UK press hail Barça ahead of Stamford Bridge clash

The British press seem to have accepted Baras pre-eminence for quite a while now, and the overall feeling seems to make Guardiolas team firm favourites to get through their semi final against Chelsea.

Ahead of Baras tie with the Londoners, the UK press have been analysing the Catalans unique style and success, with the focus very much on what Chelsea can possibly do to stop them making it through to their second final on the run.

A democratic revolution

In The Daily Telegraph, John Carlin and Michael Robinson trace the current Bara teams development back to Rinus Michel and Johan Cruyff through Josep Guardiola and declare Bara have signalled a democratic revolution in the sport. They have shown, through their success, that the qualities a football player requires to prosper are technical skill and intelligence on the ball. Size doesnt matter; neither does the position of each player on the pitch. The striking thing about Guardiolas team is that, while tactical discipline is strict, one is never sure exactly what position on the pitch at least three quarters of the players are supposed to occupy.

Messi and Sanchez head the threat

Ex- Bara and Chelsea man Emmanuel Petit reckons Chelsea will be unable to cope with Lionel Messi and he comments in The Sun: Nobody can control Messi, its impossible. He is a crazy guy. BBC pundit Martin Keown writing in The Daily Mail meanwhile, believes: Lionel Messi is the genius everyone watches but this season Barcelona have uncovered his perfect foil, Alexis Sanchez. He stalks the back four, running on the shoulder of the defensive line before darting into the box, pulling defenders out of the way and creating channels for Messi to run into. If defenders stay with Messi, Sanchez will punish you instead. When Arsenal beat Barcelona last season, they sent their central defenders after Messi and that created a problem for Barcelona. But now, with Sanchez, they have someone who will run into the space from where the defender has come. You just wouldnt want to be playing against him.

Drogba or Torres upfront for Chelsea?

Turning to just what Chelsea can do to stop Bara, ex- England captain Terry Butcher, writing in The Daily Mirror, recalls a classic song from The Clash to define Di Matteos task: Should I stay or should I go? Thats the dilemma facing Roberto Di Matteo this Wednesday when Chelsea take on the best team in the world. Should the Blues stay in their own half and defend the edge of their box or should they go on the attack and push men forward?. Butcher believes: the quick counter attack must be Chelseas main tactic over both matches, utilising the pace of Fernando Torres, but Chelsea cannot over commit. Barcelona can and will adapt their style of play, but patience and persistence have to be the key factors for the home side.

In contrast with Butchers support for Torres, James Olley in The London Evening Standard concludes that Didier Drogbas man of the match performance against Spurs at the weekend means: another one of his force-of-nature displays has surely ended all argument about who will start and given Pep Guardiola a genuine source of discomfort as he boards the plane to London. His ability to provide an effective outlet will be vital in relieving the pressure Barcelona will no doubt create on Chelseas rearguard. Drogba also represents a more viable option for reliability in front of goal than Torres, who is improving but there is no doubt who Barcelona would rather face.

TV coverage of El Clásico presented

A Global Event

The importance of this Saturdays game in the context of this years league title has really awoken interest in the game across the world and the game will be broadcast across all the five continents, with an estimated global audience of 400 million viewers. Mediapro will also be producing a special 3D signal for distribution.

Mediapro presented their coverage of this Saturdays game against Real Madrid at the Club Museum this Monday . The event was attended by Baras Director of Professional Football Andoni Zubizarreta, accompanied by the Spanish commentators Axel Torres and Josep Maria Du, as well as Real Madrids Director of Institutional Relations, Emilio Butragueo, who spoke by direct video link from Madrid.

Hi tech coverage

Mediapro will be rolling out an impressive array of technological and human resources, with more than 300 people working in 10 mobile units one of which is a 3D unit- and a total of 34 cameras, 12 of which will be at pitchside. There will also be a High Speed unit to view action too fast for the human eye- a Steadycam, for dead ball situations- and a Beauty, for aerial views of the Stadium. The coverage will also use the Epsio application to allow lines to be drawn across the image of the pitch to adjudge offside decisions.

For the first time ever on a broadcast game, coverage will also use the stat analysis tool MediaCoach, an application widely used by managers in the Spanish League.

Zubizarreta: A week of high voltage games

Andoni Zubizarreta stressed the importance of Saturdays game: this is the only chance we have to guarantee we take three points and Madrid drop three. I hope we can continue our run of good results against Real Madrid at our ground and with our fans behind us. Zubizarreta also commented on the importance of this Wednesdays Champions League game at Stamford Bridge, which he reckons will be a good preparation for Saturday – this is a week of high voltage games!.

Emilio Butragueo was full of praise for Bara: they have hardly any weak points and are a formidable team with a lot of different resources. Their players have a global view of the game and a lot of that is down to Guardiolas fantastic work. Butragueo also warned though: whatever happens on Saturday, the league will still not be over.

Andrés Iniesta: “The team is looking good, I’m optimistic”

Iniestas goal on 6 May 2009 was enough to send Bara through to the Rome Final against Manchester United and speaking to reporters at the Camp Nou this afternoon before the team trained and flew off for London, he revealed: I guess its inevitable that that goal is being talked about again. Its good to remember it because it was a special and very intense moment not just for me, but for all of us. Life goes on though, and Wednesday is a different situation and a different game. Im very proud of that goal and happy to have been able to have that experience. Its a feeling that is hard to describe.

Team enjoying good run

Iniesta also admitted that this week: is fundamental, important, irreplaceable whatever adjective you want to put : against Chelsea we are playing for a place in the Champions League final and on Saturday we are playing to keep our fight for the league title on course. This is a key moment of the season and the team are looking good, which makes us optimistic. At the start of the season, all of us would have taken the situation we are in now. Weve been fighting hard for months and now we are here still in with a chance of winning everything.

Theres also no risk, according to Iniesta, that the team will lack focus against Chelsea, distracted by the Madrid game: we are just 180 minutes away from a Champions League final. Our focus has to be on the Chelsea match if we are distracted and think about anything else, we will be making a mistake.

More experienced Chelsea

Iniesta compared that 2009 game with Wednesdays and reckons that Chelsea are now a more mature outfit: they have more experience. They were strong in 2009 and they will be stronger now strong, dangerous and intense. That will all be multiplied by the atmosphere at their own ground . Iniesta also stressed the strengthening of the Chelsea team with the signings of his fellow Spanish internationals Fernando Torres and Juan Mata.

Finally, Iniesta insisted the players were clear that they had to go out and get a result in London: we are going there to get a win, to put in a good performance and commit as few errors as possible. We know its a two legged tie, but we are going there to win.

Guardiola has named all 18 first-team players plus Barça B’s Oier, Montoya, Bartra and Tello to Barça’s UCL team

Josep Guardiola has named 22 players to the Bara team for the Champions League semifinals. The manager named all 18 first-team players plus Bara Bs Oier, Montoya, Bartra and Tello to the squad for the match against Chelsea this Wednesday. Seydou Keita, who was given medical clearance to play this Monday, and Ibrahim Afellay, the first time the Dutchman has been named to a squad since his injury this past September, both got the nod from the manager.

Session with 23 players

Before departing for London, the 22 players named to the FC Barcelona team and Marc Muniesa trained at the Camp Nou. As usual in Baras away games in the Champions League, Guardiola is taking a third keeper, Oier. On another note, its worth mentioning that Puyol and Mascherano are just one yellow card away from suspension.

The team travelled to London this Monday afternoon and will not return to Barcelona until Thursday, two days before the Clsico with Real Madrid.

FC Barcelona arrive in London

Meeting at Trafalgar Square

Its almost becoming a tradition for FC Barcelona Supporters Clubs when FC Barcelona play in London. On Wednesday Bara Supporters Clubs will gather at Trafalgar Square 45 minutes before Bara take on Chelsea.

FC Barcelona have arrived in London where they will face Chelsea in the away leg of the Champions League semifinal on Wednesday. The Bara expedition left Barcelona this afternoon for England and they wont return until Thursday. The team landed in London at 9 PM (local time) – one hour behind Catalan time – and went directly to the team hotel.

Sandro Rosell, accompanied by members of the board of directors and FC Barcelona Football Director Andoni Zubizarreta, also travelled with the team.

Tuesday afternoon, Champions League preview

Tomorrow, Guardiola, who named 22 footballers to the team, will lead the only training session the team will have at Stamford Bridge before the match on Wednesday. The players, who will be back on the pitch where Andrs Iniesta scored the last-minute goal three years ago, will start the training session at 18:15 (local time). At 17:35, Pep Guardiola and Cesc Fbregas will hold a pre-training press conference.

At 19:45, representatives from both clubs will take part in the official directors supper. Sandro Rosell will lead the Bara delegation.

10 key days for League and European hopes

Only one day off from training

The squad will be playing three games in 10 days and also have a full schedule of training, with only this Wednesday without a session, match day at Stamford Bridge, where they will train on Tuesday evening.

Josep Guardiola has always repeated the same message to players and fans alike: our objective is to get to April with our chances still intact in all the competitions. Once again this season that objective has been met, with the Spanish Cup, Champions League and La Liga all in sight. The next ten days will be key to their success on both the domestic and European fronts.

Stamford Bridge and El Classico

First up this week is the trip to London for Wednesdays Champions League semi-final first leg. The team will fly to England on Monday and not be back at the Camp Nou until Thursday, as they attempt to revive the memories of their success at Stamford Bridge in the 2009 semi-final.

Therell be little time to reflect on Wednesdays game, as preparations will start for Saturdays visit of Real Madrid as soon as the team get back to Catalonia. A win for Guardiolas men would leave them just a point behind Madrid piling the pressure onto Mourinhos team, whilst a draw or a Madrid win would really make it tough for Bara to retain their title. This will be a truly decisive classico.

Munich final beckons

Just three days after the Madrid game, its Chelsea who are the visitors to the Camp Nou for the second leg of the semi-final and a game that will decide who goes through to the final in Munich in May. Bara have a great challenge ahead of them to become the first team to retain the Champions League. Just as with the Madrid game, home advantage against Chelsea could prove key.

Over the next few days, Baras challenge for the League and Champions League could stumble, or the team could once again stride on towards the May final in Munich and a thrilling close to the domestic league.

Xavi: "Leo Messi will be the best player in the history of football"

Xavi Hernndez, FC Barcelonas vice captain recently sat down with UEFA.com to answer questions posed by users that follow the European football organization on Twitter. In fact, the response to UEFAs interview was so successful that the hashtag #AskXavi was catapulted to the number 1 spot on the worldwide trending topic list.

When asked to give his opinion on who the greatest player of all time is, Xavi was clear: That’s very difficult because you’re comparing one era with another, but if he continues like this then I think Leo Messi will be the best player in the history of football without a doubt. Everything advances and develops so fast now, and yet Messi is doing the same thing as [Diego] Maradona did 20 years ago and as Pel, [Johan] Cruyff and [Alfredo] Di Stfano did many years ago. I think Messi will be the best.

A sportsman, and a footballer in this case, never gets tired of winning, said the Catalan midfielder when asked to give insight on how he stays motivated in a sport thats brought him almost unparalleled success. Xavi finished by saying, all sportsmen want to continue winning and to be great. This is what sport is all about and that competitive edge makes you want to keep on winning.

You can read the full interview here.

Barça haven’t won their last five matches against Chelsea

Memory can be selective. Baras record against Chelsea isnt as successful as it would seem seeing that most recent memory in the Cul subconscious features Andrs Iniestas stoppage-time goal that gave FC Barcelona a ticket to the final of the Champions League in 2009. However, FC Barcelona havent beat the London side in their last five times attempts. The last Catalan victory over Chelsea was in the 2005/06 season, when FC Barcelona won their second ever Champions League title in Paris.

Here’s a snapshot of Baras last six matches against Chelsea:

VICTORY. Chelsea-FC Barcelona (1-2, February 21st, 2006). Terry, who scored an own goal, and Etoo overturned Mottas own goal. Chelsea finished with 10 players, Del Horno was sent off, and Bara came away with a vital victory.

DRAW. FC Barcelona-Chelsea (1-1, March 8th, 2006). Ronaldinho, close to the end of the match, secured passage for FC Barcelona to the next round of the tournament. Frank Lampard equalised in stoppage time through a penalty. The team would go on to claim the title against Arsenal in Paris.

DEFEAT. Chelsea-FC Barcelona (1-0, October 18th, 2006). Both teams met in the group stages of the Champions League. In London, Drogba won the three points for Chelsea.

DRAW. FC Barcelona-Chelsea (2-2, October 31st, 2006). It was a back-and-forth match at the Camp Nou. Lampard scored the equaliser in stoppage time. Both teams divvied up the points; Chelsea finished first in the group, FC Barcelona finished second.

DRAW. FC Barcelona-Chelsea (0-0, April 28th, 2009). In the away leg of the semifinals of the Champions League at the Camp Nou, FC Barcelona and Chelsea finished the match with a goalless draw. The Catalans deserved a bit more from the game.

DRAW. Chelsea-FC Barcelona (1-1, May 6th, 2009). Essien opened up the scoring in the first half with a sublime goal. The London side had Bara outnumbered on pitch for most of the game after ric Abidal was sent off. Andrs Iniesta, with a fantastic goal in stoppage time, earned his team a spot in the Champions League final in Rome.

Tottenham – Chelsea: The Blues qualify for the FA Cup final days before receiving Barça (1

To get the final of the FA Cup, the manager Roberto di Matteo sent out his usual starters. Didier Drogba was the man up front while Fernando Torres watched the from the bench, while Frank Lampard and Obi Mikel flanked Juan Mata, acting mediapunta. The first minutes of the London derby was marked by imprecision and a lack of goal scoring chances for both teams.

Halfway through the first half, after a magnificent counterattack led by Kalou, Mata nearly netter the first goal of the match but the opportunity was lost when the Spaniard, in an attempt to control Kalous pass, lost the ball. It was Chelseas first warning shot across Tottenhams bow. Tottenham responded immediately thereafter, but a providential John Terry cleared Van de Vaarts header off the goal line.

Minutes after being denied a goal, the Dutchman sent in a great cross for Adebayor. The Togolese footballer made a dummy for the ball and let it pass, Van de Vaarts cross crashed into the woodwork. Harry Redknapps team was letting Chelsea off the hook and they paid for it. Drogba, Chelseas most incisive footballer on the day, produced a sublime goal to give the Blues the lead. After a magnificent control, the striker skipped past Gallas and buried the ball into the back of Tottenhams net.

Chelsea kills the game off

At the start of the second half, Martin Atkinson controversially ruled that Mata had in fact scored an unclear goal. However, Gareth Bale got Tottenham on the board after Adebayor dribbled passed Cech. Chelsea came close to killing off the game with a couple of well executed counterattacks, but it was Ramires, 15 minutes from full time, brilliantly assisted by Mata, that restored Chelseas two-goal lead.

A majestically taken free kick from Lampard and a strike from Malouda put the definitive 1-5 on the scoreboard. The only bad news for Chelsea, looking forward to the Champions League match against FC Barcelona, is David Luiz injury. The player is doubtful for the clash with the Catalans.

Chelsea qualified for the final of the oldest football tournament in the world days before their Champions League semifinal match with FC Barcelona. Liverpool will be Chelseas opponent in the Cup final, which will be played on May 5th at Wembley.

Stats and facts from Barça’s 11th consecutive victory in La Liga

Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, with 41 goals apiece, share the best scoring record in the history of the La Liga

– The Argentine has scored in 10 straight matches and he equals the all-time Bara record for goals scored in consecutive matches set by Mariano Martn and Ronaldo.

Iniesta played in his 400th official match for Bara, catching Alexanko.

Guardiola has won 50 matches away from the Camp Nou in La Liga as a manager.

– Baras ball possession at the Ciutat de Valncia was 72%.

– Bara shot on goal 16 times to Levantes 5.

– The visiting side only committed 6 fouls to the home sides 15.

– Messi (6) and Thiago (4) were the Bara players that shot on goal the most.

Mascherano (15) and Juanfran (13), were the players that won back the most balls.

– Thiago was the player that made the most passes, with 104, of them 98 were successful.