Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique have returned to the Barcelona squad after injury in time for Saturday’s visit of Real Mallorca. Pep Guardiola‘s side have had problems getting goals in their last two matches but have kept seven consecutive clean sheets in all competitions. “Sometimes it could be a good thing to not be so precise in front of goal,” Guardiola said. “It may be good not to win by such huge margins because this confuses things. There is a tendency to think we will score lots of goals every game”.
Mallorca have scored on each of their last four visits to the Camp Nou in Primera, the only current side in Primera to be on such a run. It is seven years since a side managed to score in their fifth consecutive trip to Barcelona’s ground in the top flight (Real Zaragoza, Sep 2004). Mallorca have won three times at the Camp Nou since 2000 in the league, the joint-most of any side. Barcelona have scored in their last 18 league meetings with the islanders. The last time Messi, Villa and Pedro all scored in the same match in the league was at Mallorca in February. All 10 of Lionel Messi’s league goals this season have come at the Camp Nou. Last time out Barcelona scored their first goal of the season that wasn’t from open play or from inside the box (Xavi direct free kick). In this match Barcelona could keep a ninth consecutive clean sheet at home in the league for only the second time in their history (last time was in 1986). Mallorca have won only one of their last 17 away games in the league since the start of last November. The islanders’ last clean sheet on the road in the league came in March 2010, a run of 27 games.
“The NZS (Slovene FA) and national team coach Matjaz Kek have reached an agreement to end cooperation by mutual consent and we thank him for what he has achieved during his spell in charge,” it said in a statement. “There is no doubt that Kek did a good job and we wish him well in the future.” Slovenia finished fourth in their Euro 2012 qualifying group behind Italy, Estonia — who clinched a playoff berth for the first time in the Baltic nation’s history — and fellow former Yugoslavs Serbia.
Arsene Wenger On Manchester United’s 3-3 draw with Basel at Old Trafford. “Manchester United‘s draw against Basel surprised me enormously. That night I watched Bayern Munich versus Manchester City and was switching between results. It was 2-0 for Manchester United, then next time I looked it was 3-2 to Basel, which was extremely surprising”. “There are no easy games for English clubs in the Champions League. The level is quite balanced in Europe now. The easy domination of Premier League clubs, even in the group stage, is over”. “United have trouble because every year they are in the final, the semi-finals or the quarter-finals. They have problems being focused on the group stage because they are so used to going further than that. From time to time, you have some disappointments as they had against Basel“. “I have to say Swiss football is in a very good state. They are always in the final stages of youth tournaments, and when you see their clubs they are all playing good football. From Zurich to Basel, I always see them playing very well.” On Kaka’s brilliant performance for Real Madrid against Ajax. “We have to confess that everyone said Kaka‘s time was over! It is like that nowadays; you are always judged on recent performances”. “When somebody is injured for as long as he was, it is extremely difficult to get back to your highest level if you are not given enough time”. “Last year I thought he had some encouraging performances at the end of the season – today I think he is really good”. “Although he is not playing like he did at Milan, he is showing some good signs and is in shape. The final step for him is to play regularly”. “The problem he has is that he is in a team where Mesut Ozil is hyper-strong and young, so it will be difficult to win a permanent place in the team”. On Mario Gomez, who scored both goals for Bayern Munich against Manchester City. “He is a difficult case for a manager because he is not really involved in the build-up – but when the ball comes into the area he becomes a lion. In a technically-skilled team that is often in the final third – as we saw against Manchester City – he becomes an essential player because he turns everything the other players create into gold. He fits well into Bayern‘s style of player – they have always had those kinds of players. He does not always impress everyone when he plays, but when we look at his stats it is impressive. You have to take your hat off to it – I think he has scored 49 goals in 51 games. Only Messi can get near to that performance”. On Valencia goalkeeper Diego Alves’s performance against Chelsea. “I didn’t know who he was, but the advantage for him is that today, when a player has an outstanding performance he is quickly in the limelight. A few years ago, you would have to play well for five years before people talked about you. However, the disadvantage is that we sometimes make players superstars too quickly and then they have too much pressure on them. Some players cannot live with that“.
At Barcelonas 1-0 win at Granada Xavi said “It was a difficult match that we were unable to kill off in the second half,” he said after scoring his fourth league goal of the campaign. “Generally it was a good performance but everything can be improved on,” he added. “We were not very quick in passing the ball around,” Barca coach Pep Guardiola said. “When you are only 1-0 ahead anything can happen,” he added. “Any lapse in concentration against such a speedy team can condemn you but we managed to close out the game.”
Barcelona have won 26 of their 34 league matches against Granada (four draws, four defeats). The azulgrana have won all 17 games at home to Granada in the top flight (17), averaging 3.8 goals per game, but just nine of 17 at Granada. Granada’s two biggest defeats in the top flight have both been against Barcelona (0-4 in 57/58 and 8-2 in 60/61). Granada are the lowest scorers in LigaBBVA so far (two goals, both in the second half). Pep Guardiola’s men have only won two of their last seven away games in La Liga. Barça are the only side to have scored all of their goals from inside the box and in open play in the league this season. Barcelona have averaged 74.8% possession in matches this season, 13% more than their nearest rival in the league in this (Madrid 61.8%). Pep Guardiola’s men have scored the most goals in the first 15 minutes of league games this season (nine), five more than any other side (Betis, four). Granada are the joint-lowest-scoring side ever after eight matches in Primera, equalling Deportivo (1967), Atlético (1969), Espanyol (1971) and Real Betis (1973). Leo Messi has been involved (goal or assist) in over half of Barcelona’s league goals this season (15/26): 10 goals, five assists.
Iniesta is back on form Barca coach tells the press. “You already know that when he is on song he is unique and he has returned from the injury in great shape,” Barca coach Pep Guardiola told a news conference. “He works hard, he scores more goals than you would think and the way he can throw the opposition off balance is so important for us,” “Last year he was vital and now we just hope he can be important again. We will try to look after him and make sure he is fine.” “Scoring goals is the most difficult part of soccer,” Guardiola said. “When Messi doesn’t score that becomes news. Imagine the level he has reached if that is the case.”
Andre Villas-Boas says Barca has it good now but puts it down to the fact that there youth team came together with a manager who could do his job and dosnt think it will continue forever. “These past years of Barcelona’s success has collided with a multitude of events that has provided this team with the ability to play so well,” said Villas-Boas, who has already admitted Chelsea may need to beat the Spanish giants if they are to end wait for Champions League glory. “The amount of talent which came through their youth teams which comes together now in the first team, a manager that defends the values of the club like nobody else… “These past four or five years of Barcelona will be, for sure, the exception. Eventually, there are years of better talent (elsewhere) and years of drought.”