Barcelona, Real Madrid Set For El Clasico

Armed Catalan policemen, known as Mosso d’Esquadra pass by the FC Barcelona logo with a black ribbon and a message reading “We are all Barcelona” before the Spanish league footbal match FC Barcelona vs Real Betis at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona.  LLUIS GENE / AFP

 

Barcelona and Real Madrid will travel to the Clasico on Wednesday from the same hotel as part of a large-scale security operation aimed at reducing the impact of Catalan independence protests. 

The fixture had to be postponed in October due to violent demonstrations and there are renewed fears of unrest breaking out around Camp Nou, where Barca and Madrid will tussle for top spot in La Liga.

Around 3,000 security personnel will be deployed at the stadium and both teams have been instructed to gather at the Hotel Princesa Sofia at midday (1100 GMT) on Wednesday, eight hours before kick-off.

The players, coaching staff and referees will then travel together to the ground around two hours ahead of the match.

It means Madrid will be in a different place to their usual base in the city while Barcelona will arrive earlier than normal for a home match.

“It is a small change, but not very significant. When we play away, we are also in a hotel. It is not a big problem,” said Barcelona’s coach Ernesto Valverde on Tuesday.

Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane described the arrangements as “something different but the rules are the rules”.

Barcelona also issued a statement on Tuesday night to fans planning to attend the game, advising supporters to use public transport, allow plenty of time and warning of “exhaustive security checks” at entrances to the stadium.

Barca called for calm around the fixture, asking fans “to come to the game at Camp Nou on Wednesday to support the team”.

“The game between Barca and Real Madrid is a festival of football and yet it is without doubt also compatible with a civil and peaceful demonstration of opinion, given the exceptional circumstances faced in Catalonia in recent times,” the statement read.

Catalan uprising 

Violent protests broke out in Catalonia in October after nine separatist leaders were sentenced to heavy prison sentences for their involvement in the independence referendum of 2017.

The Clasico was supposed to be played on October 26 but the RFEF decided to postpone “due to exceptional causes”.

Democratic Tsunami, the protest group advocating another independence referendum for Catalonia, has called publicly for its supporters to gather at Barcelona’s Camp Nou stadium from four hours before the 1900 GMT kick-off.

“Football has to be for everyone, all over the world,” said Valverde. “People should be able to express themselves freely tomorrow, that is what we ask, but that there is respect for everyone. I believe that is the right thing.”

Meetings have taken place between the police, clubs and the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) to ensure the safe arrival of the two squads and referees, as well as the nearly 100,000 fans expected to attend.

As well as the massive security presence in Barcelona, the numbers of private security staff in the stands will also be increased to reduce the threat of pitch invasions that could interrupt the game.

“The operation will ensure that the Clasico is played normally,” said the chief commissioner of the Catalan regional police Eugeni Sallent.

Democratic Tsunami hopes to transmit its message — ‘Spain, sit and talk’ — through one of the world’s most famous football matches, which has an estimated global audience of 650 million.

Barcelona have historically had a close association with Catalan nationalism, with Camp Nou routinely used as a setting for flags, banners and chants in support of the cause.

“We know we are living in a complex social and political situation but I am convinced that it is compatible with playing a football match,” said the club’s president Josep Maria Bartomeu last week.

Barcelona could also suffer the consequences of any altercations or interruptions during the fixture.

At a meeting in Madrid last week, the RFEF warned it “will apply the regulations in force,” which range from heavy economic sanctions to the closure of Camp Nou to supporters.

AFP

Messi To Miss Barca’s Champions League Trip To Inter

Barcelona’s Argentinian forward Lionel Messi waves before the 54th Joan Gamper Trophy friendly football match between Barcelona and Arsenal at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on August 4, 2019. Josep LAGO / AFP

 

Barcelona star Lionel Messi will not make the trip to Italy for Tuesday’s Champions League game against Inter Milan, the Spanish club confirmed on Monday. 

Barcelona are already through to the last 16 after six-time Ballon d’Or winner Messi scored in a convincing 3-1 victory over Borussia Dortmund last time out.

READ ALSO: ISWAP Kills Two Soldiers, Policeman, Threatens Army In New Video

The Spaniards are also sure of finishing top of Group F as they have 11 points from five games.

Antonio Conte’s Inter still have to book their place in the last 16. They are second, level on seven points with Borussia Dortmund who host Slavia Prague.

Inter will qualify if the two clubs finish on the same number of points due to their superior head-to-head goal difference.

AFP

Barcelona Predict €1bn Income This Season

 

Barcelona expect to record revenues of more than one billion euros for the 2019-2020 season, becoming the first football club to pass the mark, the Catalan club announced on Thursday.

According to figures released ahead of the general meeting of their “socios” (supporters, shareholders) scheduled for October 6, Barca expect a revenue of 1.047 billion euros ($1.16 billion) in the fiscal campaign just started, which is six percent more than last season when the club generated 990 million euros.

“It’s an historic record for a sports club, it’s better than the NBA and NFL franchises and other football clubs,” Barcelona managing director Oscar Grau told a news conference.

Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu had set a strategic goal of being the first outfit to reach the one billion euro mark by the end of his presidency in 2021.

Main sporting rival Real Madrid, president Florentino Perez targetted a similar goal.

In the projected budget presented by Barca, the expenses amount to 1.007 billion euros for a net profit after tax of 11 million euros.

Grau explained that “one of the club’s challenges” was to “reduce the payroll” of its professional athletes.

In 2019-2020, spending on sports salaries is expected to fall by three percent, from 525 to 507 million euros.

The club has budgeted 73 million euros to finance the remodelling of Camp Nou and its surroundings, a vast project called “Espai Barca”.

Grau, who said in 2018 he was hopeful to find a title sponsor for the project by the end of the first half of 2019, said the club was continuing its research and studying alternative forms of financing.

“We want to make a good deal, we do not want to sell, so we are looking for a financial restructuring of Espai Barca so that the project does not stop,” said Grau.

Regarding the accounts for the 2018-2019 financial year, the treasurer Enrique Tombas confirmed the figures mentioned during the summer by the club: 990 million euros of turnover, 973 million euros of expenses and a profit after tax of five million euros.

AFP

Champions League: Messi To Make Barca Return At Dortmund

Barcelona’s Argentinian forward Lionel Messi eyes the ball during the Spanish League football match between FC Barcelona and SD Eibar at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on January 13, 2019. LLUIS GENE / AFP

 

Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said Monday that Lionel Messi could make his comeback against Borussia Dortmund as the Catalan giants launch a fresh assault on the Champions League title in Germany on Tuesday evening.

Messi, who has missed the beginning of the season with a calf injury, was named in Barcelona’s squad for Tuesday’s Champions League opener, though it remains unclear whether the Argentinian will play.

“We will decide tomorrow. For the last week we have been unsure whether he will be able to play, but he has trained two or three times and made a good impression. We will see,” said Valverde at a press conference on Monday.

The Barcelona coach refused to say whether 16-year-old Ansu Fati, who became the club’s youngest ever goalscorer earlier this month, would break another record by becoming the youngest ever Champions League debutant on Tuesday.

“If he plays, then it will not be because of the record,” said the coach.

Valverde said that his team were looking to put the past behind them after their dramatic semi-final defeat to eventual winners Liverpool in last season’s Champions League.

“If you have one bad day, you can be knocked out of this competition. We lost just one match last season, but it was a decisive match,” he said, adding that Barcelona wanted to go further this year than they had in the past two seasons.

Yet Marc Ter Stegen, Barcelona’s German keeper, who played under current Dortmund coach Lucien Favre at Borussia Moenchengladbach earlier in his career, warned that Dortmund would provide a tough first test.

“Lucien Favre is one of the best coaches I have ever worked under, and he will have thought of a way to hurt us,” said the German.

“It is always difficult to come here, and we always struggled here with ‘Gladbach, but we will try to win and get a good start to the competition.”

“It is a spectacular stadium and the supporters are always crazy, but we will try not to be influenced by that.”

Barcelona have conceded six goals in four games this season and are yet to win away from home.

“We are conceding a lot of goals at the moment, we have to accept that and try to improve,” Ter Stegen

“Some of the mistakes we are making are easy to correct.”

AFP

Barcelona Not Worried If Messi Leaves, Says Bartomeu

Barcelona’s Argentinian forward Lionel Messi waves before the 54th Joan Gamper Trophy friendly football match between Barcelona and Arsenal at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on August 4, 2019. Josep LAGO / AFP

 

Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu said on Friday the Spanish giants are not worried about Lionel Messi’s future, despite the Argentinian star being able to leave the club at the end of the season.

The five-time Ballon d’Or winner signed a new four-year deal with Barca in 2017, but Bartomeu says he is free to end his contract beforehand.

“Leo Messi has a contract through to the 2020/21 season, but the player is able to leave Barca before the final season,” Bartomeu told Barcelona’s in-house television channel.

“It’s the same case as with the final contracts that Xavi, (Carles) Puyol and (Andres) Iniesta had. They are players who deserve that liberty, and we shouldn’t worry, as they are very committed to Barca.

“We want Messi to play for Barca through to 2021 and beyond. We are very calm.”

Messi, Barca’s record goalscorer, is currently out injured with a calf injury, with the team struggling in his absence, managing to collect just four points from their opening three La Liga matches.

AFP

I Tried To Copy Messi And LeBron, Says Griezmann After Barca Brace

 

Antoine Griezmann copied Lionel Messi for the goal and LeBron James for the celebration but it was his night for Barcelona on Sunday after he scored twice in a 5-2 win over Real Betis.

Griezmann imitated the basketball superstar by tossing confetti into the air to celebrate his second at Camp Nou, a curling effort into the corner that he said was inspired by watching Messi.

“I saw Leo do this in training, so I tried to copy him,” said Griezmann. “And for the celebration, I like the ritual that LeBron did so we tried to do it as well.”

Yet Griezmann was the star, if only for the night with Messi in the stands, the Argentinian still short of fitness following a calf injury.

A brilliant Barcelona performance also delivered a resounding response to the doubts arising from their defeat by Athletic Bilbao last weekend, among them a reliance on Messi, the need for Neymar and the future of Ernesto Valverde as coach.

But as Carles Perez, Jordi Alba and Arturo Vidal made it three, four and five, the gloom was forgotten, along with Nabil Fekir’s opener in the 15th minute, that had Betis level at half-time.

“After a defeat, there is always a big reaction,” Griezmann said. “We really wanted to play another game and when so many players are missing, the team steps up.”

Loren Moron slammed a late strike into the top corner for Betis but by then the game was up as Barca ensured no further ground was lost on Atletico Madrid, who beat Leganes 1-0 earlier on Sunday, or Real Madrid, who were held to a 1-1 draw on Saturday by Real Valladolid.

Timely display

Barcelona will hope to have Messi back for the trip to Osasuna next weekend but with Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele both out for longer, Griezmann’s statement display was timely.

Whether it also affects the club’s attempts to prise Neymar from Paris Saint-Germain remains to be seen.

“I have to admit today was an important day for Antoine,” said Valverde.

The crowd also enjoyed a goal from the 21-year-old Perez, making his first Barca start, and a substitute appearance from Anssumane Fati, who at 16 became the second youngest player ever to play for the club in La Liga.

Sergio Busquets was at fault for Betis’ opener as he gave the ball away, allowing Fekir to drive in his debut goal since he moved from Lyon in July.

But Barca were undeterred and after Rafinha missed an excellent chance to equalise, Griezmann took over, volleying in on the stretch four minutes before half-time, past the weak hand of Dani Martin.

If Griezmann’s first owed something to the goalkeeper, his second was unstoppable. He collected the ball 25 yards out and used Sidnei as a marker to bend his shot around the defender and inside the far post.

Griezmann ran to the corner where confetti was poured into his hands. He threw it into the air above his head.

Barca were relentless as Perez steered a third into the bottom corner and Alba made it four, latching onto a superb Busquets pass inside the full-back.

There was still time for two scintillating strikes, the first from Vidal, who was slid in by Griezmann, and the second by Loren, who was given too much space. It was no more than a consolation.

Barcelona stay behind Atletico, who maintained their perfect start with another 1-0 victory, this time over Leganes as Vitolo came off the bench to score a second-half winner at Butarque.

Joao Felix, Atletico’s 126 million-euro ($140 million) buy from Benfica and much-hailed replacement for Griezmann, was again quiet but again delivered the match’s most memorable moment.

The 19-year-old’s perfectly-timed pass provided set Vitolo free while Felix had been picked out by Kieran Trippier, who was faultless on his second Atletico start.

Chelsea Beat Barcelona 2-1 In Japan

Chelsea’s forward Tammy Abraham (L) scores a goal during a football friendly match between Spanish Liga team Barcelona and English Premier League club Chelsea in Saitama on July 23, 2019.
CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP

 

Goals from Tammy Abraham and Ross Barkley saw Chelsea grab a 2-1 victory against Barcelona on Tuesday in an exhibition match in Japan.

Chelsea striker Abraham opened the scoring in the 34th minute by pouncing on a mistake by Barcelona midfielder Sergio Busquets who attempted to clear the ball.

But with Chelsea midfielder Jorginho applying pressure, the ball rolled towards Abraham who only had to step past rushing goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen and gently send it into the net.

Four minutes later, Chelsea midfielder Christian Pulisic showed off his speed and footwork to infiltrate the Barca defence, but his left-footer went just wide.

READ ALSO: Bale ‘Won’t Be Leaving’ Real Madrid On Loan, Says Agent

Barcelona went on the offensive in the second half, with substitute striker Carles Perez leading the way.

But superb saves by Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga repeatedly denied Barca any attempt to equalise.

In the 55th minute Perez zipped past three Chelsea defenders but his left toe kick finish was not good enough to get past Arrizabalaga.

A few minutes later, he dashed deep into the left side to feed a high-speed cross to striker Malcom, but Arrizabalaga again denied them.

Chelsea made it 2-0 with less than 10 minutes left as midfielder Barkley picked up a cross in front of the box and curled it into the net, with substitute ‘keeper Neto getting a touch it but unable to block it.

Just before injury time, Barcelona got a free-kick just outside the box but midfielder Ivan Rakitic’s shot went above the bar.

Rakitic however quickly redeemed himself in injury time, picking up a cross and firing a lightning right-footer that went deep into the net for a consolation goal for Barcelona.

AFP

Never-Say-Die Spirit Propels Liverpool To The Brink Of Glory

Liverpool’s Dutch midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum (L) heads the ball to score their third goal during the UEFA Champions League semi-final second leg football match between Liverpool and Barcelona at Anfield in Liverpool, north-west England on May 7, 2019. Paul ELLIS / AFP

 

 

Liverpool’s incredible Champions League triumph against Barcelona gives Jurgen Klopp’s men the chance to end a season to savour as kings of Europe for the sixth time.

Even fortress Anfield has arguably never seen a night like it.

The Spanish champions were thrashed 4-0 on Tuesday despite holding a 3-0 lead after the first leg of the semi-final, and the absence of two of Liverpool’s biggest weapons in Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino through injury.

Salah, ruled out by concussion suffered in a bruising 3-2 win at Newcastle on Saturday that kept Liverpool in the Premier League title race, set the tone for an unforgettable night by arriving at Anfield wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the slogan “Never Give Up”.

That message sums up a sensational season for the Reds, who are on course to post the third-highest points tally in Premier League history but look like losing out to relentless defending champions Manchester City.

“I said to the boys before the game: ‘I don’t think it is possible but because of you I think it is possible’ because they are really mentality giants,” said Klopp.

Redemption for Liverpool and Salah now awaits in Madrid on June 1 against Ajax or Tottenham a year on from losing the final in Kiev to Real Madrid after an early shoulder injury forced the Egyptian off.

READ ALSO: PHOTOS: Liverpool’s Miraculous Comeback Against Barcelona

“When we were in Kiev it was not brilliant and then the plan was to go to Madrid and get it in there finally, and now we go there in three weeks’ time,” added Klopp.

“Last year we felt we have to go back, we cannot let it stand like this. Now we get another chance and we will go for it. I am not sure it will happen again, it is so special.”

Heroic European comebacks form part of Liverpool’s DNA. The last time they lifted the Champions League in 2005, AC Milan thought the trophy was won with a 3-0 half-time lead.

 Anfield power 

Now Lionel Messi can be added to the list of those to have felt the power of Anfield.

Messi’s double towards the end of the first leg appeared to have turned the tie decisively in Barca’s favour.

However, he was well marshalled in the return leg, while Liverpool had their revenge on Luis Suarez and Philippe Coutinho, who both left Merseyside for sunnier climes in Catalonia.

Instead, it was the unlikely duo of Divock Origi and Georginio Wijnaldum, who had scored just one Champions League goal between them in their careers before Tuesday, who both scored twice.

“It presents an opportunity for some of the other lads to come in, make a name for themselves and make themselves heroes,” said Trent Alexander-Arnold on the eve of the game, when it was confirmed Salah and Firmino would be absent.

“If we do overturn the deficit tomorrow then whoever scores, their name will always be remembered because I am sure it will be one of those really special nights.”

Origi and Wijnaldum wrote their names in Anfield folklore while Alexander-Arnold himself, Liverpool born and bred, ensured at just 20 he too will always be remembered.

His quick-thinking caught a team of experienced Champions League winners completely cold 11 minutes from time with a corner that picked out Origi unmarked to fire into the top corner.

“A genius moment,” said a proud Klopp. “I saw the ball flying in the net and I had no clue who took the corner or who scored — it was too quick for me. Now I saw it back, (it is) incredibly smart how two players connected at the moment.”

Players and fans connected for the full 95 minutes, much as they have all season.

“This club is a big heart and tonight the heart was pounding like crazy, you could hear it and feel it all over the world,” added Klopp.

Now 10 months of hard work requires just one final big effort to be rewarded with a sixth European Cup.

AFP

PHOTOS: Liverpool’s Miraculous Comeback Against Barcelona

Liverpool’s Dutch midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum (C) heads the ball to score their third goal between Liverpool and Barcelona on May 7, 2019. Oli SCARFF / AFP

 

Liverpool reached the Champions League final with a remarkable 4-0 thrashing of Barcelona in Tuesday’s semi-final second leg.

Divock Origi was the unlikely hero as Liverpool pulled off the greatest semi-final comeback in Champions League history with a 4-0 second-leg victory to complete a stunning 4-3 aggregate triumph.

The odds were stacked heavily against Liverpool after both Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino were ruled out with injury following a 3-0 first leg defeat last week in Spain.

READ ALSO: Miracle At Anfield: Liverpool Bash Barcelona 4-0 To Reach Champions League Final

But Origi gave Liverpool hope with a seventh-minute goal at Anfield before Georginio Wijnaldum scored two quick second-half goals to level the tie, setting the stage for the Belgian to strike the decisive goal 11 minutes from time.

Liverpool will face Ajax or Tottenham in the final in Madrid on June 1.

See Photos Below:

Barca Beat United In First Leg Of Champions League Quarter-Final

Manchester United’s English midfielder Scott McTominay (L) vies with Barcelona’s Argentinian forward Lionel Messi during the UEFA Champions league first leg quarter-final football match between Manchester United and Barcelona at Old Trafford in Manchester, north west England, on April 10, 2019. LLUIS GENE / AFP

 

Barcelona beat Man Utd 1-0 in the first leg of Champions League quarter-final on Wednesday after a first-half own goal by Luke Shaw at Old Trafford.

Luis Suarez’s 12th-minute back-post header was deflected past David de Gea by United left-back Shaw.

READ ALSO: Ajax Draw Juve In First Leg Of Champions League Quarter-Final

The teams meet again next Tuesday at the Camp Nou.

Details later…

 

‘We Want Messi To Always Be At Barca’ – President

Barcelona’s Argentinian forward Lionel Messi celebrates after scoring a second goal during the Spanish league football match between FC Barcelona and RCD Espanyol at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on March 30, 2019. LLUIS GENE / AFP

 

Barcelona president Josep Bartomeu has said he plans to offer Lionel Messi a new contract in the hope the Argentinian will stay at the club his whole career.

Messi’s current deal runs until 2021, the same year he turns 34, but the Argentinian has been in brilliant form again this season.

He has 42 goals for club and country while his 32 scored in La Liga have propelled Barca to within touching distance of their fourth league title in five years.

“We would like to renew his contract, that’s the idea,” Bartomeu told ESPN in an interview published on Friday.

“I believe he still has many years in front of him and in the coming months we will sit down with him so that he has many more years at Barcelona.”

Messi joined Barcelona’s academy aged 13 and is one of the few players left from Pep Guardiola’s iconic team that won the treble in 2009.

In total, he has won nine La Liga titles with the club, as well as four in the Champions League and six in the Copa del Rey.

“Messi is a one-club man,” Bartomeu added. “It’s more than what he does on the pitch, his relationship with Barca will last forever.

“I use the example of Pele, who was always at Santos. We want Messi to always be at Barca, whether that’s playing on the pitch or being linked to the club (after he retires).”

AFP

United Face Barca In Champions League Quarter-Final

The results of the draw for the Champions league quarter-final is displayed on a screen, on March 15, 2019 in Nyon. Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

 

Manchester United will face Barcelona in the Champions League quarter-finals while Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur clash in an all-Premier League tie following Friday’s draw.

Liverpool were drawn to play FC Porto in the knockout rounds for the second year in succession, as Ajax’s reward for eliminating the holders Real Madrid is a two-legged tie against Cristiano Ronaldo and Juventus.

English hopes are high that this could be their year in Europe’s elite club competition after all four of their representatives made it through to the last eight.

READ ALSO: Ronaldo Back In Portugal Squad After Nine-Month Absence

However, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s United will have their work cut out if they are to go any further as they take on the Barcelona of Lionel Messi in the headline tie.

For Solskjaer, the second leg will bring back memories of 1999 final, when the Norwegian came off the bench to score a stoppage-time winner for United against Bayern Munich at Barcelona’s Camp Nou stadium.

With City and United not allowed to play their home leg in the same week, United will entertain the leaders of La Liga at Old Trafford on April 9 or 10, with the return a week later.

The last time the Premier League had four teams in the quarter-finals, in 2008/09, Barcelona beat the Old Trafford side 2-0 in the final in Rome. The clubs clashed again in the final at Wembley in 2011, with Barca winning 3-1 on that occasion.

The repeat of ’96 final 

UEFA also drew the semi-finals on Friday, meaning the winners of the Barcelona v United will face either Liverpool or Porto in the last four.

Jurgen Klopp’s side, fresh from knocking out Bayern Munich in the last 16, will be confident of beating the Portuguese champions after defeating them 5-0 on aggregate in the last 16 on their way to the final last season.

Liverpool will host two-time European Cup winners Porto at Anfield in the first leg before heading to the Estadio do Dragao in the return on April 16 or 17.

There is guaranteed to be one English team in the semi-finals after Tottenham and City were paired together, with the first leg to be played in London.

With Pep Guardiola’s team top of the Premier League, 13 points ahead of Spurs in third, City will be the favourites to advance to their first semi-final since 2016. City have also won their last three meetings with Mauricio Pochettino’s team.

The draw means there will be three clashes between the sides in 10 days — they are also due to meet in the Premier League at the Etihad Stadium on April 20.

The winner of that tie will host either Ajax or Juventus in the first leg of the semi-finals.

The latter tie is a repeat of 1996 final, which the Italian club won on penalties against an Ajax team who had won the trophy the previous year.

Juventus have lost five finals since then but are hoping Ronaldo can fire them to glory this season after his hat-trick knocked out Atletico Madrid on Tuesday.

That result ended Atletico’s dreams of reaching the final, which will be played at their Wanda Metropolitano stadium on Saturday, June 1.

AFP