An historic goal in Santander

Messi and Eto'o in the 2008/09 season. PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ-FCB.
Since 2008, Leo Messi can’t stop scoring goals on his visits to Racing Santander, including the Club’s historic 5,000th league goal

This Sunday, Barça go to Santander with only one result on their minds – a win.  Ever since Guardiola took over as first team manager, Barça have won on all their visits to Racing.  Messi has been a key element, scoring five times in just three matches.  In the treble-winning 2008-09 season, Barça found themselves one down after a goalless first half, thanks to a Zigic penalty. Guardiola reacted immediately by bringing on Messi for Busquets and the Argentine took just six minutes to equalise with a precise strike from inside the goal area.

Goal nº 5,000 in the league

Barça dominated possession and pushed hard for all three points with their trademark passing game.  Finally, in the 80th minute Messi chested down the ball inside the Racing penalty area, skipped past his marker and tucked the ball away with a right foot shot from the edge of the goal area, beyond the reach of Racing goalkeeper Toño.  Messi’s goal handed Barça the win but will go down in the Club’s history as Barça’s 5,000th league goal.

Always influential

Last season, Barça kicked off their league campaign with a visit to El Sardinero. Messi needed just three minutes to put Barça ahead with a superb chip over the head of Toño. Barça never lost this early advantage and the match ended 0-3.  The following season (2009-2010), Swedish striker Ibrahimovic got the opening goal and Messi added a second three minutes later.  At halftime, Barça led 0-3, but Messi added a fourth, his second, and the match finally ended 1-4.

Guardiola: "Let everyone know: We’ve won so much because we’ve been better than the rest"

The Barça manager has emphasised that winning 13 out of 16 titles is the merit of the players. “This is all down to the athletes, who have performed so well over the whole period”

“Nobody’s gifted us anything. What we’ve won we’ve won with a lot of hard work”

Turning to Sunday’s match, Guardiola told reporters that new Racing manager Álvaro Cervera added an unknown factor to the preparations

Speaking at the pre-match press conference ahead of the game against Racing Santander, Josep Guardiola insisted that all the successes of FC Barcelona over the past four years are exclusively the responsibility of the quality and hard work of the players.  However, he emphasised that the fact that Real Madrid lead the way in the league by a margin of ten points is also a reflection of their merit.

“Winning 13 out of 16 titles is all down to the athletes.  In the end this game always belongs to the players.  We’ve won because we’ve got some fantastic players.  This is all down to the athletes, who have performed so well over the whole period”.  No doubt speaking with Jose Mourinho in mind, Guardiola made it quite clear that it is the players who win the titles.

Along the same lines, and bearing in mind recent comments by former Club vice-president Alfons Godall, Guardiola said: “Godall knows, as do Rosell and Florentino, that we have won because we’ve competed with hard work.  It’s very bad for football if the merit doesn’t go to Messi and Cristiano. We’ve won so much because we’ve been better than the rest.  If Madrid are ten points ahead it’s because they’ve been better and we have slipped up.  We accept responsibility.  And if I say we won’t win the league it’s because making up that gap with Real Madrid is very difficult, as it is to referee.”

However, Guardiola is used to this kind of pressure: “We’ve been like this for four years, always being under suspicion in everything we do for different reasons.  This year’s no exception.  It’s always for reasons that are not down to our team.”

A reply to Mourinho

Guardiola was also very clear in his reply to comments made by José Mourinho: “Yes, he may have been referring to me.  I hope he says the name next time.  Everybody understood that he was going for me.  We’re alike in that we both want to win, there’s no doubt about that.  If I’ve behaved like him in other respects then obviously I’ll have to change my ways.  I don’t feel that he’s like me.  There are words and images for anything.  There are thousands of press conferences.  Our paths are very different. We have always been honest. If in the end it really is like that I’ll have to think harder and try to see where we’ve failed. My aim is not to put my Club and players in a bad light.  I try not to make people ashamed of me as well as to generate a good atmosphere in my team.”

Asked about recent insinuations that relations with the Spanish Federation could have an influence on the referees’ decisions, Guardiola replied: “If that’s the way it is, then the system of refereeing has a big problem. Barça and the rest of the teams have an obligation to maintain a good relationship with the Federation. Referees have been put under a lot of pressure and the president of the Spanish Football Federation should step forward and make a stand. He should come out and say that you win because of Messi, Cristiano and Mourinho, because if not it seems that you win because you’re a friend of Angel Maria Villar (president of the Spanish Football Federation) and then we would have to talk about his buy-out clause”.

Santander coach an incognita

As for Sunday’s match against Racing Santander, Guardiola revealed that Barça has very little information due to the fact that manager Álvaro Cervera has only recently taken over: “We’ll go there without much information. The only thing in our hands is to win our match in Santander. That’s the only thing we can control. Santander is always a tricky ground and even more in the situation they’re in”.

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.