Preview: Barcelona have not won at the Estadio Anoeta since 2007
Tata Martino's squad responded well to critics and doubters on Tuesday, when they defeat Manchester City at the Etihad. They will now have to turn their attention to La Liga, where they will be trying to break a streak of winless matches.
Saturday's meeting between these two clubs will be the fourth time they have gone head-to-head this season. This La Liga match will also be the Catalan's second visit to Basque Country in 10 days.
Their last meeting on February 12th ended in a one goal draw, but the Blaugrana already had a 2-0 aggregate lead. Messi gave the visitors the lead in the first half, but a goal from Griezmann in the 87th minute gave Sociedad something to smile about.
Preview: Neymar returns after his injury against Getafe
All the attention around Barcelona has been focused on their upcoming Champions League match. While a meeting with Manchester City promises to be an entertaining affair, the Catalans will first need to get by a Rayo Vallecano side that are in the relegation zone.
Tata Martino’s side jumped back into the top spot of the league standings, taking advantage of a slip-up from Atletico Madrid.
Saturday’s match will mark the return of Brazilian star Neymar, who has been out with an ankle injury since January 16th. But despite his return, he is likely to only see some minutes in the second half.
Preview: Barcelona with a chance to put pressure on their rivals
Saturday's afternoon meeting between Barcelona and Valencia will give the Catalans a chance to pull three points ahead of Atletico Madrid. The bad piece of news for Los Che is that they have lost their last six visits to Camp Nou.
With only two goals in six matches when visiting the Catalans, Juan Antonio Pizzi's men are going to have to put together a very good performance.
Barcelona come into the match on great form, having won three straight, after their one goal draw away to Levante. Tata Martino's men followed that draw up with a 4-1 victory over that same Levante in the Copa del Rey, and finished them off mid-week at Camp Nou with a 5-1 drubbing.
Preview: Barcelona begin life without Sandro Rosell
A week that has brought a lot of media attention to the Camp Nou, now has Barcelona second in La Liga. After failing to grab three points in their last match, the Catalans now trail Real Madrid by two points, but could reclaim the top spot with a victory on Sunday.
The hosts will also start a new chapter, after Sandro Rosell stepped down from the club's presidency.
Controversy involving Neymar's transfer to the La Liga said turned into a lawsuit against Rosell, which eventually forced him to leave the club. Having won a number of titles during his tenure with the Blaugrana, the Spanish giants will now hope they can continue their success. Winning on Sunday would be a start.
Preview: Tata Martino wants to avoid any surprises
Barcelona take a comfortable lead with them into the second leg match against Getafe, but Tata Martino is not convinced that the hosts have given up. In 2007, the won 5-2 in the first leg, only to allow Getafe to win 4-0 in the return leg, eventually eliminating the Blaugrana.
"We have never hidden behind the result of a previous match," Martino told the club's official website. "We will play as if the result was at 0-0."
Getafe will be up against a very difficult task. Not only will they need to overturn a four goal deficit, but their current run of form will not give them any added motivation.
Ronaldo, Messi or Ribery?
Millions of football fans worldwide, as well as a host of football personalities, had circled the 13 January 2014 date on their calendar. On the net, forums have cracked with fierce debates between fans. Now those debates will predictably continue – perhaps with even more pressure – after the ceremony.
However, moments before the name of the winner is announced on Monday night, silence and anxiety will surely prevail. Will Lionel Messi’s four-year rule come to an end? Will the football world reward silverware influence above individual performance by giving the prize to Ribery? Or will La Pulga add more lines to history with a fifth Ballon d’Or and leave Ronaldo waiting for his time to come again?
Preview: Messi's return will steal all the headlines
Lionel Messi's return has been long awaited by Barcelona's fans, and they could likely see his return on Wednesday. A Copa del Rey fixture at home would be a perfect opportunity for the Argentine to get some competitive minutes under his belt, just before a very important La Liga match at the weekend against Atletico Madrid.
But before the Catalans can worry about Atletico, they will need to get by a Getafe squad that they defeated 5-2 on December 22.
Tata Martino's squad were down 2-0 after 14 minutes in that match, but luckily a hat-trick from Pedro, and a brace from Cesc Fabregas helped Barcelona earn three points.
Preview: Blaugrana look to continue their form with Valdes back in the squad
Victor Valdes is set to leave Barcelona in the summer, but until then, the Spanish goalkeeper is a key figure at Barcelona. A calf injury has kept him out for quite sometime, but Jose Manuel Pinto did a decent job in his absence.
His return will be a boost to the whole squad, who look to open the new year with a victory. Failure to do so would leave Atletico Madrid top of the table, with both sides set to meet in their next La Liga fixture.
Heading into the Vicente Calderon in first place will be what Tata Martino will want, as well as the Catalan players.
La Liga may host what undisputedly are two of the world’s best players, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, but one common remark one may hear about the Spanish league is its predictability.
It offers as good a chance of predicting who’ll win the title come May as easily as one can figure whether a Republican or Democrat will win the next United States presidential election.
“You have a 50-50 chance of picking La Liga’s winner”, is a common jest made on many football forums and inside pubs all around the world.
Indeed, such is Barcelona and Real Madrid’s dominance over the past few decades that it really has become a two-horse race, where the Blaugrana and Los Blancos are way ahead of everyone else, who’s left to fight for the scraps for third place and beyond.
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.
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: World Cup qualification achieved; now it's time to experiment
Ecuador will take on Alejandro Sabella's squad in a friendly match that will likely get a lot of attention in on the east coast in the USA. With both countries having already guaranteed their place in next year's World Cup, both managers will have a chance to test out some new options.
Argentina will first take on Ecuador, and they will then take on Bosnia-Herzegovina. That will give the Albiceleste a chance to see some of their options, but they will be without Lionel Messi for both.
It’s often said that criticism is the best motivator. In the case of Cristiano Ronaldo, it seems to have spurred him on to new heights that many had not even thought possible, despite his reputation as arguably one of the world’s finest footballers playing today.
The Portuguese attacker has scored 24 goals so far in all competitions and will certainly break the Champions League group stage record of eight goals set by trio Ruud van Nistelrooy, Filippo Ingazhi, and Hernan Crespo. As a result, he’s passed perennial rival Lionel Messi’s previously established haul of 13 European strikes in a calendar year.
Given that he’s scored in every single Champions League game so far this season, it’s probably certain that he’ll add more to that tally before the group stages conclude in December.
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.
The Players – Messi, Ribery, Ronaldo favourites
Bayern Munich’s treble success last season, as well as the team’s current great performances and results, have duly been rewarded. The German giants dominate the 23-man shortlist with as many as six players – four of which are homegrown talents. Arjen Robben (Netherlands) and Franck Ribery (France) complete Bayern’s bunch.
Barcelona, who were thrown out of the UEFA Champions League by Bayern on a 7-0 aggregate result, are the second most represented team in the freshly released FIFA Ballon d’Or awards list. 2013 Confederations Cup winner Neymar joins club icons Messi, Iniesta and Xavi.
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.
Barcelona are set to reacquaint themselves with the fabled San Siro as they take on AC Milan on Tuesday. This is the seventh time these two sides have met in the past two years. The last time the Catalan giants were in Lombardy, it was a case of them running back to Catalonia with their tails between their legs, thanks to goals by Kevin-Prince Boateng and Sulley Muntari.
At that time, many thought that the defeat was the beginning of the end for Barcelona. The same team that was then considered to be fading away has now become a genuine Champions League contender while their victors are now struggling a lot domestically while being exploited by inferior opposition in Europe.