Azulgrana RoundUp, Week 9

Tito Vilanova / PHOTO: ARCHIVE - FCB
ESPN and totalBarça take a look at Tito Vilanova’s record-breaking run in La Liga and Celtic FC praise FC Barcelona after Wednesday’s match at Celtic Park

Celtic FC Chief Executive Peter Lawwell: “It is extremely important that we mention our opponents and our guests last night, FC Barcelona. The sign of true class is not how you win, but how you lose and last night they demonstrated that perfectly”

• Has Vilanova surpassed Guardiola?

FC Barcelona’s 3-1 victory this weekend over Celta Vigo was Tito Vilanova’s ninth win from La Liga’s opening ten matches, taking the team to unprecedented heights in Club history – a feat never achieved by any Barça team. Vilanova’s record-breaking run in the domestic competition surpassed the mark set by his highly decorated predecessor, Pep Guardiola. Francesc Tomas, writing for ESPN’s FC Barcelona blog, attempts to answer the seemingly impossible question – given that the 2012/13 season is still in its infancy – of whether or not Tito has surpassed Pep:

“Pep Guardiola won a tremendous amount of titles with Barcelona and Culés will undeniably be forever grateful. Tito Vilanova hasn’t won a single title since he took charge just over 100 days ago, but his achievements in this time have already surpassed his predecessor’s.

“While I understand that fans and analysts love comparisons,” continues to Tomas, “there is simply no way to decide who the better manager is, based on the fact that both seem to have found a way to make their respective teams successful at different times. Guardiola’s delightful philosophy was terribly inspiring, but Tito Vilanova was right to change it as it had become far too easy for rivals to defend against.”

Tomas concludes: “A squad that boasts three Ballon d’Or finalists and a huge number of international players is more likely to succeed than others of inferior quality. Having said that, it is also true that it takes a great coach to ensure world-class stars work for the greater good of the team rather than themselves.”

Read ESPN‘s article in its entirety here.

• Tikerman Tito’s Tribute

Anoop Jethwa, writing for totalBarça, also takes a look at Tito Vilanova’s managing style in relation to his predecessor:

“Under Pep Guardiola, Barcelona smashed record after record and the team was hailed as the best ever, especially after that famous Saturday night in London in 2011,” writes Jethwa. “This season the football has not hit the spectacular heights of the last era, full of flair and jaw dropping sharpness in all areas of the pitch, but the never-say-die-attitude, desire and togetherness have given Vilanova the best start to a season in the history of the club. All the more impressive is that it’s very difficult to say that the team is playing anywhere near its best, due to the rotation of tactics and players, of which plenty comes down to injuries.”

The author goes on to cite Carles Rexach’s – Barça’s former striker and manager – take on the first team’s coach:  “The name of Tito Vilanova is already in the history books of FC Barcelona after having led the team to its best start in the history of the club. This is something that is special to me because I believe in Tito’s worth and also I get on very well with him and his assistant, Jordi Roura. But apart from this record, there is a lot more. In fact, what I would emphasise most about him is the ease in which he can read games and react when something is not quite right, and his mastery in managing the squad and his ability to do it without any controversy or drama.”

Analyzing Barça’s conditioned approach –given the multiple defensive absences– to its matches, Jethwa observes that the “key is now not to perfect exotic football, but to play winning football within the attacking confines set out by the club’s statues.” He adds: “Tito’s tinkering is about him gaining more understanding on the field about his own players. Even though he’s been on the bench for the past four years, his appetite to really know the ins and outs of every single squad member’s abilities should give us all confidence that we’re heading in the right direction.”

Read totalBarça’s article in its entirety here.

• FC Barcelona – world class in every way

“The bonds of friendship between Celtic and Barcelona have been further strengthened this season following the two meetings in the UEFA Champions League,” reads the statement on Celtic FC’s website following last night’s victory over FC Barcelona.

Showcasing the Scottish team’s class and graciousness in victory, Celtic’s Chief Executive Peter Lawwell said: “It is extremely important that we mention our opponents and our guests last night, FC Barcelona. The sign of true class is not how you win, but how you lose and last night they demonstrated that perfectly.
“Over a number of years, we are delighted that FC Barcelona have become our true friends,” continues Mr Lawwell, “and we are very grateful that the directors and players of Barca have been part of our 125th anniversary celebrations.”
The Scottish team’s Chief Executive concludes: “Barca have created one of the greatest football teams of all time and last night it was a privilege to see the best players in the world at Celtic Park-  they have given so much to football and deserve huge praise for all they have done. We were delighted once again to welcome Barca to Glasgow and, of course, we wish the club and its supporters well for the future.”

Read Celtic FC’s article in its entirety here.

Champions League: where Barça stand

Barça will qualify for the second phase of the Champions League if they win their next match in Moscow

Barça’s defeat in Glasgow and Benfica’s win over Spartak have somewhat changed the state of play in Champions League Group G. Barça are still top with 9 points, but Celtic are just two behind on 7, while the Portuguese side has 4 points and the Muscovites have 3. Here we analyse what it all means for FC Barcelona’s chances:

Barça will be through to the last sixteen if they win their next game, which is in Moscow on November 20, for that would guarantee at least 12 points. But if Celtic win at Benfica, they would have 10 points and still have a chance of topping the group. Remember that after respective 2-1 home wins, the head-to-head between FCB and Celtic is equal, so if the same two clubs are tied on points it will come down to overall goal difference, which Barça currently lead, with +3 compared to Celtic’s +1.

Barça would be group champions if they win at Spartak and Celtic fail to win at the Stadium of Light.

A Barça draw in the Russian capital would also see them as good as though to the next round. Qualification wouldn’t be one hundred per cent certain due to the possibility of a three-way tie, which could still happen if Barça were to lose to Benfica at the Camp Nou on the final day. However, the scenario of a three-way tie would also require Celtic to lose in Portugal and then beat Spartak in the final game. Should that happen, the Catalans, Scots and Portuguese outfits would have ten points each.

If Barça draw in Russia and Celtic can get at least a point at Benfica, then FCB would be safely through to the last sixteen.

But if Barça lose in Moscow, the shape of the group would change dramatically. Depending on what happens later that same evening in Lisbon, all four teams might still have a chance of qualifying (or being eliminated) on the final day.

Control, crosses and shots in defeat at Celtic Park

Song, davant Miku (Celtic). FOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ-FCB.
Despite losing 2-1, Barça registered some amazing stats for possession and shots on goal

– Barça had 80% of the possession on the day when they completed 4 and a half years without defeat in this category. Since then, they have had the most possession in all 266 matches that they have played.

– The visitors made 902 passes, while the home side made 122.

– Barça made 30 crosses, and Celtic made 17. Dani Alves made the most, 19.

– Tito Vilanova’s side shot 25 times (9 times on target), while the home side shot five times (3 times on target).

– The Catalans had 7 corners and the Scots had 2.

– Xavi completed 165 of the 170 passes he made. In the whole competition, he has accumulated 405 good passes out of 447, the tournament’s best tally.

– Wanyama, Mascherano and Song won the most balls (9).

– With 74 goals in 2012, Leo Messi is one short of Pele’s record in 1958.

– Messi took more shots(6) than the whole of the Celtic team (5).

– In the 20 minutes he played after returning from injury, Gerard Piqué won 2 balls, completed 16 out of 17 passes and cleared 4 balls.

Historic record despite defeat

FC Barcelona leaves behind a spectacular run of 17 Champions League group stage matches without conceding defeat after tonight’s game against Celtic

This Wednesday’s match in Glasgow was Tito Vilanova’s second loss of the season. His record stands at 14 victories, 1 draw and only 2 defeats

After losing away to Celtic (2-1) Barça leaves behind an incredible run of 17 matches without losing in a Champions League group stage match away from the Camp Nou. It’s been six years since the Blaugrana have lost away from Barcelona in the first phase of the European competition, the last defeat came on October 28 of 2006 at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea won thanks to a solitary goal from Drogba (1-0). Since then, Barça have won 11 matches and tied 6.

Second defeat of the season

The defeat this Wednesday in Glasgow was Tito Vilanova’s second defeat of the year. However, the team’s numbers speak for themselves after this season’s opening 17 official matches: 14 victories, 1 draw and only 2 defeats; 47 goals scored – with an average of 2.76 goals per match – and 21 goals conceded. Barça have also maintained an average ball possession ration of 66% in all of their games this season. Last year, for example, the team won 12 and tied 5 of their first 17 official matches.

In addition, Barça managed to win their first three Champions League group stage matches, a feat achieved only in the 2001/02 and 2002/03 seasons.