The president and coach of Barcelona were firm and resolute in their intentions of not selling David Villa in the January transfer window, despite the 31-year old striker appearing only 15 times in La Liga, usually as a substitute, for an average of 40 minutes a game. Rosell and Vilanova have both stated that Villa is still an important part of their plans and will be a valuable part of the team, at least for the rest of the season.
Barcelona are now exactly halfway through the Primera liga season. They faced a tough away trip to Fifth placed Malaga yesterday, but even if they lost it would have been a record equalling first half of the season. This is Barca, however, and they did not lose, they won, so they have a new record of 55 points from a possible 57. The win also matches another record of 10 away victories in a row.
Barcelona fans love David Villa, partly because of how he has fit into the club since his move from Valencia in the summer of 2010. His 23 goals during that first season at Barca included a fantastic curling shot that ensured victory over Manchester United in the champions league final. We also won La Liga and went on to lift the Spanish Supercup against Real Madrid and the club world cup.
The Barcelona game against Athletico Madrid was billed as the battle of the two strikers, Lionel Messi and Radamel Falcao, as well as the battle between the top two teams in the Spanish Primera Liga. After Real Madrid had surprised everyone by drawing with relegation threatened Espanyol earlier, it really was starting to look like Diego Simeone could be fighting it out with Vilanova for the title.
Barcelona host the second placed team in the Spanish Primera Liga tonight, and it is being billed as the battle of the top two strikers as well. Hardly surprising really, when you think that the two front men have scored more league goals this season than most of the teams in La Liga.
Messi already has an incredible 23 league goals, while Falcao is the closest to him with 16. That combined total of 39 is more than every other team in the league other than Barcelona, who have scored 50 times. Both players are in a rich vein of form, with Messi scoring twice in his last seven starts in Spain. Falcao smashed five goals in his last game, so we should be in for a cracker.
In modern football today, the fact that Barcelona can field a whole team of players who came through the academy system is nothing short of amazing. When they do it in an important match against very tough opposition and run out easy winners, then it is incredible, and that is just what happened when Barcelona travelled to Valencia to play Levante yesterday.
Levante had only lost once at home in La Liga this season, and that was to a last minute goal by Real Madrid in the pouring rain on a waterlogged pitch. With David Villa sidelined with injury, Tito Vilanova brought Iniesta forward to play in the front three with Messi and Pedro. Xavi, Busquets and Fabregas were the midfield trio, but Barca players can easily change positions in their fluid style.
Tito Vilanova fielded the 7th different central defensive pairing of Adriano and Busquets with the full backs Alba and Montoya, despite the fact that Alves was fit to play. Song played in his preferred position in front of the Barcelona defence with Fabregas and Xavi. Villa, Pedro and Messi were the front three but were not in the game much to start with.
The nervousness in defence was evident by Valdes often kicking long and Rayo Vallecano were encouraged by their healthy share of possession. Barcelona did put some good, creative moves together and Fabregas should have been awarded a penalty. Fabregas then claimed another assist by putting Villa through with a sublime pass which the striker duly slotted away.
To look at the champions league and La Liga tables, you would think that all is going to plan for FC Barcelona and the new coach Tito Vilanova. Barca are top of the Spanish league, level on points with Athletico Madrid and eight points ahead of Real Madrid and Jose Mourinho and his finger. Two wins out of two and a double header against the Scottish champions Celtic next should see Barca easily through as group winners.
Behind the scenes, however, Vilanova has been having a nightmare because his players keep getting injured. Is it coincidence or is there an underlying problem with training techniques? The facts are astonishing.