Second Barça training session in Japan ahead of debut against Al-Sadd

The team trains in Yokohama / PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ - FCB
After almost a whole day off, the first team returned to training ahead of their first game in the Clubs World Cup on Thursday against Al-Sadd

The session was open to the press and involved all 23 players that have travelled to Japan

The second session in the Far East started at 20.00 am CET, and came 24 hours after the first session since arriving. The venue was the Yokohama Marinos training ground, and the Clubs World Cup was on everybody’s mind. FC Barcelona‘s first opponent in its bid to win the title for the second time will be Al-Sadd of Qatar.

Nobody missing

The session was open to the media and involved all 23 players that have flown to Yokohama. After a warm-up and circuit training, they divided into three groups for games on a downsized field. Wearing blue were Piqué, Fontàs, Adriano, Xavi, Messi, Pedro and Alexis. In organe bibs were Maxwell, Puyol, Keita, Cuenca, Cesc and Alves. The side with no bibs was formed by Abidal, Thiago, Iniesta, Villa, Mascherano and Dos Santos. Sergio Busquets acted as a wildcard, rotating between teams, and goalkeepers Valdés, Pinto and Oier were all rotated.

The players share their day off in Japan on Twitter

Andrés Iniesta in the Tokyo metro
Some of Barça’s players shared their day off in Japan with their Twitter followers

The team’s main attraction was the metro, where they went largely unnoticed by fellow travellers

The FC Barcelona players took advantage of the 24 hours of free time given to them by Pep Guardiola to explore and have a bit of fun in Japan.

The metro was the first stop for most of the players as they were able to enjoy a few hours of anonymity. Piqué posted a picture of Carles Puyol trying to buy tickets on his Twitter account; minutes later it was the captain that posted a photo of himself, Cesc and Fontàs riding the train. The midfielder was also active on his social media accounts and uploaded a photo of himself with a Japanese fan.

Iniesta, going incognito on the metro

Andrés Iniesta and Dani Alves also decided to share their day with their Twitter followers. The Spaniard, completely unnoticed by the rest of the passengers, posted a photo of himself inside the train car.

Dani Alves, on the other hand, was much more active online. First, he posted an image of the team walking through an airport hallway decorated with a banner that read ‘Welcome to Japan.’ He then went on to document his experience in the Yokohama metro station, and finally he posted a couple of photos of himself playing around in a display carriage.

De la Cruz, the link between Barça and Yokohama

Toño de la Cruz in Yokohama. PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ- FCB.
The ex-Barça player and assistant manager returns to the city where he managed at the end of the 90s

“I have great affection for the Yokohama Marinos and FC Barcelona,” said De la Cruz

One of FC Barcelona’s expedition members that travelled to Japan knows the country very well, Yokohama to be precise, where the Club World Cup will be played. It’s Toño de la Cruz, Barça player in the 70s, manager of Barça’s youth squads in the 80s and assistant to the first team at the beginning of this century. De la Curz’s only experience as manager away from FC Barcelona was when he was with the Yokohama Marinos, at the end of the 90s.

An emotional return

“I spent three years managing in Japan, this team precisely, the Yokohama Marinos. It was a thrilling, extraordinary and unforgettable experience,” said De la Cruz. For this reason it was an emotional return for him: “It was an emotional experience reuniting with people that I had worked with previously and, despite my time away, we still have affection for one another.” He continued: “I have great memories and affection for this club and for Japanese football.”

Barça’s philosophy in Japan

On his time with the Marinos, during which the team managed to maintain good form and regular appearances at the top half of the table, the now Barça TV and Radio Barça pundit admits: “I applied a few things that I had learned with Barça’s youth squads to Yokohama.” After his Japanese adventure, De la Cruz returned to be Barça’s assistant coach: “The experience I got here helped me to make important decisions at FC Barcelona,” he said.

Puyol: "The team want to keep making history”

Carles Puyol and Dani Alves talk to the press in Japan / PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ-FCB
“We are full of excitement and very keen,” according to the FC Barcelona captain and Dani Alves was also clear that: “we are all very focused on this marvellous opportunity”

Carles Puyol and Dani Alves spoke to the massed ranks of the media in Yokohama, following the first training session at the training ground of Yokohama Marinos. Both players were clear that after the win at the Bernabeu, “the team are coming in to the game full of confidence,” whilst insisting that game is in the past, “we are very happy for all the praise, but we know this is always tough. We are full of excitement and very keen, though well aware that it’s going to be hard,” explained the Barça captain.

Puyol explained, “we are coming to win. This team wish to continue to make history.” Whilst Alves made it clear, “we are all very focused on this marvellous opportunity to take part in the Club World Cup. We are centred on this competition, which we have reached through hard work and doing things the right way”.

Respect for Al-Sadd

Puyol and Alves again showed respect for Thursday’s rivals Al-Sadd: “if Al-Sadd have made it into the semi-finals, it’s because they are a good team. We will analyse them and try and beat them.”

Puyol also expressed his satisfaction at the reception the team have been given in Japan: “we have always been treated well here. We are proud to see so many Barça fans and we hope to give them something to smile about on Thursday.”

Spanish League Round Up Week 15

Molina, Castro and Isidoro (Betis)-
After the excitement of the Clasico, La Liga threw up a few surprises at the weekend, with Betis finally back to winning ways, seeing off Valencia 2-1

Sporting winning at Rayo and Racing taking a point at Bilbao. Llevant also got a great result, beating Seville 1-0

Third placed Valencia looked to have the points wrapped up at Betis on Saturday, before two injury time goals from Ruben Castro turned the result around to give the Seville side their first win in 11 games, winning 2-1. Betis are now one of five sides on 16 points, alongside Real Sociedad, Getafe, Granada and Rayo with Villarreal and Sporting on 15, Racing a further two points back and Zaragoza bottom on 10 points.

Llevant guaranteed UCL place at Xmas

Valencia’s slip up means that Llevant have closed the gap to just a point between third and fourth, with their 1-0 win over Seville on Saturday. With a five point lead over fifth placed Seville now, Llevant are guaranteed to be sat in the top four over the break and their manager Juan Ignacio Martinez admitted: “never in my wildest dreams did I imagine we’d be in this situation just before Christmas”. Malaga are level on points with Seville after they were held to a 1-1 draw by Osasuna, with Isco drawing the hosts level after Ibrahima had put the Basques ahead in the first half.

Espanyol see off Atletico Madrid

That point means the Pamplona team, who spent much of last season struggling to avoid relegation, are now in seventh, two points off Malaga and Seville and two above Espanyol, who saw off Atletico Madrid 4-2. Pochettino’s team were three up after just 18 minutes, thanks to two from Verdu and a third from Romaric and although Falcao managed to pull one back before the break, a Sergio Garcia strike on 53 minutes guaranteed the points, despite a late consolation from Arda Turan. That defeat leaves Atletico nearer to the relegation zone than to the European places and further confirmed their terrible away record – one draw and five defeats so far this season.

Great win for Sporting

Of the teams below Atletico, only Rayo, Granada and Zaragoza lost, with Sporting getting a tremendous 1-3 win at Rayo, with two goals from Nacho Novo, Getafe squeezing out a 1-0 win over Granada thanks to a late Casquero strike and Mallorca making it five games on the run unbeaten, seeing off a sorry Zaragoza 0-1 at La Romareda.  Racing grabbed a point with an injury time equaliser in the 1-1 draw at Bilbao, whilst Villarreal and Real Sociedad shared the points in a 1-1 draw at El Madrigal.

Guardiola: "It’s the chance to become the World’s best team"

Josep Guardiola / PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ -FCB
Speaking at a press conference this morning in Japan, Pep Guardiola insisted on the need to acclimatise to the local time zone and to show maximum respect for the team’s semi-final opponents Al Sadd

Josep Guardiola spoke to the media in his first press conference since the team arrived in Japan for the FIFA Club World Cup and explained that he had told the players: “not to blow the chance to win the World Club Cup – it’s an opportunity that doesn’t come around too often. At stake is the chance to become the World’s best team.” The boss also insisted that the players needed to adapt to the Japanese local time zone and to show maximum respect for their semi-final rivals Al Sadd: “there could be plenty of surprises.”

Guardiola was wary of taking on the role of favourites: “we won’t be the best team in the world until we win this,” and explained: “we have the responsibility to show our very best.”

In a packed press conference, Guardiola again showed his human side, referring to the disastrous earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan last March: “I hope Japan can recover as soon as possible. Coming back here is always an honour.”

The team prepares for the match on Thursday against Al-Sadd; completes training session in Japan

Training session in Yokohama / PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ - FCB
Nearly a hundred international media outlets and a large crowd of fans watched the team’s first training session in Yokohama

There was a lot of expectation ahead of the team’s first training session in Yokohama, the host city for the FIFA Club World Cup. Guardiola‘s men trained in front of a large number of media and Japanese fans. After being received by nearly a hundred fans at the Narita airport just outside Tokyo, the party attended a number of official FIFA events before training.

First off, the 23 players in the squad took part in the official photo session of the competition, followed by a technical talk from FIFA’s referee instructor, Steve Bennett, with whom they talked and watched a number of videos about the rules of the tournament.

At midday local time the players ran out onto the local Yokohama Marinos training ground –  which boasts an official FC Barça Shop- where more than a hundred representatives of the international media and a number of local fans watched the session, along with many local inhabitants watching from nearby buildings.

Guardiola had programmed a gentle session of nearly an hour, with the players doing stretching exercises, ball control games, some sprinting and a team talk with the coaches.

First session ahead of semis

The first 15 minutes of the session were open to the media, whilst the rest of the training took place behind closed doors. Today’s session was the first ahead of Thursday’s FIFA Club World Cup semi final against the Qatar team Al Sadd who beat Esperance from Tunisia 2-1 in the quarter finals.

Barça to pay tribute to Fukushima children

PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ - FCB
Before Tuesday’s training session, the squad will meet up with a number of children who have been evacuated from the disaster area.

During their trip to Japan for the FIFA Club World Cup, the FC Barcelona players will have an informal meeting with 13 girls and boys from the area affected by the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima nuclear plant.

The get-together will take place on Tuesday December 13th at the Yokohama Marinos Sports Center, just before the training session to prepare for Thursday’s semi-final. As well as having the chance to watch the stars train, the youngsters, all aged between 9 and 18, who were evacuated from their homes after the disaster and are currently living in a school in Tokyo, will also have the opportunity to chat with the players, officials and Club directors who are in Japan for the competition.

The Tokyo Cervantes Institute and the Spanish Ambassador to Japan have organised the meeting, which will allow FC Barcelona to show its solidarity with the victims and send a message of support to its many Japanese fans.

Worldwide press praises FC Barcelona

Front page of Sport
Newspapers and digital news outlets from across the globe praise Barça’s victory over Madrid

All the players get a special mention and Madrid’s dailies talk of Barça’s “paseo” (easy win) at the Bernabéu

“Another exhibition at the Bernabéu” Mundo Deportivo

“Heroes!” Sport

“From Madrid to heaven” El 9

“Walk in the park at Catellana” Marca

“The best team won” AS

“Barça is once again superior to Madrid” El Mundo

“Mourinho can’t beat Pep” La Razón

“Barça imposes its passing style” Público

“Barça once again makes the clásico bitter for Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu” La Vanguardia

“Iniesta puts Madrid at his feet” El País

“Pep Show Boys” Olé (Argentina)

“Barça was the life of the party at the Bernabéu” Clarín (Argentina)

“Undeniable” L’Équipe (France)

“Legendary Barça” La Gazzeta dello Sport (Italy)

“Barcelona, the law of the strongest” Corriere della Sera (Italy)

“The team led by Pep Guardiola was spectacular” O’Globo (Brazil)

“The victory reaffirms Barça’s dominance and brilliant ball control”  New York Times (USA)

“Alexis’ performance was excellent” La Tercera (Chile)