Messi and @andresiniesta8 return to Monaco

Andrés Iniesta arrives in Monaco / PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ - FCB
The two players will be at Monaco’s Grimaldi Forum this evening, where UEFA will name the winner of the Best Player in Europe Award and conduct the Champions League group stage draw

President Sandro Rosell, vice-president Josep Maria Bartomeu and director of football Andoni Zubizarreta will also be present

A year after playing in the European Super Cup against Porto, Leo Messi and Andrés Iniesta have returned to the city state to attend the award ceremony of the 2012 UEFA Best Player in Europe Award. The two Azulgranas are on the shortlist, along with Cristiano Ronaldo, for the award which will be given out during UEFA’s Champions League group stage draw (starts at 18.00). The winner should be announced a little before 7 PM.

Accompanied by family

The two players left for Monaco from El Prat Airport accompanied by their families. Messi is travelling with his father and his two brothers, while Iniesta is travelling with his wife, his sister and his mother.

FC Barcelona vice-president Josep Maria Bartomeu and director of football Andoni Zubizarreta also made the trip to Monaco. Once there, they will meet with President Sandro Rosell, who arrived in Monaco this morning for the UEFA Club Competition Committee and ECA meeting. Rosell is accompanied by Barça’s UEFA relations delegate, Amador Bernabéu, and Raul Sanllehí, Barça’s football director.

Spanish Supercup Statistics

Arbeloa, against Messi / PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ-FCB
The two games between Barça and Real Madrid couldn’t have been tighter

The same number of goals, total shots and shots on target, while it was clearly Tito’s side that generated the most football

The following is a statistical review of one of the closest Supercups for years:

– Not only did the game end level on aggregate (4-4), but the two sides also had the same number of shots over the two legs (27 each)

– They also had the same number of shots on target: 9 for Barça (6 in the first leg, 3 in the second) and 9 for Madrid (2 in the first leg, 7 in the return)

– But there was a huge difference in the total number of actions generated by the respective sides. Barça had 1,709 (901 in the first leg and 808 in the second), much more than the 1,134 that Madrid managed (481 in the first leg and 653 in the return)

– The game at the Bernabéu also marked Alex Song’s debut and the first run-out for Montoya this season.

– The right back’s case is especially noteworthy. He wasn’t even named in the team, but Alves sensed fitness concerns during the warm-up, and after Adriano was sent off, Montoya ended up playing for 64 minutes.

– Only three players have started all four games under Tito so far. They are Valdés, Busquets and Messi. The goalkeeper and striker have played every minute

– Leo Messi has the same goalscoring record as last season after four games: six goals

– Oddly enough, the last Barça player to get sent off was also a right back. That was Alves against Betis on the last day of the 2011/12 league season

– Adriano’s sending off was the fastest ever for Barcelona against Madrid, and also his first red in a Barça shirt. Until now, he had only received eight reds in two seasons.

The Champions League group stage draw is set to start at 17.45

PHOTO: ARXIU FCB
The Champions League group draw will take place at 18.00 this afternoon in Monaco, where Barça will be paired up with 3 teams from a pool of 22 rivals

Tito Vilanova’s men could be paired up with team like Manchester City, Juventus, Borussia Dortmund or Montpelier, champions of England, Italy, Germany and France, respectively

The Azulgranas are seeded in Pot 1, and are accompanied by Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, Real Madrid, Milan, Bayern Munich and Porto

Tito Vilanova and his men are well aware of who their rivals could be in the Champions League group stage. A total of 22 teams could be paired up with FC Barcelona in the first phase of the continental competition. The draw to determine the teams in each group will take place this Thursday at the Grimaldi Forum in Monaco at 17.45.

The Azulgranas are seeded in Pot 1, and are accompanied by Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, Real Madrid, Milan, Bayern Munich and Porto. Even though Barça will avoid a fair number of powerful teams in the group stage, the Azulgranas could face Manchester City, Juventus, Borussia Dortmund or Montpellier, champions of England, Italy, Germany and France, respectively.

All participant teams:

The 32 participant teams in this edition of the Champions League are divvied up in the following manner:

Pot 1: FC Barcelona, Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, Real Madrid, Milan, Bayer de Munich and Porto

Pot 2: Valencia, Benfica, Shaktar Donetsk, Zenit, Schalke 04, Manchester City, Sporting Braga and Dinamo Kiev

Pot 3: Olympiacos, Ajax, Juventus, Paris Saint Germain, Anderlecht, Spartak Moscow, Galatasaray and Lille

Pot 4: Borussia Dortmund, Celtic Glasgow, Bate Borisov, Dinamo Zagreb, CFR Cluj, Málaga, Montpelier and Nordsjaelland

The selection process will be identical to past editions. Meaning that Barça cannot face any team from Pot 1 or any team from the Spanish League (Real Madrid, Valencia or Málaga). Barça’s three rivals will come out of pots 2, 3, and 4; one team from each pot.

Messi and @andresiniesta8, both of whom are up for the UEFA Best Player in Europe Award, travel to Monaco

UEFA Best Player in Europe Award
During UEFA’s Champions League group stage draw, the jury of 53 sports journalists will name the winner of the UEFA Best Player in Europe Award 2012. The three finalists are Messi, Iniesta and Cristiano Ronaldo

The final round of voting will take place during the Champions League draw

Leo Messi and Andrés Iniesta will attend UEFA’s Champions League group-stage draw this Thursday in Monaco. The ceremony starts at 17.45. The two Barça players are on the shortlist for the UEFA Best Player in Europe Award 2012. The winner will be announced during the ceremony. Messi, the winner of the inaugural edition of the award, and Iniesta, are competing with Cristiano Ronaldo for the accolade.

Live voting

The three finalists were selected by a jury made up of 53 sports journalists from UEFA’s member federations. In the first round of voting, each journalist turned in a list of his/her five favourite players; the first name on the list received five points, the second received four, and so on. The final voting process, which will be done live via an electronic system, will begin during the UEFA Champions League group stage draw.

Second time for Messi; Iniesta’s first

FC Barcelona are once again represented by two of its players in the UEFA Best Player in Europe Award. In the first edition of the award, Messi, Xavi and Cristiano Ronaldo were the three finalists. Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are back on the shortlist for this year’s award, while Iniesta makes his debut as a finalist.

Endesa Super Cup tickets go on sale

Supercopa Endesa 2012
The Club have 200 available tickets for Club members and Supporter Club members. Each ticket is priced at 28 euros apiece. The Super Cup will be played from September 22nd through the 23rd

More tickets

In addition to the Club’s 200 tickets, fans can also purchase tickets through the ACB. This Friday, starting at 14.00, the ACB will open the ticket sales process. These tickets can be purchased through CAI’s online services (www.caitickets.es). Ticket prices range from 24 to 42 euros.

From this Thursday through Friday, September 7, Club members and FC Barcelona Supporter Club members that want a ticket to the Endesa Super Cup can buy tickets for the two-day tournament hosted at the Príncipe Felipe pavilion (Sep 22 – 23). The Club have 200 available tickets priced at 28 euros apiece. These tickets are exclusive to Club members and Supporter Club members.

To purchase a ticket, send an email to seccio.basquet@fcbarcelona.cat or call 93.496.37.14.

The four participant teams

The 2012 Endesa Super Cup will feature two rounds of play: semi-finals and the final. The four participant teams are as follows: CAI Zaragoza (hosts), Barça Regal (champions of the Endesa League), Real Madrid (champions of the Copa del Rey), and Valencia Basket (highest international coefficient).

Xavi: “We could have won the Super Cup”

Xavi / PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ / FCB
After the match, the Azulgrana midfielder said that “we could have won the Super Cup but we paid dearly for the two errors at the start of the match”

“The red card really hurt us, but despite playing with 10 men we played a good game of football and we created enough chances to win the title”

Afternoon training session on Thursday

The team will return to training on Thursday afternoon at the Ciutat Esportiva. The closed-door session will start at 19.00. Carles Puyol will hold a press conference after the training session.

The FC Barcelona vice-captain, Xavi Hernández, who played the entire match at the Santiago Bernabéu, said that the “two errors and the red card” were key in his team’s defeat this evening.

On the other hand, Barça’s number 6 noted that “we bounced back well and we could have won the Super Cup. We kept on playing football and we were true to our style of play despite playing down a man. In the second half we created enough chances to win the title.”

On the immediate future, Xavi explained that “we lost a title but there are more important ones still in play, now we have to change our mentality and think about the Liga match this Sunday.”

Sergio Busquets:

“I’m upset that we were better both in the away leg and in the return leg. Despite playing with 10 players, we had more chances to score.”

“Madrid took advantage of two counter attacks, that’s where they can hurt you, and they scored two goals.”

“I’m very proud of my team-mates, when things aren’t going well, like today, they always go forward but it wasn’t meant to be despite the fact that we created chances.”

“We left the impression that we’re a strong team and that we can play good games and win a lot of titles.”

“I think we were the better side and we have to focus on the positive aspects of the game, on Sunday we have a Liga match; we’re leaders and this isn’t going to stop.”

“The substitution is normal, I didn’t have a full pre-season and it’s always noticeable when you don’t have sufficient preparation.”

“I think Song played well, he’s a great player, we knew he was before he came – he played a good game.”

“This Sunday against Valencia we’ll go out to win the match, we’re leaders in the Liga and I hope we can maintain the top spot.”

Piqué:

“They were very strong, they scored two goals and we went down to 10 men. But we played a fantastic second half.”

“We have to improve how we start matches, but playing like we did with 10 men in this stadium is commendable.”

“Madrid won the title with the 20 minutes of good play they had in the away and return leg, I congratulate them.”

“We had our chances in front of Casillas despite being a man down and we dominated … I’m sticking with the way we played in the second half.”

Pedro:

“They started off very strong and they took the lead, it’s very difficult to fight back at this stadium especially if you’re playing a man down. We fought and we created chances, but it wasn’t meant to be.”

“Alves was an important absence for us but any Barça player plays well wherever he plays.”

“We had a couple of good chances to equalise, but we weren’t lucky enough in from of goal like we have been in the past. It’s time to congratulate Madrid on their victory.”

Iniesta:

“The two goals really and the red card really hurt us. It’s not easy to play with 10 men here, but either side could have won the title tonight.”

“We should never talk about personal errors, it’s always about the collective. You pay dearly for errors when you play against a team that are so good on the counter like Madrid.”

“It’s not easy to lose a match, but it’s true that the second half, playing with 10 men, was ours. I congratulate Real Madrid for the title, but we aren’t ever going to give up.”

Vilanova: "I’m so proud of my players"

Tito Vilanova conversa amb Iniesta durant el transcurs del partit / FOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ - FCB
The manager praised his players after the match and noted that “we created five very clear chances to score in the second half” despite playing with 10 men

After congratulating Real Madrid for winning the Spanish Super Cup, Tito Vilanova said that this is the proudest he’s been of his team. “Throughout the first minutes of the game Madrid created chances thanks to either our defensive errors or by using long balls, and they scored twice. This is the proudest I’ve been of my players, they played the whole second half down a man, and in the second half we created up to five very clear chances to score against an opponent that didn’t leave their own half of the pitch.”

“There’s a lot left”

The Barça manager is convinced that this defeat in the Spanish Super Cup will not affect the team going forward: “it’s clear that we would have preferred to win, but – as I said before the match – that this game wouldn’t determine the rest of our season. There’s a lot left. This will continue, and on Sunday we have to play in La Liga.”

Vilanova also noted, despite playing with 10 men and trailing for much of the match, that FC Barcelona was true to its style of play: “despite the risk, we kept on attacking. We went out against Real Madrid like we always do, on the attack. They scored two goals because of our defensive errors. I don’t believe that we were inferior. They were on target and they scored. But I’m sticking with the positive things, with the way we played in the second half and with how we created chances.”

More chances in the second half

When asked if he was taken off guard by Mourinho’s approach to the match, Vilanova was clear: “I knew that he was going to try to win the game. We went down to 10 men with a lot of time left on the clock, at the Bernabéu … We held out and we created five very clear chances to score, but it wasn’t meant to be.”

Alex Song makes his debut for FC Barcelona

Song subs in for Sergio Busquets / PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ - FCB
The Cameroon international played his first match for FC Barcelona this evening. The player came out onto the pitch on 75 minutes for Sergio Busquets

Even though it probably wasn’t the dream debut Alex Song was hoping for, the Cameroon international played his first official game for FC Barcelona. The midfielder, who started the match on the bench at the Santiago Bernabéu, trotted out onto the pitch on 75 minuted for Sergio Busquets. In total, the player played 19 minutes – as a center back – seeing that Piqué was moved farther up the pitch.

Assist to Messi in the final play of the game

Barça’s number 25 participated in 19 players and completed 18 passes (he didn’t misplace a single pass). In addition, Song found Messi at the edge of the Madrid area, and the Argentine nearly scored the equalizer for his team.

Reial Madrid – FC Barcelona: Super Cup slips away (2-1)

PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ-FCB
Higuaín and Ronaldo put Madrid ahead early on and Barça played with 10 men for more than an hour after Adriano was sent off

Messi brought Barça back into the tie with a superb free kick just before the break

Pedro, Alba, Montoya and Messi all came close to getting the goal that would have meant Barça retained their title

Barça lost the Spanish Super Cup in Madrid by the narrowest of margins after they were defeated 2-1 and with the 3-2 win in the Camp Nou last week lost on the away goals rule. The team could walk away with their heads high though, as they came back from a poor start, finding themselves two down and with just ten men within the first half hour. Adriano’s red was a tough blow, but Messi’s goal at the end of the half brought Tito Vilanova’s team right back into the tie.

The Madrid crowd were made to suffer despite their team playing the last hour with that one man advantage, as Barça’s ten men then put in a great second half, with chances for Pedro, Alba, Montoya and in the dying seconds, Messi, whose shot went inches wide.

Bright start from the hosts

Right from the off, Madrid went for the goal which would bring the tie level and Valdes was soon in action, making a superb stop from Higuain on six minutes. However, there was nothing he could do five minutes later, as the Madrid striker pounced on a mistake in the Barça defence to fire under the keeper. Barça were looking unusually shaky at the back and Madrid did their best to take advantage with deep through balls to exploit their forwards’ pace, with Cristiano Ronaldo in particular finding space to score on 18 minutes and then force Adriano’s expulsion in a similar move ten minutes later.

Valdés and Messi prove decisive

After just 30 minutes, Madrid looked to have the game in the bag – two up and playing against ten men as they laid siege to Valdés’ goal, but the keeper was brilliant in keeping out the hosts’ attackers and Barça gradually began to find their feet and begin to get closer to Casillas’ goal . Montoya – who had been left out of the squad, then come in on the bench after Alves’ injury in the warm up and finally brought on once Adriano had been sent off – was the first to really threaten the Madrid goal on 37 minutes.

The second chance fell to Messi, just before the break and the Argentinean fired home a lovely free kick from 25 yards out, swerving it round the wall and to Casillas’ left to stun the Bernabeu and give Tito’s side a glimmer of hope for the second half.

Domination, but no goal

If Madrid had dominated in the first half, it was a different story after the break, as Barça held onto the ball and kept Madrid caged up in their own half. Pedro came agonisingly close on two occasions, using his speed to cut in from the wing, then both full backs -–Jordi Alba and Montoya- both came close, whilst it fell to Messi in the final seconds of injury time to so nearly win the tie, only for his shot to go just wide as the Bernabeu crowd held their hearts in their mouths. In the end though, the Madrid fans celebrated the final whistle as their team took the trophy despite Barça’s brave effort.