Report: Barcelona, Granada agree loan deal for Sergi Samper

The young Barça midfielder will gain experience while staying in La Liga

Sergi Samper has made a decision about his future.

After having a candid discussion with Barcelona coach Luis Enrique, who said he wanted Samper to join a smaller La Liga side to be an undisputed starter and gain more experience, the young midfielder has agreed to join Granada on a season-long loan, according to multiple reports in Spain. Barça official Albert Soler said the move is close to being completed, and could be announced at any time.

Samper has already said goodbye to his teammates, cleared his locker and left the club, according to Mundo Deportivo. Celta Vigo, Real Sociedad and Leganés were also interested in the 21-year-old, but Samper himself chose to work under new Granada coach Paco Jémez, who shares similar football ideas as Luis Enrique, meaning Samper will play in a system that is not too different from Barça’s, which will certainly help his development.

Samper, Enrique and Barça hope that the season on loan works for Sergi in the same way as it did for Rafinha Alcântara and Denis Suarez, who played for other teams in La Liga and improved their games enough to return to the Blaugrana and be important pieces of the squad.

Good luck, Samper!

Athletic Bilbao vs Barcelona, 2016 La Liga: First Observations

Barcelona travel to the San Mamés to take on Athletic Bilbao. Here are a few pre-game observations

League Frontrunners Already

Matchday one is over and the La Liga table already has a familiar look to it; Barcelona in the top spot, Real Madrid fighting for second, and Atlético Madrid trailing. As one would guess, there is a hard and arduous battle ahead for the league crown. Barça will attempt to retain the trophy, Atletico will look to overturn the trophy, and Real will attempt to do whatever it is they do every year in the league. Barça stand on top based on goal difference, something that will probably change as the league proceeds further. One thing remains certain however, La Liga fans are prepared for an exciting battle for the top spot.

Getting rid of the San Mamés early in the season

The San Mamés is a notoriously difficult stadium to play at; Athletic Bilbao’s energetic style of play, backed by their tumultuous crowd makes for a cauldron of intense pressure and football. Playing Bilbao away this early in the season could be beneficial for Barça in the long run. For starters, playing the San Mamés now crosses it off the list for later in the season when the calendar becomes hectic. The next game against Bilbao will be in the Camp Nou with the home crowd behind the team.

Another advantage is the fact that Bilbao has started the season off with a loss already and while it is a safe assumption that Athletic at the San Mamés is a different beast altogether, any inconsistencies or weaknesses in Bilbao’s form and mentality will be exploited clinically by Barcelona. Players like Suárez and Messi simply do not allow the opponent many mistakes before capitalizing on one or two. Athletic will have to be imperious to defeat Barça.

Another point of comfort Culés can take is that Bilbao has lost the last five games against Barcelona. Their last win came in 2013 in the form of a 1-0 victory at San Mamés; Barça were without Leo Messi that night. Two of the last five victories for the Blaugrana have come on the road. Luis Enrique will be looking to extend the record to six victories in a row.

Starting XI already known

“The mark of a great team is that you already know their starting lineup” – Arsène Wenger

The Blaugrana will be without Neymar and Andrés Iniesta for the game at the San Mamés. Luckily, Denis Suárez and Arda Turan will be ready to step up as they have been for the previous three games. The rest of the starting eleven would be quite easy to deduce. As one would presume, Leo Messi is expected to start alongside Luis Suarez, both of whom have scored a brace and a hat trick on Saturday against Betis, respectively. Arda Turan will complete the attacking trio, having also scored a goal on Saturday.

Midfield will contain the usual suspects, barring any injuries. As mentioned above, Denis Suarez will be taking the place of Iniesta. Having impressed thus far this season, Lucho should see no reason to drop the exciting new midfielder. The Croatian Ivan Rakitic will start alongside him to provide Barça’s engine, with Sergio Busquets completing the trio. Sergio has had a slow start to the season, not playing up to the usual level most Culés are used to seeing him play; however, he did look very much like his old self against Real Betis at the Camp Nou last Saturday. Busquets will have to be at his best if Barça hope to defeat a tough Bilbao team.

With Javier Mascherano and Jérémy Mathieu injured, predicting the back four should be relatively easy. Piqué will undoubtedly be a starter. Partnering him will be Samuel Umtiti, a player Barça fans are starting to fall in love with rather quickly. Umtiti’s positional sense, passing ability, calm demeanor, and tackling ability will be vital for this season; shades of Eric Abidal. The dynamic Sergi Roberto is likely to take up the right-back spot over Aleix Vidal. The only position that Luis Enrique will be having a headache over is the left-back spot. Lucas Digne has been a revelation in the three games that he has played and Jordi Alba will have his hands full attempting to retain the starting berth for the season. Any blip in Jordi’s form will be a chance for Lucas to shine. As for the game against Bilbao, Alba has given Lucho no reason to drop him from the starting eleven.

Marc Andre Ter-Stegen is fit and is expected to start in goal.

Arda Turan will get a chance to shine further

Neymar will not be returning to Barcelona until after the international break, much to Arda’s relief. The Turkish midfielder has had his troubles this past year. Starting his Barcelona career in the middle of the season due to a ban last year, Arda had sporadic appearances in the second half of last season. The ensuing Euro’s didn’t uplift his performances much either. His less than impressive performances incurred the wrath of demanding Turkish fans, who proceeded to jeer him with every touch of the ball against Spain.

This season however, Turan seems to have been reborn in the winger role usually occupied by Neymar. With a brace against Sevilla in the Spanish Super Cup and a goal against Betis in the league opener, Arda has started this season fantastically. Culés will hope to see him perform against Bilbao as well, as he will be starting. His creativity, work rate, and eye for goal will be needed.

While he might lack Neymar’s flair and speed, Turan brings additional qualities to the table. His creative determination and his work rate make up almost entirely for his lack of electrifying speed. He can run all game and still have energy left over at the end of the match to score the winning goal. On his day, Arda Turan is an unstoppable juggernaut; whether or not Arda will remain consistent for the entirety of the season remains to be seen. Should he keep performing, Luis Enrique will be using him heavily this season. When Neymar returns to Barça, he could have heavy battle for the starting spot on his hands.

Gerard Piqué reacts to Champions League draw, wins Twitter

“Another day in the office” for Piqué

Gerard Piqué is not only a genius center-back, he’s a Twitter genius as well.

The Barcelona star did a Q&A on Twitter on Wednesday, and he was asked about Thursday’s Champions League draw. His fan asked an innocent question: “Do you have any preferences for the Champions draw?”.

Piqué’s response was amazing:

His preference of a path to win the Champions League is an easy group stage, then facing the third best team in Italy in the Round of 16, then eighth best team in Germany in the quarterfinals, then the fourth best team in England in the semifinals, with the second leg matches all taking place at the home stadium. If that sounds familiar to you, that’s because Real Madrid had this exact path when they won the Champions League last season.

Then on Thursday, Piqué took it up a notch. The Champions League group stage draw took place, and Real Madrid got Borussia Dortmund (tough!), then Sporting (LOLOL) and Legia Warsaw (LOLOLOLOL). Just two seconds after Legia’s name came out of the last ball, Piqué tweeted the following:

“Another day in the office”, said Piqué.

Just another day in the Piqué Twitter office. What a genius.

2016 UEFA Champions League Draw, Results: Barcelona to face Manchester City, Borussia Mönchengladbach, Celtic in group stage

Group of death for the Catalans

Barcelona’s path in the UEFA Champions League group stage has been decided after the draw took place on Thursday in Monaco. The Blaugrana will be in Group C, and it’s the Group of Death for the Catalan giants:

Pep Guardiola returns to Camp Nou for the second time as Barça face Manchester City AGAIN, which means Claudio Bravo also comes back to the Catalan capital just days after leaving the club. Then we face Borussia Mönchengladbach, one of the toughest teams in Germany and one of the toughest stadiums in Europe. And then there’s Celtic, who beat Barça in the group stage three years ago, one of the biggest upsets in recent history.

So yeah, this isn’t an easy group at all. Which isn’t surprising. At all.

These are full results of the draw with all eight groups and 32 teams put together:

What do you think of Barça’s group, Blaugranes? Easy, tough, medium, Death?

2016 UEFA Champions League Draw: Live Thread

Live thread for the UEFA Champions League Group Stage draw

With the preliminaries over, it’s now time for the main competition to begin. For that to happen, UEFA must first conduct the group stage draw at the Grimaldi Forum in Monaco. 32 team have qualified for the group stage and they have been divided into four pots. The draw will begin at 6pm CET and will be live streamed on www.uefa.com.

The draw is restricted, as teams from the same association cannot be drawn into the same group. Pot 1 contains the title holder and the league champions of the top seven football associations. In pots 2, 3 and 4 are the remaining 24 teams, seeded based on their UEFA coefficient.

Pot 1 Pot 2 Pot 3 Pot 4
Spain Real Madrid CF Spain Atletico Madrid Switzerland FC Basel Scotland Celtic FC
Spain FC Barcelona Germany Borussia Dortmund England Tottenham Hotspur France AS Monaco
England Leicester City England Arsenal FC Ukraine Dynamo Kyiv Turkey Beşiktaş JK
Germany FC Bayern Munich England Manchester City FC France Olympique Lyonnais Poland Legia Warsaw
Italy Juventus FC Spain Sevilla FC Netherlands PSV Eindhoven Croatia Dinamo Zagreb
Portugal SL Benfica Portugal FC Porto Portugal Sporting CP Bulgaria PFC Ludogorets Razgrad
France Paris Saint-Germain FC Italy SSC Napoli Belgium Club Brugge Denmark FC Copenhagen
Russia CSKA Moscow Germany Bayer 04 Leverkusen Germany Borussia Mönchengladbach Russia FC Rostov

OFFICIAL: Claudio Bravo leaves Barcelona, signs for Manchester City

Gracias, Claudio

Claudio Bravo’s career with Barcelona is over.

After two incredible seasons as a Blaugrana, the Chilean goalkeeper has officially joined Manchester City on a four-year deal. The Catalan giants sold Bravo to City for a reported €20 million transfer fee, doubling what they paid for Claudio back in 2014.

Barça President Josep Maria Bartomeu sent out a tweet just after the announcement, thanking Bravo for his services:

Bravo arrived from Real Sociedad two years ago under a cloud of doubts, with many Barça fans unsure about Claudio’s ability to be a world-class keeper for Luis Enrique’s side. He was chosen as the Blaugrana‘s starter in La Liga, and he became a simply incredible goal-stopper. He won the Zamora Trophy as the best Spanish league keeper in 2015, and was one of the key pieces in Barça’s back-to-back domestic titles.

However, thanks to the world-class performances of Cup goalkeeper Marc-André ter Stegen, who is younger and has more potential, Bravo was set to become a backup to the German, relinquishing his status as La Liga keeper. Claudio did not accept the backup role and asked to move. He remained professional and kept working hard until the move to City happened, and leaves the Catalan club as a fan favorite.

Bravo was a personal request from Pep Guardiola, who wanted to sign Claudio thanks to the Chilean’s fantastic distribution skills. Bravo is one of the world’s best passing goalkeepers, and will certainly contribute a lot to City’s success as he did at Barça.

Gracias, Bravo. You’ve been amazing for Barça. Good luck at City!

FC Barcelona News: 25 August 2016; Barcelona Sign Jasper Cillessen, Rafinha Back in Training

Jasper Cillessen joins FC Barcelona | FC Barcelona
FC Barcelona has decided to purchase 27 year old Dutch goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen from Ajax Amsterdam on a five-year contract.The transfer fee is a guaranteed 13 million euros plus a further two million in variables. Cillessen’s buyout clause has been set at 60 million euros.

Cillessen, a goalkeeper with FC Barcelona DNA | FC Barcelona
Jasper Cillessen is the latest player to sign for FC Barcelona, and the goalkeeper’s style of play is one that fits well with the club’s philosophy.The 27-year-old who has arrived from Ajax Amsterdam is a ball-playing goalkeeper, mentored by his former club boss Frank de Boer and ex-international manager with the Netherlands Louis Van Gaal, both of whom of course have strong Barça backgrounds.

Transfer news: Barcelona wise to turn to Ajax’s Jasper Cillessen to replace Claudio Bravo – Goal.com
When Barcelona’s desire to sign Jasper Cillessen from Ajax for around €12 million was first reported last week, it generated a great deal of scepticism and surprise. Despite being a World Cup bronze medallist with three Eredivisie titles under his belt, it seems criticism is never far away from the 27-year-old goalkeeper and a move to the Spanish champions left many supporters completely baffled.

Ten things you need to know about Jasper Cillessen | FC Barcelona
Test your knowledge of the new signing from Ajax Amsterdam with this fun true or false quiz. If you’re Dutch we’ll be expecting full marks!

FC Barcelona’s possible opponents in Champions League group stage | FC Barcelona
Following this week’s qualifying matches, we now know which 32 teams will be competing in the 2016/17 UEFA Champions League group stage – the first step on the path for just two of those clubs to the grand final, which this year is being played for the first time ever in the Welsh capital city of Cardiff.

Rafinha returns to training at FC Barcelona | FC Barcelona
FC Barcelona have continued preparations for Sunday’s fixture away to Athletic Club in Bilbao with the second training session of the week at the Ciutat Esportiva. Manager Luis Enrique was able to welcome back Rafinha, fresh from winning gold with Brazil at the Rio Olympics. Neymar Jr, remember, has been given special dispensation not to report back to the club until after the forthcoming round of World Cup qualifiers.

FC Barcelona are Liga week one leaders for fifth time in six years | FC Barcelona
In sport, it always helps to get off to a solid start. And Barça have certainly not been lacking in that department in recent years.

Pique hoping Barcelona’s Champions League is as easy as Madrid’s – Goal.com
When Gerard Pique revealed his favoured route for Barcelona to grab Champions League glory, it looked strangely familiar. Real Madrid took down Roma, Wolfsburg, Manchester City and Atletico Madrid in last year’s knockout phase to take the title, enjoying a rather soft draw away from the heavyweights.

Neymar joins blonde brigade after Brazil Olympic triumph – Goal.com
Neymar has decided to ‘do an Aaron Ramsey’ and become the latest footballer to dye his hair blonde. Having helped Brazil claim a maiden Olympic gold medal by beating Germany on penalties at the Rio Games, the 24-year-old has decided to go for a new look.

La Liga News: 25 August 2016; Gareth Bale Extends Real Madrid Contract, Sevilla to Sign Salvatore Sirigu on Loan

Gareth Bale signs new five-year contract at Real Madrid – Eurosport
The 27-year-old signed a six-year deal upon making a then world-record £86 million switch from Tottenham back in 2013. Bale’s new deal will run through to 2021 and increase his wages from €9 million to €10 million a year.

Cristiano Ronaldo steps up training for Real Madrid return against Celta Vigo – ESPN FC
Cristiano Ronaldo has vowed to return to the Real Madrid starting lineup soon and has stepped up training at the club’s Valdebebas training base. The Portuguese has had a busy year, helping Madrid lift the Champions League trophy before captaining his country to the Euro 2016 title in France last month.

Real Madrid: Surgeon hails ‘unique’ Cristiano Ronaldo – Goal.com
Portuguese knee surgeon Jose Carlos Noronha has hailed Cristiano Ronaldo’s “unique” physical qualities and revealed the Ballon d’Or winner’s interest in the science behind his achievements. Ronaldo, 31, has been a regular patient of Noronha, who has treated a host of top internationals, including Angel Di Maria and Pepe.

Atletico Madrid’s Javier Manquillo completes Sunderland loan – ESPN FC
Sunderland have announced the signing of Javier Manquillo on loan from Atletico Madrid. Manquillo, 22, underwent a medical at Sunderland on Wednesday and has now completed his switch to Wearside.

Sunderland make offer for Sevilla captain Vicente Iborra – Goal.com
Sunderland have made an offer for Sevilla captain Vicente Iborra, Goal can confirm. Various reports in England on Wednesday claimed the Black Cats have submitted a proposal worth £7 million to sign the 28-year-old midfielder.

Sirigu to Sevilla ‘imminent’ | Football Espana
Reports in France say Paris Saint-Germain and Sevilla have agreed terms on the loan of Salvatore Sirigu and the move is ‘imminent.’ L’Equipe claim an agreement was reached on Wednesday morning for a season-long transfer but there won’t be a clause allowing Los Rojiblancos to make the deal permanent next summer.

RUMOURS: Arsenal look to hijack Everton move for Lucas Perez – Goal.com
Arsenal are keen to sign Deportivo’s Lucas Perez and are likely to beat Everton to the striker, according to El Confidencial. The Merseysiders have been long linked to the forward, and were willing to meet his €20 million buyout clause.

OFFICIAL: Barcelona sign Jasper Cillessen from Ajax

The Dutch keeper has finally joined Barça

It is official: Barcelona have a new goalkeeper.

Cillessen was so excited to complete the move he actually announced the transfer before Barcelona did, and you can clearly see he’s happy to realize a dream:

Barcelona and Cillessen signed a five-year contract on Thursday, and the Catalan giants paid AFC Ajax a €13 million fee, with an additional two million in performance bonuses to be paid throughout the five years of Cillessen’s deal. The player will be unveiled on Friday at Camp Nou.

The 27-year-old has been a longtime starter for Ajax and the Dutch national team, and will join the Blaugrana as a backup to Marc-André ter Stegen. Chilean keeper Claudio Bravo is expected to be announced as the new Manchester City goalie in the next few hours.

Cillessen is Barcelona’s fifth confirmed transfer this summer, along with Denis Suarez, André Gomes, Samuel Umtiti and Lucas Digne. Barça still hope to make another signing before the end of the transfer window, as Valencia’s Paco Alcácer looks close to joining the Catalans in the upcoming days.

2016 UEFA Champions League Draw: Start time, TV listings, live stream

Barcelona and 31 other teams look to win the European Cup

The greatest club competition on Earth is about to start. The UEFA Champions League is a tournament that everyone watches, everyone wants to play, and everyone wants to win. The European Cup has gained importance and prestige every year, and the 2016/17 edition should be very exciting.

For Barcelona, this is another big season in the Champions League. The Catalan giants have dominated European football in the last decade, winning the European Cup four times in ten years. Lionel Messi and Co. want to win again, and have assembled a fantastic squad to challenge for the continental trophy.

But it won’t be easy. Reigning champions Real Madrid are back again and promise to go deep in the competition, the English teams are always tough, and clubs from Germany have also done great business in the transfer window to put together great sides and try to win the Champions League.

The group stage draw takes place on Thursday, and the path for the favorites will be decided. The draw is always fun and interesting, and you cannot miss it.


Date/Time: Thursday, August 25, 2016, 6pm local time (CET), 5pm BST (UK), Noon ET, 9am PT (US), 9:30pm IST (India)

Venue: Grimaldi Forum, Monaco, France

On TV: Fox Sports 1 (US), BT Sport 2 (UK)

Online streaming: UEFA.com (everywhere)