Messi, Alves, Alexis, Mascherano, Adriano, Maxwell and Keita start holidays early

Arrival in Barcelona

The World Champions are due to land in Barcelona at 18.00 and after a group photo with their latest Cup on the airport runway, they will come straight to the Camp Nou. The Club has asked fans not to go to the airport to meet their heroes.

With the Club World Cup won, the members of the first team squad who live furthest away have been given permission by the Club to begin their Christmas break early and meet up with their families at for the holidays.

The Argentinians Lionel Messi and Javier Mascherano, Brazilians Dani Alves, Adriano Correia and Maxwell, Chilean Alexis Snchez and Seydou Keita from Mali have all been given an early start to their Christmas break, which they will return from for training on the afternoon of December 29th.

Rested for the Cup game

Josep Guardiola has thus decided to leave the seven out of the Cup game against Hospitalet on Thursday night (22.00 Camp Nou).

Messi never shies away from big matches, particularly, finals. He has scored 15 goals in championship matches

Spanish Cup 08/09 (1 goal): With the scores at 1-1, Messi popped up to turn things rounds as the team went on to win 4-1 in Guardiola’s first final and take the first title of the famous treble.

Champions League 08/09 (1 goal): A beautifully placed header added to Samuel Eto’o’s opener to give Bara their third title of the season in beating Manchester United in Rome.

Spanish Super Cup 09/10 (2 goals): Having beaten Bilbao 1-2 in the Basque Country, FC Barcelona finished off the tie with a 3-0 win at the Camp Nou, with Messi getting the second and third goals to send them on the way to their fourth title of the year.

European Super Cup 09/10: Although Leo failed to score in Monaco against Shaktar the first final with Guardiola he failed to get on the score sheet in, he did set up Pedro’s winner with a lovely pass.

Club World Cup 09/10 (1 goal): One of his most symbolic goals scored with his chest gave Bara the first World title of their history and his extra time winning goal in the 2-1 result gave the team their sixth title of the year.

Spanish Super Cup 10/11 (3 goals): A Camp Nou hat trick saw Bara come back from the 3-1 defeat in the first leg, to beat Seville 4-0 and take the title again.

Spanish Cup 10/11: Only the second final in which Messi failed to score and also the only defeat in a final with Guardiola as Real Madrid took the title 0-1.

Champions League 10/11 (1 goal): A rasping shot from outside the box took Van der Saar by surprise and put the icing on the cake of Bara’s 3-1 win over Manchester United at Wembley, the second Champions League final he’d scored at.

Spanish Super Cup 11/12 (3 goals): With hardly any chance for pre-season training, Messi scored three goals in the two legged Spanish Super Cup final: one in the 2-2 draw in Madrid and two more in the 3-2 win at the Camp Nou.

European Super Cup 11/12 (1 goal): Leo Messi took advantage of a mistake in the Porto defence to open the scoring in the 2-0 win which brought Guardiola his second European Super Cup.

Club World Cup 11/12 (2 goals): Two brilliant Messi strikes gave Guardiola his second World title on Sunday and his 13th title since taking charge.

The World Champions arrive in Barcelona

After almost 13 hours of travel time the World Champions airplane touched down in Barcelona at 18.00 hrs. The teams trip, which started with beating Real Madrid at the Bernabu and finished with the Club World Cup crown, came to an end after nine days of away from home.

Traditional group photograph

After disembarking, the team lined up to take the traditional group photograph on the tarmac with the Club World Cup trophy. Then the team travelled by coach to the Camp Nou to say their farewells to the South American first-teamers, who will start their holiday vacation today and return to training on the 29th of December.

The rest of the squad will meet up on Tuesday, starting at 19.00 hrs, for a training session at the Cuitat Esportiva. The team will prepare the Round of 32 return leg of the Kings Cup against Hospitalet scheduled for Thursday (22.00 hrs). It will be a closed door session, Jos Manuel Pinto will hold a pre-training press conference.

Villa is expected to recover in four to five months after successful shinbone surgery

Rosell and Bartomeu, visit with Villa

Upon arriving in Barcelona from Japan, Bara President Sandro Rosell and Sporting Vice President, Josep Maria Bartomeu, visited with David Villa at hospital

This afternoon Doctor Ramon Cugat and Doctor Ricard Pruna performed surgery on David Villas fractured shinbone. The surgical team performed an osteosynthesis procedure and introduced an intramedullary rod (IM nail) in the players left leg. The player will remain at hospital for three to four days and hes expected to make a full recovery within four to five months.

Upon concluding the operation, Doctor Cugat and Doctor Pruna held a press conference in the Ricard Maxenchs press room in the Camp Nou to explain the procedure.

The doctors havent ruled Villa out this season

Doctor Cugat, when asked if the striker would be fit before a hypothetical Champions League final on May 19th, said, Villas options of playing this season are small but we cant dismiss the possibility. The doctor isnt ruling out the chance of seeing Villa on the pitch before the end of the season, its close, but there is a possibility of him coming back seeing that eagerness and state of mind are very important factors. He added, hes upbeat and he hopes to be ready for the Champions League final and the Euro Championship. He will set the deadlines.

Doctor Pruna, who has been with the player since he broke his shinbone in the Club World Cup semifinal in Japan, said, he was upbeat in Yokohama. He had the spirit to heal immediately and thats good. He added that Villa was smiling once the operation had concluded, his emotional state is perfect.

Iniesta: "It’s very difficult to get here"

PHOTO: ARCHIVE FCB
The Barça midfielder recalled how hard it is to get to participate in the World Club Cup and believes that winning in Japan would be a “pretty good” end of year, and lead to a “happy” Christmas

With only 24 hours to go before the semi-finals of the FIFA Club World Cup, Barça are no longer thinking of anything else. Andres Iniesta, one of the most influential players in the squad, said at the press conference after the game that the team have come here “with all the enthusiasm and desire in the world to win again”. Andres wanted to emphasise the difficulty of getting to participate for a World title like this one: “To be here you have to win the Champions League, which today is very hard. If we win the World Club Championship it will have been a great year and we’ll have a very happy Christmas”.

“We’ve felt the fans’ euphoria”

Although they are a long way from Barcelona, Andres Iniesta wanted to make it clear that the players feel the happiness being felt in Catalonia after the 3-1 win in the Bernabeu. “The win has done a lot for all of us. Even from afar we’ve felt the fans’ euphoria. When you win a game like that it gives you a boost for everything that comes later” he said, aware that the win in Madrid means they’ll go into the semi-final against Al-Sadd with even more confidence. He stressed, though, that despite the victory against Real Madrid, “there’s a long way to go in the League”.

Good sensations

In this regard, he assured everybody that the squad is in good shape: “I don’t know how the defeat will affect Real Madrid. I can only talk about my own sensations with our team, which are very good. For us it was really important to win”. The Barça number 8 took advantage of his appearance at the press conference, too, to reject the idea that Barça doesn’t do so well against the smaller teams: “This team has shown that we show the same respect whether we’re playing at Hospitalet or in the San Siro“.

A special competition

For Iniesta, this World Club competition is very special. Even more so for him, as when Barça won in 2009, Iniesta was injured in the semifinals and missed the Final. “Personally, it’s an extra motivation. That year I had lots of problems with injuries, and I really hope I can play in the Final” he said, whilst recalling that Barça have already lost a few finals, but have always been able to come back and play again in later editions.

Do you want Messi to be on the cover of Sports Illustrated?

Messi and Barça could be on the cover of 'Sports Illustrated' / PHOTO: ARXIU FCB
The FC Barcelona striker could be the face on the issue of the magazine at the end of December

Messi and Barça are in the running after winning the Champions League final against Manchester United

The fans can vote for him until next Friday on Facebook

For the first time in its history Sports Illustrated, the prestigious American magazine, is holding a Facebook vote for its readers around the world to decide who they would like to appear on the last cover of the year. Readers are being asked to pick their favourite sporting moment of 2011 and one of the options is Messi celebrating his goal in the Champions League final at Wembley. The magazine firmly believes that FC Barcelona‘s performance against Manchester United consecrated them as the best team in the world.

To vote for Messi, all you have to do is go to the Sports Illustrated Facebook page and put the Argentinian on the top of your list.

The weekly magazine has 3 million subscribers and is read by about 23 million people.

12 possible debuts at Club World Cup

Cesc Fàbregas. PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ (FCB).
12 of the 23 players that Barça have taken to Japan have never appeared in the competition before

But Valdés, Puyol, Iniesta and Xavi are going for the third time

Although they are all used to top level competition, 12 of the 23 players in the Barça squad in Japan have yet to play in the Club World Cup. These are Fàbregas, Villa, Alexis, Thiago, Pinto, Mascherano, Maxwell, Adriano, Fontàs, Cuenca, Oier and Dos Santos. Pinto, Maxwell and Dos Santos were in the squad in 2009, but didn’t play in either match.

Yokohama 2006 – Abu Dhabi 2009 – Yokohama 2011

There are eleven survivors from the first time Barça won the trophy in 2009: Valdés, Alves, Piqué, Puyol, Abidal, Busquets, Xavi, Keita, Messi, Pedro and Iniesta. The four captains (Valdés, Puyol, Iniesta, Xavi) were also in the team that played in the tournament in 2006, but where FCB lost in the final by Internacional of Porto Alegre.

Guardiola’s third

It is also Pep Guardiola’s third taste of the competition. He lost as a player in 1992 against Sao Paulo (2-1), but 17 years later savoured victory as manager in Abu Dhabi against Estudiantes of La Plata (2-1).

Piqué: “We can’t miss out on chances like this”

Roda de premsa de Piqué i Mascherano a Japó. FOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ (FCB).
The centre back is keen to win his second Clubs World Cup and feels the team is going the right way about it

Mascherano elegantly accepted being a sub at the Bernabéu

The team is continuing to prepare for the Clubs World Cup in Japan. On Tuesday evening, local time, Gerard Piqué and Javier Mascherano spoke to the press after training. “We can’t miss out on chances like this”, said the former.

He also said that “we haven’t yet adapted to the time change or recovered from such a long journey … We trained a bit harder today and tomorrow we’ll train even harder”.

Doing things right

On the recent win at the Bernabéu, Piqué said “we are very happy with our play and the result. We left feeling that we’re on the right track and doing things well … The team knew we were able to win there”. On the tactics used, he said “we can change our system as we like, and play with either three or four defenders”.

Mascherano modest

Javier Mascherano was one of the substitutes at Real Madrid: “I have to accept my place” he said. “Piqué and Puyol are the first choice centre backs and if they’re fit, they play”. Did he agree with those who reckon Barça were fortunate on Saturday night? “Lucky? I was on the bench, and I saw a very different game, where Barça was the better team and let a goal in after thirty seconds but still played their usual game”.

Solidarity with children of Fukushima

Photo with the children affected by Fukushima / PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ - FCB
Before the training session on Tuesday, the Barça first team players and coaches had a short meeting with eleven young people from the area affected by the accident at the Fukushima nuclear power centre

It happened at the Yokohama Marinos training ground which FC Barcelona are using for the Clubs World Cup. After a day’s rest, it was back to work for the players. But first, the earliest part of the session was dedicated to solidarity.

The players met a group of eleven children aged between 9 and 18 years from the Fukushima area. The children were all presented with a Barça shirt with their own name on the back, namely Ryo Takahashi, Syuto Matsuzaki, Kouki Kato, Masatoshi Matsubara, Kazuki Fujita, Hirotaka Kato , Takuya Kato, Kana Ogata, Natsuki Abe, Hikaru Nitsuma and Dai Watanabe.

President Sandro Rosell was also there to present a shirt with the words ‘FCB with Japan‘ to the director of the Tokyo metropolitan government’s education programme, Tominari Yamakawa, the government’s special delegate to the Fukushima refugees. The institutional representation also involved Spanish ambassador Miguel Ángel Navarro and the director of the Instituto Cervantes, Víctor Ugarte, who had both helped to set up the meeting.

One step away from Barça’s unbeaten record at the Bernabéu

R.MADRID-FCB (1-3). PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ (FCB).
Between 1969 and 1974, Barça visited their arch-rival’s stadium five times without losing; Guardiola is one game away from equalling that feat

After the brilliant 1-3 at the Santiago Bernabéu this Saturday, Guardiola’s Barça is on the verge of becoming the Barça team with the longest unbeaten run in the Liga at the Bernabéu. Since 2008, the team has played four games at the Bernabéu without knowing defeat. In the 2009/10 season Barça put six past Madrid and conceded two (in a game that clinched the title), the next year Barça won by 0-2 and last season the Azulgranas managed a valuable draw (1-1).

All in all, Guardiola’s men have won three games and tied one against Madrid at the Bernabéu, scoring 12 goals and conceding 4. To these spectacular numbers we must add Barça’s victory in the Champions League 2010/11 (0-2) and the draw in the away leg of the Spanish Super Cup (2-2). In total, four victories and two draws in six visits to the Spanish capital.

Record within reach

Even with Barça’s amazing run with Guardiola on the bench, the team is one game away from Barça’s all-time unbeaten record at the Bernabéu. The record was set in 1969 through 1974, during which time Barça played in Madrid on five occasions in the Liga: 3-3 (69/70), 1-1 (70/71), 0-0 (72-73) and 0-5 (73/74). Three different coaches graced Barça’s bench during this time: Salvador Artigas, Vic Buckhingham and Rinus Michels.