Barça drawn with PSG, Ajax and Apoel in Champions League Group F

barcelona 1-1 psg ibrahimovic busquets 2013Barça have been given a relatively difficult group in this year’s Champions league after being drawn with Paris Saint Germain, Ajax and Apoel in Group F. PSG with Thiago Silva, David Luiz, Lucas Mauro, Pastore, Lavezzi, Cavani and of course Zlatan Ibrahimavic will no doubt provide a tough test for Luis Enrique’s men but Barça will also remember defeat to ten-man Ajax at the Amsterdam Arena in last season’s competition. Barça have never played Apoel before but the Cypriot team will no doubt be seen as the group’s whipping boys (Just remember what Costa Rica did in the World Cup!).

The full draw is as follows: Continue reading

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Messi leads ten-man Barça to victory over Elche

Barça 3-0 Elche Messi celebrates goal 2014Leo Messi had a complicated time last season. The Argentinian star suffered a drop in form that left many culés wondering if we would ever see him play again at the level that earned him four consecutive Ballon d’Ors. The best news of Barça’s 3-0 victory over Elche in Luis Enrique’s opening league game as first-team coach was the return of Messi to something approaching his best. There were twists and turns, blistering acceleration, hunger to fight for the ball and two goals straight from the Messi textbook to secure the three points. Continue reading

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Luis Enrique keeps press guessing before Elche’s visit to Camp Nou

Barça 4-0 Elche XaviLuis Enrique’s Barça play their first official game tomorrow when Elche visit Camp Nou in the first round of the 2014/15 Liga (Sunday 9 pm). It will be a new look Barça with five players looking likely to make their league debut for the club. Rafinha appeared for the first team once in the Copa del Rey and twice in the Champions League before his year on loan at Celta but now looks set for his first Barça league game. New signings, Claudio Bravo, Jeremy Mathieu and Ivan Rakitic will probably start and there could also be some minutes for rising star Munir El-Haddadi depending on the fitness of Pedro and Neymar. Continue reading

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Neymar doubtful for Elche

Barça 1-1 Atletico Madrid Neymar celebrates goal Champions League quarter final 2014News has just come in that Neymar Jr is doubtful for Sunday’s opening game in La Liga against Elche. The Brazilian forward has sprained his left ankle in training this morning and first reports suggest he will need a couple of days rest at least. With Luis Suarez suspended and Pedro doubtful with gastroenteritis this leaves Luis Enrique with a serious lack of forwards. Leo Messi looks certain to play and he could be accompanied by Rafinha and Munir El-Haddadi who continues to train with the first team along with Sergi Samper and Sandro from Barça B.

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Catching up with the news

Gamper 2014Apologies for the lack of posts over the last two weeks. I’m now back in Barcelona and with my batteries recharged I’m ready for the new season. There has been a fair bit of news since my last post so let’s start with the transfer stories. Continue reading

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Bravo debut blunder gifts victory to Napoli

Bravo mistake Napoli€12 million signing Claudio Bravo made an unfortunate start to his Barça career tonight when his mistake cost Barça a 1-0 defeat to Napoli in Geneva. Bravo had performed well, making one spectacular first-half save to deny Marek Hamsik, but in the 80th minute his poor kick fell to Blerim Dzemaili who fired the ball straight back from 30 yards and the Barça keeper allowed the ball to squirm through his hands for the only goal of the game. Continue reading

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Luis Enrique names 22 players for Napoli

Xavi Hernández, Jeremy Mathieu and Patric Gabarrón have all been left out of the trip for tomorrow’s friendly in Geneva against Rafa Benitez’s Napoli as a precaution due to minor injuries. Alex Song and Ibrahim Afellay have also been left out presumably because Luis Enrique doesn’t include the pair in his plans. The remaining World Cup players, Messi, Mascherano, Dani Alves and Neymar returned from their holidays yesterday and will remain in Barcelona for specific training. The list of players travelling to Switzerland is as follows: Ter Stegen, Bravo, Masip, Montoya, Bartra, Piqué, Alba, Busquets, Iniesta, Sergi Roberto, Rakitic, Rafinha, Deulofeu, Pedro, Edgar Ié, Grimaldo, Samper, Halilovic, Adama, Munir, Bagnack, Sandro.

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Xavi penalty earns 1-1 draw in Nice

Nice 1-1 Barcelona Xavi penalty 2014Barça’s second preseason friendly under Luis Enriqué ended in a 1-1 draw against OGC Nice in France tonight. Dario Cvitanich fired the French side in front with a penalty after Gerard Piqué was penalised for a push on the Argentinian striker in the 20th minute. Xavi Hernández who was so close to leaving the club this summer, equalized with another spot kick halfway through the second half after Munir El-Haddadi had been floored in the area. Continue reading

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Book review: Messi by Guillem Balague

Messi bookIt’s not easy to understand what makes Leo Messi the player he is. He gives few interviews and when he does he gives little away. He prefers to keep his personal life to himself, and even his teammates, except for a select few, find him difficult to get to know. Guillem Balague, in his excellent biography on the Argentinian star, titled simply ‘Messi’, goes in search of the player’s roots and tries to get an idea of what it must be like to be Leo Messi. Continue reading

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Jeremy Mathieu confirmed as Barça’s latest signing

Jeremy Mathieu signs for Barcelona 2014It has just been made official that Jeremy Mathieu will sign for Barça for the next four years. Barça will pay the €20 million asking price to Valencia for the Frenchman. This morning Mathieu travelled from Valencia to Madrid with the Valencia squad en route to South America for preseason friendlies, but once the transfer was confirmed the player has remained in Madrid and is expected to travel directly to Barcelona to complete the signing. Finally we have signed a defender though it is not the one anybody I know of wanted. Mathieu is by no means a bad player but he’s played most of his career at left back and only converted to central defence last season. He wasn’t considered good enough for the French World Cup squad (behind the younger Sakho who we didn’t want last summer) and he is now 30 years old. I really really hope I’m proved wrong but €20 million for this player seems like a big mistake and makes more evident the massive spending we have spent on other positions which were not as in need of reinforcement.

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