headlines, the Azulgrana Roundup will attempt to bring you a couple of pieces that might have slipped through the cracks. If you have any suggestions for this column, please tweet them to FC Barcelona’s Twitter account, remember to tag your tweet with #FCBroundup.

Twelve Point Sports. Pep Guardiola: A Mad Man

An essay examining the parallels between Don Draper from AMC’s ‘Mad Men’ and FC Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola

The Guardian. Sid Lowe. Lionel Messi now bears comparison with Diego Maradona

The hand as an icon of a game played with the feet: from 1986 and the symbol of Diego Maradona, Argentina’s greatest talent in a generation, in any generation, to the almost mystical symbol of FC Barcelona’s greatest nights. A manita, a goal for every finger: the 5-0 against Real Madrid with Johan Cruyff the player in 1974; the 5-0 against Madrid with Johan Cruyff the manager of the Dream Team in 1994; the 5-0 with Leo Messi leading the Team That’s Better Than The Dream Team in 2010.”

New York Times. Rob Hughes. A Little Magic in Nicosia, a Lot More in Barcelona

Little Leo scored five goals in Barcelona’s 7-1 demolition of Bayer Leverkusen. “It’s nice,” he said, “to score five.” Nice? It’s downright outrageous. Messi chipped goals with his right foot and left. He drew three defenders and then waltzed away from them, the ball still in his possession until he once more released it into the net. The pair (Xavi and Iniesta) are a Ferrari on the pitch, don’t even think about taking Xavi to another team, even if 80 million is offered [Chinese website]

[A Real Madrid supporter, Fernando Alonso, came to the Camp Nou to watch the Barça v Sporting match, and he enjoyed the football show put on by Xavi and Iniesta. If we say the connection between Fernando Alonso and Ferrari is perfection in Formula 1, than Xavi and Iniesta are a work of art on the pitch.] Phillip Arens. Fußall-Gott Messi [Messi the Football God] [German]

His five goals humiliated Leverkusen, a mere sparring for Barça. Leo is a joy for any football fan.

El Confidencial. José Manuel García. El mejor equipo del mundo posee la mejor cantera del mundo [The best team in the world have the best youth academy in the world] [Spanish]

La nómina de canteranos azulgrana no la dispone nadie. Veintiún jugadores salidos de las parideras de La Masia, casi dos equipos para montar un lienzo de Velázquez, una multinacional del fútbol, que eleva a este equipo, Fútbol Club Barcelona, a lo más alto de la pirámide mundial. Nadie recuerda semejante logro. Andrés Iniesta: The World’s Best Midfielder

Iniesta’s brilliance lies in the apparent ease with which goes about his job. Everything he does on the pitch looks natural, and his virtuosity brings out the very best in his teammates. Barcelona manager Guardiola has handed him greater responsibility since taking charge in 2008. The unparalleled success that has followed is no coincidence.

The Telegraph. Oliver Pickup. The next Lionel Messi: who is Barcelona’s forgotten Champions League hero Cristian Tello?

In the latest swirl of Messi-mania, Tello’s superb European debut on Wednesday night is in danger of being lost; a mere forgotten footnote among the thousands in the career of the greatest player ever to have kicked a football.

EUMD. Barca 2012-13 (II): Montoya y Bartra [Spanish]

La decisión de ascender hasta cinco canteranos de golpe al primer equipo tiene un componente que va más allá de la evaluación individual. Se trata también de una decisión de vestuario, de renovar desde dentro. De inyectar ilusión y entusiasmo al grupo, ante los nuevos retos que se le presentan.

Spanish League Preview, Week 27

Puyol and Thiago against Racing Santander / PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ - FCB
There are some big games in La Liga this weekend, with Athletic Club, fresh from setting Europe alight with their win at Old Trafford, facing Osasuna in Pamplona and two of the other teams fighting for European places, Málaga and Levante meeting at La Rosaleda

La Liga teams really made their mark in Europe this week -as if Barça’s demolition of Bayer
wasn’t enough, all three Europa Cup teams won, with Athletic Club grabbing the headlines
thanks to their defeat of Manchester United and Valencia and Atlético Madrid also getting good results.

Second derby in a week for Athletic Club

Sunday sees Athletic Club’s second derby game in a week, when they travel to Pamplona to
play Osasuna who lie seventh just two points and two places behind them. Osasuna’s ex-Barça
utility man Damia explained: “there’s a really intense rivalry between Bilbao and us. It’s a good
feeling though and these are the games you want to play. If we can win, we’ll consolidate our
position in the European places, everyone knows our aim is to stay up, but it’s exciting to be
fighting at the other end too”. His captain Patxi Puñal reckons: “Bilbao gave an exhibition in
Manchester. They’ll come here full of confidence, but we are at home and we are doing well

Good week for Valencia….so far

Valencia have enjoyed a good week, putting an end to their poor league run last weekend by
beating Granada and defeating PSV 4-2 in the Europa League on Thursday, but although they
are still in third place, they are only five points clear and will be looking to build on the week’s
success when Mallorca come to the Mestalla on Sunday ahead of their trips to Eindhoven and
Athletic Club next week.

Atlético look to progress

Atletico Madrid scored three great goals against Beskitas on Thursday night – and none of
them by Falcao!- as Salvia(2) and Adrian demonstrated the fire power that Simeone has at his
disposal and with four of the five teams immediately above them playing each other, three
points this Sunday from the visit of struggling Granada, could catapult them back into the
fight for the fourth Champions League spot. Two of those four, Levante and Malaga play on
Saturday and a win for the hosts would send them into that fourth place – for 24 hours at
least. However, Malaga winger Joaquim warned: “it won’t be easy, they are a strong team and
if they get ahead, it’s hard to catch them. They are full of experienced players, they know what
they are doing and they are where they are thanks to their own effort”.

Zaragoza’s problems”in their heads”

At the bottom, Zaragoza travel to Donosti after last weekend’s morale lifting win against
Villarreal. Zaragoza boss Manolo Jimenez insists his team’s problems are “in their heads, just
psychological – I’m trying to convince them that they can play at a high level”. Sporting have
an equally motivating boss in Javier Clemente of course, and for the visit to Gijón of Sevilla on
Saturday there will be further inspiration for the players, as the Sporting board have decided
to drop ticket prices to ensure a full house to get behind the team. Villarreal are the side the
bottom three have to catch and they host Getafe in Monday night’s game.

In the weekend’s other games, Real Madrid travel to Betis on Saturday night with Benzema still
a doubt, whilst at noon on Sunday, Espanyol, who’ve lost their last two matches at home, host
Rayo, who have won their last three games on the road to overtake Espanyol in the table.

10 out 11 successful European knockout ties

Messi, contra el Bayer Leverkusen. FOTO: FCB.
Guardiola has only ever been beaten once in a European match played over two legs in the four seasons he been Barcelona manager

Barça are into the quarter finals for the fifth consecutive time. Since Pep Guardiola arrived in 2008, their European record is enough to strike fear into the hearts of any of their rivals. They have got through 10 out of 11 European knockout ties between 2009 and 2011.

Long road to Rome

Guardiola’s first do-or-die European clash was in the preliminary round of the competition against Wisla Krakow. A place in the group stages looked beyond doubt after they brushed aside the Polish champions in the new manager’s first official game (4-0). Having got through the groups as well, FCB next faced Olympique Lyon, then Bayern in the quarters and Chelsea in the semi-finals, one of the most nail-biting fixtures of recent years, before going on to lift the cup in Rome.

Only defeat against Inter

Next year, Barça got the better of Stuttgart and Arsenal, with Messi getting four goals in one game against the Gunners. But the semi-final brought Pep Guardiola’s only major setback as Barça manager in Europe, when Inter won the first leg 3-1 and with determined defending, managed to limit the Catalans to one goal at the Camp Nou (1-0).

From the clásico to Wembley

The team made no mistake in Champions League 2010/11. Arsenal were beaten again, and then Shakhtar Donetsk, followed by the old rival Real Madrid to reach the final at Wembley. That made it nine out of ten European qualifications for Guardiola. The record continued this year, with a 10-2 aggregate win against Bayer Leverkusen, the biggest of all over two legs for Barcelona in the last four years.