Spain will enter the 2014 World Cup on the cusp of unprecedented history that would symbolise their dominance at international level through a golden generation of players who have finally delivered the glory that so many squads in the past had the potential to achieve. No other nation in the history of football has won four consecutive major international tournaments, with Spain also in line to hold the distinction of being the only team to have successfully defended both European and World Cup titles in the eight year period.
I have been reading reports that FC Barcelona are not planning any big celebrations for this season, even though they have their destiny in their own hands and just need to win today to retain the title of champions of Spain. But this is ridiculous.
In fact, the Catalans should possibly view this trophy as the best, because it was the hardest to come by. With all the problems and twists in this landmark season, for Barcelona to finish it as champions, ahead of the two Champions League finalists from Madrid, would be pretty amazing.
If fans of Barcelona have been suffering lately because of the problems on the football pitch, the news that broke yesterday of the tragic death of Tito Vilanova has put it all in perspective. Football is just a game and the club motto, Mas Que un Club, could not be more evocative of anyone but Tito.
He was part of the Barca family and was dearly loved by all of the players, past and present. He finally lost his battle with throat cancer at the tender age of 45, leaving a wife and two children, one of whom is currently at the Barcelona academy. The club and players are devastated, even though it had been coming for some time, and there have been countless messages of condolence and support for his family, as well as tributes to the man.
After a few weeks in which nothing has gone right for FC Barcelona, there was finally some good news for the cub and the fans. The transfer ban that had been imposed by FIFA for breaking the rules about underage players from non-EU countries has now been lifted. But it has only been suspended.
We still don’t know whether or not Barca will be allowed to sign players in January or next summer, so the club is planning to make hay while the sun shines. There is going to be a massive overhaul of the squad, from top to bottom.
FC Barcelona have enough problems on their hands without having to deal with Cristiano Ronaldo, so Tata Martino and his players will have received the injury update from Carlo Ancelotti with open arms. Ronaldo is still out of action with what is being reported as tendonitis or a muscular problem in the thigh.
Andres Iniesta and other Barcelona players have refused, publicly at least, to accept that Real Madrid will be significantly weakened by this, as they have the likes of Isco, Di Mari and Morata who could take his place, but they must be pretty glad of the news really.
The Dinamo Zagreb manager Zoran Mamic has revealed that talented youngster Alen Halilovic will still be joining Barcelona at the end of the season despite the Catalans’ transfer ban. Barca, still right in the La Liga title race with Betfair visitors, have been forced to rethink their transfer plans following their ban, but the deal to sign Halilovic will still go through.
The Croatian youngster, dubbed the ‘new Lionel Messi’, agreed a deal to move to Spain in February, but Barcelona’s transfer ban had cast doubt over the move, alerting the likes of Manchester City and Chelsea, both previously tipped by Betfair fans of having a long-running interest in the playmaker.
The Champions League draw threw up a clash between the top two teams in La Liga, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid, which many think will be the tie of the round. And the fact that Diego Simeone’s team play the second leg at their home ground gives them a slight advantage, with the Vicente Calderon being a notoriously hard place to go.
So Barcelona must make the most of the injury that Madrid’s powerful and prolific striker Diego Costa picked up in training yesterday. The Brazilian born forward would have caused Barca a major problem, especially without the unlucky Victor Valdes who is out for the season.
Barcelona know that the famous derby win over Real Madrid on Sunday will probably count for nothing more than bragging rights unless they continue in that form and retain their La Liga crown. So it is not good news that they face a crucial game against Celta Vigo without the brilliant and experienced Xavi Hernandez in the squad, according to Mundo Deportivo.
At least the game is at the Nou Camp, where the crowd will be a huge help as they celebrate the victory over arch rivals Real Madrid. Tata Martino is expected to go even more attacking than usual in the absence of Xavi, so it is likely to be a central three of Iniesta, Busquets and Fabregas.