Pep’s key to success: “fight, effort and belief”

Cup final venue

When asked about the possibility of the Camp Nou hosting the Cup final, Guardiola said: I understand that the most logical thing [in this situation] is to have the final in a neutral stadium. I wouldnt like to play in San Mams, because it would be an advantage for them. The Federation will decide.

Were in an extreme situation, the only good result is victory. We have to move forward with a fighting spirit, effort, and belief, said Pep Guardiola ahead of the Osasuna match tomorrow. The manager said that he wouldnt allow his players to give up until the end of the season.

The trip to Navarra comes on the heels of Baras Kings Cup final berth. Guardiola said that securing a place in the final is a reflection of the effort put in by the team since the beginning of the season: when you get to a final it always reinforces you. We started with six titles; we won three, in the other [competition] were in the final and we have two more competitions to close out the season. We have to keep doing our work to maintain peoples faith in us.

Reyno de Navarra, a complicated ground

Guardiola is clear: its one of the hardest tests we have left this season … we went there a month ago to play in the Cup, and it wasnt easy. In fact, its always been difficult for us in that stadium. The manager said that he wont be thinking about the Champions League match against Bayer Leverkusen when he names his starting XI in Pamplona. He also said that his team is ready to compete after a grueling January schedule: January was a tough month, we played against great teams without much rest. Once we reached our goal [Cup final], the team trained well, what I say made me optimistic.

On the other hand, Guardiola talked about Sergio Busquets absence in the squad ahead of tomorrows match: hes not ready. The wound on his knee and stitches need to heal correctly, if not, we run the risk of losing him for two or three weeks. He is getting better, well see how his injury evolves and if we can bring him with us to Germany.

Osasuna looking to get winning form back

Without making a big song and dance about it, Osasuna have been quietly picking up points this season, and are currently ninth in the table with 28 points, just two shy of the Europa league berths.

Losing form

But at the start of 2012 they were riding high in fifth. Since then they have yet to win a match including some disappointing results at home in January: losing 2-0 to Racing, drawing 1-1 with Valencia and then losing 2-0 to Atletico Madrid. That’s just one point out of nine at home, in addition to a couple of draws on the road, 0-0 at Real Sociedad and 1-1 at Sporting.

Before this poor run at the Reyno de Navarra, the Pamplona based side were unbeaten at home. However, thanks to some good results early on in the season, they are still challenging for places in the top half of the league table, six points clear of the relegation zone.

Cejudo ready to return

Osasuna were missing several key players when they faced Bara in the cup in January. On Saturday they will be closer to fielding a full strength eleven, with only Masoud and Kike Sola still sidelined, while Cejudo and Calleja have both been able to train normally this week.

On Thursday, however, there was almost no training at all for the Osasuna squad due to their Tajonar training ground being frozen. Instead, the session went ahead on an artificial pitch.

Fair Play leaders in First and Second

Halfway through the season, FC Barcelona find themselves top of the Fair Play table in both the top divisions. Guardiola’s team has 41 points (the lower the number the better in this classification), followed by Malaga (47 points) and Real Madrid (57 points), after 22 games. The ranking is based on the number of cards received in the competition. Bara currently have 36 yellows and not one red, and are on course for coming top of the chart for the second season in a row.

The team with the highest score is Espanyol, with 100 points, followed by Getafe with 94.

Bara B on 48 points

In the second division, the team coached by Eusebio Sacristn is also flying the Bara flag for fair play. Bara B has 48 points, seven less than Tarragona (55 points) and 16 less than Deportivo and Valladolid (both on 64 points).

Barça used to winning after reaching cup final

Qualifying for the cup final seems to inspire Barcelona to victory in the league too. That happened in the 2008/09 season and also a year ago, which bodes well for this weekend’s trip to Osasuna.

1-1 in Mallorca… and 2-0 against Athletic Bilbao

The first cup final qualification of the Guardiola era came on March 4, 2009. That day, Pinto was the hero in Mallorca when his late penalty save meant FC Barcelona were off to the final in Valencia. Three days after that emotional semi final, Bara beat Athletic Bilbao 2-0 at the Camp Nou in a Liga fixture, with goals scored by Busquets and Messi.

3-0 in Almeria… and 3-0 against Atltico Madrid

Two years later, on February 2, 2011, FC Barcelona once again qualified for the cup final. This time their semi final victim was Almeria, who they beat 3-0 after already having done most of the work in the first leg, where they won 5-0 at the Camp Nou. Like in 2009, the team responded with a league win three days later when they entertained Atltico Madrid at the Camp Nou. A hat-trick from Messi decided a 3-0 win against the mattress-makers.

2-0 against Valencia… and in Pamplona?

On Saturday, three days after beating Valencia 2-0 in the semi final second leg, Bara will be hoping history can repeat itself. The circumstances are not quite the same, because this time the cup match was played at the Camp Nou and the league match will be away from home. But despite these two small differences, the challenge is just the same.

Liga: Three new match dates confirmed

This Friday, the LFP confirmed three new La Liga match dates. FC Barcelona will play against Atltico Madrid on Sunday, Feb. 26, at 21:30; Sporting on Saturday, Mar. 3, at 20:00; and Racing on Sunday, Mar. 11, at 18:00.

Bara will play the Champions League last-16 return leg against Bayer Leverkusen at the Camp Nou in between the Sporting and Racing matches.

Heres FC Barcelonas full schedule.

Bara B’s schedule

The LFP also confirmed three match dates for the reserve side aswell. Bara B-Hrcules will be played on Friday, Feb. 24, at 21:00; Recreativo-Bara B on Sunday, Mar. 4, at 19:45; and Sabadell-Bara B on Saturday, Mar. 10, at 18:00.

The Azulgrana Roundup, week 3

Here are some of the best articles, videos, and opinions on FC Barcelona made this past week by journalists and fans alike. If you have suggestions for this column, please tweet them to Baras twitter account, make sure you tag your tweet with #FCBroundup

Ftbol. Mi Visin. Jos Carlos Carrasquet. Juego de nios [Childs play] [Spanish]

Y creo que ayer Guardiola, regresando a su niez, y pensando en sus partidos, seguro que pensaba lo mismo. Juego de hombres, partido de nios, en el que sus bajitos jugadores intentarn demostrar que un nuevo ttulo es posible. La duodcima final de una historia que parece no tener fin.

YouTube. Graham Hunter – #4 Bara: The Making of the Greatest Team in the World [Video]

Graham Hunter, author of the newly released book Bara: The Making of the Greatest Team in the World, produced a series of short videos that provide insight into Guardiolas FC Barcelona team. In this video, Hunter talks about what its like to cover Bara as a journalist at the Camp Nou and his curious run-in with Thiago and Rafa Alcntara.

Total Bara. Ivich. Interview: designer Dan Leydon on sketching Bara

Dan Leydon, the art designer for Graham Hunters book, sat down with Total Bara earlier this month to talk about his artwork. Leydon told Total Bara that he started following the Catalan team when Rivaldo and co. played at Anfield. You just got a sense they were the real deal in terms of what a club is. Theres only a few clubs like that around.

YouTube. FC Barcelona. The NextGen Series: FC Barcelona – Ajax [Full match]

FC Barcelona’s U-19 squad faced off against their Dutch counterparts midweek to battle it out for a spot in the semfinals of the competition.

What is the NextGen Series:

The NextGen Series is an international football tournament, where sixteen of the worlds best football clubs showcase their stars of the future in an exciting international knockout competition. NextGen Series

ElCentrocampista. Iain McMullen. Who is Cristian Tello? Introducing Barcelonas latest wonderkid

Tello is the archetypal Barcelona player. Two footed and comfortable on the ball, he also posses the air of confidence we have come to expect from graduates of their famous academy. Add to these attributes a devastating burst of pace and clinical finish, and you have a very exciting prospect indeed.

Twitter. Sergi Cebrin [@sergicda]. The Camp Nou pitch getting covered with a thermal blanket [Image]

The Independent. Musa Okwonga. Barcelona, Messi, and why Gil Scott Heron lied

Musa Okwonga wrote a poem commemorating Baras Champions League victory in Wembley. Its not everyday that you get to read about football in verse form.

Twitter. Bara Stuff [@barcastuff]. Young Messi [Image]

Pedro, declared fit, will travel to Pamplona

Pedro Rodrguez has recovered from the muscle strain in his left leg and hell travel with the team to Pamplona with 18 other FC Barcelona players included in Pep Guardiolas squad to face Osasuna tomorrow. On the other hand, Sergio Busquets has not recovered in time from the knee injury he picked up last weekend. The other first-team players that will not travel with the team are Villa, Afellay, Fonts, and Keita, who is currently with the Mali national team.

The squad is made up of 16 first-team players and 3 Bara B players (Tello, Dos Santos and Sergi Roberto).

Training session with three U19 players

Bara trained this Friday afternoon at the Ciutat Esportiva Joan Gamper. The first team, plus Pedro, finalised preparations for tomorrows La Liga match. Sergio Busquets trained apart from his teammates. The group was completed by Tello, Dos Santos, Sergi Roberto and three players from the Bara B U19 side: Robert Costa, Pablo Otero and Xavi Quintill.

Costa is a 17-year-old defender (second year U19 player) and Otero, also 17, plays in the holding midfielder and defensive midfielder positions. Quintill, a cadete aged player (16), is a left-footed central defender, he can also play in the defensive midfielder position.

Spotlight on CA Osasuna

HISTORY

The club was founded in 1920 and although they have only won second division titles and
a Spanish Cup runners-up title (in 2004) in their 80-year-history, they have been a top flight
team since 2000 and as well as their Cup success they also qualified for the Champions League
in 2006 and a year later reached the quarter finals of the UEFA Cup. Although they ended up
in the bottom half for the next few seasons, Osasuna finished 9th last year after flirting with
relegation with new boss Jose Luis Mendilibar taking over from Jose Antonio Camacho in
February.

The late 80s saw two ex-Liverpool legends, Sammy Lee and Michael Robinson join forces at
the Sadar as the stadium was then, and indeed to many still is, known – under Pedro Mari
Zabalza and the pair enjoyed two successful seasons at the club, including a fifth place La Liga
finish and a Cup semi-final.

FORM GUIDE

Osasuna were in fifth spot at Christmas this season, despite losing 8-0 to Bara and 7-1 to
Real Madrid, and only lost their first game at home in the Cup against Bara in January.
Their success has been mainly down to their great form at the Reyno de Navarra with the
passionate local fans making Pamplona a tough place for any team to visit -and the team,
who lost just three times at home last season, have gone down just twice this time round.
Mendilibar has stayed true to the clubs competitive style and his current squad boasts six
home-grown players.

FOURTH GAME AGAINST BARA

Saturdays will be the fourth meeting between Bara and Osasuna this season: after the
thrashing at the Camp Nou in the league, Mendilibars men fared somewhat better in the first
leg of the last-16 tie of the Spanish Cup, going down 4-0, before again getting beaten in the
second leg in Pamplona by two goals to one.

Ones to watch

The Iranian midfielder Javad Nekounam has already scored four goals for Osasuna this season
and his ability as both a holding midfielder and a scorer of goals from long distance has made
him a firm favourite with the Pamplona fans. The Iranian is likely to play alongside local lad
Raul Garcia, on loan from Atletico Madrid and in front of a defence with ex-Bara man Damia
Abella and fellow Catalan Marc Beltran who was born in the same town as Carles Puyol.

Oier: "They are betting on me and I’m very pleased"

On Thursday afternoon, Oier Olazbal signed his new contract with FC Barcelona. The agreement will keep the keeper at the Club through 2015. The deal, which was announced last week, includes a 12 million euro buyout clause while the player remains in the Bara B side and will jump to 30 million euros when he moves up to the first team. The 22-year-old keeper was visibly pleased after the agreement was made official: they are betting on me and Im very happy. Its a reward for the five years that Ive spent here, where Ive had both good and bad times. Its a prize.

Besides Oier and his representative, the sporting vice-president Josep Maria Bartomeu, the director Jordi Mestre and the football director Andoni Zubizarreta were all present at the signing ceremony.

The Basque Bara B player told Bara TV and www.fcbarcelona.com about his aspirations: the objective is to get to the first team, train with the group and to be competitive. Oier said he was very grateful for the goalkeeper coaches that hes worked with for the past five seasons.

Piqué: “Count on us at the end of the season”

Guardiola, Cesc and Alexis

Gerard Piqu talk about Guardiolas future: I think hes more motivated now than he was the first year … since he arrived the team hasnt stopped growing. A lot of titles have been won and a lot of youngsters have come up from the reserve side, theyre an asset to the Club. On the teams two most recent signings this year, Piqu was clear: Cesc and Alexis are vital. They are very important and without them Im sure we wouldnt be where we are now.

Gerard Piqu was upbeat when he talked to the press after the teams training session at the Ciutat Esportiva: If someone told me wed be here at the beginning of the season, Id sign on the dotted line. Weve won the three competitions weve played in, we have a fourth final secured, were alive in the Liga and were about to play in the last 16 in the Champions League. We give it our all every weekend and thats the most important thing. Count on us at the end of the season … Theres a lot of Liga left and well give it our all. Other teams will have to win, perhaps the competition will prove a bit too long for them. People need to have confidence in us.

Piqu called on his team to keep up their form ahead of this weekends match and he also said that there is no need for the Bara first team to prove itself: I dont think we have to prove ourselves. I believe that we always want to do the best job possible. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesnt, but the desire is always there. After a very demanding January schedule, Piqu said: the load is brutal. You have to be very strong both physically and mentally. We have all participated and we all feel important [within the team]. We feel as though the load is a bit lighter after getting into the Cup final, our schedule isnt as demanding now.

The value of the Cup

The Bara defender considers that his teams achievement of reaching the Cup final should be highly valued: it took a lot to get there. Osasuna, Real Madrid and Valencia are all Champions League level teams, it required a lot of work to beat them. It seems as though less value is given to the Cup but our goal is to win everything. Weve reached three finals in four years, well try to be victorious and win another title for the Club. On the Cup final venue, its not up to the players to pick the venue for the final. The best thing is being able to play it and weve won the right to be able to play it. The Federation will make the final decision on the venue and well go with enthusiasm.

Piqu believes that its a positive thing for the team that the final wont be played until the end of the season: its a positive thing to be able to look forward to a final. We know that were a game away from winning a title. Moving forward, that gives us confidence and peace of mind.”