Can Josep Maria Bartomeu survive Barcelona’s crisis?

What a season it’s been for FC Barcelona!

At the beginning of the campaign, during the curtain raiser to each season, the Joan Gamper Trophy, Lionel Messi apologised for the collapse against Liverpool.

He also noted that the Catalans would be challenging again for the Champions League and the other top prizes on offer.

But it’s safe to say that things haven’t quite gone according to plan. Continue reading

Why Neymar returning to Barcelona is a no-go

Not long now until the transfer merry-go-round spins in earnest.

In fact, the rumours are already in full swing and there’s still the best part of three months until the window opens again!

As clubs across Europe go looking for bargains, there are one or two that need to make a statement signing to send shivers down their opponent’s spines. Continue reading

Unheralded Sergi Roberto continues to prove his worth for Barcelona

Sergi

Due to his incredible adaptability to operate in so many different positions, such as a central midfielder, winger or fullback, and his undoubted all-round quality, Sergi Roberto continues to prove his worth to Barcelona.

And under Quique Setien’s tenure, he’s shown what a vital asset he is to the tactically sophisticated technician’s plans, with him giving his manager much flexibility as to how best deploy him and his team in general.

Operating at right back, a role he’s now extremely familiar with, for Barca’s crunch clash with Getafe, Roberto once again put in shift littered with upside, in a match where he notably scored his first league goal since 2017.

Despite Barcelona dominating possession for large chunks, third placed Getafe still posed a major threat offensively with their transitions, physicality and nous upfront. So Roberto had to be on his game to handle this threat, which he was, dealing with whatever came his was quite comfortably indeed.

Facing off against talented Barca loanee, Marc Cucurella, Roberto certainly won the battle, for he defended with conviction and awareness to keep his adversary quiet. Good in 1v1s, tracking runs attentively, strong in aerial duels and timing his challenges cleanly, the 28-year-old hardly put a foot wrong, thus ensuring Cucurella struggled to have his usual impact.

When not directly marking Cucurella, Roberto remained positionally secure, as he’d recognise when to tuck infield to ensure compactness, step out, drop back, shift across or support his defenders.

The fact he chimed in with eight ball recoveries, three interceptions, two clearances and won two aerial duels punctuated his strong output.

Meanwhile, on the offensive side of things, Roberto was customarily assured in possession, stroking around the ball tidily to connect, construct and break the lines when the opportunity arose. Two footed and boasting fine vision, the Spaniard’s ability to remain unfazed by pressure to combine with his teammates to get away from danger or to find the free man was a big plus against Getafe’s fierce pressure.

Image 1 - Superb incisive pass to play in a teammate

Superb incisive pass to play in a teammate

Without question, however, his most striking contribution came from his wonderful forward bursts. Curling and timing his runs superbly so he could remain onside while exploiting the blindside of his marker, he added valuable width and depth to Barca’s attacks. Credit must go to the likes of Frenkie De Jong and Antoine Griezmann especially, for they drew their trackers narrow to generate openings for Roberto to explore.

Image 2 - Brilliantly timed blindside run in behind

Brilliantly timed blindside run in behind

Image 3 - Sublimely timed run in behind to take advantage of the space

Sublimely timed run in behind to take advantage of the space

Image 4 - Wonderful depth run as he catches Getafe off guard

Wonderful depth run as he catches Getafe off guard

Image 5 - Cucurella getting drawn inside which frees up Roberto to receive

Cucurella getting drawn inside which frees up Roberto to receive

Image 6 - Providing a great outlet for the switch

Providing a great outlet for the switch

Indeed, his goal offered a glowing testament to his aptitude here, with him angling his out-to-in blindside run smoothly to evade his marker before finishing with aplomb on his left foot.

Image 7 - Fantastic blindside run to get free before finishing

Fantastic blindside run to get free before finishing

Some other ways he unbalanced Jose Bordalas’ men came courtesy of his slick underlapping runs and rotations with Griezmann, which posed dilemmas for Getafe on who should mark who. His high and wide positioning also saw him available for quick switches of play, where he often found himself in a 2v1 overload with Antoine Griezmann or a 3v2 superiority to get at the away team.

Image 8 - Helping form a 2v1 out wide with Griezmann

Helping form a 2v1 out wide with Griezmann

Image 9 - Forming the free man as Barca form a 3v2

Forming the free man as Barca form a 3v2

When looking at his offensive numbers, and they were solid too, as he completed 41 of 46 attempted passes, five of six attempted passes into the box and final third, two shot assists, two dribbles and two touches inside the box.

After yet another accomplished display by the regularly unheralded Barca utility, this will do wonders for the heavily derided figure’s confidence, who regularly comes in for rather harsh criticism.

With such a massive period ahead that includes the Clasico against Real Madrid, their Champions League tie with Napoli and a tough contest with Real Sociedad, you can guarantee Setien will value his presence no matter where he decides to deploy him.

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Euro Fantasy League Podcast – #23 – Enrico Passarella on Ronaldo/Juventus Deal

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The lads are joined this time by Enrico Passarella (@Guardalinee) to discuss Cristiano Ronaldo‘s transfer to Juventus, Antonio Conte’s future, the Serie A season ahead and more.

The lads also round off the World Cup chat with a bit of discussion about France as champions, Kylian Mbappe, how proud Croatia will be and Dave (as usual) makes his feelings about England well known.

Continue reading

Top La Liga Strikers in 2017/18 – Lionel Messi (Barcelona)

messi

Lionel Messi is a great player. There really isn’t anything new there of course – the Argentinian has long been heralded as one of the finest players on the planet for quite some time now, and is widely regarded as the biggest Argentina star since Diego Maradona. Plying his trade for Barcelona, of course, helps too. At the Catalan giants he finds himself surrounded by more of the highest quality players in the world, and combined they have all managed to win this season’s La Liga title by quite some distance. For all of Barcelona’s star power, however, it is Messi who has shone the brightest in the blue and red of Barca this term. Comparisons to rival Cristiano Ronaldo have seemed somewhat further removed this season, with Messi enjoying the much better campaign of the two, despite Ronaldo’s Real Madrid lifting their third consecutive Champions League trophy last weekend.

Messi was the biggest fantasy points scorer out of all the strikers in La Liga this season, and it is easy to see why. From his 36 appearances (of which he started 32 games) he has bagged 34 league goals as Barcelona went almost the entire season unbeaten, finally losing their first game in the penultimate match at Levante, a real thriller which ended 5-4 to the hosts. On top of his 34 goals, he provided 12 assists too, meaning he was directly involved in 46 of Barcelona’s 99 league goals – not far short of half. That just goes to show how instrumental he is, yet also reinforces that Barcelona are a squad of real depth and quality at the same time. His partnership with former Liverpool striker Luis Suarez has blossomed over the last couple of years, and the arrival of Phillippe Coutinho – again from Liverpool – earlier this season has far from hindered Messi’s performances.

He did miss some game time towards the back end of the season, quite probably with one eye on this summer’s World Cup in Russia. That is one accolade Messi hasn’t quite been able to accomplish just yet, and though he has won an Olympic Gold Medal with Argentina in 2008 he is yet to really establish his stature on the international stage. He performs well for Argentina, make no mistake – 61 goals from 123 caps at the time of writing attest to that – but he has not been able to lift the World Cup trophy yet, and that is something that will be high on his priority list over the coming weeks.

Regardless of how things go in Russia, it seems certain that by August he will be taking to the Spanish fields once again, helping Barcelona defend their crown as Spain’s top club. If he can continue the kind of domestic form he has enjoyed this season, it would be difficult to convincingly argue against them managing just that once again 12 months from now.

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