Quique Setien isn’t passing his Barcelona audition

There can’t be too many coaches that are given the sack when their team is top of the league, but that’s precisely what happened to Ernesto Valverde earlier this season.

Barcelona’s demanding fan base had been calling for his head for at least 12 months, and the board finally caved into the pressure – at the worst possible moment.

Their choice to replace Valverde was Quique Setien. Continue reading

Ansu Fati and Riqui Puig deserve their chance at Sevilla

Two games, two wins and no goals conceded. The restarted La Liga has gone as well as it could have for Barcelona, but one of their stiffest tests awaits them this Friday night.

Although recent results at Sevilla’s Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan have been favourable to the Catalans, it nonetheless remains one of the more difficult away trips.

If the Blaugranes are able to successfully negotiate that hurdle, with Real Madrid potentially dropping points against Valencia or Real Sociedad either side of Barca’s fixture, it will go some way to determining the destination of the league trophy Continue reading

Mallorca v Barcelona: 3 things to watch

La Liga kicked off again on Thursday evening with the Sevilla derby, followed by two games on Friday, all of which were notable for the armchair viewer having computerised graphics in place of supporters in the stands as well as piped in noise for a more realistic effect.

It certainly makes the action eminently more watchable, and on Saturday night Mallorca and Barcelona will be the next to get the ‘virtual’ treatment. Continue reading

Fan Zone: Jason’s back to discuss Suarez, Griezmann, Neymar and more

Jason Pettigrove- a journalist who has covered football for decades and who is the content editor at FC Barcelona- is back for the second segment of the Q&A.

Jason discusses Barca’s possession game as well as some of the big names such as Luis Suarez, Antoine Griezmann and others. In addition, Jason touches upon the frequently mentioned topic of PSG star Neymar who is often linked with a return to the Catalan club. Remember to leave your feedback and feel free to discuss any of the points with both Jason and Rami Soufi by connecting with them on social media.

1) Barca built a reputation playing a heavy possession game. Has the focus on possession at the expense of being more pragmatic hurt Barca’s quest to lift more Champions League trophies? Contrast that with the direct and ruthless approach of Liverpool at Anfield (to overturn 1st leg deficit)

I don’t think there’s any doubt that your suggestion has merit, but what I would say to counter that is Barça’s style is ingrained in the players from the moment they set foot in La Masia academy. Just the thought of leaving behind the possession game or playing any other way, as we saw with Valverde’s 4-4-2, would cause concern and would lead to the rise of discontent among the fans. Simply put, the fans have long bought into that philosophy and would most likely make their displeasure clear.

2) What do you make of Luis Suarez? His stats are decent despite being sidelined due to injury. Would you keep Suarez for one more season, or would you sign Gabriel Jesus or Harry Kane?

I’d keep Suarez for one more season without doubt. Not just because he and Messi are such good pals off of the pitch but because there’s a great understanding on the field- a telepathy which would be near impossible to recreate with any future signing or incoming elite player. He has to leave sometime soon of course, but I think 12 months from now is a better bet.

3) Were you for signing Griezmann, or did you prefer bringing back Neymar setting aside the financial factor involved in Neymar’s return?

I didn’t like the whole ‘Decision’ video fiasco- to me that was entirely unnecessary. I’ll always support whoever wears the shirt, but I did think Griezmann’s purchase was another ‘statement’ signing without looking at whether he’d fit in well with the team. So far, the season has proved difficult for him further highlighting that not every big signing will automatically succeed.

4) Should Barca bring back Neymar for the 2020/21 season? And why?

No, I definitely would not welcome it. There are just too many concerns and negatives when it comes to bringing back Neymar. Too much money. Too much baggage. Too many injuries. Too many absences. It is just a long laundry list.

5) Moving on from Neymar, what do you make of BVB’s Erling Haaland? Should Barca invest in signing him?

Haaland has shown an incredible appetite for scoring goals, and his movement is beyond his years. Barça should be in the queue to sign the best players if and when they become available, but they shouldn’t sign him just for the sake of piling up talent.

If the technical department believe he’s a good fit and that he can improve, then he’s worth spending money on. Otherwise, let someone else take him. Don’t get me wrong, he’d be a great potential signing for almost all big clubs but Barca have had their share of big name signings who haven’t worked out exactly- Coutinho from Liverpool, Griezmann so far as discussed earlier and Ousmane Dembele due to injuries.

6) Are you for resuming La Liga this season or for voiding it, and why?

Not even a question for me. People are losing their lives. Football isn’t that important when considering the bigger picture. Just void this season and reassess in the upcoming few months.

7) If the league is voided, does Barca get the title despite being only 2 points ahead with over 10 Rounds remaining on schedule?

Nope. You can’t realistically argue that Barça would have gone on and won it at this point. Anything could happen over the course of 10 Rounds let alone a single match when you consider the gap between first and second is only two points.

Barcelona need to re focus for next season and Messi and Xaxi could be key to that

Whilst Barcelona are top of the league standings for now and are still in the Champions League any fan who watches them will tell you that they are not having their usual dominant season. They simply don’t look like the Barcelona side that have graced their league and European football for the past decade.

They have had some injuries in Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele and Antoine Griezmann has taken time to fit in and doesn’t have consistently good games. Lionel Messi is getting older but he is still a fantastic player, but there is a feeling that he needs to be re motivated. New coach Quique Setien seems like a good man but one really has to question if he is the right person to take Barcelona forward.

Setien’s appointment came after a panic decision led by the board and Eric Abidal to sack Ernesto Valverde, who the players really liked. Everything felt hurried in their decision and the severance got messy so to speak. So bad that Messi himself spoke out about his feelings that Valverde should never have been sacked.

Bringing in Setien always felt like the wrong decision especially when news broke that Barca and Abidal had chased after ex player Xavi to be the new coach. Xavi was loyal to his Chinese team though and rejected the offer for now. Come August and the next season and it is thought that Xavi will be available and will be Barca’s new coach.

Appointing Xavi would make sense, his blood runs the colours of the club, he is respected by his peers and the fans love him. This could work, but of course he will judged on results only. Messi could well improve, even though he is actually having a decent season maybe it has lacked some spark from the high bar that he has set himself.

Next season has to be about focusing for the club. When the Suarez injury hit and the club looked for last minute deals, it made no sense. They wanted to pay big money to Everton to secure Richarlison, Everton quite rightly in January said no. And they simply went window shopping again, with not much care or focus. The truth is Barcelona didn’t want or need Richarlison, and they ended up going for Martin Braithwaite, a decent player but journeyman who simply will not fit into the team.

This was a basic blunder by the club and not to undermine Braithwaite’s skills, but players brought into any club must have a desired role so they can play and fit into the team like a jigsaw. Braithwaite through no fault of his own has been plucked out and expected to be the difference within the team. Instead his biggest highlight might be just sharing a dressing room with Messi. This all comes down to Barcelona panicking.

Bringing in Xavi next season there will be the hope that the team can re focus, he understands the club and was part of the team that was hailed as the best club side in history in the late 2000s and early 2010s.

Barcelona still have the magic, still have their integrity, but in football life moves fast. Wit La Liga possibly being suspended this year over the virus it gives the club time to assess the situation, the question is will they make the right choices or continue to panic?

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No.9 role will suit Griezmann at Barca

Now that the transfer window has slammed shut again, clubs can get down to working with the players that they have available, for the next six months.

Barcelona were rumoured to be in the hunt for a striker before the end of the deadline, given Luis Suarez’s long-term injury.

However, with Ousmane Dembele on the way back from injury, and Antoine Griezmann arguably better in a No.9 role than out on the wing, one has to applaud the Catalans for keeping their wallets in their pockets on this occasion. Continue reading

Best 11 players in La Liga week 19

We are officially at the halfway point of the Spanish league season and the favourites to win the league, Barcelona and Real Madrid are both locked on 40 points with Barca on top due to goal difference.

We take a look at the players who performed this past weekend in La Liga, who made the cut for the best 11 and who didn’t?

Formation: 4-4-2

Goalkeeper: Thibaut Courtois- Real Madrid 7pts

The spotlight has been on Courtois since his move to Madrid but this season he is amongst the very best goal keepers. Along with four others he was able to earn 7 points for his clean sheet. But he gets the nod as Madrid played a local derby in beating Getafe as the club won 3-0.

Defender: Raphael Varane- Real Madrid 9pts

What a weekend it was for Raphael Varane who kept a clean sheet in the Madrid derby as his team won 3-0. But what nobody was expecting was that he scored 2 goals in the game and was the main reason his side won and strolled in the end to victory. Varane is currently 4th in the fantasy rankings and can be bought for just 8.5m.

Defender: Daniel Wass- Valencia 6pts

Daniel Wass was at the heart of everything and had a very good game as Valencia beat Eibar 1-0 and are now in the top six. He would have picked up more points but he got booked in the game.

Defender: Daniel Carvajal- Real Madrid 5pts

This was another solid game for Carvajal in defence as he was able to help his side to a clean sheet with a 3-0 win at Getafe. The defender is currently the best in La Liga fantasy rankings and has 50 points so far and is just 7m to buy.

Defender: Domingas Duarte- Granada 5pts

Domingas Duarte has proved to be one of the surprise defenders this season and is doing well week in and week out. He helped his team secure a 1-0 win over Mallorca and kept a clean sheet in doing so as the club propped up the table.

Midfielder: Luka Modric- Real Madrid 6pts

The world player of the year in 2018 was dominant in midfield as Real Madrid beat Getafe and to top it off after the club were 2-0 up he put the win beyond doubt by scoring a 3rd goal, which was ironically his 3rd of the season.

Midfielder: Manuel Trigueros- Villarreal 4pts

Trigueros has only scored 10 points all season and 40% of those came in this match as Villarreal beat Real Sociedad 2-1 away from home. The midfielder opened the scoring for his side after converting a penalty.

Midfielder: Santiago Cazorla- Villarreal 4pts

Sticking with Villarreal is Santiago Cazorla who came on as a substitute on the hour mark and then won the game for his side with a goal as the club ran out 2-1 winners.

Midfielder: Angel Correa- Atletico Madrid 4pts

Midfielders did not have a great weekend in La Liga with the average best scores of just 4 points. Correa gained his after his side beat Levante 2-1 and he opened the scoring which set the game up for his side.The player has earned 29 points so far this season.

Striker: Luis Suarez- Barcelona 6pts

Luis Suarez is still scoring goals as his team Barcelona drew 2-2 with Espanyol in the derby game. Suarez scored the equaliser for Barca and the teams first goal which ended up setting them up with a point at least to go home with. Suarez is the 3rd best striker in the league so far and has scored 11 goals.

Striker: Enes Unal- Real Valladolid 7pts

But the best striker this past weekend goes to Enes Unal who bagged 7 points as his side drew 2-2 with Leganes. Both times Valladolid were a goal down and both times Unal scored to get them back in the game. He is valued at 5.5m and has scored 3 goals so far this season.

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Lionel Messi’s injuries are hampering season for him and Barcelona already

It’s normally the case that by the end of September Lionel Messi has yet to score a goal this season but the 2019/20 season has started out in a frustrating manner for the Barcelona legend.

Messi has been injured for the majority of Barcelona’s games and has only played twice in the league and once in the Champions League when Barcelona drew 0-0 away to Borussia Dortmund. So 3 games in and no goals and niggling injuries has certainly hampered Messi’s start and of course his team have suffered too.

Barca are in 4th place after seven games and have already lost two games, the good news perhaps is that despite a stop/start beginning to their season and the fact that their away form has been questionable they are only 2 points behind league leaders and eternal nemesis Real Madrid.

It just shows to go how important a player like Messi is, as Barcelona have simply not been the same without him. True at times Antoine Griezmann and Luis Suarez have taken games by the scruff of their neck but in general not even these two great players can add the missing touch to a team who are so dependent on the Argentine play maker.

Messi now has another injury after coming back from one and coach Ernesto Valverde who first thought it would be nothing serious is sweating over Messi’s fitness. Alas whilst Messi will miss the next league game and Champions League one, the blessing in disguise for the club is that Messi most probably will not be available during the international break for Argentina. Keeping him fresh for a possible return before the end of October. Well that is the plan anyway.

Valverde himself is under his own pressure and was lucky to keep his job last season after the team failed so miserably against Liverpool in the Champions League semi-final. But the board have stuck by him, after all he has won a few La Liga titles and done so in style.

Of course it has not all been bad for Messi who actually picked up the FIFA The Best award based on last season where yet again he scored over 50 goals on the way to helping Barca win the league title. A title this season would be even more remarkable given that Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid seem up for the challenge this season.

What is sure is that Barca need Messi back as soon as possible because if his injury problems continue it could well derail the club’s season and Messi could end up have quite a forgettable one.

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How will Barcelona use all its attacking talent this season?

Antoine Griezmann

Lionel Messi, Antoine Griezmann, Luis Suarez, Ousmane Dembele, Malcom and Philippe Coutinho.

Not a bad selection, is it?

They are the attacking players available within Barcelona’s first-team squad at the moment.

If the club had the necessary funds this summer, you could have added Neymar‘s name to that list.

Antoine Griezmann’s signing from LaLiga rivals Atletico Madrid freshens up the frontline with the Frenchman expected to make it into the starting eleven right from the off. Continue reading

Decision-time for Barcelona’s Ousmane Dembele

Ousmane Dembele

Barcelona’s young French star Ousmane Dembele faces a potentially make-or-break season in 2019/20.

The former Rennes and Borussia Dortmund winger has found himself playing second fiddle to stars such as Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez since his arrival at the Catalan club in August 2017.

In his first LaLiga season (2017/18), Dembele scored three goals and provided six assists from 17 appearances (12 starts).

Last season, the French international was hampered by injury for parts of the campaign. He played 29 times for Barcelona, making 20 starts in 2018/19, scoring eight goals and laying on five assists. Continue reading