Guardiola: "Espanyol can play a bit"

A replacement for Keita?

Guardiola admitted that he’s not sure yet if he will bring in a player from the reserves to cover for Keita, who leaves for the Africa Cup of Nations on Monday. However, he pointed out that Mascherano can also play in midfield.

For Josep Guardiola, this Sunday’s derby against Espanyol is “yet more proof” of how competitive La Liga is. And he is convinced that every match between the Barcelona rivals reveals one common denominator both teams exercise intense pressure. “We’re playing in a difficult stadium. It’s one of our most difficult games of the year and this year won’t be an exception. We’ve up against a very tough test let’s see if we’re good enough to pass”.

A difficult stadium

Guardiola believes the derby “could be a match that sets the tone for the month”. “Previous experience gives us a good idea of what we’ll find. Espanyol isn’t only a young, strong team that fights and comes looking for you but they can play a bit”. What’s more their ground has always been tricky for us. It was like that when they were at Sarri and at Montjuc, and it’s the same in Cornell. It’s one of those away games that you always mark down as difficult when you look at the fixture list”.

Iniesta fit for action

Without a doubt one of the best bits of news of the day was the medical all clear for Andrs Iniesta: “He’s been declared fit by the doctors and he’ll almost certainly be in the squad. It’s very good news. It wasn’t much and now he’s fine again. The team is always decided on the day of the match. Tomorrow we’ll see what shape we’re in and depending on that I’ll decide”.

Asked whether the Club was considering some kind of replacement for David Villa, Guardiola made it very clear that this isn’t on the table: “We’re attacking pretty well, creating a lot of moves and quite a few chances. If a few things are changed about then that’s adjusting to the opponent. We’re not going to the transfer market. These are the players we’ve got and depending on them we’ll play one way or another”.

Welcome to Mrquez

On Thursday he worked out with the youngsters of Bara B and on Sunday it was the turn of his former team-mates to welcome back the Mexican international. Rafa Mrquez, who currently plays for the New York Red Bulls, is keeping in shape during the MLS break at the training grounds of FC Barcelona. Guardiola told us: “I’m pleased to have seen him. He’s a wonderful person and helped me a lot at the beginning. He’s happy. People who have given so much for this Club are always welcome here”.

Villa coincides with his team-mates at the Ciutat Esportiva

David Villa met up with his team-mates at the Club’s training facilities on Saturday morning where he reported for physiotherapy. This was the first time that Villa, who is in the early stages of his recovery from a fractured tibia, has coincided with the rest of the squad.

After the training session, he published a photo featuring himself and team-mates Xavi and Puyol. “I’m very happy to be back in the routine. Here I am back in the Sports City with all my team-mates. My recovery is going well”. As Villa’s words clearly show, he’s optimistic and delighted to be back among the other players.

Three ex-Azulgranas in Espanyol

Despite the rivalry between Espanyol and Bara, the two team are not adverse to swapping players. In fact, up to three Perico footballers have a Clu background. Ral Baena, Joan Verd and Sergio Garca, all of whom figure in Mauricio Pochettinos lineups on a regular basis, spent time learning their trade in Can Bara.

Baena, the backbone; Verd, creates

Baena is Espanyols first man in the midfield. Hes the linchpin behind the line of creative players in the middle of the pitch, his defensive work has added consistency and fluidity to Espanyols engine room. He has played 15 games this season 7 as a starter and 8 on the bench and Pochettino, after taking over the blue and white bench, has consolidated the Andalusian in Espanyols middle line. In front of Baena, Joan Verd acts as the Perico rudder.

Verd is the architect of Espanyols play, hes charged with designing the teams attack both from the middle and, at times, as mediapunta. He orders and directs the players around him, and furthermore, he can score. Hes ability with free kicks and his evident skill were characteristics that set him apart during his time with Bara B. He has done well to apply these characteristics wherever hes played; before settling at Espanyol he was polishing his skills at Deportivo until 2009. Verd has played all 16 Liga games as a starter. He never misses a match.

Sergio Garca, puts the ball in the back of the net

Sergio Garca is, of the three, the player that enjoyed the most playing time in Baras first team. He made his debut under Frank Rijkaard on September 2nd, 2003. Now, hes one of the Perico reference points in attack. So far this season, hes bagged 5 goals and started 12 out of 14 games.

Bold and keen to show their worth to their ex-team, these men are worth keeping in mind during the first derby of 2012.

Eusebio: "The second half of the season will be exciting"

The prize of playing for the first team

Eusebio is happy about the fact that many of his footballers have had playing time with the first team this season: Its a positive thing. They enjoy it and theyre very motivated. For us its great, because theres a prevailing feeling that at any moment one of them could be called up (to the first team).

Matchday 19 of the Liga Adelante will see Bara B host Numancia this Saturday at 16.00. The first game of the year at the Miniestadi will pit two teams in the middle of the table against each other. A victory for Eusebios men, who currently lie in 14th place, would allow Bara B to climb above Numancia in the table. Numancia is a very consistent team in this League and that means theyve done things correctly over the years, said Eusebio Sacristn.

The Bara B manager hopes his team will improve their at-home form in Saturdays match: Its a matter of having patience. We must be more calm and not agonize over it. Teams usually come here with a defensive mentality. We must be confident and focus on ourselves. Eusebio notes that after the bad start to the season, the team is much more confident and they know whats required of them. The room we have to improve is big, and we can aspire to anything … the second half of the season is going to be very exciting, said Sacristn.

Bara B will take on Numancia with the addition of a completely match-fit Gustavo Ledes, who was given the medical all clear this Thursday. Carles Planes, with a muscle strain, will miss the match. Kiko Femena, who is dealing with a niggling ankle injury, has not been ruled out.

Messi’s desire: score at Cornellà

In Catalonia and Spain the Three Kings Day is a day of dreams and hopes, when aspirations are met and desires fulfilled. For Leo Messi, surely hes hoping, amongst other things, to score at Cornella-El Prat, where he has yet to score a goal in his two visits to the Perico stadium. In total, the Argentinean has scored against Espanyol three times, but never whilst away from the Camp Nou. This Sunday could be his day.

San Mams, a good precedent

Simply put, Messi is running out of challenges in the Liga. Up until a couple of months ago San Mams was impenetrable for the Argentinean star, but in the last minute of the game against Los Leones a couple of months ago he broke his hex and scored, salvaging a valuable point for FC Barcelona. Its a good precedent going into the Catalan derby against Espanyol.

Xavis second favorite victim

Its a completely different story for Baras vice-captain, Xavi Hernndez. The midfielder, a veteran and expert against Espanyol, has a knack for giving Baras city rivals a head ache. Espanyol has suffered four Xavi goals, the Terrasa man was one of the main protagonists in the 1-5 rout last season. Xavi has also scored against Espanyol twice at the Camp Nou, in the 2000/01 (4-2) season and in the 2001/02 (2-0) season, and once at Montjuc, in the 2002/03 (0-2) season.

Jose Manuel Pinto: “I am very happy”

Jos Manuel Pinto was the featured guest on El Marcador after the convincing victory over Osasuna (4-0) that leaves the Azulgranas one step closer to the quarter-finals. The Andalusian keeper, however, was prudent on the teams chances: Its a good result but we always have to have our feet on the ground. We know what football can be like and we dont want any surprises.

He only needs to sign

Pinto, who put in another solid performance last night, has been the focus of attention this week after news of his contract renewal went public. The Clubs reserve keeper confirmed that he would be staying one more year in Barcelona. I only need to sign, its almost symbolic at this point, because both sides are in agreement and weve given our word. Im very pleased because, since Ive been here, Ive been very happy, Pinto said.

The backup keeper, who takes to the pitch for Cup matches, explained that he feels the love from the supporters and that he doesnt feel questioned: Seeing that I renew year after year, its normal to hear about other keepers. On the first day I said I was coming to stay and in the end thats true. Guardiola has always put his confidence in Pinto and the keeper is appreciative: Its an honour every time he talks about me. Its the reward for the work I put in, my dedication, for the commitment Ive shown the team since I stated with the Club.

Pinto believes Guardiola will stay

Pinto, with his contract extension, will remain part of Guardiolas history-making side next year. All the players have hope, and its important that you never lose it, thats what continues to give us ambition and keeps us competitive. We never get tired of winning and we never want to get tired of it, said Pinto when asked about the secret to playing for this FC Barcelona team. The Andalusian explained another reason behind the teams success, Pep Guardiola: all the players want him to stay because his philosophy has infected us and we believe in him.

Pinto also had words for Messi, saying that he has never seen anything like the Argentinean and was visibly pleased for both the Bara players shortlisted for the Ballon dOr: its an honour for the whole team. It doesnt matter who wins, Ill feel a part of this Ballon dOr. We all, one way or another, help this team. They wouldnt do the things they do without us, nor us without them.

The players checked out the new team motor coach, which, starting today, will take them to certain away matches

The FC Barcelona players know first hand what the new team bus, which will take them to various away matches, is like. Before the session at the Miniestadi, the players were photographed next to the 14 by 9 meter bus.

The players also took the opportunity to investigate the interior of the Autopullman Padrs, official Club and motor coach sponsor since the 2003/04 season, motor coach. The players took a ride in the bus from the Camp Nou to the Miniestadi.

Busquets: “We try to add variants to our play so we can attack better and score more goals”

Good result against Osasuna

Its always difficult to come back from holiday, but we came back and played a good game against a complicated opponent. We managed to get a good result for the away leg, said Busquets on last nights game against Osasuna. However, the midfielder does not believe the tie is over: Im sure that well have complicated moments during the match in Pamplona. We have the experience from last year against Betis in Seville. Osasuna is a great team and they are having a fantastic season, at home they pressure you a lot. Asked about the possible rivals Bara might face in the next round, Busquets said that until all the ties are over, talking about possible rivals would be showing a lack of respect.

After this mornings open-door training session at the Miniestadi, Sergio Busquets held a press conference at the Richard Maxenchs press room in the Camp Nou. When asked if he believes if Guardiolas Bara is innovating football world wide, the midfielder said: The coaches and the players try to add variants to the team’s play so we can attack better and score goals, which is the most important thing. I dont know the extent of our innovation. Its for those that follow football history to decide.

On the managers contract renewal, Busquets added his voice to the team choir in hoping that Guardiola will stay: I hope he stays here for a long time. Not only for the good of this team, but for the good of the Club. It would be great if he were a Ferguson type of manager.

The midfielder hopes to continue progressing as a player: I try to do the best possible job in helping the team, but I also hope that my best moments are still yet to come. Im 23, I believe Im still young.

Motivated for the derby on Sunday

After the game against Osasuna, the team is focusing on Sundays derby at Cornella. Its a derby and that means we have extra motivation. Well all do whats best for the team. I believe its one of the most difficult fields. Theyre a great team that pressures high up the pitch. Even though theyve sold some players and have a young team, theyre having a great season.

Finally, referring to Messis physical condition, Busquets was clear: The secret is that hes the best player in the world. He only trained once or twice, but hes doing well physically. He plays almost all the games all year long. Hes strong. He wasnt feeling too well in the morning but by the afternoon he was better, and he was able to play.