Deulofeu, Rafinha could play pivotal part for Barca

Posted by Dermot Ledwith

Celta Vigo's straightforward 4-2 victory away to relegation rivals Almeria on Sunday was not a standout game in La Liga last weekend. Although overlooked by many, it will not have gone unnoticed at FC Barcelona due to another excellent performance from the Celta number 12.

The game was heading into the final 15 minutes when the player in question, Rafael Alcantara, resembled a mixture of Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez to beat the home side's defence with a sublime chipped pass (seen at 4:11 in the video) into the path of colleague Fabian Orellana for a simple fourth goal. Continue Reading...

La Liga not over yet for Barcelona

Posted by Francesc Tomas

David Ramos/Getty ImagesLionel Messi scored the winner in Barcelona's 2-1 win over Athletic.

Barcelona had reached a critical point in the season after losing three games in three different competitions that made every chance of success virtually impossible. Huge criticism was fired from every corner of the world, evenly directed at the board, coach Gerardo Martino and most of the key players, who in the past took the club to the most successful era in over 100 years of history.

The late 2-1 win against a courageous Athletic Bilbao at the Camp Nou meant that, at least for now, a slight window of relative peace may have been reopened. Continue Reading...

Barcelona survive Athletic test to rebound from rough week

Posted by Dermot Ledwith

David Ramos/Getty ImagesLionel Messi came to the rescue for Barcelona in their 2-1 win over Athletic.

Barcelona could not have wished for a more difficult opponent to get their season back on track, but the battling 2-1 victory over Athletic Bilbao on Sunday keeps the Blaugrana alive in La Liga, just, and keeps the inquest into a disappointing season on hold for the time being.

At one stage it looked as if a wounding fourth defeat in a row was on the cards and an 'adios' to La Liga but Barca finally showed the grit and mettle missing in the last three matches, all defeats, to battle back and claim the three points. Continue Reading...

Messi must be the key to Barca's future

Posted by Francesc Tomas

SPORT front cover Messi dejected
OtherFront cover of SPORT on April 17.

Barcelona are struggling to pick up the pieces after a desperately forgettable week which saw all their hopes of silverware this season virtually thrown out of the window. The below-par performances in each and every one of the three competitions entered have raised a huge question mark over the club at both sporting and institutional level.

The Catalan press published a survey in which Cules were asked to share their feelings about the current situation. The results could not be any clearer: 96 percent don't trust the current board to make the changes the squad needs; 93 percent admit Barca deserved to lose the Copa final against Madrid; 90 percent believe that the team no longer has what it takes to win the Liga. Continue Reading...

Eight days of misery

Posted by Dermot Ledwith

BarcelonaGettyImagesBarcelona's top dogs are now finding it tough to compete.

It has to go down as the one of darkest weeks in the history of FC Barcelona. Indeed, there were eight days between the side bowing out of the UEFA Champions League -- with a disappointing 1-0 defeat at Atletico Madrid last Tuesday -- and the 2-1 Copa del Rey final defeat to Real Madrid this Wednesday.

Barca have not lost three consecutive games since 2003, but more telling is the stat that dictates the club have not lost three successive games in different competitions in its entire 114 year history. Continue Reading...

Barca's Copa loss is a blessing in disguise

Posted by Francesc Tomas

Denis Doyle/Getty ImagesBarca's defeat means the club can start working on the future.

Barcelona were defeated 2-1 by Real Madrid at the Mestalla in the Copa del Rey final. Marc Bartra scored the goal for the Blaugrana, who enjoyed 65 percent of possession, created 12 goal-scoring chances and attempted 10 shots, four on target and one to the post.

Key 1: The Blaugranas were outplayed by their historic rivals after yet another below-par team performance at a crucial point in the season. Having collected a third consecutive loss in less than a week, Gerardo Martino now has the dubious honour of having lead Barca to their worst run since January 2003. Continue Reading...

Barcelona teetering on the brink of chaos

Posted by Francesc Tomas

After yet another abysmal result against a team that are firmly involved in the relegation battle, Barcelona no longer depend on their own results in order to defend their La Liga crown this season. Add the disappointing defeat against Atletico Madrid in the Champions League into the mix, and we can honestly say the Catalans have completed the worst week in recent history, leaving the club on the verge of social and institutional chaos.

Despite shooting 29 times on goal and taking 13 corners, the Blaugranas lost to Granada 1-0 on Saturday. Continue Reading...

Barca's bad week gets worse

Posted by Dermot Ledwith

Andres Iniesta GettyImagesBarcelona's midfielder Andres Iniesta (L) reacts.

A disastrous week for Barcelona got worse on Saturday night with a 1-0 defeat at Granada that means the chances of retaining the La Liga title are no longer in their own hands. Questions must now be asked about a season which is now in danger of collapsing within seven days.

If Barca fail to win the Copa del Rey final Wednesday against Real Madrid, they are likely to finish without a major title for the first season since 2007-08.

La Liga now looks a distant dream after the defeat in Granada that was almost identical to the Champions League tie lost by the same score at Atletico Madrid last Wednesday. Continue Reading...

Back off Messi: Lack of institutional vision to blame

Posted by Francesc Tomas

Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty ImagesLionel Messi has been the subject of media criticism since Barcelona's Champions League elimination.

The Barcelona community isn't used to dealing with failure. The huge amount of success the Catalans have enjoyed in recent years has made some Cules lose an essential degree of perspective. Accepting that Barcelona's opponents in the Champions League quarterfinals in midweek were in fact deserving winners seems to be mission impossible for many.

Losing is an integral part of sport. The Blaugranas are, luckily, used to obtaining positive results in most of their games, but such tendency should be understood as a luxury rather than a given. Continue Reading...

Atletico expose Barca's flaws

Posted by Dermot Ledwith

MessiGettyImagesLionel Messi and Barcelona had no answer for Atletico Madrid as they crashed out of the Champions League.

Barcelona crashed out of the Champions League on Wednesday night -- and coach Gerardo Martino admitted his side failed to cope with Atletico Madrid’s power. All the more surprising, then, that Atletico swept Barca aside without Diego Costa.

This is the first time in seven years the four-time winners will not feature in the semifinals, but they can have no complaints as they were outthought and outfought by a combative Atletico side.

Martino said afterwards that his side lacked the intensity “to be able to put four or five passes together,” but strangely put that down to it being “very hard to compete with Atletico's way of playing. Continue Reading...

Disappointing Barca crash out of Europe

Posted by Francesc Tomas

Dani Pozo/AFP/Getty ImagesLionel Messi and Barcelona failed to qualify for the Champions League semifinals for the first time since 2007 after Wednesday's defeat to Atletico Madrid.

Barcelona lost 1-0 (2-1 in aggregate) to Atletico Madrid at the Vicente Calderon in the second leg of the Champions League quarterfinals. The Blaugrana enjoyed 75 percent of possession, created 12 goal-scoring chances and attempted nine shots, three of them on target.

- Delaney: Three things: Atletico Madrid vs. Barcelona
- Report: Atletico Madrid 1-0 Barcelona

Key 1: Atletico were the better team over the two matches and deserved to qualify for the next round. Continue Reading...

Crunch time for Barcelona

Posted by Dermot Ledwith

BarcelonaGettyImagesLionel Messi & Co. have a tricky tie at Atletico Madrid on Wednesday.

Crunch time has arrived as Barcelona go to Atletico Madrid on Wednesday for their Champions League quarterfinal second leg -- and a defining moment in their season. The Blaugrana will need to score at least once if they are to have any hope of going through to the semifinals after the 1-1 draw in the home leg.

That is normally not a problem for a free-scoring Barcelona side, except when it comes to games against Atletico. In four matches this season, they have managed only two goals against the surprise package in Europe's last eight. Continue Reading...