Lionel Messi gives his Champions League picks

Lionel Messi collected his fourth Golden Shoe on Friday and it seems that Marca managed to grab an interview with the Barcelona star.

It’s not often we hear from the Argentinian but he was quizzed about who he felt had the best chance of claiming glory in the Champions League this season.

Barca are, of course, already through as group winners following Wednesday’s draw with Juventus and Messi has highlighted who he feels are the teams to beat.

“[Manchester] City is one of the strongest teams at the moment together with PSG,” he said.

“So far, they have been the two teams that have shown themselves to be favourites, but this is a very long and tough competition.

“I never rule out Madrid because although they’re not having the results that everyone expects, I have no doubt that in the end they will be fighting for everything, as they do every year.

“Bayern is another big team that will also be there at the end, but it’s true that today City and PSG are the best .”

Source | Marca

Barcelona finish their group stage campaign at home to Sporting Lisbon but will he hoping for a more favourable draw after finishing in top spot.

The Blaugrana will not be able to face Manchester City in the next round as Pep Guardiola’s side have also topped their group.

Paris Saint-Germain should also finish as group winners unless Bayern beat them by a four-goal margin in the final fixture.

Madrid, meanwhile, will finish second behind Tottenham in their group but can’t be drawn in the next round against Barca as teams from the same country can’t play one another.

What are your Champions League predictions and how far can Barca go this season? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

Messi awarded fourth Golden Shoe as Europe’s top scorer

Another trophy for the Barcelona legend

Lionel Messi has received his Golden Shoe trophy for finishing last season as Europe’s top scorer with 37 La Liga goals in 2016/17.

Messi won the award ahead of Bas Dost with 34 goals, while Borussia Dortmund striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang bagged 31 and Luis Suarez finished fifth behind Robert Lewandowski with 29 goals.

It’s the fourth time Messi has won the award and he was handed the trophy by a familiar face.

There was disappointment though for those who were expecting Messi to talk about his future and his contract situation.

The Argentine made no mention of his renewal and we are now heading towards December with the contract still unsigned.

FC Barcelona News: 24 November 2017; Preparations Begin for Valencia Clash, Lionel Messi Wins Golden Shoe

Messi receives European Golden Shoe | FC Barcelona
Follow the award ceremony live for the European Golden Shoe in which the Argentine star will receive the prize for the 2016/17 season.

Everything you need to know about the Golden Shoe gala | FC Barcelona
Receiving the trophy is a reward for a great goal scoring campaign. The thirty seven League goals are broken down as follows: 30 with the left foot, six with the right and one with the head, and including a total of 13 braces. In all competitions, the Argentine scored a spectacular 54 goals.

First session to prepare for trip to Valencia | FC Barcelona
After securing their place in the last 16 of the Champions League by winning their group for the 11th season in a row, the blaugranes returned to work on Friday in preparation for Sunday’s crucial trip to Mestalla to take on second placed Valencia with kick-off at 8.45pm CET.

Denis Suarez: Barcelona players ‘calm’ over Lionel Messi contract delay | ESPN
Denis Suarez insists there is no panic among the Barcelona players as the wait goes on for Lionel Messi to sign his new contract with the club. Barca announced in July that Messi had agreed new terms with the club until 2021, with his current deal due to expire at the end of the season.

Ivan Rakitic, untouchable for Valverde | FC Barcelona
Ivan Rakitic has become an indispensable piece of Ernesto Valverde’s Barça. The Croatian has participated in all 20 official games played in 2017/18, including the Champions League, Copa del Rey and Spanish Super Cup, starting 15 and coming off the bench in the other five.

VIDEO: The top five academy goals of the weekend | FC Barcelona
As every week, here’s our collection of the five best goals of the week from our youth teams. From the weekend of November 18 and 19 we have goals from Pol Muñoz and Pablo López of U14A, Konrad de la Fuente of U19B, Lassana Diaby of U12D and Alejandro Marqués of U19A, and you can enjoy them all in this top video!

Bargains galore for Black Friday at the Camp Nou | FC Barcelona
It’s Black Friday, and that can only mean amazing deals! And here at FC Barcelona, we’re joining in with some of the most brilliant bargains of the sporting year. You can get tickets to see football or basketball, even VIP seats if you like, at some staggeringly cheap prices. And you can also make massive savings on the Camp Nou Experience and even on food and drinks!

How should Barcelona line up against Valencia?

There’s no Gerard Pique for Sunday’s clash

Barcelona head to Valencia on Sunday for perhaps the most eagerly anticipated La Liga game of the season so far.

Marcelino’s men have been brilliant in this campaign and go into the match in second place just four points behind Barca at the top of the table.

Neither team has yet to taste defeat in the league this season but that could change at Mestalla. Here’s a look at how Barca might line up for the big game…

Defence

The big question ahead of the game is who will replace Gerard Pique who is suspended?

With Javier Mascherano injured, the most obvious choice is Thomas Vermaelen and if he doesn’t feature, well there’s very little point in him being at the club anymore.

So Vermaelen to partner Samuel Umtiti at centre-back with Jordi Alba back on the left, Nelson Semedo at right-back and Marc-Andre ter Stegen in goal.

Barcelona have been brilliant defensively this season but will need to be at their best against Valencia who have been pretty ruthless in front of goal

Midfield

As usual this is where it gets tricky. Just how pragmatic will Ernesto Valverde be against Valencia who have scored 32 goals in 12 La Liga games so far this season?

Paulinho, Andres Iniesta, Sergio Busquets and Ivan Rakitic all started against Juventus but you get the feeling Valverde will make changes.

Rakitic has come under scrutiny this season and he hardly shone against Juventus, but then neither did Paulinho.

It’s difficult to second guess Valverde at the moment but Brazilian is the more like option to drop to the bench with Iniesta, Busquets and Rakitic starting and more changes further forward.

Athletic Club v Barcelona - La Liga
Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

Attack

Lionel Messi was, of course, rested in midweek so should be fresh and back in the starting line-up. He also hasn’t scored since the win over Athletic Bilbao and is overdue a goal.

There’s a chance we could also see Paco Alcacer back as he has been impressive in recent weeks and Barca have looked brighter in attack with him in the team.

Alcacer should relish taking on his former side and Luis Suarez also looks happier with the striker in the team.

Suarez has also looked sharper since the international break and scored twice against Leganes last time out in La Liga to end his recent goal drought.

Deportivo Alaves v Barcelona - La Liga
Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

Possible XI: Ter Stegen; Semedo, Vermaelen, Umtiti, Alba; Rakitic, Busquets, Iniesta, Alcacer, Messi, Suarez.

Who do you think should start against Valencia? Let us know your thoughts and line-ups in the comments below!

Let’s play FIFA 18: Valencia vs. Barcelona

Let’s play some FIFA 18! I grab the controller to see how Barcelona will fare in their next game. Then I let the FIFA 18 simulation take place and see how the FIFA simulator thinks Barcelona will do.

It’s certainly not a perfect formula, but FIFA 18 can give a small hint at certain aspects of a game. It can also be ridiculously funny to watch someone fail at FIFA, so check it out below and let us know what you all think.


Today I play some FIFA 18 with FC Barcelona taking on Valencia in La Liga. The two sides currently sit first and second in the league, only separated by four points. Apart from Gerard Pique who is suspended, Barcelona’s lineup in this one should be full strength given the significance of the game for league competition. But given the tough midweek matchup against Juventus, changes are possible.

My gameplay (with commentary):

Side note: I was going to re-record this because of the buzzer, but the ending was so exciting that I decided to keep this iteration of the gameplay.

Computer Simulation:

Let me know what you guys think of this gameplay!

Denis Suarez: Barcelona aren’t boring

The midfielder says the team are doing just fine

Denis Suarez has hit back at claims that Barcelona are boring following Wednesday’s 0-0 Champions League draw with Juventus in Turin.

The Blaugrana secured their qualification for the knockout stages in a game of few chances against the Italian champions.

Barcelona have rarely managed to produce their best free-flowing attacking football this season which has led to suggestions Ernesto Valverde’s side are dull.

However, Denis has defended his team and pointed to their record this season, with the club four points clear at the top of the table in Spain and group winners in Europe.

“If Barcelona are boring by being top of LaLiga and first in their Champions League group…,” he said.

“If a team that has scored so many goals and conceded so few is boring then I don’t know what to say.

“We are top of La Liga and four points above second place.

“We’ve sealed our qualification in the Champions League and our Copa del Rey tie [against Murcia] is on the right track.

“It has been a good start to the season.

“I don’t think our style of play is boring and I don’t think it disrespects Barcelona’s identity.”

Source | Marca

It’s fair to say that Barca haven’t been great to watch this season but it’s difficult to argue against current results, particularly with the club top and also with the most goals scored and least conceded so far this season.

Transfer Rumors: Barcelona Reach Deal With Arsenal’s Mesut Özil

The news comes from Catalunya Ràdio

FC Barcelona has spoken with Mesut Özil’s agent and they have reached an agreement to bring the German to the Camp Nou, according to Club de la Mitjanit, the show on Catalunya Ràdio and Esport3. The player would sign for this season and three more, and Arsenal would get a 20 million euro fee for the transfer.

Özil’s departure from the Gunners has been rumored for a while, with Manchester United also said to be interested. However, this news tells us the personal terms are agreed with the player himself, which is a big step.

It remains to be seen if Arsenal do let him go for that relatively cheap fee. The player could leave for free at the end of the season, though, so their negotiating position is not strong.

Barcelona wanted Naby Keita, says RB Leipzig director

The Blaugrana didn’t push as hard as Liverpool

Barcelona wanted to sign Naby Keita last summer according to RB Leipzig director Oliver Mintzlaff.

The midfielder has agreed a deal to join Liverpool next year after the Reds paid his £48 million release clause.

However, he could apparently have been heading to Camp Nou if Barca had pushed a bit harder.

“FC Barcelona was interested in Naby Keïta,” he said.

“That was confirmed to us also from Barcelona. However, they were not as drive as Liverpool.”

Source | Sport Bild

It was a pretty chaotic summer in the transfer market from Barca who were linked with several midfielders and came close to a deal for Jean-Michael Seri.

That deal ultimately fell through with Barca bringing in Paulinho instead.

UEFA Champions League: Talking points from Juventus 0-0 Barcelona

Valverde makes shock decision to rest Messi

Who saw this one coming? Not me, that’s for sure. Yet Ernesto Valverde’s decision to rest Messi paid off and in hindsight it looks a good, and brave, decision.

There have been suggestions Messi has a niggle and whether that’s true or not, what is obvious is that Sunday’s game with Valencia is THE biggest game of the week.

Barca only needed a draw against Juve, and that’s what they got, they also now head to Valencia with a rested Messi and with Champions League qualification wrapped up.

Whether you like it or not, Valverde’s gamble paid off and with Messi now in his 30s, this is something we may see more of as the season progresses.

Barcelona struggling to score away from home in Europe

A draw in Turin against Juventus is a pretty good result, particularly when you think back to last season.

However, one thing that is worrying is Barcelona’s lack of goals on the road in Europe:

Lionel Messi’s last goal away from home in the competition was last November, Luis Suarez hasn’t score on the road since March.

In fact, Barca’s only away goal in the competition so far came at Sporting and that was an own goal from Sebastian Coates. This is a stat that surely has to improve if Barca are to make any impression on this season’s tournament.

Barca’s stars are the defenders

Despite a run of 18 games without defeat, there’s still a lot of negativity from some sections of the support who have been spoilt rotten with years of glorious football.

We all know Barca are not playing spectacular football right now, but they are getting seriously impressive results.

The style may come, we hope so, but for now why can’t we at least celebrate that the club has some superstar defenders?

After all, keeping a clean sheet at Juventus is something that hasn’t happened too often recently.

Lucas Digne hailed Marc-Andre ter Stegen as “the best goalkeeper in the world” after last night’s game and on current form you can understand his point.

Samuel Umtiti was brilliant again while Gerard Pique played well and they deserve appreciation, particularly at a time when there seems to be a shortage of truly top class defenders around.

A Fan’s Perspective: This is not the Barcelona I fell in love with

Are the club starting to play for draws?

Barcelona put out an extremely defensive line-up against Juventus in their away leg in Turin. Despite the defensive XI, if there was any hope that the team would play attacking football, it was curbed by the tactics deployed by Ernesto Valverde.

There have been many hailing him as a pragmatist who managed to rest two key players in Lionel Messi and Jordi Alba. His defensive record is impressive and the team remains unbeaten. Why, then, was last night’s game the least Barcelona-like game I have seen in a while?

It might surprise some, but after nearly a decade of domination, for the first time, Barcelona stepped out on the pitch to play for a draw. A team that included Andres Iniesta and Luis Suarez was set up to not win.

I would have been perfectly all right if this was some mid-table side or the Copa del Rey and the opposition was someone we could beat blind-folded. I would have loved a draw if there were B-teamers playing who could hold their own against the giants of European football. But a team full of starters? Why?

Oh, right! We already have the group sealed! Yes. We’re undefeated, and that’s always good.

But are we really okay with the team playing for a draw in Europe? Are we supposed to sit down in front of a TV and watch the team play a defensive game when it has the greatest of all time on the bench? I have no problem with resting Lionel Messi—he deserves it. But why not rest him when we are winning with a multiple-goal lead? Why let him play the full 90 in some matches and then rest him against one of best teams in Europe?

There are many who agree with the choices Ernesto Valverde makes. Unfortunately for me, I’m not one of them.

This is not the Barcelona I fell in love with.