When Alex Song signed for FC Barcelona last summer, the fans of his former club Arsenal were not happy at all, as they felt he was an integral player in their team, not to mention they had just sold Robin van Persie to their rivals Manchester United. The Barcelona fans, however, were fairly nonplussed, and his early performances didn’t do much to convince them that a suitable cover for the excellent Sergio Busquets had been found.
One of the most important members of the playing staff at FC Barcelona, and one of the hardest to replace, is the 25-year old midfield lynchpin Sergio Busquets. So it is great news that the club has tied him down with a new contract that will keep him at the Nou Camp for the next five years.
Busquets was born on the outskirts of Barcelona and joined the youth academy at La Masia before going on to play for one season with the Barcelona B team. That season was the same one in which Pep Guardiola managed the side and they won the third division title together. Both then moved on to the senior team and the rest is history, with an avalanche of trophies following, including two Champions League victories.
It does not take a rocket scientist to work out that Lionel Messi is a key player for Barcelona. With 57 goals this season, it is not surprising that officials from Bayern Munich have been studying every aspect of Messi’s game and the way he makes space and links with his team mates.
Barcelona’s Champions League opponents tonight have also highlighted the influence of Xavi Hernandez from midfield. The German’s are a very good side themselves, both in attack and defence, but they know that Barcelona dominate possession against any team they play. It is this aspect of the game that Bayern will try to disrupt by putting pressure on Xavi.
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.
The coach of FC Barcelona, Tito Vilanova, has enjoyed a fantastic and record breaking start to his reign at the Catalan giants, but he believes that tonight’s match at Celtic Park is the biggest that his talented team will have until the end of the year.
Vilanova knows that the atmosphere in Glasgow will be electric, and Neil Lennon will have his team well drilled and fired up. Celtic hearts were broken in the Nou Camp two weeks ago, and Barca are expecting another tough match.
The coach of FC Barcelona, Tito Vilanova, will be glad of the opportunity to rest a few of his star players this week as Barca travel to play Alaves in the King’s cup. The coach has said that he wants to be competitive in the cup, and knows that Alaves are a solid team but thinks there is enough depth in the squad to rest some players.
Messi, Xavi, Alba, Pedro and Valdes have not travelled with the team and will have a well earned rest. Messi and Valdes have played the most minutes for Barca this season and are vital to the cause. The next two most used players, Fabregas and Busquets, have been included but may not play.
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.
History and form are on the side of Barcelona as they host the Scottish champions Celtic in the third round of the champions league tonight, but Tito Vilanova will be taking nothing for granted and has plenty to worry about after Gerard Pique failed to recover from injury in time to make the squad.
Barca have not lost a European match at the Camp Nou in over three years and they are 12 to 1 on to take all three points tonight. However, with Puyol, Pique and Alves injured, and Busquets suspended, Vilanova will be using an experimental formation.