FCB Escola kicks off the first International FCB Escola Tournament

This Monday the International FCBEscola Tournament, which will be played through Thursday on FC Barcelonas training grounds, on the fields next to the Miniestadi and the Ciutat Esportiva, kicked off. 53 teams from different countries will play 200 matches in a tournament that will allow children to test their skills against their global counterparts.

Countries that boast a FCBEscola like Brazil, Peru, Dubai, Poland, Korea, Kuwait, Japan and Egypt and Spain are participating in a tournament at the Ciutat Esportiva that will come to a close on April 4th.

The tournament -played by children born between 1998 and 2005- will also serve to promote the educational values of FCBEscola, to evaluate the skill level of the players, to see if the same methodologies are being employed in training throughout the schools and to provide a week where the children can get to know their global counterparts.

During the tournaments inaugural ceremony, the children pledged to play like sportsmen and to enjoy these days that will unite the players regardless of origin, language and beliefs.

Puyol: “This is the most important match”

Its an honour to surpass Migueli”

If he plays against Milan, Carles Puyol will surpass Migueli and become the second Bara player to have played the most games for the Club. The defender is proud of his accomplishment, but he knows that it wont be easy to catch the player with the most games for the Club. Its an honour to surpass Migueli, hes an icon for all Culs. Catching Xavi is impossible because hell play many more games, but I also hope to play a lot of games myself.

One of the heavyweights in the FC Barcelona squad, Carles Puyol, held a press conference before the decisive return leg of the Champions League quarterfinal tie against AC Milan. Well take this game on like any other game: well go out to win and try to play our game. Were aware that were going up against a fantastic team, but Im sure theyll come out to defend and capitalise on counterattacks. Well have to put in a complete game both defensively and offensively, said the defender.

On defining the importance of tomorrows match, the captain was very clear: its an incredible match, the most important one because we have to win. There is no margin for error, its a final. He added, finishing with a draw doesnt help us, except a 0-0. Im convinced that the Camp Nou will be full, they [the fans] have always been on our side and they wont let us down.

Maximum concentration on defence

The captain will, in all likelihood, figure in the starting line-up in tomorrows match. Puyol said hell play wherever Guardiola chooses to put him on the pitch: wherever he thinks I should play, Ill gladly go. Its not ideal for me to play on the left, but Im comfortable keeping tabs on their offence and if we play with a wide defender on the other side.

Moreover, the captain talked about some of the key aspects of tomorrows match: its always important to not concede goals; even more so at home. We have to play a very serious defensive match. Up top, we have to move the ball around with pace and score as soon as possible, even though we know it wont be easy.

On the attack

Puyol didnt shy away from talking about how his team will play tomorrow: we only have one way of playing: on the attack. Thats what well do. However, he was apprehensive when asked to predict what style of play AC Milan will employ. The Bara captain finished by saying: we have to be ready for everything, we have to play our game.

20 players named to the squad ahead of the Barça-Milan clash

The Camp Nou is ready for the Champions League. This Monday, FC Barcelona completed their penultimate session before the decisive match against AC Milan. Guardiola trained with 20 footballers: 17 from the first team plus Muniesa, Montoya and Tello from Bara B. Therefore, the Bara manager will have to discard two players before tomorrows Champions League showdown.

Ibrahim Afellay, as well as ric Abidal, trained with the team despite having the medical all-clear. The Dutchman, who turned 26 this Monday, gave a speech to his teammates before the session, and received an standing ovation when he was done.

However, Xavi Hernndez did not train with the team today. Guardiola, during the pre-match press conference, said: hes been having issues with his calf muscle for the past two days, we decided to not run any risks by making him train. Hell undergo further tests tomorrow morning. Hes been named to the squad, which means that he could play.

The team will train on Tuesday at noon at the Camp Nou.

Guardiola anticipates a game with goals

Our success is that were fighting to be in our fifth consecutive Champions League semifinal. It shows that weve done a good job. Im very proud, said Josep Guardiola after the training session at the Camp Nou in the pre-match press conference. The FC Barcelona manager said that when you get this far in the competition all the games are vital. The prospect of staying in the Champions League is very exiting for us. Guardiola is clear that the situation is simple. Whoever wins will go through to the semifinals. I perceive that Milan will score. They have the capacity to do it. Thats what Ive told my players. In these last couple of days weve been working on the way to create as many goalscoring opportunities as possible in order to score as many goals as possible. We have to find the way to attack their extremely strong defence, I have faith that well find a way through.

The Bara manager anticipates the return leg of the Champions League to be feature goals. Milan is comfortable playing with a 0-0. We need to play with a lot of intensity and find the best way to attack them. We arent able to defend a result for a long time, explained Guardiola. The Catalan didnt shy away from lauding AC Milan: Milan is a team with the capacity to dominate matches. When they play games where they are the ones being dominated, they defend really well in their area and they are very strong on the counter. They can send us out of the competition. Theyre leaders of the Italian League and they have fantastic players.

The importance of positional play

For Guardiola the most important aspects of tomorrows match are Baras positional play and creating imbalance in certain areas of the field. He added that we have to play on the wings, we can do it with static players and with attacking players. Well see.

The Bara manager warned of Ibrahimovics capacity to dominate aerial balls: when he receives balls in the air, hes superior to us. We consider it a lost play. Well try to stop him from participating in the match and force him to play as far away from our area as possible. When asked by an Italian journalist on Messis capacity to score on Italian sides, the manager responded said that Messi cant beat a defence made up of eight or nine players by himself. We have to work as a team. But dont joke about Messi, dont provoke him.

Well give it our all

With or without Xavi, who is dealing with a calf injury, the team will go out onto the pitch with 11 players and theyll give it their all, dont doubt that. Guardiola confirmed that the pitch is in optimal conditions ahead of tomorrows match. He finished by saying that games like tomorrows make him feel privileged: these games make me very happy. Weve played almost everything, but games like this remind me of my first day. I feel lucky and privileged.

‘Always together’, the mosaic for FC Barcelona v Milan

Josep Guardiolas side has a crunch fixture on Tuesday night against AC Milan, kicking off at 20.45. A place in the Champions League is at stake and it wont be easy after the goalless draw at the Giuseppe Meazza. The team will need the supporters help more than ever. They are the twelfth member of this team, and together the players and fans can take Bara into the semi finals.

Gates open at 19.15

Therefore, the club is calling on supporters to be at the Camp Nou in good time, by 20.00, when the players will come out for their warm-up. That way the team will know from the very start how much the fans are behind them. To help, the gates to the stadium will be open from 19.15. Also, when the players come out of the tunnel, they are going to be welcomed by a mosaic reading Sempre Junts, Catalan for Always together.

In his post-match press conference last week, Josep Guardiola made it clear how important the supporters are at times like this. The fans cant let us down on Tuesday. They have to come to help us into the semi finals. These players have done too much to be left alone. On Tuesday we have a final in our own stadium and in front of our people. We need the stadium to be full. We have a good chance of winning and together well do it.

Another very busy week

The month gets off to a lively start for Josep Guardiolas team with the second leg of their Champions League semi final against AC Milan on Tuesday evening at the Camp Nou. And there is another high-profile fixture at the weekend, with a trip to Zaragoza as Bara continue to work at reducing Real Madrids lead in the league, which they have already managed to cut down to six points. With just eight league games to go, Bara cant afford to make any mistakes between now and the end of the season.

But the week starts with the focus entirely on Europe. Bara will train at the Camp Nou on Monday at 18.00. An hour before that, Carles Puyol will be speaking to the press, while Josep Guardiola will be doing likewise at 19.45. AC Milan will be training at the same place at 19.15, and their manager and one of his players will be giving a press conference beforehand, starting at 18.30. All of the activity on the eve of the crunch semi final meeting will be broadcast live on Bara TV. Also, as is usual before Champions League games at home, the team will be staying the night together in a hotel.

Last session on Tuesday at midday

The team will leave the hotel on Tuesday morning for another training session behind closed doors at the Camp Nou. It is scheduled to start at 12.00. At around 13.30, they will return to their hotel for lunch and some rest before going back to the stadium for the actual match, which kicks off at 20.45.

On Wednesday, there is a training session scheduled for 11.00, this time at the Ciutat Esportiva Joan Gamper, which will be used primarily to regain strength after the exertions of the Milan match, but the squad will also be turning their minds to Saturdays league encounter. In theory, the players will then be given Thursday off, and wont be required to report back to the Ciutat Esportiva until Friday morning at 11.00 for the final workout before travelling to the Aragonese capital. Josep Guardiola will be speaking to the press after the session is over.

Saturday train to Zaragoza

Bara will be travelling to Zaragoza by train on Saturday morning. Once they arrive, theyll be taken to a hotel where they will rest until the time comes to make their way to La Romareda, where the match kicks off at 20.00. On Sunday, back in Barcelona, the players will be training at 12.00 in the Ciutat Esportiva Joan Gamper.

Rock solid defending at the Camp Nou

Bara failed to score at the Giuseppe Meazza in the first leg of their Champions League semi final with AC Milan, and so it is now crucially important that they dont let any goals in on Tuesday night at the Camp Nou. But their home record this season suggests that it wont be easy at all for the Italians to get on the scoresheet. In 15 out of 24 official matches played at home, Bara have managed to go the full 90 minutes without conceding a single goal.

15 clean sheets

In the present edition of the Champions League, Bara have been unbeaten in 2 out of 4 games at the Camp Nou, the ones against Viktoria Plzen (2-0) and BATE Borisov (4-0). The two teams that did find the target in the FCB stadium were precisely AC Milan (2-2) and also Bayer Leverkusen (7-1). In the league, Bara have kept the opposition away from their goal in 10 out of 15 games. Only Betis (4-2), Real Sociedad (2-1), Valencia (5-1), Sporting (3-1) and Granada (5-3) have managed to find the target.

In other competitions at the Camp Nou, Bara beat Real Madrid 3-2 in the Spanish Supercup and managed to avoid letting in any goals in 3 of their 4 Copa del Rey home fixtures. The only time they let any goals in was the 2-2 draw with Real Madrid in the quarter finals.

The goalkeeping duties have been shared by Vctor Valds, who has appeared in 19 home games and has only been beaten in 8 of them, and Jos Manuel Pinto, who has kept four clean sheets out of five attempts. If Valds remains the first choice goalkeeper for the rest of the season, he is set to overtake Carles Rexach to become the player with the fourth most appearances for Bara.

16-match scoring streak in home Champions League games

Against AC Milan it is not only important to prevent the Italians from getting an away goal. Bara will also be required to produce goals. But in European fixtures at the Camp Nou, it is a rare occasion for the Catalans to fail to find the net. In fact, they have scored at least once in all 16 of their last European fixtures played at home. The last time they failed to find the target was way back on April 28, 2009, when they drew 0-0 with Chelsea in the Champions League semi finals. Since then, they have scored at least once in every home game played in two a half editions of the competition.

In those last 16 games, Bara have scored 47 times, an average of 2.93 goals a game. The highest goalscorer in that time has been Leo Messi with 18 goals: 5 in 2011/12, 6 in 2010/11 and 7 in 2009/10.

History of FCBs side

The defending champions have not lost either leg in any recent Champions League quarter finals, and every game played at the Camp Nou has seen them get the result they needed to make it into the last four. Scoring a total of 14 goals and conceding just two, the results have been 5-1 against Shakhtar (2011), 4-1 against Arsenal (2010), 4-0 against Bayern (2009) and 1-0 against Schalke 04 (2008).

Barça v Athletic Club Bilbao, in figures

FC Barcelona’s win against Athletic Bilbao (2-0) leaves us some curious stats that are reviewed below:

– Magic month of March for Messi. The Argentinian striker has scored 12 goals in seven games.

– The victory against Bielsas Athletic Bilbao is the eighth consecutive win in the League.

– Messi, with 27 goals, equalled the record for goals at home in a League season, held by Zarra (season 1950-1951) and Baltazar (1988-1989).

Iniesta has never lost a game that he scored in. With Bara, hes accumulated a balance of 35 wins and three draws. For Spain, he has 10 wins and a draw.

– Andres kept up his unbeaten record: he has now played 53 consecutive games without defeat in the League. Furthermore, he scored goal number 50 of his football career, 39 goals in a Bara shirt, and 11 in international matches.

– The Camp Nou recorded the biggest crowd of the season in the League with 88,207 spectators.

Andres Iniesta, this Saturday against Athletic Club Bilbao played his 397th match, allowing the midfielder to enter the top ten in FC Barcelona’s history, equalling the game splayed by Quim Rif.

Alves and Mascherano were able to withstand the Barque pressure and were the players who won most balls: 13.

– Meanwhile, Sergio Busquets was the Bara player who received most fouls: 4.

Valds equalled Rexachs numbers, with 449 games for FC Barcelona. The Bara goalkeeper is the fourth most capped player in a Bara shirt, behind Migueli, Carles Puyol, and Xavi Hernandez.