Preview: Tata Martino will want his players to put in a solid performance, after two straight defeats
Having lost to Ajax in Amsterdam, and then against Athletic Bilbao at the San Mamés, Barcelona has not enjoyed their last few weeks. On Friday, they will get a chance to set things straight, although their opposition may not provide much of a test.
The Blaugrana will be up against a Cartagena side that is currently in Segunda Division B, which is two leagues beneath La Liga.
A lopsided victory is expected for Tata Martino's squad, but what if they do not actually beat the hosts comfortably? How will the fans, players, manager and the press react to that?
Preview: Barcelona will want to bounce back after their mid-week defeat
It is not often that Barcelona lose, and when they do, fans will sit and pick apart that defeat, in order to figure out what caused it. The Blaugrana's mid-week match against Ajax did not go well, as the Spanish side came up short, but the defeat was well deserved.
That defeat can come as somewhat of a wake-up call for Tata Martino's men.
Preview: With Barcelona already through, Ajax has it all to do
Barcelona is sitting comfortably in first place with 10 points, having already booked their place in the next round of the competition. Unfortunately for Ajax, they are unable to say the same thing, as they are currently third with four points.
With AC Milan one point ahead of them, and Celtic just one point back, the final two matchdays in this group will certainly be full of excitement.
The first time these two sides met at the Nou Camp, the Blaugrana ran away with a 4-0 victory. Lionel Messi scored three of the goals, but luckily for the Dutch outfit, the Argentine international will not be available for this match, as he is out with a hamstring injury.
Preview: Injuries could play a big part in this match for the hosts
A number of injury concerns will have Tata Martino somewhat worried heading into Saturday's match against Granada. With eight players in doubt, at least four of them will definitely miss this match.
Lionel Messi is obviously the big name on that injury list, which is also made up of Jordi Alba, Dani Alves and most recently Victor Valdes. Along with those four top players, Martino could be without Cesc Fabregas, Gerard Pique, Xavi and Cristian Tello, who are all in doubt, but have yet to be ruled out for this weekend's match.
Having so many injuries could be problematic, but fortunately Barcelona has good enough talent on their bench who can fill in.
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Matchday 5 kicks off with a bang on FOX Sports. Four teams have already qualified. They are Group D’s Bayern Munich and Manchester City, Group G’s Atletico Madrid and Group H’s Barcelona.
Manchester United, Real Madrid, PSG and Chelsea have been tipped to soon join them in the Round of 16. Struggling Italian giants Milan are in danger of missing crashing out of the tournament while Arsenal, Napoli and last season’s runners up Borussia Dortmund are in a fierce contest for only two knockout stage tickets.
As per FIFA rules, clubs are allowed to seek compensation for their players injured while playing for the national team. The reimbursement is directly linked with the wages the player earns with his club.
However the payments will definitely serve managers no purpose who will have to make adjustments in the absence of their star players.
Let us take a look at some of the players who suffered injuries during the international week and how their respective teams will cope without them.
Lately, a certain Portuguese attacker's name comes to everyone's lips—with his rampant displays for club and country. Cristiano Ronaldo, that is. His perfectly executed hat-trick against the Blågult in Sweden on November 19, which followed his match winner in the first leg of this World Cup Qualifying Playoff tie, has got people touting Cristiano Ronaldo again for the 2013 FIFA Ballon d'Or to be awarded in January.
But what about Lionel Messi, the reigning holder of this prize? Last season wasn’t his best by his lofty standards, with some as far as calling it a disappointment. Indeed, his individual achievements in 2011-2012 were outrageous and therefore hard to equal for any player, including Messi himself.
Preview: A battle of first against last
With the exception of Osasuna, no other team in La Liga has been able to steal points from the Blaugrana. 34 points from a possible 36 has Tata Martino's side top of the Spanish League, with a visit to Betis not looking like it will slow them down.
Getting the full three points will be vital for Barcelona. Although they have started in brilliant fashion, Atletico Madrid is right on their heals, with just one point separating the two clubs.
In contrast, Betis is last in La Liga, with only two victories from 12 matches. Both those victories came at home against Valencia and Villareal, but they have four losses and one draw from their last five in La Liga. Turning things around against Barcelona looks like it could be difficult, but their mid-week victory over Vitoria Guimaraes in the Europa League will have given them some added confidence.
Preview: Barcelona can guarantee the knockout stage with a victory
Some would argue that AC Milan's current lot of players is not all that impressive. Others would even go as far as to say that this is one of, if not the worst Milan squad in years. Whether you agree with that or not, the truth is that they are three points from the relegation zone in Serie A.
On the European front, Allegri's squad has not lost from their three matches, and they find themselves second, two points behind Barcelona.
A draw at the Nou Camp would likely be welcomed from Allegri, who is under serious pressure.
Preview: A battle of Group H underdogs in Amsterdam
With Italian giants Milan struggling in the group, it seems like Ajax and Celtic both have a chance of creating an upset and reaching the Round of 16 in the 2013/14 UEFA Champions League. When the two teams will clash in the Netherlands this Wednesday, much will be decided.
Away fans will be hoping for Barcelona to grant them a favour by beating Milan at the Camp Nou in Group H's other game. Indeed, if the Rossoneri lose, Celtic would jump into the second position on six points with victory over Ajax. Meanwhile, the latter will be forced to surrender all hopes of making the knockout stages should they lose. Europa League football will however still be a possible target for the Dutch outfit.
Preview: Distancing themselves is a main concern
Barcelona has started the current campaign in blistering form, having claimed 31 points from a possible 33. Their only letdown came in a scoreless draw away to Osasuna, but other than that match, Gerardo Martino's men have been brilliant.
With 10 victories already, the hosts will be going for their eleventh, while they also look to jump four points ahead of second placed Atletico Madrid.
Making matters worst for the visitors, they will be up against Barcelona's perfect record at home this season (5-0-0), and their 20 goals scored and only five conceded. But in Espanyol's defense, the Blaugrana have only managed one cleansheet at home, which was their opening day match against Levante, which ended in a 7-0 thumping.
Preview: Barca poised to extend unbeaten run to 11 games in the League
The Blaugrana have only once dropped points in the league this season in a 0-0 draw against Osasuna. In their last outing the defending champions scored a comprehensive victory over rivals Real Madrid in a match Gerardo Martino’s men dominated.
Even though there were some decisions which went Barca’s way, it was for all to see that the residents of Camp Nou were the deserved winners. Barcelona’s Argentinean coach Gerardo Martino has turned out to be some coup for the Spanish champions. The 50 year old apart from being excellent at man management has also proven to be an astute tactician.
It is interesting to know that the Catalans, who have been tagged as favourites ahead of Saturday’s clash, have not beaten Real Madrid in 429 days. Indeed, under Jose Mourinho, the gap between these two Spanish rivals greatly reduced. The last five results between the pair are as follows:
With another El Clasico upon us, we will take a look at some facts that stick out between Ronaldo and Messi. The two stars have made a significant impact on the El Clasico over the years, and the upcoming match will likely be no different.
From scoring goals to getting their teammates involved, their performances will always influence the final result.
1) Consistently Playing
It is not often that you see either player not finish any match, especially when it comes to El Clasico. For Lionel Messi, he has only not played the full 90 minutes against Real Madrid on one occasion. That match came in his first meeting with the Merengues during the 05/06 campaign, when he was subbed off in the 70th minute. The Blaugrana won that match 0-3.
Barca’s winless streak in El Clasico
As the calendar confirms it, Saturday will mark 429 days since the Blaugrana last defeated their eternal rivals, Los Blancos. One must roll back the time to August 23 last year to re-live Barca’s latest victory. It occurred in the first leg of the 2012 Supercopa de Espana at the Camp Nou with the hosts winning 3-2.
The game was marked with a terrible blunder by goalkeeper Victor Valdes which allowed Argentine winger Angel Di Maria to reduce Real Madrid’s deficit. That goal proved vital as the Spanish giants, then managed by Jose Mourinho, beat the Catalans 4-4 on aggregate thanks to the away goals rule to lift the Spanish Super Cup.
Will 26 October 2013 mark the end of Barcelona’s five-match winless streak against Real Madrid?
Diego Lopez vs Victor Valdes
While the forwards might get all the attention and the plaudits coming their way, the goalkeepers will have an equally important job on Saturday night. Both the men will be protecting their goal against some of the most accomplished players in the world of football and will definitely have to put up a special performance to help their team win.
Barcelona have conceded the lowest number of goals in La Liga and much of this is down to the brilliance of Victor Valdes who is set to bid farewell to the club at the end of the season.
beIN Sport to broadcast El Clasico to USA viewers on October 26, 2013
On October 7, the LFP announced the timing of this huge rivalry match set to take place at the Camp Nou. LFP president Javier Tebas confirmed the 18:00 local time which is a result of marketing factors. La Liga has a huge amount of followers in Asia and America and the decision was made to attract the largest viewing figures possible for this Barcelona vs Real Madrid fixture on 26 October 2013.
It will be the 166th El Clasico in the history of the Spanish La Liga. Current head-to-head results put the Spanish giants on top of the Cules with 70 wins – six more than Barca – with the other 32 games ending all square.
In terms of goals, the Catalans have progressively been closing the gap during the last few years. They have scored 259 goals in El Clasico in La Liga, only 11 less than Real Madrid. Gerardo Martino will be looking to offer the club’s fans their 48th Primera Division home win over Real Madrid at the Camp Nou come October 26, 2013.
The marquee signings
La Liga’s two most expensive signings in the 2013 summer transfer window will go head to head as Barcelona take on Real Madrid for the first time this season. The two were the talk of the summer as Gareth Bale and Neymar finalised their big money moves to Spain.
However life in the Iberian country has begun in contrasting fashion for both individuals. In case of the Brazilian, the mercurial number 11 continued from where he left off and after an inspirational display for his national side in the Confederations Cup, Neymar has continued his brilliant form with his new club.
What’s more, El Clasico will be telecast free of charge on COMCAST! The game will be called in Spanish but if you need English commentary, use the Secondary Audio Program (SAP) feature.
Expert beIN Sport en Español pundits will offer exciting pre-match and post-match analysis of this encounter which will be staged at the Camp Nou, in Catalonia. Barca-Real Madrid will also be broadcast live on beIN Sport.
Stay tuned to the best coverage with additional programs such as “El Clasico: Messi vs. Cristiano Ronaldo,” and “Nueva Temporada, Misma Rivalidad 2013.”
Barcelona vs Real Madrid kicks off at 9:00am PST / 12:00pm ET this Saturday. LiveSoccerTV will bring you live scores as events unfold at the Camp Nou.
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Preview: Allegri will want to repeat last season's shock 2-0 victory
When both these sides met last February, not many people would have given the Rossoneri a chance at the three points. Fans filled the San Siro, hoping for a result that would send them home with a smile, and they got just that.
Goals from Kevin-Prince Boateng and Sulley Muntari sent the stadium into complete shock and excitement, even giving Mario Balotelli the chance to celebrate in the crowd amongst friends.
This time around, Barcelona is in great form, having won all their La Liga matches, with the exception of their latest against Osasuna. A scoreless draw at El Sadar eliminated Barca's chance of equaling Real Madrid's nine match win streak, but Gerardo Martino will be more focused on getting back on track Tuesday night.