Barcelona’s Second Loss of the 2011-2012 Season Against Osasuna

Barcelona put themselves out of a serious chance of contending for the 2012 Spanish League title after a 3-2 loss against Osasuna. Barcelona eliminated Osasuna from the Copa del Rey in January with a comfortable 4-0 win at the Nou Camp followed by a less comfortable 2-1 away win and they are mid way down the league table at the moment.

The loss was only their second of the season, but with a number of draws to their name Real Madrid was able to open up their lead in the league table to 10 points. While publicly the team didn’t admit to giving up, the reality of the situation meant that no real chance remained; it would take several Real Madrid players to be sidelined for the remainder of the season.

Real Madrid showed a impressive run throughout the 2011/2012 season, and by February had won all of their matches except three; two defeats and a draw. While Barcelona played well through much of the season to this point, they were also much less consistent and despite dominating possession in the majority of matches, were sometimes unable to score when they needed to.

The match against Osasuna coincided with freezing conditions throughout Spain in early to mid February and the pitch was one of the reasons Carles Puyol said the players found it hard to play as it was frozen solid. Barcelona just didn’t seem able to control the ball as they normally do and Osasuna, looking much more comfortable in the cold, were able to win the ball from the visitors again and again.

And the result was that the hosts went two goals up thanks to Lekic in the fourth and then the twenty-first minute. While Alexis was able to score for the Catalans five minutes into the second half, Osasuna continued fighting and Raul Garcia made it three for Osasuna just five minutes later.

Guardiola then decided to bring off Pique and in his place came Cesc Fabregas. He immediately set up a goal for Tello, who took the score line to 3-2 with a 71st minute goal. However, Barcelona was unable to do enough to even get one point, despite a relentless attack. Both teams had further chances, but neither side scored.

After the this match the team travelled to Germany to face Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League. The Leverkusen coach admitted that it would be hard to beat Barcelona, the championship holders.

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A Profile of Samuel Eto’o

One of the ironies of Samuel Eto’o playing for FC Barcelona is that he originally joined arch-rivals Real Madrid, who immediately put him out on loan; first to second division CD Leganes; then to first division Espanyol after playing just one league match for Madrid; and finally to Mallorca. He did so well at the latter club that they signed him for a club record and became the highest scorer in the history of the club with a total of 54 goals between 2000 and 2004.

The Cameroon striker signed to FC Barcelona after a series of negotiations between Barcelona, Mallorca and Real Madrid who had retained an option on him. On one hand Madrid didn’t require him in the team as they already had two strikers in the form of Ronaldo and Raul; on the other hand they didn’t want him to play for Barcelona, a club that was looking for a quality striker to cement the attack after they were unable to come to an agreement with midfielder Edgar Davids, who had spent the second half of the 2003-2004 season on loan to the Catalan club.

With Eto’o in place as striker and Ronaldinho as attacking mid-fielder, Samuel Eto’o quickly proved to be good value for money and scored a total of 24 league goals in the 2004-2005 season. Although he helped FC Barcelona to take the league title, he narrowly missed the title of top goal scorer in La Liga.

However, at the celebrations that followed at the Nou Camp he gave speech in which he openly criticised Real Madrid, apparently venting the bitterness he felt for being passed over by the club in favour of being put on loan. He later had to retract his statement and issue an apology.

The following year Samuel Eto’o was able to improve of his league score and with a total of 26 goals he narrowly took the “Pichichi” crown, just one goal ahead of David Villa from Valencia. His strong performance on the pitch saw him also score six Champions League goals, helping to propel Barcelona all the way to the final against Arsenal. He was strongly implicated in the result as first the Arsenal goalkeeper was sent off for a foul against Eto’o in the first 20 minutes; failing to capitalise on the one man advantage, Eto’o equalised in the 76th minute from a pass from Larsson and Belletti scored the winning goal a few minutes after.

On the basis of a strong season Samuel Eto’o was awarded the title of UEFA Champion’s League Best Forward as well as Best African Player for the third year running.

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Tito Vilanova – The Road to Becoming Barca Boss

Born on 17 September 1969, Tito Vilanova is a retired Spanish footballer who used to play as the central midfielder. He had a pretty unassuming professional career, and played about 26 La Liga games in a time span of three years. After that he became associated with the FC Barcelona as an assistant coach under Pep Guardiola, during which time they won 14 major titles.

When Pep Guardiola announced that he would no more be associated with FC Barcelona after the 2011/2012 season, following a four glorious trophy years at the Nou Camp, the club was quick to sign Tito Vilanova in his place, the 16th Catalan coach in the history of the club.

At the time, 42 year old Vilanova was the assistant to Guardiola, who had replied upon him heavily during his tenure as coach and who backed his appointment. During an interview following the announcement Vilanova said that he was not at all worried about being compared to Guardiola, adding that it would be a difficult task to maintain what the former Barcelona coach had achieved for his team.

Football Career

Vilanova first made a mark in the youth ranks of the local FC Barcelona team and his career took a kick start from there. In 1990, he left La Liga giants as he was unable to get into the first team. His next club was UE Figueres, which belonged to his native place. Vilanova played brilliantly and helped his team get the best 2nd division classification in the 1991-92 football season (third place). In the promotion playoffs, the club faced Cádiz CF and lost with 1-3 on aggregate.

After that Vilanova shifted to the top level along with Celta de Vigo, however fans could see him rarely over the entire three season course. In 1995, he returned to division two and represented CD Badajoz. In 1998, Vilanova became the first player ever to net against a team that was directed by José Mourinho, a Portuguese.

Managerial experience prior to Barça

Vilanova worked as the technical director at Terrassa FC for a few years and then was appointed as the assistant to FC Barcelona’s coach Pep Guardiola. In 2008, the duo replaced Dutch Frank Rijkaard and Johan Neeskens, and were assigned to the first team.

At Camp Nou, their first season was the most successful in the history of Barcelona with the club winning the major trophies six times and becoming the first Spanish team to win the league, domestic cup and also the European club titles in the same season; once appointed as the new coach, the spotlight turned to him as fans wondered whether he could take the team to even greater heights.

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Barcelona FC Vs Real Madrid

Spain is currently the football capitol of the world. Not only did they lift the World Cup last year, but, in Barcelona and Real Madrid, they have two of the finest football clubs in the world.

Naturally, the rivalry between these two foot-balling giants is intense, and every time that they meet, both teams' reputations are subject to immense pressure, not only from their respect, loyal fan bases, but from the world's media too.

Both sides play in the La Liga, the Spanish premier league. When these two great football colossi meet, (at least twice per year in league competition, and more if they play each other in any of the European trophy fixtures), the name that is given to the games, (yes they actually have a special name for this particular football fixture), is "El Clasico" – The Classic.

Since these two clubs first began playing against each other back in 1902, Real Madrid have a light edge, with a total of 74 wins over their old rivals, as opposed to Barcelona's 73.

The origin of their great rivalry is actually politically charged. Barcelona FC, more affectionately known as Barca, (correct pronunciation "Barsa"), are the champions of the Catalonian region and its peoples, whereas Real Madrid many years ago were associated with Franco's fascist regime. This clash between the people versus the establishment was the foundation for what is one of the fiercest sporting sporting rivalries in the world today.

There is one amazing story that recounts the fortunes of one Alfredo di Stefano, now a figure of legend for both clubs. His arrival in Spain from Argentina's Deportivo Los Millonarios was amid fierce competition between Real and Barca who were both desperate to sign the player. In the following confusion over the bitter argument of who he would play for, it was decided the he would play for Real one year, and Barca the next.

The intension confrontation between the two clubs is likened to a reenactment of the Spanish Civil War, a situation heightened recently when only last Wednesday Real coach Jose Mourinho poked his finger in the eye of Barca's assistant coach Tito Vianova following earlier accidents on the field of play . It is feared by many that the bad feeling between the two clubs may spill over into the national team side which current boats nine Barca players in its squad.

But all rivalries aside, these two great clubs have provided some remarkable spectacles of scintillating football in recent years although it is an undeniable fact that Barcelona FC are very much in the ascendancy right now. Their explosive style of football is hard for any other club to keep up with, and they have humbled many other great football clubs as they did with Manchester United when they beat them in last season's European Cup final.

Barcelona FC are currently THE club to be reckoned with. In recent head to head meetings with Real Madrid Barca have won 6 out of the last 10 games outright, with Real only managing 2 wins; the other games being drawn. Barcelona chalked up their longest unbeaten run in La Liga in the last season with 28 matches undefeated, and with nine of their current team in the international team squad, they are really a force to be reckoned with. Real Madrid eat your hearts out!

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What Chance Does FC Barcelona Have Of Winning The Spanish League?

With an away victory against Real Betis on Saturday night and a clash between Real Madrid and Sevilla on Sunday resulting in a victory for Madrid, the most important question for many Barcelona fans is whether their team has what it takes to finish the season with the 2007 La Liga title.

Prior to this weekend, May 5th and 6th, FC Barcelona was in top position with Sevilla just one point behind and Real Madrid trailing two points. While Barcelona’s victory at least gave room to breath a little, the result they were hoping for between their two closest rivals was a draw. Instead Madrid moved up into second place although they still remain two points behind Barcelona. That margin is too close for comfort and the fight looks like it will go on right to the end.

Barcelona’s form has been rather patchy at some points during the current season, including a period when a run of five matches saw them score one goal in each, drawing four times and winning just once; and one of the lowest points in the domestic calendar must surely have been in January when fellow Barcelona team RCD Espanyol beat Barcelona 3-1 at the Estadi Olimpic.

The team definitely lacked something when Lionel Messi was out of action through injury and perhaps Ronaldinho’s lack of form at times is due to the immense pressure there must be on all the players. And so, back to that big question; does Barcelona have what it takes to win this year’s Spanish League title?

Whatever the answer, it’s not going to be easy to do. As winners of both the Spanish League and Champions League titles in 2006 the pressure has been on the repeat their performance and after being knocked out of the UEFA competition the focus has been purely domestic. With clear focus, determination, hard work and a little luck the team does have what it takes to hold on to the title for another year, but if they make anything more than the smallest mistake then their ambitions will be thwarted.

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How FC Barcelona Players Contributed to Spain's Success In Euro 2012

Spain sealed their top position in Euro 2012 by defeating Italy by 4-0 in the final and creating history. Together they became a team that could be defeated by none. The exceptional match between Spain and Italy showcased outstanding skills of FC Barcelona players who were considered major contributors to their success.

Barcelona had sent 8 players to Euro 2012, and finally the number totaled to nine. Even though Carles Puyol (club captain) and David Villa (striker) missed the competition due to injury, there were still at least 7 Barca footballers that joined the Spain's squad. The Barcelona stars who contributed to the success of Spain are Sergio Busquets, Cesc Fabregas, Ibrahim Afellay, Andres Iniesta, Gerard Pique, Pedro, Victor Valdes, and Xavi.

All of the Barcelona players were given a chance to shine, with the exception of goal keeper Victor Valdes, who sadly was behind captain Iker Casillas and first reserve Pepe Reina in pecking order. However, the Catalan offered healthy support competition, as Spain achieved the crown.

Although Andres Iniesta could not find a place in the best player contenders for 2010 World Cup despite graduating a winning goal for Spain in the final, this midfielder was recognized as the shining star of the historic triumph of Spain in Euro 2012.

Gerard Pique also shone in the defense, with 6 assured appearances. Although there were some questions raised regarding his below-par performance, and the rift with Sergio Ramos, he dispelled all the doubts and proved to be a solid pillar for the team. In the midfield, the 23-year old Sergio Busquets shown impressive performance in his performance since his tender years; many football commentators predicted much more to come.

When it comes to discussing the contribution of FC Barcelona's players in Spain's success in Euro 2012, one can not forget the contribution of Pedro, the Tenerife-born forward who was not expected to make the cut due to an injury-hit and a low-key campaign, though the two-goal display got him a secure place in the team and he played fantastically against Italy, showing what an asset he could be when match fit.

And one of the highlights for fans of FC Barcelona, ​​sometimes, was the signing of Jordi Alba during the competition. He played brilliantly for Spain in the Euro 2012 and contributed for the country's victory; following that all eyes turned to him as he headed for the London Olympics prior to coordinating training with the rest of the Barcelona squad.

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FC Barcelona – The Pep Guardiola Years

With an extraordinary treble win at the Copa del Rey, Primera Division, and the Champions League in his first campaign, Pep Guardiola has created a special place in the history of FC Barcelona. After announcing his retirement from the job after four glorious years with Barcelona he was replaced by Tito Vilanova, who had worked as his assistant. This article takes a look at Pep Guardiola’s achievements during his time as coach for FC Barcelona.

2008-09

Pep Guardiola was appointed as Barcelona’s new coach in 2008 by replacing Frank Rijkaard. He decided that he needed a fresh squad and sold Gianluca Zambrotta, Deco, and Ronaldinho among others. Under the leadership of Guardiola, Barça won the domestic and continental treble, becoming the first-ever Spanish side to achieve this victory.

He secured the Copa del Rey win with a 4-1 victory over the Athletic Bilbao. This was followed by a league campaign that involved a 20-match winning streak and then a glorious 6-2 win over the rivals Real Madrid at the Bernabeu. The treble victory was completed when the team defeated Manchester United 2-0 in the final Champions League in Rome.

2009-10

Even before the turn of the year, the Barcelona team won the Spanish Super Cup, World Club Cup, and the UEFA Super Cup under the leadership of Guardiola. With this win, Guardiola became the first manager in history to win 6 honours in one calendar year. Although they were eliminated from Champions League at the semi-final stage by Inter Milan, the team succeeded in retaining the La Liga title with record points of 99. During this season, Guardiola also became the first ever Barcelona manager to organize 4 successive El Clasico victories over the Real Madrid.

2010-11

Despite of a defeat, Guardiola managed to take his team through another Super Cup success and then a La Liga title followed. Next, the team defeated Manchester United and won the Champions League by 3-1 at Wembley afterby overcoming Real Madrid in the semi-finals.

2011-12

Under the leadership of Guardiola, the Barcelona squad also won the Spanish Super Cup, World Club Cup and the European Super Cup, and thereby taking the record for the most titles and trophies as coach.

Pep Guardiola’s achievements as the manager of FC Barcelona were recognized by awarding him the Catalan parliament’s Gold Medal on 8 September 2011. He also received the FIFA World Coach of the Year for Men’s Football award on 9 January 2012.

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Nigeria 2010 World Cup Qualification – The Only Choice

Who said we have run out of choice on the 2010 World Cup ticket? There is always a choice and many people have blindly refused to see these choices we have, even the football administrators are also guilty of this ignorance. How can we take advantage of this situation we find ourselves towards South Africa World Cup 2010 to turn our football, our sports and indeed the country at large around? The solution lies in this article…

We have to understand the situation very well. If we fail to qualify for the World Cup and heed to the call of many that we focus on the 2014 World Cup then get ready to hear the same thing in 2014, remember what happened in 2006? Many fans are already thinking of cheap hotel and business opportunities to explore especially online business.

We have to be in the soccer fiesta any true fan of soccer will tell you that you only enjoy the game when there is passion attached. That is why we have Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Barcelona and several other numerous fans passionately supporting these clubs in Nigeria. Personally I was not happy watching other countries play in the 2006 WC and it will break my heart if we do not make it to the WC again. And as I said we not going to the WC is never a solution to our problems. Some Nigerian players if you agree with me really deserve to be in this WC which is likely their last.

Then, if we qualify and go to the WC, are we going to display this dismal performance that we have put up in the qualifying round, I am sure many Nigerians will become hypertensive if we proceed to the WC with our present form. Going by unconfirmed report that most Nigerians (especially young people) are becoming hypertensive or suffering from one heart disease or the other is a true reflection of the state of the nation called Nigeria.

So I repeat again, do we have a choice? The answer is ‘yes’. Hear me out first before you crucify me.

My verdict: sack Amodu with immediate effect and bring in a caretaker coach to play our last qualifying match. Appointing Amodu as a coach was a blunder from the beginning. The guy commits technical blunder in every match. He doesn’t know the right combination to make with the players he has. He watches a game go wrong and look on helplessly like we watching from the fan stand or the television, making no input technically at all. He just gambles, remove this put this and the game is over. Otherwise how can a coach come out criticize his players openly and even say that the opponent was more tactical and technically sound? Either he does not understand those two words or he is so so naive in coaching. Did he hear what Diego Maradona said about Lionel Messi despite his poor performance in their campaign?

I keep saying it and I will say it again, we have players that can go to the World Cup and get results, what we don’t have is a team with coach who will instill discipline and character in the team and bring out the best in them, play each player in the rightful position and know which match needs which kind of player. What did Hiddinck and Ancelotti do with Chelsea FC when they took charge? Was it not the same players? What is Capello doing in England and what did the England FA and even Ghana FA doing. Personally I have not seen any technically sound indigenous coach except maybe Siasia, though he has reduced his credibility by falling into a trap. Let our coaches go and improve themselves, go for courses and prove themselves, we put one of them possibly Siasia under the tutelage of the foreign coach.

So, sacking Amodu is the first vital step toward 2010 WC qualification.

Once the ticket has been secured, we proceed to employ the services of a world class coach (not the low voltage category-Berti Vogts). We allow the new coach to use Angola Nations Cup for test run and quickly give us a winning team. Then set a target for him to atleast take us to the knock-out stages of the WC in South Africa 2010.

Thirdly, we Nigerian start getting involved in how things are run because whether we like it or not it will affect us. We must ensure that credible people are put on that sit come 2010 when new officials are going to be elected in NFF.

Nigerian Football Federation case is an issue for another day; we need a fast-track strategy to change things there. Let us use them and qualify first.

Nigerians have been turned to mathematicians doing the permutation and combination. We hope the calculation works. The last game in Kenya will not only determine if we go to the WC, it will shape the face of our soccer in Nigeria.

What of if we don’t qualify, then we still sack him and continue with the plan but without the WC path.

We have no choice but to support our team through this fast track changes. Like it or not if we qualify, it will be difficult for you not to tune to Nigerian match in the WC. So what can we do than to join in the cause of providing solution? Call it patriotism or any thing you like, nobody can easily reject his own. We are hurt and heartbroken; that’s right but what can we do now?

Desperate situation calls for desperate actions. We have a choice to play this situation.

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The Champions League and European Football’s Evolvement

The question as to whether the early stages of the Champions League are unnecessary is an interesting one, particularly as the outcomes of them are generally easy to predict, with the big clubs moving on to the knock out stages and the smaller ones returning, more often than not back to obscurity. However, as true as that is, what is the alternative? The preliminary and to a greater extent the group stages at least offer the smaller clubs an opportunity to express themselves at a higher level as well as offering them much needed revenue. It also offers the football fan a great opportunity to look at the wide range of football that is played in Europe, it offers the opportunity to check out current and future stars of the game plus it also offers the opportunity for clubs to test their fringe and future players in a different style of football.

It should not be forgotten either that very often, games such Inter Milan v Spurs are thrown up, which for many football fans produced the best football seen at any level this season and also spotlighted the outstanding potential of Welshman, Gareth Bale, who has already become one of the most sought after players in world football.

It is true that now and again some matches are a waste, Manchester United v Bursaspor being a recent prime example. Clearly the Turkish side were outclassed and will be consigned to a more distant level of football after the group stages conclude. However, try telling that to their board of directors, their players and their fans that and they would probably start a turf war, as they, like United, earned the right to play the group stages and fully deserved their chance. Bursaspor will, like many other less known teams, be a stronger club for the experience.

It should also be remembered that the like any sport, football is still evolving and the Champions League could easily be the ‘blueprint’ for a much wider form of the game. The idea behind a future European League has long since been on the drawing boards of UEFA and the chances of it being fully sanctioned are quite profound.

How it would work at this stage is hard to know, but it would not necessarily mane the end of domestic football at all. The Premier leagues of all European countries would all continue as normal, with the Champions League being their reward for success. Football fans should be well aware that the Champions League and the Europa League have evolved from the European and UEFA Cups, but both, with the exception of the group stages are still knock-out competitions. The name changes have been made quite possibly for psychologically reasons as much as anything, aimed at preparing all those connected with football, including the football fan for the future format.

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3 Reasons Why Arsenal FC Cannot Rely on Youngsters

First off; Arsenal FC almost has an exclusive franchise on sleek football in the English Premiership. I don’t think any fan of football will want to argue with that. It is usually a wonderful thing to behold when they are in their element and pass the ball with the grace of a ballet dancer and the precision of a mathematics professor. The question on the lips of the average football ardent particularly followers of the Premiership after Tuesday’s loss to Manchester United and Sunday’s trouncing by London rivals Chelsea is ‘ where will Arsenal go from here?’ again, can they progress with their crop of youngsters? I think not and give three reasons why.

1. Lack of credible role models: Players like Cesc Fabregas matured while playing alongside midfield generals like Patrick Viera. The result is obvious in the quality of his game today. The same can hardly be said for the other youngsters in the squad. There are hardly any world-class players in every position for the players to learn from. Again compare that with Anderson’s maturity playing alongside the likes of Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs and Owen Hargreaves or even Kiko Macheda alongside Carlos Tevez, Berbatov, Ronaldo and Rooney.

2. Unattractive Pay structure: While it is refreshing to see a club which will not be bullied into breaking the bank just to pay player wages, Arsenal does take the opposite position sometimes. They obviously have the least attractive wages amongst the top four and this will compel the players who have started to mature and gel seek the proverbial greener pastures leaving the manager to start grooming someone new. In other words, back at one.

3. Ambition: It is the desire of every footballer to win trophies and he will gravitate towards the club which will give him that at the least opportunity given the right circumstances. Arsenal for all its sleek and sexy football has had pretty ‘trophyless’ seasons recently. This coupled with their inability or refusal to bring in big name players has cost them players like the talismaniac and iconic Thierry Henry as well as Hleb and Flamini to Barcelona and AC Milan respectively (both very ambitious clubs).

I would love to see this set of Arsenal players gel, get individual and team experience and then stick together for a while. The results will be astounding. The issue is; will they? Time will tell but obviously Arsenal has to become flexible with some of their player policies or risk losing the very best of them. There’s no need to place hope on the young players if the intention is to sell them once they mature.

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