The Azulgrana Roundup, week 4

If you have suggestions for this column, please tweet them to Baras twitter account, make sure you tag your tweet with #FCBroundup

FIFA.com. Ladislao Kubala: International ground-breaker, Bara king

But the only tears Bara fans shed because of Ladislao Kubala over the next decade were ones of joy triggered by his enthralling repertoire of tricks, defence-piercing through-balls and devastating right-foot shooting from free-kicks and open play. The attacking midfielder inspired one of the greatest sides in the clubs history; Kubalamania inspired the creation of Camp Nou.

The New York Times. Rob Hughes. Why Ask Why? Just Enjoy Messi

On Tuesday night in the cold, wet, industrial Rhineland of Germany, Messi found a new field and new opponents to conquer. He created two goals for Alexis Snchez with passes of breathtaking imagination. He scored a goal out of the sheer desire to run beyond any teammate, any opponent.

UEFA.com. Messis sixth sense explained

So acute is Lionel Messi’s vision on the football pitch that he seems to have eyes in the back of his head, but is there a scientific explanation for his sixth sense?

Goal.com. Ben Hayward. A Champions League love story – Barcelonas Lionel Messi breaks competition record with 19th strike in knockout games

So it is perhaps fitting that on Saint Valentine’s Day, the much-admired Argentine created his own celebration of love by breaking yet another record, as he surpassed the mark set for goals scored in the knockout stages of the Champions League in Germany on Tuesday, with his 19th strike in games played at the business end of the tournament.

El Grfico. Martn Mazur. Guardiola: Genio Trabajando [Spanish]

La mente brillante de Josep Guardiola es el motor del mejor equipo de la historia. Los pases de Xavi, los lujos de Iniesta y las aceleraciones de Messi nacen en un stano, donde Pep se encierra a pensar.

Los Corresponsales. Sid Lowe / Martin Ainstein / Filippo Ricci. Maradona or Messi? [Spanish, stay tuned – English version could be on the way]

Twitter. Vctor Valds. Picture of the keeper and a very young Sergi Roberto.

Valds’ photo caption: It fills me pride to share the [Bara] locker room with teammates like @SergiRoberto10. Check out the photo he gave me, it was taken in 2005.

Weezer.com. Matt Sharp, now with The Rentals, shows his footballing colours to the world in Weezers El Scorcho music video (released in 1996). Spoiler: Keep an eye out for a vintage Bara jersey.

Twitter. David Villa. Picture of two screws that were removed from the players tibia.

Villa’s photo caption: Two less screws in my tibia. Without them, my recovery will be faster!

New signings have scored 23% of the team’s goals

Baras signings this season have brought in a lot of goals for the first team. Cesc Fbregas, Alexis Snchez and Thiago Alcntara – his first year as a first-team player- have scored 23% of the teams goals (29 of the 124). Cesc has 15, Alexis 11 and Thiago 3. Andreu Fonts also joined the first team this season, but before he could net any goes he sustained a serious injury.

Last year, 18%

This years signings have outscored the players brought in last year. At the end of last season, Villa, Mascherano, Afellay, Adriano and Jeffren netted 27 times, totaling 18% of the teams goals.

The alternatives to Alves and Mascherano

Josep Guardiola will be forced to replace Dani Alves and Javier Mascherano, both suspended, ahead of Baras next league match against Valencia at the Camp Nou this weekend. The manager will either have to call up reserve players or reshuffle his first-team line-up in order to fill the centre back and right back positions.

Right back

Under Guardiola, Carles Puyol has taken up the task of stepping in the right back position from time to time. The absence of Mascherano, however, could force the manager to keep the captain in the middle and instead opt to send Adriano Correia out wide. Its worth noting that the Brazilian is still recovering from injury. Guardiolas third option is to call up Martn Montoya. The youngster is a pure right back, hes a regular feature in Eusebios line-ups, and hes played and scored for the first team this season.

The two centre backs

Carles Puyol and Gerard Piqu are the only true first-team centre backs at Guardiolas disposal against Valencia. In the event that one of the two dont line-up in the middle of the defence, the manager could call on the reserve teams Bartra and Muniesa. The coach could also use ric Abidal or Sergio Busquets to fill the possible gap in the middle.

Left back

It looks as though Abidal will be the man to defend Baras left flank. If Guardiola decides to use him in the middle, however, Adriano or Muniesa could replace the Frenchman out wide.

Tactical change

On Matchday 1, Bara played against Villarreal with a makeshift defence; Guardiola only had Mascherano and Abidal at his disposal. The manager sent his men out in a 3-4-3 formation, moving Busquets back and positioning the Argentine and the Frenchman on either side of him. Curiously enough, Bara played with 3-4-3 formation against Valencia in the first half of the season.

Welcome back, Keita!

Two players were the focus of all attention on Thursday morning at the Ciutat Esportiva: Seydou Keita and Ibrahim Afellay. The Malian is back after an excellent performance at the Africa Cup of Nations, where his country came third and he was named in the All Star XI. Keita, who left for Gabon in early January, was given a rapturous welcome home by his team mates.

Meanwhile, Afellay has started working out on the field, almost fve months after picking up a knee injury. He was also given an ovation this morning and then exercised in isolation.

Specific work for Busquets and Adriano

Sergio Busquets, with a wounded knee, and Adriano, who was taken off on Tuesday as a precautionary measure due to a problem with the soleus in his left leg, also trained separately, as did Xavi, who stayed in the gym. Four B team players made up the numbers, namely defenders Montoya, Bartra and Muniesa plus striker Tello. Dos Santos and Sergi Roberto, who have been regular features of first team sessions of late, trained with the reserves today.

Welcome back Keita!

Two players were the focus of all attention on Thursday morning at the Ciutat Esportiva: Seydou Keita and Ibrahim Afellay. The Malian is back after an excellent performance at the African Nations Cup, where his country came third and he was named in the All Star XI. Keita, who left for Gabon in early January, was given a rapturous welcome home by his team mates.

Meanwhile, Afellay has started working out on the field, almost fve months after picking up a knee injury. He was also given an ovation this morning and then exercised in isolation.

Specific work for Busquets and Adriano

Sergio Busquets, with a wounded knee, and Adriano, who was taken off on Tuesday as a precautionary measure due to a problem with the soleus in his left leg, also trained separately, as did Xavi, who stayed in the gym. Four B team players made up the numbers, namely defenders Montoya, Bartra and Muniesa plus striker Tello. Dos Santos and Sergi Roberto, who have been regular features of first team sessions of late, trained with the reserves today.

Afellay starts training on the field

Ibrahim Afellay worked out separately from the rest of the team at the Ciutat Esportiva on the first occasion he has been seen on a football pitch since sustaining his injury. In the company of a physio, the Dutchman did circuit training and running exercises at different paces.

This is a further step forward in what have been more than four months of recovery for Afellay after an operation on cruciate ligaments in his left knee. He underwent arthroscopy on October 3 with doctors Ricard Pruna and Ramon Cugat, whose verdict that day was that he would be out of action for about six months.

Valdés: “The Champions League will affect what happens in the League”

Vctor Valds reckons that Tuesday’s win away to Bayer Leverkusen was very important for the team. Doing so well in Germany “keeps us alive in the competition, which is something very important for us … And at the same time it provided inspiration for the league.” Valds feels that the way they performed at the BayArena was ideal preparation for what’s left of the season. “The Champions League will affect what happens in the League” he claimed.

As many of his team mates have made patently clear this week, Valds believes they have to keep fighting to reduce Real Madrid’s ten-point lead. “If we look at how the season has gone, there’s no denying that we haven’t been getting the away results we’d hoped for. And that’s why we’re ten points behind” he said. “But we have to keep at it. We won’t let our heads drop. We have to keep believing and fighting”.

Piqu sidelined

Valds didn’t want to make a big thing of Piqu not being in the team against Leverkusen. “There’s no need to go on about that. He’s the best centre back in the world and he’s always shown that. It was just the manager’s decision the other day” he said, before adding that “I haven’t noticed any change in him. He’s working harder than ever and enthusiastic about things”.

Xavi Hernndez also watched the win at the Bayer 04 from the terraces. Valds agreed that the team missed the midfielder “because he’s an important player for us … He’s trying to get fit again as quickly as possible. I’m sure he’ll be back soon”.

Praise for Alexis

The Bara stopper also mentioned Alexis Snchez‘s great form. “He’s phenomenal. He had no problem adapting and he’s done everything to perfection … He’s one of the best finishers in the world”.

Valerón: "I have always admired Eusebio"

Juan Carlos Valern (Arguineguin, Gran Canaria, 1975) is the undisputed leader of
Deportivo, Bara Bs rivals on Saturday. In the words of his President, Augusto Cesar
Lendoiro, “he sets the standard at a sporting, technical, and philosophical level”.
Just like the Galician club, in the last decade, hes been to heaven and hell (mainly
due toinjuries). His experience has brought serenity, and simplicity: Valern feels an
obligation to return Depor to the elite, even if its with the last spark of magic that
comes from his boots.

After the relegation of your team last year, you said “I’m just as excited to play for
Depor in the second division, as I am playing for the national team”. With half the
season over, is your enthusiasm still intact?

“Of course. That was a way of saying that I was very involved with the club after so
many years here. I felt that the veterans in the team had the responsibility to step up”.

Can we conclude that Deportivo is fully adapted to the Second Division and will host
Bara B at a good time for them?

“Were in good shape and in the last few games weve had some very good results.
However, you cant ever relax too much. We have to be prepared each week, each
game. Those of us whove spent many years in the game know what it means and how
difficult it is to stay at the top. We try to bring normality to the situation, there is still a
lot to do”.

Is this the Depor team thats playing the best football in recent years?

“It’s possible. With new manager, the proposal is to want to play well, take the
initiative, with combinations and possession. Personally, Im enjoying it very much. The
arrival of Oltra has helped me”.

What does it feel like as a player who has won so much when he plays against others
just starting out, above all young players, such as many of the Bara B team?

“As you approach the end of your career you try to make the most of this time,
showing great respect and humility towards young players. I identify with them. I
always observe them carefully, whether theyre in my team or the opposition”.

Is there any particular player that you like in the Bara B team?

“I find it very difficult to pick out just one. They have many very good players. I saw
some of them in the Youth Kings Cup last season, when they played against Deportivo.
I know they have footballers at a good level”.

After their third place last season, can Eusebio maintain that level?

“His team is improving, theyre more connected. It seems they have some stability
although the first team keeps calling up players. I’ve always admired Eusebio. As a
player I admired him because he didnt make any noise and always did well, wherever
he was playing. As a manager I noticed him when he was at Celta with the daring offer.
I wasnt surprised when Bara signed him”.

Youve already played against them, so do you see the potential in the young players
like Montoya, Bartra, or Muniesa that might consolidate them in the first team?

“There is little doubt of their quality. However, every process needs time and a number
of things to happen. We cant anticipate events. We should bear in mind that some
players grow before others … It takes patience”.

At most grounds there are some players, just like Valern, that are cheered when
they come onto the pitch. What do you think the fans really appreciate?

“I am very grateful. I guess that’s because I’ve been at it for years. I noticed especially
after returning from injury that kept me out for two years. I was filled with satisfaction
to see the Camp Nou applaud me on the penultimate day of last season”.

How do you see this stage of Barcas hegemony?

“This is a team that has been better than the rest. There has always been the doubt
about whether a team could play well and win and Bara have shown that it can be
done. Theyve done a lot for Spanish football, because a lot of people are trying to
copy their model”.

What would have happened if your SuperDepor with Djalminha, Makaay and
company would have coincided with the current Bara team?

“Its difficult to say. Theyd have been good games and you would have seen some
great football. However, we have to recognise that this Barca, and Real Madrid as
well, are at a very high level, well above many other historic teams. Ten years ago we
werent so good”.

You are under contract until 2015 with Deportivo, first as a player and then as advisor
to the President. If Depor gets promoted will we see you in the Directors Box or on the
pitch at the Camp Nou next year?

“I dont know what will happen, just now Im not even thinking about it. I’m really
enjoying helping the team. At the end of the season well take a look at the situation
and see how I am. In any case, before making a decision Ill want to know the ideas of
the Club and the Manager.

Bayer Leverkusen

Here are the most relevant facts and stats from the 1-3 match at the BayArena:

Bara made it six victories on the trot away from the Camp Nou in the Champions League with the win over Leverkusen. Bara is the third team to reach this mark after Ajax (7) and Manchester United

Bara continues their goalscoring form in Europe. They have scored in 29 consecutive Champions League matches, a feat unequalled to date

Nine FC Barcelona players have scored in the Champions League this season, including Alexis

Alexis favourite moment to score is between the 45 and 60 minute mark, 5 of his 11 goals as a Bara player have been scored in this timeframe

The Chilean joins the group of Bara players that have scored in the league, Cup and Champions League. The rest are Messi, Pedro, Cesc and Xavi

Messi is the first player in the history of the competition to score in six consecutive matches away from home

In fact, the last 11 goals from Messi in the Champions League were scored away from the Camp Nou (10 as a visitor and 1 in a neutral stadium, Wembley)

With the goal in Leverkusen, the Argentine leapfrogs Claudio Pizarro as the South American with the most goals in the competition

More Messi records: hes the highest goalscorer in the history of the Champions League knockout stages with 19 goals. Raul has 18, Shevchenko 18, and Inzaghi 16

Alves played his 40th Champions League match with Bara on Tuesday

Pedro reached 150 official matches for FC Barcelona, so far hes bagged 52 goals

Puyol is the 11th ranked player with the most Champions League matches under his belt (106), including qualifying rounds

Mascherano and Puyol are the players that won back the most balls in Leverkusen, 16 and 15, respectively

Curiously enough, the defender Dani Alves was the player that participated in the most plays throughout the game (total of 153)

Cesc was the player that crossed the ball the most (6)