Month: November 2016

Andres Iniesta set to make return from injury in El Clasico


FC Barcelona captain Andres Iniesta will be available against Real Madrid in the first El Clasico of the season on Saturday, coach Luis Enrique said.

The 32-year-old midfielder damaged knee ligaments last month, but has returned to training last Friday. However, he will not travel to Alicante for Barca’s Copa Del Rey round of 32 first-leg match against Hercules.

“Andres is waiting to be given the all clear by the doctors but this is just a formality. He is fit and he has been training with us,” Luis Enrique told a news conference. “He is available for selection.”

 “Andres is not playing tomorrow because he is banned but had he been available, he would have had minutes,” Luis Enrique said.

FC Barcelona last drew 1-1 against Real Sociedad in San Sebastian. It had been Barca’s second successive draw in La Liga while also widening the gap between the Catalan club against Real Madrid on top of the table to six points. Enrique dismissed any such fears that his team is underperforming ahead of such an important fixture.

“It’s obvious that we need to improve, that we need more consistent but I don’t see any signs to worry me too much,” Luis Enrique said.

“The team is well and we got a point at La Real. We are still favourites to win all the titles but it’s clear that we have to improve.”

“We, the players and I, are aware of that and are the first to admit that. We’ve had good games but we’ve lacked consistency as the results show. But I wouldn’t exaggerate.”

“Remember that in my first year (2014-15) the press also exaggerated with our results and we went on to win the treble (La Liga, King’s Cup and the Champions League).”

Barca loses further La Liga ground with Sociedad draw

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A low key FC Barcelona heads into the first El Clasico of the season six points behind La Liga leaders Real Madrid after scraping a 1-1 draw at Real Sociedad.

The champions – who have now failed to win in their last eight games at Anoeta Stadium – were outplayed and had to come from behind to secure a point.

Luis Enrique’s team had only 47.7% possession in the game, the very first time in this season that they had less of the ball than their opponents.

Willian Jose headed the hosts ahead, with Gerard Pique helping the ball over the line while attempting a clearance. However, the lead only lasted six minutes, as a largely anonymous Lionel Messi scored against the run of play.

La Real should have won the game when Juanmi tapped home a rebound from close range after Carlos Vela hit the crossbar, but the substitute was wrongly ruled offside.

Barca, winless their last two La Liga games, are second in the table on 27 points from 13 games – level on points with Sevilla but holding a vastly superior goal difference.

Real Madrid themselves had a difficult time too, as they struggled to contatin Sporting Gijon in a rainswept afternoon in Santiago Bernabeu.

The game that tensely finished at 2-1 to Real’s favour began with an early Cristiano Ronaldo brace. His double takes him up to 10 La Liga goals for the season.

But as Carlos Carmona pulled one back for the visitors 10 minutes before half-time, Sporting came back more motivated in the second half, and could have levelled the scores if Duje Cop did not send a penalty over the bar.

Barca does NOT struggle without me – Messi


Lionel Messi has resisted the idea that FC Barcelona could not perform in his absence.

Barca have often been accused of being too dependent on Lionel Messi, whose absence due to illness was heavily linked to last weekend’s goalless draw with Malaga in La Liga.

After his brief absence, Messi then scored two goals at Celtic Park, which took his tally in Europe this season to nine in four games, ensuring Barca’s progression to the last 16 of the Champions League as group winners

Criticisms on Barca being Messi-dependent are not new, and had lost traction in recent seasons following the signings of Neymar and Luis Suarez. However, results over the course of the new campaign have reignited suggestions that Luis Enrique’s side have become over-reliant on Messi once more.

“I don’t consider talk of Barca being Messi-dependent to be praise or a concern because it’s not the case,” the 29-year-old said. “I’m in the best team in the world, [Barca] don’t depend on one player.”

The team will travel to in-form Real Sociedad on Sunday, who they have not beaten away from home in the league since 2007. Messi believes the key to ending that hoodoo will be organisation.

“Anoeta is a complicated stadium where we haven’t won in years,” he added. “[La Real] always make things tough for us there and it’s going to be a hard game.”

“In football these days it’s important to be organised. To have a team that is well-organised is the most important thing. To have a good team everything starts there.”

While most would put the odds in the way of Messi and co., the Catalan club has lost five and has drawn two of their past seven trips to Anoeta, including a 1-0 defeat to a Mikel Oyarzabal goal last April.

Furthermore, Barca could not afford another La Liga slip-up. With Real Madrid now four points ahead of Barcelona and Sevilla threatening to overtake them two points behind, defeat could very well put their title defense off balance.