Sunday, December 31, 2006

Barcelona deny rumours about Belletti

Barcelona FC announced that Brazilian defender Juliano Belletti will not be sold to Milan in January. What's more, Italian press reports claim the Rossoneri have made a €5 million (£3m) offer for the talented player, who scored the winner in May's Champions League final.

We must consider for this situation that the 31-year-old has been ousted from Frank Rijkaard's first-choice XI by Gianluca Zambrotta and Milan are desperate to find cover for the veteran Cafu.

In fact, they have recently targeted Belletti following complications in their efforts to sign Lazio's Massimo Oddo.

However, Belletti's agent and Barça sporting director Txiki Begiristain have both denied any official contact with the Serie A powerhouse.

"We have not spoken with Italy. Our idea is to renew his contract beyond 2008," Belletti's brother and agent Sandro expressed to the media.

Furthermore, we reported Begiristain saying: "I have no idea where the news has come from and I find it very strange, because nobody from Milan has been in contact with us.

"I can say that there is nothing at all in it. Perhaps an offer has been made to them, but nothing has arrived at the club."

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Barcelona defeated America in Club World Championship

The Club World Championship has now the runner ups decided. After Brazilian team Internacional of Porto Alegre qualified themselves for the finale at the expense of Egyptian formation Al Ahly , FC Barcelona did the same by crushing Mexican squad America with 4-0.

Before this game, FC Barcelona were a little worried because America had been in Japan a little while longer and had more time to acclimatise and the jetlag could pose a problem.

Those fears almost became reality when Argentine striker Claudio Lopez escaped the Barça defense after 5 minutes but his effort was in vain. His action was characteristic for the "Aguilas". It was able to create chances but were never persistent enough to become dangerous.

But it's important to notice that Barcelona were persistent enough. After 11 minutes Eidur Gudjohnssen scored the first goal after Andres Iniesta and Ronaldinho set it up. Rafael Marquez headed the second one against his fellow countrymen after 30 minutes after a cornerkick from Portuguese Deco.

And in the second half FC Barcelona was more playful. Ronaldinho aimed for the top corner in the rebound and scored the third goal while Deco made best goal of the game scoring from a large distance with incredible accuracy.

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Ronaldinho lead Barcelona to beat Bremen

Needing a triumph at home to advance to the second round of the Champions League, FC Barcelona managed to beat Werder Bremen, 2-0, on Tuesday.

Ronaldinho Gaucho gave the defending champions the lead in the 13th minute, sending a free kick under the wall and into the net. Eidur Gudjohnsen added the other in the 18th by sidefooting in a centering pass from French forward Ludovic Giuly.

"It's fair to say that it was a very attractive game and the crowd got right behind us," said Rijkaard.

"I think we played really good in the first half, which was very important, and took the chances which came our way.

"We showed the correct mentality throughout and I am very pleased. You have to fight for it - there are two squad out there. But we did our job and I must congratulate the team," said the Dutchman, unbeaten in European competition at the Nou Camp since taking the job in mid-2003.

In fact, the win gave Barcelona 11 points in Group A, and left Bremen in third place with 10. Bremen will now play in the UEFA Cup.

In the other Group A clash, Chelsea beat visiting Levski Sofia, 2-0, to finish in first place in the group. Andriy Shevchenko put the Blues ahead in the 27th minute and Shaun Wright-Phillips added a second in the 83rd.

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Only a victory over Bremen will save Barça

FC Barcelona face the game against Werder Bremen with a lot of pressure: only a victory will help them stay alive in the Champions League.

Indeed, another result today would see the Catalan club become the first defending champion to be knocked out of the group stage since the tournament's inception in 1992.

"We don't want to think about that," coach Frank Rijkaard said. "We are preparing to win the game. It realy doesn't help to think about losing, it doesn't cross our minds. We have to go out there and do our jobs and beat Bremen, who are a very strong team."

The "Blaugrana" team has eight points, two behind Bremen in Group A. Chelsea, which also has 10 points, has already qualified from the group stage because of its superior head-to-head record.

It's interesting to see that instead of looking to become the first repeat winner since AC Milan in 1990, a loss or draw would result in Barcelona playing in the UEFA Cup, Europe's second-tier tournament.

"We are only thinking about completing our job and we don't want to think negatively," Rijkaard expressed. "We've had a lot of success, they are a good team. It will be an interesting clash."

As we know, Rijkaard rested several players, including star forward Ronaldinho, who is the joint top scorer in the Spanish league with 10 goals, for last Saturday's 1-1 league draw against 16th-place Levante.

"I'm going to play the same way I always do -- putting more pressure on my shoulders won't help my game," Ronaldinho Gaucho said.

"Only a win will do, so the responsibility is squarely on us, but then it is for other games as well. The most important thing is to win."

Midfielder Rafael Marquez is set to return from an ankle injury, but forwards Samuel Eto'o and Lionel Messi are out because of long-term injuries. Striker Javier Saviola injured his thigh last month and is out.

We must remember that Barcelona, which leads Real Madrid by one point in the Spanish league, has still scored 18 goals in its past six games in all competitions.

However, Barcelona's form in Europe has been shaky since its 2-1 win over Arsenal in April's final, a win that capped a European campaign without a single loss. Its only two win this season have come against winless Levski, and it needed an 89th-minute equalizer from Messi in a 1-1 draw at Bremen.

"The squad is very focused," Rijkaard said. "The added motivation is that Bremen have said they are better than last year and they have pressure themselves.

"I think we have to go out and complete our work -- we can't just think about it, we have to do it."

It can take confidence in its displays against Werder Bremen in last season's group phase, where it won both games, including a 3-1 win at Camp Nou.

"The teams have changed from last year -- both have more experience. Barcelona has the experience of winning it," Bremen manager Thomas Schaaf admitted. "Our footballers are looking forward to the atmosphere and will be inspired by it. But not to go through with 10 points would be a bit hard to take."

"I think we are a good team but, of course, Barcelona are the favourites," Bremen midfielder Torsten Frings said. "Barcelona has more pressure on it than us. They are the champions and one of the best teams in the world, but we have shown our mettle too... and we know a place in the last 16 is at stake."

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Ronaldinho shines in 4-0 win over Villarreal

Brazilian star Ronaldinho netted what is already being hailed as one of the goals of the season in Spain when he completed the scoring in Barcelona's 4-0 win over Villarreal at the Nou Camp on Saturday night.

"Ronnie" opened the scoring with a 35th-minute penalty and rounded off the defending champions' victory with a spectacular overhead kick just before the end for his league-leading 10th goal this season.

New forward Eidur Gudjohnsen and midfielder Andres Iniesta also scored.

In fact, the Brazilian controlled Xavi's pinpoint cross with his chest, before sending an acrobatic overhead kick into the back of the Villarreal net, giving Villarreal's keeper Mariano Barbosa no chance to save.

Then, Ronaldinho admitted it was the sort of thing he regularly tries in training, and also revealed one of his other goalscoring hopes.

"I have scored a goal I always dreamed of," he admitted. "I thought about controlling the cross and making it as simple as possible, but the ball was as it was, and I did that.

"There's no doubt, this goal is going to stay with me for life.

"I have always attempted things like that in training, and to invent new things, and it has gone well.

"I have felt a different emotion, with the full stadium and the fans treating me with much affection," Ronaldinho concluded.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Tough win over Zaragoza leaves Barcelona almost without strikers

Barcelona got an epic 3-1 triumph over Real Zaragoza in the Nou Camp. Ronaldinho Gaucho was the star of the night, and Rijkaard team is again the best eam in Spain.

But after the match, Barcelona's attack is deserted. Argentines Lionel Messi and Javier Saviola joined Cameroon star Samuel Eto'o in the squad's injury list, which is particularly worrying as they have a busy few weeks ahead.

Indeed, Messi will undergo surgery on Tuesday and will miss the next three months after it was confirmed that he has a fracture in the fifth metatarsal of his left foot. And Javier Saviola in turn will be out of the squad for four to six weeks with a muscle injury in his left thigh.

In just over two months of competitive play, and Barcelona has lost two of the three spikes of its magical "trident" made up by Eto'o, Messi and Ronaldinho Gaucho, a society that gave the club plenty to cheer about last season.

But that was not it. Argentine talented striker Saviola is out of the team just as he emerged as a very worthy replacement in the eyes of manager Frank Rijkaard.

Barcelona president Joan Laporta said Monday that there will be no new signings, so the squad will play for the rest of this year with just four strikers - Ronaldinho, Giuly, Eidur Gudjohnsen and Santi Ezquerro, possibly with the "promotion" of Dos Santos.

The thrilling, tough match against Zaragoza left another injury, since Brazilian defensive midfielder Edmilson sprained his ankle and will miss the action for about ten days.

Monday, November 6, 2006

Barza was held by Deportivo in Riazor

In a very difficult stadium, Barcelona were lucky to escape with a 1-1 draw in their match with Deportivo Coruna on Saturday.

Indeed, once again the European and Spanish champions struggled to find their rhythm in the face of hard-running opponents determined to unsettle them at every chance.

It's good to say that Ronaldinho Gaucho put Barca ahead from the penalty spot just before half-time, but Depor’s unrelenting pressure earned an equaliser in the 73rd minute when Juan Rodriguez scored after keeper Victor Valdes had saved a Fabian Estoyanoff penalty.

The Blaugrana side moved on to 20 points, two ahead of second-placed Sevilla. Real Madrid, who are a point further back, are placed third.

Dutch coach Frank Rijkaard gave Argentine frontman Javier Saviola a rare start in the Riazor with strikers Samuel Eto’o and Eidur Gudjohnsen out injured.

However, they had few sights of goal as a bright and busy Depor hustled them all over the ground.

Deportivo La Coruña stifled their creativity until Barca’s outstanding Andres Iniesta started to make his presence felt and he was involved in the move that led to the first penalty. Home defender Juanma made a late challenge on Saviola at the edge of the area and Ronaldinho sent the goalkeeper the wrong way from the spot.

In fact, the Brazilian was lucky to still be on the pitch at that moment after making a studs up challenge on Alberto Lopo just a few minutes earlier.

Depor’s youngsters never eased off though and were rewarded for their efforts when former Barcelona youth teamer Joan Verdu was brought down by Edmilson in the area.

As we all saw, Valdes guessed right to save Estoyanoff’s spot kick but Rodriguez squeezed the rebound inside the far post.

It's important to mention that a frantic finale saw both sides go close to finding a winner with another former Barca youth team footballer Cristian spurning the clearest of openings.

Friday, November 3, 2006

Chelsea got a 2-2 draw in Barcelona

FC Barcelona only got a 2-2 draw with Chelsea in the Champions League, Group A. The English team earned a late draw at Barcelona on an injury-time goal from Didier Drogba. Chelsea have 10 points from four matches and are nearly certain of advancing, with two rounds remaining in the group stage.

Portuguese player Deco gave the defending champions a 1-0 lead after only three minutes on a low shot from just outside the area.

Talented Frank Lampard equalised in the 52nd with a curving shot from the goal line but former Chelsea striker Eidur Gudjohnsen made it 2-1 in the 58th, setting the stage for Drogba’s equalizer.

It's fair to say that Chelsea and Barcelona are building a history. Chelsea ousted the Catalans from the tournament two years ago and Barcelona eliminated Chelsea last season en route to winning their second European Cup title. And Chelsea beat Barcelona 1-0 two weeks ago in London.

Afer the game, Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho, who felt his team should have been awarded two penalties, criticised Barcelona for diving.

“I really think it is not easy for a referee to be a referee when the players are minute after minute diving,” Mourinho said.

In fact, defending champions Barcelona have only five points in the group, two behind Werder Bremen, who beat Levski Sofia 3-0. Bremen play at Barcelona on December 5 in a game that could determine which squads advances.

“We have to beat the other teams in our group now,” Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard admitted. “We have no choice — we have to do it.”

Monday, October 30, 2006

Rijkaard is happy with the victory

Barça's coach Frank Rijkaard feels his squad is back on course after watching them bounce back from successive defeats with a second win in a row.

Indeed, the latest in a 3-0 win over Recreativo Huelva at the Nou Camp has tremendously boosted the players' morale and offered fresh impetus of a title-winning season.

We must say that the comfortable triumph on Saturday, secured courtesy of a Ronaldinho brace and a strike by Xavi, kept Barca top of the Primera Liga table, two points clear of rivals Real Madrid who are third.

Despite those arguments, for Rijkaard, it will have restored the badly-needed confidence in the team after defeats against Chelsea and Real Madrid in the space of a week.

They defeated Badalona 2-1 in midweek in the Copa del Rey but the convincing win over Recreativo would have provided the Catalan giants with a much-needed fillip ahead of their crucial Champions League tie against Chelsea tomorrow.

"I have seen an important improvement in the team and we must continue working in this way," Rijkaard expressed after the match.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Puyol will play against Madrid despite injury

These are good news for Barcelona. Their captain Carles Puyol will play in this weekend's league match against Real Madrid despite a back injury.

Indeed, Puyol trained apart from his teammates on Thursday, three days before the derby against Barcelona's biggest rival, Real Madrid, at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.

The footballer came off in the 74th minute of Wednesday's 1-0 Champions League defeat to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

"It's just that in the first half I received a blow in my back and then my right leg started hurting," Puyol told a local newspaper.

It's important to know that after six Spanish league games, Barcelona leads with 16 points, five more than fifth-place Real Madrid.

Monday, October 9, 2006

Barcelona is after Australian Lucas Neill

There's an australian target in the club. Barcelona assistant coach Johan Neeskens has admitted that the club is still interested in Blackburn's Lucas Neill.

In fact, the full back has impressed for Australia during the World Cup this summer and has been linked with a host of clubs. Blackburn however hung on to him past deadline day.

Neill is in his final contract year, and Blackburn might try to sell him in January. Liverpool and Milan already expressed interest, and Barcelona now joined them.

"I can say that we have signed some great defenders, but things can change in a year and I know that Frank Rijkaard is following this player very closely," Neeskens expressed.

We must keep in mind that Barcelona already signed Zambrotta and Thuram during the summer, but are apparently still looking for options.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Barcelona squad supports Eto'o in victory over Bilbao

It was good to see the team perform like this. New striker Eidur Gudjohnsen and Javier Saviola scored to help Barcelona beat 10-man Athletic Bilbao 3-1 and take a three-point lead in the Spanish league on Saturday.

Indeed, Gudjohnsen, replacing injured Samuel Eto'o, struck Barcelona's second goal from Xavi Hernandez's pinpoint pass in the 61st minute, while substitute Saviola added the third 16 minutes later to seal his team's win on coach Frank Rijkaard's 44th birthday.

The skillful Saviola hadn't scored a league goal for Barcelona since 2004 as he was on loan to Monaco and Sevilla for the last two seasons.

In fact, Bilbao took an early lead in the fifth-round game at its San Mames stadium through Fran Yeste but was then hit by the 19th-minute ejection of left back Javier Casas, and an own-goal by Ustaritz Aldekoaotalora just before the interval.

Barcelona, which is unbeaten this season, has 13 points, while Real Madrid and Valencia have 10 points. Sevilla and Atletico Madrid have nine. Bilbao stayed 18th with just two draws from its opening five games.

We must remembert that Bilbao's new president Ana Urkijo — the first woman to take charge of the club — attended her first game in the role. Urkijo replaced Fernando Lamikiz, who resigned on Wednesday in the face of criticism of his running of the team.

Barcelona players took the field wearing green T-shirts bearing the message "Cheer up, Samu" in Catalan, dedicated to Eto'o. The Cameroon striker tore the meniscus in his right knee during Wednesday's Champions League game with Werder Bremen and is expected to be sidelined for five months.

Midfielder Yeste scored with a meaty volley in the 11th minute from a cross from the left by Fernando Llorente which took a deflection off Barcelona defender Rafael Marquez.

The visitor team equalized when Bilbao central defender Ustaritz, pressured by rival captain Carles Puyol, deflected Gudjohnsen's cross past his keeper Inaki Lafuente.

Finally, Gudjohnsen was replaced 10 minutes after his goal by Argentina's Saviola, who also furthered his claims for a first-team place in the absence of Eto'o by scoring. This three points are really important.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Eto'o lead Barcelona against Osasuna

Samuel Eto’o proved that he is the most important striker in Barcelona's squad. In order to make it clear, he scored two and set up another to steer the Spanish champions to a classy 3-0 triumph against Osasuna at the Nou Camp on Saturday.

The Cameroon star put his side in front with just over a minute on the clock, added a second after racing on to a clever lofted pass from midfielder Deco and set up Argentine teenager Lionel Messi for the third before the half was up.

In fact, this win made it two wins out of two for the Catalans, who begin the defence of their Champions League crown at home to Bulgarian side Levski Sofia tomorrow.

We must mention that Valencia also made it two from two after an early goal from Spain striker David Villa earned them a gritty 1-0 win away to Atletico Madrid.

Current Champions Barca got off to a dream start in front of their home fans with a beautifully fashioned goal.

Ronaldinho Gaucho skipped down the right flank towards the area and exchanged an intricate one-two with Deco before cutting a pass back towards the near post where Eto’o was on hand to stab the ball past Osasuna keeper Ricardo.

The Blaugrana team settled into their usual slick passing game for the next 25 minutes before Eto’o added a second goal to take his tally for the season to three.

The Barca forward hooked the ball over the advancing Ricardo after he had latched on to a deep pass from Deco that had skimmed off the head of an Osasuna defender.

In fact, Eto’o set up his side’s third eight minutes before the break when he snapped up the ball after pressing Ricardo into a mistake as he tried to clear his area.

After that move, he cut the ball back to Messi who threaded a low shot between Ricardo’s legs to make it 3-0.

It's important to notice that new signing Lilian Thuram, who was in the starting line-up in preference to skipper Carles Puyol, gave an assured performance in the centre of the back four, restricting the visitors to just one clear shot on goal two minutes from time. In the end, it was clear that Barcelona had a very good night.

Wednesday, September 6, 2006

Historic shirt deal with Unicef

This is a very important moment in the club's history. Champions League winners Barcelona have signed a shirt deal with international children's welfare organization Unicef.

Barcelona's president Joan Laporta announced the historic deal in Paris on Wednesday - Unicef's will be the first name to appear on front of the club's jersey.

"Indeed, it's an historic agreement which shows the world our club is more than just a club," said Laporta, who was re-elected as Barcelona president in August.

"It's an initiative with soul. Barca can help the children of the world."

He expressed: "It's an historic moment as it is a prestigious logo and not just a publicity brand.

"I think it's an honour to wear the Unicef logo because it's an agreement without precedent for Unicef as well."

We must keep in mind that founded in 1899, Barcelona have always resisted the temptation to have a paying shirt sponsor, although the club has advertised Catalan station TV3 on the left sleeve since 2005.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Important victory against Celta in the opener

FC Barcelona started their defence of the Spanish league title with a dramatic 3-2 vicotry Monday at hapless Celta Vigo. Their first game of the season was faced without Ronaldinho.

Indeed, the reigning Spanish champions needed a spectacular late volley from debutant Eidur Gudjohnsen to break the resistance of Celta de Vigo.

"It was a heart-stopping game," Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard admitted. "I think we just about deserved to win, but Celta made things really hard for us."

It's important to mention that the late win leaves Barca second in La Liga behind Getafe, who surprisingly won 2-0 Sunday at Osasuna.

A tight first half in Vigo saw few chances for either side. Five minutes before the break, Fernando Baiano opened the scoring for Celta after Barca goalkeeper Victor Valdes had spilled a previous shot.

Then, Barca came out for the second half breathing fire and quickly turned the score around.

In a very good move, Samuel Etoo made it 1-1 with a shot from the left. It was the minute 55, and four minutes later Lionel Messi put Barca ahead from a similar position.

In the 65th minute, Gustavo Lopez made it 2-2 for Celta after the shaky Catalan defence failed to clear a free-kick.

However, Barca refused to settle for the draw and laid siege to the Celta goal, encouraged by the sending-off of local midfielder Jose Iriney.

The pressure paid off in the 86th minute, when Gudjohnsen - who had come on as a late sub - made it 3-2 with a powerful shot. It was a really good result in order to gain confidence.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Excellent victory over Espanyol to win Super Cup Title

The season is about to start but Barcelona already won an important title: they are the Spanish Super Cup Champions after defeating Espanyol 3-0 in the second-leg of the Final on Sunday.

It's important to mention that a goal from Xavi and a brace from Portuguese international Deco at Nou Camp gave Barcelona a 4-0 aggregate victory over the King's Cup winners.

It's also fair to say that Ronaldinho Gaucho's magic helped stun the visitors with an early opener.

The Brazilian talent bedazzled Espanyol defender Sergio Sanchez before sending an inch-perfect cross to Xavi who headed home the opener three minutes into the match.

And nine minutes FC Barcelona were up by two after some brilliant teamwork.

Brazilian defender Belletti raced down the right flank after connecting with a deft through pass from Xavi. The player cut back with a baseline pass to Deco who drilled home the second for Rijkaard's side.

Once again Deco connected with a Belletti cross to add Barcelona's third goal with a brilliant bicycle kick on the hour mark. It was the most spectacular moment of the encounter.

We must remember that this win gave Barcelona their second successive Super Cup title and seventh overall, matching the record of rivals Real Madrid. Good for them.

Friday, August 4, 2006

Barcelona tour in Mexico: 3-0 win over Tigres

In a very good game, Ronaldinho and Eidur Gudjohnsen both scored as FC Barcelona recorded a convincing 3-0 win over UNAM Tigres in Mexico for their second victory in the pre-season campaign.

We must keep in mind that a number of first team players have only trained for a few days, but the majority were given a run out as Barelona proved that they are as strong as ever. Coach Frank Rijkaard did use a number of youngsters as he fielded 22 players in the win. The Blaugrana's Mexican duo Rafael Márquez and Giovanni dos Santos were named in the starting line-up and were warmly applauded by the home supporters in a packed Estadio Universitario in Monterrey.

The Catalan team scored 6 minutes into the match following a free kick by Mexican Rafael Marquez, who plays for the Spanish team. Defender Marquez hit a soft ball past the Tigres' barrier into center of the crease where Balderas tried to clear the ball but kicked it into his own net.

And in a very good move, the second goal was scored with a free kick by Ronaldinho. At the 70th minute, the Brazilian sent the free kick over the Tigres' barrier and beyond the reach of the goalie into the net.

Ronaldinho Gaucho also assisted in Barcelona's 3rd goal at the minute 77. Indeed, he slipped a pass to Eidur Gujohnsen who put it past the Mexican goalie.

"This victory is positive because we won and managed to get almost all our players in the game," Frank Rijkaard expressed in the end of the game. "The Tigres had bad luck with their definition, but for us it was an interesting match and we had to work a bit."

Monday, July 24, 2006

Thuram joins Barcelona after Juventus scandal

The Italian scandal is over for him. French player Lilian Thuram has passed a medical and signed a two-year contract with Barcelona to enhance th soccer power of the European Champions.

"I am absolutely pleased. To play at this club is the best thing that could happen to a footballer," Thuram told the club's website.

According to unofficial sources, Barcelona have paid troubled Serie A club Juventus five million euros for the player.

We must keep in mind that Thuram has won a record 121 caps with France and announced his international retirement after losing in the World Cup final match to Italy earlier this month.

He was a key member of the French side that won the World Cup in 1998 and the European Championship in 2000, and we also know that Thuram can play in the centre of defence or at right back.

French Monaco and italian Parma are some of his former clubs, and Thuram won four league titles with Juventus alongside defender Gianluca Zambrotta, who has also agreed a move to Barcelona from Turin.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Edmilson trains again

He is back. Brazilian player Edmilson said he felt no ill-effects on his return to training with Barcelona after a knee operation that caused him to miss the World Cup.

"I felt really good and did not notice any pain," the 30-year-old was quoted as saying in Barcelona sports daily publication on Tuesday.

We must remember that Edmilson pulled out of Brazil's World Cup squad after suffering a torn knee cartilage in his right knee when the team were preparing for the championship in Switzerland at the end of May. The midfielder was operated on in Brazil on June 1.

The talented player, who can also play in the centre of defence, joined Barca from Olympique Lyon in 2004 but missed much of his first season at the team after tearing the cruciate ligament in his right knee during a league encounter in October.

It's good to mention that the Spanish and European champions returned to training on Monday with striker Eidur Gudjohnsen joining his new team mates for the first time since his 12 million-euro ($15 million) move from english side Chelsea.

"I know I've come to a really good team where there are a lot of quality players," said the Icelandic international. "I know that I won't be playing every game, but I'm determined to win myself a place in the squad."

Tuesday, July 4, 2006

Giuly extends blaugrana deal

According to official sources, French footballer Ludovic Giuly will extend his contract with FC Barcelona until June 2008.

"Ludovic Giuly, who had a contract until 2007, will extend his deal with Barcelona for another season," the club announced. "The buy-out clause on his contract will remain at 60 million euros ($76.87 million)."

The midfielder, who was dismissed by French coach Domenech for the World Cup, will sign a new deal on Wednesday.

As we know, Giuly joined Barca from Monaco in 2004 after helping the Ligue 1 club reach the final of the Champions League. He has won two league titles with the Catalans and was part of the side that defeated Arsenal in the final of the Champions League in Paris.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Lampard will not be "Blaugrana"

Barcelona board has denied romours about Frank Lampard's move to Cataluña.

The England midfielder has been constantly linked with a move to the Camp Nou in recent months, yet the Catalans' president Joan Laporta has denied such a possibility.

"Lampard is a really good player, one I admire," Laporta is quoted as saying in The Sun. "But I can say that we definitely will not be signing him this season. Our central midfield is closed now."

In fact, Lampard has become a key member of Chelsea side since moving from West Ham United under the reign of Claudio Ranieri, and has constantly assured that he is more than happy at Stamford Bridge.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Barcelona might break up with Saviola

Despite Saviola's good performance at the World Cup, FC Barcelona will be moving Argentina striker.

At least that's what Barcelona technical secretary Aitor "Txiki" Begiristain said: Saviola, whose yearlong loan with Sevilla ended recently, will be offloaded despite impressive displays so far in the World Cup. He has started both matches, scoring in the 2-1 win over Ivory Coast.

"I have to say that Saviola's good play at the World Cup in Germany will not prevent him from leaving our club. This decision is not based on performances over a game or two," Begiristain was quoted as saying by sports daily Mundo Deportivo on Sunday.

"We don't dispute the player's talent. However it is difficult for him to fit in to the idea of football we have."

In fact, Saviola has a year remaining on his contract with the European champion, and he is of interest to Arsenal, according to a British press report on Sunday.

But Begiristain said Saviola's "priority" was to remain in Spain and Barcelona would study offers for the 24-year-old forward, who joined the club from River Plate in 2001 and scored 61 times in three years.

"We'll see which is closest to his wishes and which financially is the best for the player and the club," Begiristain expressed.

Monday, June 5, 2006

Eto'o has big projects

Barcelona's best striker Samuel Eto'o achieved a lot during the last season. Despite his absence at the World Cup, he feels happy. And he has many erasons to feel that way:

He was voted African player of the year for the third consecutive time, being the first African to get a hat trick award. What's more, the African star has emerged as FIFA's third best football player of the year after Barcelona teammate Ronaldinho and Chelsea's Frank Lampard. He won La Liga with Barcelona for the second consecutive time, the UEFA Champions League and emerged with the title of pichichi, which is traditionally awarded to the best scorer in the Spanish tournament. He received several other distinguished awards from Cameroon, Turkey, Israel and Saudi Arabia in appreciation for his firm fight against racism in football.

But now he has new dreams and projects. Some of them are the new Foundation Samuel Eto'o (FSE), and a football academy in the Cameroon coastal town of Kribi. In fact, the football academy is the biggest project of the foundation, designed to unearth a new generation of Cameroon players. Other preoccupations of the foundation are in health and social activities.

Speaking at a press conference in Yaounde on May 30, prior to the laying of a foundation stone, Eto'o announced to the applause of his audience that his project is not about a football academy -- but rather football academies. In other words, he explained, Eto'o is going to open as many centers as possible across the nation, so every aspiring youth can have an opportunity to attend.

The player explained that he is concerned with training not only footballers but also "social ambassadors." That's why the recruited team will be actively involved in health and social activities across his country.

This foundation will seek methods of improving the health and medical facilities. In fact, he already announced a symbolic donation to the government, "We already have some ambulances ... to hand over to the government."

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Belleti gives Barcelona their second Champions League title

Arsenal and Barcelona were playing the Final in Paris, and with all those famous players on the field, no one would have figured that Juliano Belletti will be the one to make the difference.

Not even him. But the Barcelona defender came on the field with 19 minutes to go Wednesday and soon scored the deciding goal to give his team a 2-1 victory over 10-man Arsenal to win the Champions League.

We must remember that the Gunners, which played with 10 men from the 18th minute after goalkeeper Jens Lehmann was red-carded, took the lead in the 37th at Stade de France when defender Sol Campbell headed in the first goal.

African best player Samuel Eto'o tied the match for Barcelona in the 76th minute, and Belletti scored the winning goal in the 81st.In that play, Henrik Larsson found Belletti on the run, and the Brazilian charged through the English defence and sent his angled shot off replacement keeper Almunia and into the net for his first goal in a European competition.

"Scoring a goal in the Champions League is really hard for a full back," Belletti claims. "I thought this afternoon that perhaps I would have played, but I knew it was difficult. The Champions League is for all the persons who don't appear in the press. It is for everyone."

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Sevilla beat Barcelona

Barcelona travelled to Andalucia without eight of their most influential players. This was taken advantage of by Sevilla, who took a secure lead with goals from Alves Daniel in the 22nd minute and Aitor Ocio in the 76th.

It's important to notice that Barcelona came back through Santiago Ezquerro in the 41st minute and Sylvinho in the 43rd. However. Sevilla had some energy left and Kepa got the winning goal in the 76th minute.

We must mention that Gabri was sent off for the visitors in the dying minutes, leaving Barcelona with just ten players.

Sevilla are now fourth, which gives access to the Champions League third preliminary round. The Andalucians share this position with Osasuna, as both have 65 points. On Tuesday, Sevilla face Real Madrid while Osasuna host Valencia.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Ronaldinho's dreams of Glory

The best player of the squad, Ronaldinho says that having the chance to win trophies such as the Champions League is precisely the reason he joined Barcelona three years ago.

"When I came here my objective was to win important competitions like the Spanish league and the Champions League and now I am very close to realising that dream," the Brazilian said on Wednesday, a week before his side meet Arsenal in the final match.

"Before I came here there were other teams that were interested, but I wanted to look for a club and a place which I could adapt to rapidly and one that was better for my career.

"I'm really happy that I made that decision. I'm enjoying myself a great deal here."

The 26-year-old Brazilian joined Barcelona from Paris Saintt Germain for a fee of $25 million in 2003 despite interest from rivals Real Madrid and Manchester United.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Barcelona advanced to the Champions League Final

Barcelona and AC Milan tied 0-0 and the Spanish team advanced to the Final game in Paris against Arsenal. The Blaugrana side took the win over Milan with a measured celebration rather than unbridled euphoria. They want to accomplish higher objectives.

"We accomplished our goal in this match," was coach Rijkaard's statement on his side's achievement in qualifying for their first final in 12 years. "But this is not the end, we want to go to Paris and win the title."

In fact, Barcelona have never missed a European season in the 50 years since continental competition began. However, they have won the Champions League trophy only once.

"Our dreams are a step closer to become true" said striker Samuel Eto'o. "We had to suffer to get here but it will be nothing compared to the joy if we can win the final. We all want to get the victory and dedicate it to the fans."

The African striker is convinced that past disappointments, such as last season's elimination by Chelsea in the first knockout round, have given the side a harder edge that has enabled them to beat the English champions and Milan this time round.

"We learned last year that we have to know how to defend a result and that's what we have done. We've learned how to struggle to achieve what we want."

Even though hos team dominated for long periods of the game against Milan on Wednesday, they certainly had to sweat it out to beat the Italian side.

Eto'o and Henrik Larsson were denied what looked like certain goals by some top-class saves from Brazilian goalkeeper Dida, while defender Juliano Belletti spurned a gilt-edged chance with an air-shot when the goal was at his mercy.

We must consider that Milan looked to have forced the tie into extra time when Andriy Shevchenko headed home midway through the second half, just to see the goal ruled out for an apparent foul on centre back Carles Puyol.

But Barca kept their heads and managed to become only the second side to beat Milan in the semi-finals since the European Cup began 50 years ago.

The final match will be an oppostunity to see the two most talented players of the World face to face: Ronaldinho and Thierry Henry.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Barcelona beat AC Milan in Italy

Barcelona edged AC Milan 1-0 and a crowd of 76,883 at the San Siro on Tuesday night just couldn't believe it. French midfielder Giuly score the goal that makes Barcelona dream of Champions League final.

We must say that AC Milan had the better of the first half, Alberto Gilardino hitting the post with a snapshot from a tight angle and Víctor Valdés denying Andriy Shevchenko with a wonderful block shortly afterwards.

However, there was a play that changed everything. In the 57th minute, Ronaldinho Gaucho lifted through a magnificent pass for Ludovic Giuly, who impressed in controlling the ball and then sweeping it past Dida, Milan's keeper. It was an away goal crafted by the gods.

Frank Rijkaard gave the rival credit: "It was an absolutely important result and I want to congratulate my squad. We were playing at a tough venue against a great squad and it wasn't easy."

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Great victory with Champions League smell

Spain has two teams in the semifinals of the Champions League, and they played on Friday. But this time it was a Spanish League match. Despite it, Samuel Eto'o managed to score the winning goal to help Barcelona beat Villarreal 1-0.

As we said, the match could have been a preview to the Champions League final next month. It's a must to say, though, that both teams had key absentees.

Barcelona was without world class player Ronaldinho, who also missed last weekend's draw against Santander with a right thigh injury.

Carles Puyol was able to play, after Barcelona's successful appeal against his suspension on Thursday. We must remember that Barcelona is set to meet AC Milan on Tuesday in a Champions League first-leg semi-final.

In the other hand, Villarreal, enjoying a sparkling Champions League debut season, will play Arsenal in London on Wednesday.

Sunday, April 9, 2006

Barcelona Keeps the Lead

Barcelona FC runs closer to their 18th Spanish league title. The "blaugranas" got a 2-2 draw Sunday against Racing Santander.

This draw keeps Barcelona 11 points ahead of Valencia and Real Madrid - who share second place - with just six games left to play.

It's important to say that Frank Rijkaard's squad now have 70 points from 32 games, while Valencia and Real have 59.

All the scoring in Santander came in an eventful first half. Barca took the lead through Henrik Larsson, but Antonito Perez and Oscar Serrano quickly gave the hosts a surprising 2-1 lead.

African star Samuel Etoo levelled for Barca just before the break. The second half was a more relaxed affair, with both teams appearing to settle for a point toward the end.

Saturday, April 1, 2006

All Eyes on the Derby

Barcelona is preparing everything to face the classic enemy in the Spanish Derby on Saturday. The will host Real Madrid at the Camp Nou.

Frank Rijkaard claims he will not be resting players for Saturday's big game against Real Madrid in order to save them for next week's Champions League quarter-final with Benfica.

"Everyone who is fit will play, I will not rest players," Rijkaard told sports daily Sport on Friday.

The Catalans are without the injured Rafael Marquez and Edmilson in defence, along with livewire Argentine forward Lionel Messi, for Saturday's game.

It's important to say that Silvinho has been left out of the Barcelona squad for precautionary reasons. In the other hand, captain Carles Puyol returned from suspension and will be able to play.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Benfica resist Barcelona and hold a 0-0 draw

Barcelona went to Portugal in order to defeat Benfica and assure a place in the semifinals. But the local team had enough power to hold them to a 0-0 draw. Ronaldinho and Eto'o couldn't break the deadlock.

The Spanish side had a string of opportinities to score, but a mix of poor finishing and stubborn defending kept Benfica in with a chance of springing a surprise in the return leg of this Champions League quarter-final next week.

Local keeper Moretto de Souza performed a double save from Ronaldinho Gaucho, initially parrying his fierce drive before tipping the rebound over the bar. That was an important moment of the game.

Samuel Eto'o, Ronaldinho and Mark Van Bommel shot many times to beat Benfica, but they were not precise enough.

In the second half, Fabrizio Miccoli replaced Laurent Robert. With this decision, Benfica's attack immediately improved.

In the 80th, Sabrosa got behind the Barcelona defense but Valdes rushed out to stop him.

Giorgos Karagounis then managed to hit the Barcelona post with a free kick from 25 meters in the most dangerous move of the last part. The game was esciting indeed, but it wasn't a good result for Barcelona.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Henry supported Eto'o in the tough time

With all the speculations about Thierry Henry going to Barcelona, Samuel Eto'o was asked by the press to give an opinion.

What the press didn't know is that the two strikers are very good friends. After this week's victory over Getafe, Eto'o said in public: "It's ridiculous people are saying I'll be upset if Thierry Henry was to join us.

"They say I'd be upset because he'd take my place. But how can I be angry with my great friend Thierry?!!"

Now we know that when Eto'o suffered racial abuse from Real Zaragoza fans last month, it was the French striker who sent him a series of SMS messages in support of the Cameroon star. A really good gesture.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

African smile in victory over Getafe

Samuel Eto'o was looking forward to score in this game. It was a special occasion since he was just one goal away from the 100 goals mark in the Spanish Football. And he did it twice. With these goals, Barcelona got an important victory over Getafe 3-1 and they're closer to a second straight title.

In the very beginning of the match, Nano Macedo had given the visitors a fourth-minute lead today, and Anibal Matellan put the ball into his own net to tie the match.

And the Blaugranas broke clear from the resulting corner and Eto'o put the finishing touch to a stunning passing move to give the Catalans a 2-1 lead.

In fact, Deco gave a good pass to Mark van Bommel on the right, the Dutchman slipped a pass to Eto'o who exchanged a slick one-two with Giuly and then fired home for the 100th league goal of his career. He scored another goal 16 minutes later, and Barcelona assured the victory.

Barcelona, Spain's second-most-successful squad after Real Madrid, has 67 points from 29 of 38 games. Madrid has 14 fewer points and has played one a less match. Valencia and Osasuna are a further point back.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Osasuna achieved what Chelsea couldn't

Nine-man Barcelona were shocked 2-1 by a hard Osasuna on Sunday in one of their worse nights on the pitch this season.

Ronaldinho and Samuel Eto'o couldn't satisfy the fans, in a game that will everyone wants to forget.

Barcelona had the opportunity to put more daylight between them and chasing teams Real Madrid and Valencia but the gap remains nine points.

But a mistake by Barca keeper Victor Valdes gifted Osasuna the opening goal for Valmiro Lopez Valdo, then Francisco Punal knocked home a 59th-minute penalty shot. Henrik Larsson gave Barcelona some consolation with a goal after a deft through ball by Ronaldinho Gaucho with 18 minutes left.

Worse was to come for Barcelona who finished the match with nine men after Thiago Motta was sent off with a red card.

Wednesday, March 8, 2006

Barcelona eliminate Chelsea

A magical moment of Ronaldinho gave Barcelona a well-deserved place in the Champions League quarter-finals after they drew 1-1 with Chelsea here on Tuesday in their last 16 second leg match and a 3-2 victory on aggregate. It was a sweet revenge for last year’s 5-4 aggregate defeat by the Premiership champions and left Liverpool as the only English side to have ever beaten the Catalan giants at home and that was 30 years ago.

In fact, Ronaldinho’s sixth goal in seven Champions League matches came just over 10 minutes from time while Chelsea got a generously awarded penalty in stoppage time as Giovanni van Bronckhorst was adjudged to have fouled John Terry though it looked as if he had got the ball. Frank Lampard slotted home the penalty but it was all to no avail as the referee blew the final whistle almost immediately. “The best one did not win,” said Chelsea coach Jose Mourinho, who must have had little cause for complaint as his side had never really threatened to pull off the victory. “Eleven against 11 we would have won (he said referring to the sending-off of Chelsea’s Asier del Horno in the first leg). “The first leg we lost an important piece and we had to come here 2-1 down. If we had a bit of luck and scored before the last minute it could have changed us mentally and it would have been different.”

We can say that Mourinho even had a go at the referee Markus Merk. “As it was after the penalty the referee did not play another second.” But Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard focussed on his team. “The team pulled off a really good performance,” said the former Dutch footballing great. “We stayed focussed till the end and although we made some tactical mistakes our defenders held the line really well.” Barcelona’s veteran Swedish striker Henrik Larsson said Chelsea had played well but there was no doubt who deserved to progress. “We showed we were the better side for the two legs,” said the 34-year-old.

“We tried to play our normal game and try and not give them too much space behind us as they are quality players. We tried to fill the gaps. I think in the first-half we had everything under control and it meant as time went on we were even more in control.” Chelsea forward Didier Drogba, who was sent-off in the match in Barcelona last year, had a glorious opportunity to open the score in the 20th minute but he directed his header tamely into the hands of Victor Valdes. The Ivorian striker had not been too far away 10 minutes earlier from getting to a delightful cross by Joe Cole but it flew inches over his head. Chelsea’s physical tactics had an effect on the more elegant style of the Barcelona side and in the end it did for Lionel Messi who pulled up with an injured hamstring after a foul by William Gallas and had to be replaced by Larsson.

Gallas was fortunate not to be called for a penalty after barging over Ronaldinho just before the half hour mark but in truth Barcelona had yet to test Petr Cech. Carvalho - whose controversial holding of the Barcelona goalkeeper last year resulted in Chelsea’s decisive goal - could also have been penalised for a penalty after dragging Edmilson to the ground inside the penalty area. However it was Valdes who was again tested as Arjen Robben cut in from the right in the 38th minute but the Barcelona keeper got down well to save his shot and not to let it rebound into the path of Drogba. Chelsea again went close a minute from the end of the first-half as John Terry won the ball in the air and Cole produced an inspired overhead lob which beat Valdes but landed on top of the net.

In the end, Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho made a double switch in the 59th minute bringing on Eidur Gudjohnsen and Crespo for Drogba and Damien Duff. However it was Barcelona who were on target shortly after that as Samuel Eto’o at last got a shot in that forced Cech to beat it away and Terry headed it to safety. Hernan Crespo nearly made a dramatic entrance as on the hour Cole’s expertly directed cross was met by the Argentinian at the near post but his shot trickled wide.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Samuel Eto'o taunted in Barcelona's victory

Racism is in the headlines again. Cameroon striker Samuel Eto'o threatened to leave the field in the 77th minute when he received racist taunts from the crowd, but was persuaded to remain by Barcelona manager Frank Rijkaard and finish off the club's 2-0 victory at Zaragoza on Saturday.

The three-time African player of the year could be seen saying ''No more,'' and was encouraged by teammates to remain. Eto'o also was taunted by Zaragoza supporters at La Romareda stadium a year ago, when the striker responded by mimicking a monkey.

Indeed, the striker's actions follow those of Ivory Coast's Marc Zoro, who threatened to leave the field during Messina's Italian league game with Inter Milan last November. Saturday's incident likely will intensify recent calls for football authorities to impose harsher sanctions against clubs whose fans racially taunt opposing teams' players.

We can say, though, that Barcelona took the lead three minutes later when Ronaldinho converted a penalty, awarded after Albert Celades was called for hand ball that prevented a goal by Edmilson. Celades was ejected.

Substitute Henrik Larsson added the second goal two minutes later when he clipped home a low cross from the right by Eto'o.

Barcelona's victory in Rijkaard's 100th league game at the helm of the club gave it 58 points and extended its lead in the standings to nine points.

Barcelona's entered the game coming off Wednesday's 2-1 Champions League win at Chelsea. It appeared cautious against Zaragoza, which eliminated it from the Copa del Rey quarter-finals last month and ended its 18-game winning streak with a 4-2 win in the first leg.

In fact, Zaragoza came closest in the 29th minute of a tense first half when goalkeeper Victor Valdes tipped tipped a fierce shot by striker Ewerthon over the bar. Barcelona's only reply came 14 minutes later when Thiago Motta put a shot just wide.

Barcelona substitute Mark van Bommel fired just over the bar in the 61st as the game remained tight after halftime.

Is important to notice that Zaragoza, which has advanced to the Copa del Rey final after also eliminating Madrid, suffered its first defeat in five league games.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Barcelona beats Chelsea 2-1

FC Barcelona came from a goal down against ten-man Chelsea to earn a 2-1 victory at Stamford Bridge in another controversial UEFA Champions League meeting between the two sides.

The major talking point this time came in the 37th minute when Asier Del Horno was strangely sent off after clashing with Lionel Messi in a decision that was amazingly harsh to say the really least.

In fact, Jose Mourinho's men still managed to go ahead after 59 minutes when Thiago Motta diverted the ball into his own net after a mix-up with keeper Victor Valdes from a Frank Lampard free kick.

Barca replied in kind with John Terry heading into his own net from Ronaldinho's free kick levelling the clash up after 71 minutes, before the Spanish champions started to put on the pressure.

The Premiership champions were forced into some desperate defending, but they can not hold out and Samuel Eto'o headed Frank Rijkaard's men in front ten minutes from time ensuring they had a 2-1 lead to take back to Camp Nou in the second leg.

It's important to notice that the match started as was expected, with Barcelona enjoying the majority of the possession and attempting to get to grips with the Stamford Bridge playing surface.

In fact, the visitors did look uncomfortable in defending crosses though, and when Carles Puyol failed to deal with a corner, Eidur Gudjohnsen was able to put a dangerous ball back across the face of goal, but there was no-one there in a blue shirt to take advantage.

Ronaldinho looked to be winding up for a first time shot on 19 minutes when arriving into the box, but he tried to take a touch too many and lost the opportunity. The Brazilian did manage a shot in on goal after half an hour when he arrived on to Oleguer's cut back from the right, but his low effort was kept out by a smart save from Petr Cech.

Yet another controversial moment between the two sides then popped up in the 37th minute, when Del Horno was shown a straight red card. The Spaniard came in to tackle Messi, but both men seemed to jump out of the challenge and collided in mid-air before both tumbled to the floor to perform theatrical rolls along the turf.

Norwegian referee Terge Hauge had a long time to think over his decision, but no-one in the ground can have been expecting the red card that emerged from his pocket for the Chelsea left back.

Despite being down to ten men, Chelsea started the second half brightly and, after Arjen Robben had flashed a shot wide, they took a surprise lead on 59 minutes courtesy of the unlucky Motta.

Lampard fired in a superb free kick from the left which neither Motta nor keeper Valdes can deal with, and the Barca midfielder saw the ball cannon off his thigh and into the net.

Lampard nearly repeated the dose with another free kick that flashed just wide of the near post, while substitute Henrik Larsson wasted a free header for Barca just minutes after coming off the bench.

It's important to notice that Barca did get their equaliser after 72 minutes, and it was another own goal with Blues skipper Terry the unlucky man this time as he flicked Ronaldinho's free kick over Cech and into his own net.

That sparked a furious last 15 minutes, with Barca carving out a number of glorious opportunities, firstly with the impressive Messi cutting in from the right before hitting a superb curler against the bar with Cech well beaten.

Ronaldinho was finally getting into the match and his glorious pass sent Larsson in on goal. The Swede dinked the ball over Cech but Terry had raced back to clear the danger from under the shadow of the bar.

Ricardo Carvalho then had some last-ditch defending to do of his own to block Messi's shot after more great vision from Ronaldinho.

Terry was again the hero as he cleared off the line for a second time from Ronaldinho's goalbound shot, but he looked fortunate not to concede a penalty when he clattered into the back of Messi after his high clearance, while he even handled the ball as he fell, but nothing was given.

In fact, Didier Drogba wasted a golden opportunity on the break when being sent through on goal, as he took a touch too many when bearing down on goal and was too close to Valdes when the keeper saved his effort.

Barca sprung out from the resulting corner, and Ronaldinho again showed great vision to find Larsson down the left, who in turn laid the ball back for Rafael Marquez.

The Mexican curled in a great ball left footed and Eto'o rose at the far post to head Barca 2-1 in front with ten minutes left to play.

Chelsea held out for the closing minutes and the match ended in a 2-1 victory for the Spanish champions to take back to Camp Nou for the second leg.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Barcelona want revenge against Chelsea

FC Barcelona players are aware that the match against Chelsea will be the chance to revenge the loss in the last Champions League edition. So everybody hopes Ronaldinho and his teammates will get the victory on Wednesday.

Chelsea will have John Terry, Frank Lampard and Petr Cech back after they missed the FA Cup clash with Colchester.

Asier del Horno also returns but William Gallas (hamstring) and Claude Makelele (knee) are doubts. Michael Essien is suspended for both legs.

Barcelona may start with Mark van Bommel and Thiago Motta in midfield and leave Lionel Messi on the bench.

Edmilson and Deco are expected to complete the four-man midfield but winger Ludovic Giuly is injured.

Line ups:

Chelsea: Cech, Gallas, Ferreira, Carvalho, Terry, Del Horno, Gudjohnsen, Lampard, Makelele, Geremi), Robben, Crespo, Cole, Duff

Barcelona: Valdes, Belletti, Oleguer, Puyol, Marquez, Silvinho, Van Bronckhorst, Van Bommel, Motta, Messi, Edmilson, Deco, Ronaldinho, Eto'o

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Without Deco and Ronaldinho

Barcelona FC must play without playmakers Deco and Ronaldinho when they face streaking chasers Valencia at the Mestalla on Sunday, but defender Carlos Puyol believes the stand-ins can do the business.

Deco faces a late fitness test due to a nagging leg knock, while the Brazilian star saw his ban appeal rejected on Friday.

“The doctors will have to see how (Deco’s) leg is and see how he feels before deciding whether to allow him to play,” rerpoted Puyol.

He added “We thought that (Ronaldinho) may be able to play, but now we will have to do without him”.

“We have prepared for the match thinking that he will not be there, and if he was then able that would have been great.”

Tuesday, February 7, 2006

Winning run ended with loss against Atletico Madrid

In a surprising result, Atletico Madrid lived up to their reputation and Barcelona's leader-less team ended the Spanish champions' 14-match winning run in the league. The Madrid club got a categoric 3-1 victory at the Nou Camp.

The goals were scored by spanish striker Fernando Torres twice and Maxi Rodriguez.

Among the main stars Barcelona missed in their squad were Ronaldinho and Samuel Eto'o. With the defeat, Barca failed to reach the record number of 15 straight league wins set by Real Madrid in the 1960-61 season.

"This wasn't our day. We were below par," Dutch coach Frank Rijkaard said afterwards.

"We must react and rediscover the form we've shown up to now."

Indeed, Atletico captain Torres shot home in the 33rd minute after a cross by midfielder Ariel Ibagaza led to a mix-up between "blaugranas" defenders Oleguer Presas and Gabri.

In the end, Martin Petrov created the visitors' second goal in the 47th minute.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Messi scored twice in Barcelona's victory

Barcelona FC got an unquestionable 3-0 victory on Sunday at second from bottom Real Mallorca to go 12 points ahead at the top of the Primera Liga.

Coach Frank Rijkaard's saw his team suffer their first defeat in 25 games when they lost 4-2 at Real Zaragoza in the King's Cup on Thursday.

But Barcelona bounced back to make it 14 consecutive wins in the league against a tough Mallorca after Ludovic Giuly opened the scoring six minutes before the break.

The best of the night was Argentine striker Lionel Messi, who came off the bench to make sure of the points with two goals after Mallorca had defender Eduardo Tuzzio sent off in the 72nd minute.

It's good to mention that Barcelona have 52 points from 21 games. Second-placed Valencia are on 40 points after they scored twice in the last seven minutes to earn a 2-2 draw at home against Zaragoza.

Sweden forward Henrik Larsson, deputising for leading scorer Samuel Eto'o who is with Cameroon at the African Nations Cup, had three opportunities to open the scoring for Barca before Giuly struck in Mallorca.

After that, Deco picked out the Frenchman's diagonal run behind the defence with a long pass which Giuly controlled and fired low into the corner.

Also, Silvinho fed Messi from the left flank in the 75th minute, and after dribbling into a crowded area the youngster fired low into the far corner.

Just one minute later he proved he was fallible as he skied the ball over an open goal.

But in the 81st minute he made no mistake from Ronaldinho's pass into the area, as he raced through and lifted the ball over the advancing Miguel Angel Moya.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Eto'o wont go to Chelsea

Barcelona forward Samuel Eto'o has again played down reports linking him with a move to reigning Premiership champions Chelsea.

Blues coach Jose Mourinho made no secret of the fact that he wanted to sign the Cameroon international hitman during the course of last summer, when it appeared that Hernan Crespo will be remaining in Italy with AC Milan following a successful season-long loan spell.

But, a deal failed to materialise with Eto'o stressing that he was happy to remain in Spain with the Catalan giants, but this has not stopped a fresh bout of speculation from surfacing.

The player, who scored a hat-trick for his country against Angola in the 3-1 African Cup of Nations win on Saturday, has again played down the link has vowed to concentrate on Cameroon's cup campaign.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Great victory over Bilbao

Barcelona got their 17th consecutive win in all competitions on Sunday, coming from behind to defeat Athletic Bilbao 2-1 at home in the Primera Liga.

Ronaldinho shot a penalty kick to make the first in the 36th minute and Argentine forward Leo Messi added the second in the 51st minute.

Bilbao, who made like hard for the blaugranas, took a 16th minute lead through Fernando Llorente but Ronaldinho equalized from the spot after Amorebieta handled.

It was the Ronaldinho's 11th goal of this season and fifth from the spot.

Messi's goal came when he followed up to steer the ball home after goalkeeper Inaki Lafuente had parried a volley from Mark van Bommel.

As we know, Barcelona had Deco sent off in the final minute after he clashed with Carlos Gurpegi. As tempers frayed Deco continued to protest after being shown the red card and Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard had to escort him off the pitch.

This victory confirms Barcelona as the runaway leaders in Spain at the halfway point of the season, as they are in the top spot with 46 points, seven ahead of second-placed Osasuna.

The Navarrans fell 2-0 away at Valencia on Saturday, who look like the side currently most likely to mount a challenge despite being 10 points adrift.

Sunday, January 8, 2006

Barcelona beats Espanyol in their 11th win in a row

Goals from Deco and Samuel Eto'o gave FC Barcelona their 11th consecutive victory in the Spanish League as they got a 2-1 victory at city rivals Espanyol in La Liga on Saturday.

The visitors almost went ahead in the 20th minute. Then, Lionel Messi picked out fellow Argentinian Juliano Belletti with a superb through pass but the full-back was denied by a fine save from Carlos Kameni.

Deco scored the first strike for the blaugranas. Then he was taken to the hospital after a 58th-minute collision of heads with his teammate Thiago Motta that caused him to briefly lose consciousness. The Portuguese midfielder was just suffering from a slight concussion.

In other match, Deportivo la Coruña defeated Athletic Bilbao, 2-1, and reached the third place.

FC Barcelona made 43 points, and Osasuna, which was to face Racing Santander on Sunday, has 38. Deportivo is tied for third with Valencia, which was to visit Atletico Madrid on Sunday. Both squads have 32 points and identical goal differences.

Barcelona's record says tht they dind't lose since Sept. 18, 2005 when Atletico Madrid beated them.

The Catalan squad, which has lost only once in its 18 league games this season, comfirmed its lead in the 47th minute when Samuel Eto'o took full advantage of Ronaldinho Gaucho's pass by steering the ball past Kameni.

When the clock showed the 60th minute, the rivals halved the lead when Raul Tamudo controlled Fredson's crossfield ball and lifted it over advancing goalkeeper Victor Valdés.

Saturday, January 7, 2006

Preview: Barcelona vs. Espanyol

FC Barcelona are the leaders of Spanish League and they can extend their winning streak to 15 games in all competitions with a victory at city rivals Espanyol on Saturday.

Ronaldinho's team broke the club record last month and returned from the winter break to continue their run with a 3-1 win over third division Zamora in Tuesday's King's Cup first leg tie.

The good thing is, the players recognise that trophies and titles matter more than records. "We could win 20 or 25 games consecutively but if you don't win anything it would all be in vain," Brazilian defender Edmilson told a news conference.

"We must keep our heads clear and focus on the real goals. With each match that goes by we need to be more and more attentive.

"We still have five months to go which are crucial for the club and we need to be focused to complete what could be an exceptional season."

Coach Frank Rijkaard rested his attacking trio Samuel Eto'o, Ronaldinho and Lionel Messi during last week, and will be without defender Rafael Marquez (thigh strain) and long term injury victim Xavi.

The rivals, Espanyol, are three points above the relegation places in 14th, and they remain unbeaten in their last five games in all competitions.

Second-placed Osasuna, two points adrift of the blaugrana team, will seek to extend their 100 percent home record to 10 consecutive victories when they entertain Racing Santander on Sunday.