Guardiola: “I’m happy with how the players reacted”

Pep Guardiola was proud of the attitude that his team showed in tonights match against Sporting Gijn. The Bara manager said, we won a match against a very defensive side in a match that turned against us. I’m happy with how the players reacted. Theyve done it again. The fans had a great time because we appealed to the epic [spirit] that this Club can sometimes have.

Despite not being able to use Messi in tonights match, the manager knew that his team wouldnt falter: the players took a step forward tonight.

Necessary victory

Its very necessary to win games like this throughout the year. Guardiola believes that tonights game against Clementes side will reinforce the Catalan club in the future. The way this game was won reinforces our morale, said that manager. Guardiola also highlighted the self-esteem of his players.

This Wednesday, Bara is to face Bayer in the return leg of the Champions League knock-out stage. We have to try and enjoy this tie as we try to get to the quarterfinals of the Champions League for the forth year in a row, he said. Guardiola also warned that the tie isnt over despite the 1-3 from the away leg, and that his team should not underestimate their midweek opponents.

Praise for Keita

Guardiola had special words for Keita. He scored a golazo [amazing goal], he never plays poorly. He does his best whenever I need him. He makes my job easier. I hope he can stay in this house as long as possible.

Four Barça B players in the final session

The first team finished preparing last-minute details ahead of the match against Sporting Gijn this Saturday afternoon in a closed-door training session at the Camp Nou. The same footballers that trained yesterday – 15 first-team players and Tello, Muniesa, Dos Santos and Sergi Roberto – trained today. Thiago, who is dealing tibia problems, trained apart from the group.

Its worth remembering that Guardiola will not be able to call on the suspended first-team players Messi and Busquets or the injured Abidal.

After the session, the team ate lunch together at the stadium and will have free time until 18:30, at which time they will return to the Camp Nou. The match will start at 20:00.

Milla visits old stomping grounds

The training session was followed by the U21 Spain manager, Luis Milla. The manager and La Masa graduate played for Bara between 1988 and 1990.

Cup final date and venue to be announced on Tuesday

FC Barcelona and Athletic Bilbao will have to wait until Tuesday to find out where and when they will be playing the Copa del Rey final after representatives of both clubs and of the Spanish federation failed to agree on either matter at todays meeting in Madrid.

Secretary and spokesman for the Board, Toni Freixa, who attended along with Antoni Rossich, the director general of the Club, explained that Baras proposal is for the game to be played on May 25 at the Vicente Caldern in Madrid. The reasons for rejecting the Santiago Bernabu as an option were also explained: At todays meeting, Real Madrid verbally announced that they have to do building work. It is not our intention to cause any controversy with Real Madrid. It is the Federation that should judge the reasons if it wishes to judge them”.

Meanwhile, the Athletic Bilbao representatives, who also wanted to play the final in Real Madrids ground, prefer the option now of playing at La Cartuja in Seville on May 20. So, it will come down to the Spanish federation to finally decide when and where the game will be played, and its verdict will be revealed next Tuesday.

FCB-Sporting: Barça looking to continue good form

Baras quest to cut down Real Madrids lead continues tonight against Sporting Gijn. After impressive wins against Valencia (5-1) and Atltico Madrid (1-2), there is new hope that the ten point deficit can be reduced. But to keep the dream alive, theyll need a further three points against the Asturians, following a week in which there has been practically no time to prepare due to most of the squads international commitments.

The international effect

And two of the players that were away on international duty, ric Abidal and Thiago Alcntara, have come back injured. The Frenchman is out for ten days with a groin strain, while the Spanish-Brazilian has swollen membrane on his tibia and is in doubt for the game. To add to FCBs woes, both Messi and Busquets are suspended, while Villa, Afellay and Fonts, of course, are sidelined with long term injuries

This will be the first league game this season that Barcelona will start without the triple Ballon dOr winner and current Liga top scorer.

The game will be a reencounter for Pep Guardiola with Javier Clemente, who took over as manager of Sporting a fortnight ago, and managed the current Bara coach when he was in charge of the Spanish national team from 1992 to 1998. It will also give Guardiola the chance to meet up with another old friend, Abelardo, who was at Bara from 1994 to 2002, and is now Clementes assistant.

Six points from safety

Sporting are coming to the Camp Nou in desperate need of points, for they are currently in the relegation zone, and six points away from safety. With just one win in 40 league visits, history is very much against the red-and-whites, but Clemente reckons Bara can be surprised by applying pressure up front and getting the ball out quick. If there is to be a shock, Sporting will need to get it without the services of the injured Colunga and Lora.

Guardiola: “Clemente’s teams have character”

Good relationship with the Board of Directors

When asked about his relationship with the board, Guardiola took the opportunity to clearly state that his relationship with Junta is very good: They have been fantastic. I dont have any complaints. This board and the last one have treated me magnificently. The Bara manager also confirmed that he met with President Sandro Rosell this Thursday: We’ve had lot of meetings. It was simply another one. We talked about a lot of things, obviously [what was said] stays between us. The feelings are always good when we see each other. They take care of me.

The game this Saturday at the Camp Nou will be somewhat atypical. Without Messi, Busquets and Abidal, FC Barcelona will have to face a Sporting Gijn led by a veteran of the Spanish League, Javier Clemente: His teams are difficult to beat. They are aggressive, direct and they have character. The Bara manager, however, isnt anticipating a physical match. In the [Spanish] nation side he never told us to go out to interrupt the game. In a good sense, hes intense and aggressive, Guardiola said during the todays pre-match press conference.

A style that cannot be applied

Tomorrows match will highlight two different types of game play. The possession and control style typical of FC Barcelona against the direct game play employed by the Asturians. I know how Clemente likes to play. He prefers fewer transitions in the midfield and faster attacks. If we, with the players we have, could do it like them, we would. We would like to create chances with one or two touches, but its impossible to maintain that rhythm every three days. Wed finish with all of the players injured, said Guardiola.

The solution to the absences

Beyond the duel between Guardiola and Clemente, FC Barcelona must win without the suspended Messi and Busquets, the injured Abidal or, perhaps, Thiago. Thiago is better than he was yesterday, but well decide before the match, said the manager. On the absence of the Argentine, Guardiola had few words: in the last 15 or 20 meters hes the worlds most decisive player. Its good that we get to play without him once in a while.

Leadership and the Cup

When asked about the possibility of winning the league, Guardiola was clear: Were far away from the leaders and the leaders havent faltered in a long time. Fighting back from 10 points down is very difficult. He added: If we arent first, its not the fault of the referees.

He was also asked about the Cup final venue. Athletic Club wants to play on the 20th. We would also like to play on the 20th, but we can still make it to the Champions League final. The Federation will decide, said the manager.

Spanish League Preview, Week 26

Romaric we can win at the Bernabu

The Bernabu has not been a happy hunting ground for Espanyol in recent years, but their
midfielder Romaric, who scored for Sevilla when they beat Madrid 3-4 in 2008 insisted
that despite their recent poor run of form just two points from the last four games
Espanyol are convinced we can get a result there. Its possible to win and we are going
without fear, well stay true to our footballing philosophy and although they are a big team
its really just another game. Madrid will be without the suspended Pepe and the injured
Coentrao, Di Maria and Benzema as they try to extend their nine-game winning run in the league.

Tricky trip for Valencia

Valencia face a difficult looking game in Granada against Abel Resinos improving outfit, who
have won both their home games under the new boss and thrashed Real Sociedad at the
Nuevo Las Carmenes a fortnight ago. In contrast, Valencia are coming off a terrible run, with
just one league win since Christmas and a severe beating in their last away game at the Camp
Nou, though they will have undoubtedly lifted by Soldados performance in midweek for Spain
when he grabbed a second half hat trick. The teams below Valencia will all be looking to make
up ground, with Levante hoping to build on last weeks big win at Espanyol when they play
Betis on Monday night.

Basque derby

Athletic Club, Mlaga and Osasuna are all a point behind Levante and they all face a
tough weekend. The Basque derby at San Mams on Sunday comes at a sweet moment for
Athletic who are fifth in the table, Cup Finalists and due to travel to Old Trafford next week,
but defender Mikel San Jose warned: there are a lot of teams within a few points of each
other and if we let Real take three on Sunday, there will be one more side in the mix. Real
themselves are on a good run, with three home wins on the run though they have lost their
last two on the road.

Mlaga away form has to improve

Mlaga are away at Getafe and Pellegrinis team know they have to improve on their awful
away record, the fourth worst in the league with just two wins so far this season, if they are
to mount a realistic challenge for a top four spot. Osasuna for their part have actually won
one less game than Mlaga on the road and they visit Mallorca without the injured Lekic and
suspended Patxi Pual to face the Islanders who have won their last two home matches.

Negredo and Falcao miss big game

Sevilla and Atltico Madrid are also very much back in the fight for the European spots, on
32 points, just three behind Levante, and they meet at the Sanchez Pijuan on Saturday night,
though both will be without their star strikers as Negredo is injured and Falcao is suspended.
In the weekends other games, Villarreal will look to build on last weeks point against Bilbao
and put another nail in Zaragozas coffin in Sundays noon game at La Romareda, whilst
Racing need the points from their trip to Rayo if they are to begin to claw their way out of the
relegation spots.

Spotlight on Sporting

HISTORY

Founded in 1905, Sporting made their debut in the first division 39 years later and since then
have enjoyed a number of extended periods amongst the elite teams, most notably from the
late seventies until 1998, which saw them finish as runners up in 1979. During that time, they
produced two great teams: the first based around the soon-to-be Bara legend Quini and the
second in the late eighties featuring Luis Enrique and Abelardo. The club just managed to avoid
relegation in 1995 by beating Lleida in a relegation play off, but finally went down three years
later. The second division proved a hard place to get out of and economic difficulties also hit
the club, forcing them to sell one of their best young players, David Villa, to Zaragoza in 2003,
before getting promotion in 2008. Last season Sporting made a terrible start to the campaign,
but an inspired second half to the season saw them finish 10th.

THE BARA CONNECTION

Quini, Luis Enrique, Abelardo, David Villa.there is a long history of links between the two
clubs, with all those four ex-Sporting players becoming big favourites at the Camp Nou.
However, Bara havent been such welcoming guests for the Gijn team, who have
managed just one win in their 40 league visits to the stadium and also lost one of their two
Spanish Cup finals to Bara 3-1 in 1981, with Quini grabbing two goals against his old club.

THE BOSS

Javier Clemente was brought in to save Sporting from the drop, when the much admired
Manolo Preciado was sacked earlier this year and if experience is what the Sporting directors
were looking for, they couldnt have picked a better man for the job. Clemente won two
league titles with Athletic Club in the early eighties before moving on to manage, amongst others, Espanyol, Atltico Madrid, Betis and the Spanish, Serbian and Cameroon national teams.

FORM GUIDE

Its been a hard season for Sporting, who currently lie next to bottom and six points from
safety. Theyve won just once since Christmas, but lost just once in the four games they played
in February, drawing the other three. On the road, Sporting have won only two games at
Mallorca and Rayo and lost on four of their last trips away from El Molinon.

ONE TO WATCH

Sportings leading scorer this season is their captain David Barral with eight goals. The Cadiz
born forward has been at the club since 2006 and in April 2009 he scored Sportings 1,000th
goal at El Molinon. He put in a fine performance, including a first half goal in last weekends
game in Santander and represents Sportings main threat to the Bara defence on Saturday.

The Azulgrana Roundup, Week 6

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

LIGA BBVA. Iniesta and Casillas, from idols to supporters [Spanish] [VIDEO]

Ol. Un da muy especial [Spanish] [VIDEO]

Post-match interview with Lionel Messi

The Washington Post. Messi scores 1st international hat trick, leads Argentina over Switzerland 3-1

Its very difficult to say how good he is, Switzerland defender Philippe Senderos said. You know that every time he touches the ball, something special is going to happen.

Sports Illustrated. NHL Goalie Masks

Do you recognise the portrait on the Montreal Canadiens goalie Peter Budajs ice hockey mask?

NaturalPolice. Why Iniesta is the Greatest Attacking Midfielder of Our Time

The author attempts to answer the question posed by football writer Jacob Steinberg: After Zinedine Zidane, has there been a better attacking midfielder that Andrs Iniesta in recent times?

El Pas. El Bara busca a los Messi de las aplicaciones. [Bara looks for the Messi of the smartphone applications]

Barcelona se puede convertir en un Silicon Valley Mobile en unos cuatro aos. Queremos tener las mejores las aplicaciones y ser los primeros, ha explicado Ddac Lee, director de nuevas tecnologas del FC Barcelona.

Sport. Messi: “Cuando acabe mi carrera quiero seguir vinculado al Bara

Messi was interviewed by the readers of Sport, one of the daily football newspapers in Catalonia.

El Pas. Desbordante Tello

Nacido hace 20 aos en Sabadell, se ha ganado el reconocimiento general sin tener padrinos ni prensa sino con su esfuerzo y talento.

EuroSport. Christina Pulina. Con la mentalidad correcta, la Liga se puede ganar

El Bara no debe perder la ilusin y debe combatir hasta el final. Solo con una mentalidad adecuada podremos ganar a rivales como el Sporting de Gijn de Clemente, que se est jugando tanto o ms que nosotros y sin partido de Champions de por medio. No puede fallar el Bara en estos partidos. La mentalidad correcta es ser conscientes de que la nica manera de conseguir la Liga ser ganando los 14 partidos que quedan.

Options to cover for Messi, Busquets and Abidal

Bara have already played several games this season without Messi, Busquets or Abidal, the first of whom is suspended this weekend, while the other two are injured. The Argentinian has not started 6 matches, Busquets has missed 14, and the French defender has been out for 9. The following are the different options available as cover.

It must be remembered that one of the usual choices to take over from Messi, Thiago, is having problems with his tibia, and is also in doubt for the game against Sporting.

LEO MESSI

SERGIO BUSQUETS

RIC ABIDAL

Alexis trains with the first team

Saturday morning training session

The team will train one last time at the Camp Nou before kickoff tomorrow against Sporting. The closed-door training session will start at 11:30

Alexis Snchez returned to training with the Club this Friday afternoon after playing for Chile against Ghana midweek in Philadelphia, USA. Under the orders of Josep Guardiola, the Azulgrana striker joined 18 other players on field Number 1 at the Ciutat Esportiva to prepare the league match against Sporting Gijn (Saturday, 20:00).

Guardiola will be without Messi and Sergio Busquests against the Asturians tomorrow. Also, Abidal, who is injured will miss the match. Thiago, who is having trouble with his right tibia, is doubtful. To fill the ranks, Guardiola called up four Bara B players for todays training session: Tello and Muniesa, both of whom trained with the team on Thursday, and Jonathan dos Santos and Sergi Roberto.