September 30, 2010
The overdue Barca hottie poll for this season is now up (sidebar to the right): who do you think is the currently the finest boy on the team?
September 19, 2010
Barca hasn't had the best of luck on the Vicente Calderon in the past, not having been able to win a match there in years. Last season, the away match that Barca played against Atheltico Madrid was their only loss in the Liga; so that this time around, everyone's looking to break the curse and finally grab a win on said stadium.
Squad-wise, leftback Eric Abidal won't be travelling to Madrid with the team, having been excused to go and be with his dying grandfather on the Martinique island in the Caribbean. He is left out along with the injured Jeffren, while Pep takes along an 18-man squad composed of Valdés, Pinto, Maxwell, Alves, Piqué, Puyol, Milito, Adriano, Sergio, Mascherano, Xavi, Iniesta, Keita, Messi, Pedro, Villa and Bojan, as well as B-teamer Thiago Alcantara.
September 18, 2010
September 16, 2010
September 15, 2010
From Lio Messi with his perky dashes in and around the penalty the box to Pique ambling down the pitch with his bandaged head, every last one of our players was totally there. All the bad positioning, blankness in front of goal and general slowness of the Hercules match had seemingly evaported, replaced with glorious movement and sharp finishing and beautiful passing. To think Villa only got offside once, and that in the begining of the match before the flow of things kicked in and then there was nothing short of perfection.
Barca managed a whopping 86% possession, and unlike the ball domination of the Hercules match this time it actually mattered. The unfortunate Greek side barely got a whiff of the ball, only getting a touch when defending (or trying to). Let's look at some more numbers: Barca had twenty-eight shots to Panathinaikos' one. Did you get that? Twenty-eight to one. Their one shot being the out-of-context goal Govou managed to grab off a counter-attack to open up the scoring; before Barca snatched back control and bombarded the opposition net with five of their own. Govou's name may be on the scoresheet, but his team's performance doesn't account for it. It was all Barca out there, from start to finish.
With the electric brilliance of Barca's game last night, that Panathinaikos should score first was utterly ridiculous - so much that our boys couldn't have the other team leading for more than a minute or two, not if Lionel Messi had anything to say about it. Who else to open up Barca's scoring but the marvel that is Lio? The goal came in the classic form of Xavi to Messi to net and it was game over for the Greeks from there. You could tell that Barca weren't done, not at all. They were just getting started.
Xavi was playing full-on playmaker, feeding chance after chance to our attack and it wasn't long before he set up Barca's second goal. His corner found Busquets ready to tap it on to Villa, and it was just too easy for KingSoulPatch to send the ball home and put Barca ahead.
Barca weren't going out of the half without having a firm grasp of their lead, and it was who else but Lio that made sure of that. He hit a few crossbars along the way before finally arriving at his second goal and Barca's third of the night, rendering us watching fans ecstatic.
While Messi and Villa took turns scoring, Pedro was struggling to get his name on the list as well. With each try from him it was more apparent how much he wanted it, and finally, as the second half kicked in, he found the net for the first time since last season, and I can only imagine what joy/relief that must have been for him. Lio Messi had had the chance to grab the fourth - and his third - before Pedro's goal, when he was awarded a penalty; but it was a rather sluggish shot on his part and the keeper bested him there.
Lio continued to push for a hattrick as the match drew to an end, but it was Dani Alves who capped off the night with Barca's fifth and final, in the very last minute of loss time. Converting a sharp header from Lio's assist, Dani took off on a victory run as the final whistle sounded amid the team's celebration, a perfect end to a perfect match.
This was rather reminiscent of the treble season, when Barca was regularly scoring five and six goals per match. Such a great result so early on in this season gives the feeling that it too could end in a truckload of silver; but, you know, we mustn't get ahead of oursleves. There's still a long journey ahead of us - but man will it be exciting.
September 14, 2010
The team was all smiles during training yesterday, looking nothing at all like a team that had just fallen at the hands - well, technically feet - of what was considered an inferior side. Only person wearing a contemplative frown was, predictably, Pep Guardiola - and that is never a good sign.
Barca have the home advantage, but as Pep explained in his latest press conference, it might not be that much of an advantage seeing as the pitch is in bad condition. They're trying to get it in as best shape as possible for tonight, while the team refrain from training there.
As for our opponents, I don't know much about the Greek side but Barca as well as a several other top-notch clubs are said to be interested in their captain, 20-year-old Sotiris Ninis, so I'll be watching him. Another thing to look out for is that for the first time tonight UEFA will be using two extra officials on the pitch - one at each goal to help monitor play within the penalty area.
Jeffren alone misses out on this one, still injured, with Jonathan Dos Santos called up in his stead. Hopefully this match will be a spirit lifter for everyone.
September 12, 2010
Losing two to nothing in the first half of the season, to a team newly promoted and on the national day of Catalonia no less - it's grim any way you slice it. The fact that no one really saw this coming makes it even more dejecting, but I guess that should teach us to underestimated our opponents - even if they just came up from the second division.
Not having seen them I can't fairly judge how Barca played, but I'm going to take off from what other people are saying. Apparently the defense was awful, with the two concessions on them and not Valdes who was something of a bright spot in the scrambling lackluster side that was Barca last night. In Puyol's absence I would expect Pique to be fully able to lead the defense, but when he wasn't watering the pitch with his blood or screwing up sure chances, he was just lost, totally lost. As was most of the team.
Mascherano made his debut as a starter, and that was unexpected - isn't it like engraved in stone that debutants always come on as subs? But apparently Pep got that one right, because Masche was surprisingly integrated - as integrated as one can be into a team that is falling apart - with the rest, even if he was fouling a bit too much. Looks like he'll have a great future with Barca.
Skipping on to the attack: Messi had no eyes for his teammates and spent the night making pointless runs on his own, Bojan was on a coffee break somewhere and Villa worked extra hard to be in the wrong place all night. Looking at this game as well as previous ones, I have to say that he is getting caught offside way too much. Babe, do something about that, please.
Now let's cast a glance at the game stats. 77% possession, 17 shots with 9 on goal, and 14 corners among other set pieces. Shouldn't any team be able to get at least one past the keeper - that isn't revoked for offsides or foul - with those numbers? Very distressing.
This is more than curse of the international break. This is Barca flat-out not showing up with no excuses. Next up we start Champions League group stages against Panathinaikos, let's get ourselves together in time for it, if that's not too much to ask.
September 11, 2010
Hercules FC are newly promoted from the second division, but Pep reckons the match could be challenging, especially since Hercules have strengthened their squad over the summer with well-known such as Drenthe and Trezeguet - altogether set to be a very interesting meet!
September 10, 2010
Pictured here is Carolina Lobos, daughter of former footballer Franklin Lobos who is among the trapped miners, holding one of the signed shirts sent out by Villa on which he penned "support to you, miners, and much strength," as a gesture of solidarity with the thirty-three men.