It’s not easy to start a tradition, but FC Barcelona have managed to become a near permanent fixture in the semi-finals of the Champions League. This Wednesday, Tito Vilanova’s men qualified for the... Read more: Sixth consecutive semi-final berth in the UCL»
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All of FC Barcelona's Champions League opponents, Celtic, Milan and Ajax, have won this weekend
Celtic, Ajax and AC Milan, the clubs in UCL Group H along with Barça, have all won on Sunday. Celtic thrashed ailing Hearts 7-0 in the Scottish FA Cup, the home side’s biggest home defeat for forty years.
Commons (3), Brown, Ledley and Lustig all found the net for the ‘Hoops’, who led 5-0 at half-time, which does something to make up for their painful defeat at home to AC Milan midweek.
Good run for Ajax
After beating Barça on Tuesday, Ajax rounded off a great week with a 4-0 win at ADO Den Haag. Klaassen opened the scoring after 10 minutes, and Fischer added another before the break.
ADO Den Haag did little to change things in the second half. Van Rhijn added a third and then former Barça man Bojan Krkic marked his return from injury with his first official goal for the club.
AC Milan regaining form
Milan worked hard to win 3-1 at Catania, going down to an early goal from Castro but soon levelling thanks to a thunderous volley from Montolivo.
Milan improved after the break. Balotelli edged his side in front from a free kick and then Kaka made it three with an excellent run followed by an unstoppably powerful strike.
The match squad for the Amsterdam game trained on Wednesday morning
Jordi Alba, Adriano and Dani Alves exercised on the pitch away from the main group
The players of FC Barcelona were back in training on Wednesday morning. The session included all the players that made the trip to Amsterdam plus Carles Planas from Barça B. As usual, last night’s players followed a recovery programme. However, Xavi Hernández exercised in the gym.
Meanwhile, Jordi Alba, Adriano Correia and Dani Alves – none of whom have been declared match fit by Club doctors - exercised on the pitch away from the main group.
The players will now have Thursday off and return to training on Friday at 11 am, the last session before travelling to Bilbao. The first match between Bilbao and FC Barcelona in the new San Mamés stadium kicks off at 9 pm on Sunday.
Xavi’s goal in the Amsterdam Arena leaves FC Barcelona just one away from reaching the magical total of 1,000 goals in international competitions
The game against Glasgow Celtic is the last in the group stage and gives Barça the chance to mark two important milestones. A draw will be enough to finish top of the group while a single goal will be enough to reach 1,000 in international competitions. Who will score it?
487 in the Champions
The 999 goals in international competition are distributed as follows. 487 in the Champions League, 178 in the European Cup Winners Cup, 149 in the UEFA Cup, 141 in the Fairs Cup, 17 in the World Club Cup, 12 in the European Super Cup, 12 in the Latin Cup, 2 in the Fairs Cup Trophy playoff final and 1 in the Intercontinental Cup.
Note that the first goal of all was scored by Josep Seguer on June 26, 1949 in a game against Stade de Reims in the Latin Cup semi finals. Barça won that match 5-0.
1.97 goals per match
FC Barcelona have needed 508 matches to score 999 goals, an average of 1.97 goals per match, while conceding 516. Most of these (247) have been conceded in the Champions League.
Martino’s Barça leave their unbeaten record at 20 matches
Pinto conceded his first goal in the Champions league
Pedro made his 50th appearance in the Champions League. He has scored 14 goals in the competition.
All the facts and figures from FC Barcelona’s first defeat of the season against Ajax (2-1) in the Amsterdam Arena:
- This was the first time Pinto has conceded a goal in the Champions league
- Actual playing time was 54 minutes and nine seconds; play was stopped for 40 minutes and 57 seconds.
- After going 20 games without defeat, last night’s result means that FC Barcelona just miss out on matching their best start to a season (21 matches unbeaten)
- Barça completely dominated the second half with 61.4% possession.
- Pedro made his 50th appearance in the Champions League. He’s scored 14 goals in the competition.
- Barça made 917 actions compared with 596 from Frank de Boer’s Ajax.
- Ajax had 10 shots and Barça 7.
- Barça made 695 passes, 583 completed.
- Ajax committed 21 fouls compared to 17 by Barça.
- Barça received 5 yellow cards (Fàbregas, Piqué, Montoya, Iniesta and Neymar) and Ajax two (Van Rhijn and Schöne).
- Cesc Fàbregas picked up his third yellow card and will be suspended for the last group match against Celtic.
Patric Gabarrón made his first team debut in an official game for Barça, whilst Adama Traoré followed up Saturday's debut with his first appearance in Europe.
Patric played for 26 minutes and Adama came on 12 minutes before the end.
Even though the game ended in defeat, tonight’s game will be a special memory for Patric and Adama in the future – with both players making their European debuts for the Club. Both youngsters came on in the second half – Patric for Puyol 26 minutes from the end of the game and Adama for Cesc with just over 10 minutes left to play.
Patric came to the Club in 2008, signed from the Villarreal youth set up, and was soon making his way up through the academy ranks until he reached Barça B. He made his first team debut in the final of the Catalan Cup against Espanyol in 2013. Tonight saw him come on in the right wing back position and managed a shot, which unfortunately flew high.
Adama - who made his full debut last Saturday against Granada- looked lively when he came on with 12 minutes to play – sitting just in front of Patric and always willing to take his man on. The two youngsters’ debut proved a positive point for Barça, despite the defeat.
Puyol commented after the defeat:"with the red card and the penalty, Ajax just went into their shells and we couldn't get the equaliser"
Gerard Piqué: “We were better after the break, but even so we couldn't get that second goal".
Club captain Carles Puyol believes the key to the defeat in Amsterdam lies with the fact that: “they came out more intense from the start and were up for it more, particularly in the first 25 minutes or so. If we want to win in Europe, we can’t start games like that”.
Pujol insisted: “the idea is to have the ball, but when you have a team up against you which is snapping at your heels and also know how to play the ball around, this is what happens. If you aren’t up for it enough, they’ll walk all over you”. Puyol also admitted that at the break, the players had been well aware of what was needed: “we had to change and we had 45 minutes to turn the result around. With the red card and the penalty, Ajax just went into their shells and we couldn't get the equaliser". Finally, the captain concluded: “you have to learn from every game and if we want to win things, we know we have to get better”.
Below are some of the other players post match statements:
“It was our worst first 45 minutes of the season. We played badly and had the wrong mentality. We improved after the break, but even so we couldn’t create enough chances to get the equaliser. There can be no excuses and we need to look hard at ourselves and our performance in that game”
“You can concede a goal or be dominated in certain passages of play, but what you can’t do is play like we did in the first half. That is not the image of FC Barcelona”.
“We were missing intensity and unable to play our game. Ajax’s high pressure pressing high up the pitch just didn’t give us the chance to bring the ball out under control. They were more intense than us and although we tried to turn it round in the second half, the 2-0 score was just too much and we couldn’t do it. We had a bad game –especially in the first half”.
“They were tight together at the back and full of energy. We hope it doesn’t affect us too badly – it’s the first defeat and let’s hope it won’t have too bad an effect, We’ve got a home game ahead of us and we still have a great chance to finish top of the group. Teams don’t forgive you in the Champions League and you could see that in the first half. It’s very hard to get an away win in Europe or in the Spanish League”.
All the latest news leading up to this evening's Ajax v FC Barcelona showdown
Including a look back at previous friendlies in Amsterdam, Adriano out, and Martino and Pinto's press conferences
News, photos, videos and other contents about Ajax v FC Barcelona, the Champions League's match in the Amsterdam Arena:
“I have always considered Ajax to be a very good team that works well with its youth system”, says Martino
The Argentinian says that “I know we are up against a very difficult opponent that could finish second in the group”
Gerardo Martino has spoken in the Amsterdam Arena pressroom about Barça’s Champions League game with Ajax on Tuesday night. Tata knows that a draw would be enough to secure top spot in the group, but will only be happy if he brings home all three points. “We aren’t thinking about anything other than winning”, he said. On his problems putting together a defence, he commented that “I’ll either play a centre back as full back, or I’ll field Patric from the start. Those are my options for the full back places”.
Committed to a system
Despite the amazing series of results, Martino still thinks Barça can do better. “We have a commitment to aesthetics that we have to uphold” he said. “Good results alone aren’t enough. We have to win while also doing all we can to play more convincingly, in keeping with the excellence required of this club.” The Argentinian added that “the next game is always the most important; you can never look any further ahead than that”.
Well structured club
As for the opposition, Ajax Amsterdam, managed by Frank de Boer, Martino commented that “I have always considered Ajax to be a very good team that works well with its youth system … I know we are up against a very difficult opponent that could finish second in the group”.
Martino is also aware of the many parallels between Ajax and Barça: “Looking at old Ajax pictures, you remember that they are the ones who created the Barça style. The two clubs have many connections and the Ajax academy had a lot of influence on the one we have at Barça today” he observed.
Missing the best
The manager was naturally asked how he is coping without Leo Messi, and has to admit that it is a difficulty. “If you were playing against Barça, you’d be pleased to know he’s not in the team” he said. “But luckily we have a very strong squad at Barça and with the players we have, there is no room for excuses. At Barça, you have to accept it when players are missing and the best way to do that is by going out there and playing a good game.”
In the four games played to date, Barça have nine goals and Ajax three
Barça's total possession is 63% and Frank de Boer's side have 55%
FC Barcelona are at Ajax Amsterdam on Tuesday (20:45, TVE and TV3) for their first ever official game at the Amsterdam Arena. The side coached by Gerardo Martino go into the game as group leaders on ten points, having scored nine goals in four games. Meanwhile, Ajax, coached by former FCB man Frank De Boer, have four points and still have a chance of making it into the next round.
Here are the stats of the two teams so far in the Champions League:
Barça have two enticing trips ahead of them this week. On Tuesday, they're at the Amsterdam Arena and on Sunday visit the new San Mamés
Barça have two away trips to historic opponents this week: Ajax Amsterdam and Athletic Club Bilbao. A win at the Amsterdam Arena would ensure passage into the second round of the Champions League as group winners, and three points at the new San Mamés would mean they stay top of the domestic table.
There is one rest day on Thursday, while on Tuesday, there will be a session at the Ciutat Esportiva for the injured players that have not travelled to Holland:
19:00: Training at the Amsterdam Arena
11:00: Training for injured players at the Ciutat Esportiva
20.45: Ajax v FC Barcelona. 5th Champions League group fixture
12:00: Training at the Ciutat Esportiva
11:00: Training at the Ciutat Esportiva
11:00: Training at the Ciutat Esportiva
21:00. Athletic Club v FC Barcelona. 15th Liga fixture
The Brazilian defender sprained the ligaments in his left ankle in the game against Granada
Xavi has been given the okay and returns to a list of 19 players, that also includes Adama, Dongou, Sergi Gomez and Patric
FC Barcelona returned to training today after Saturday's 4-0 win against Granada. The starting eleven in the game against the Andalusian side did recovery work in a training session that also included Dongou, Patric, Lucas, S. Gomez, Babunski, Bañuz, Sandro, Adama, and Calvet, from the Barcelona B Team.
The highlight of the training session was the return of Xavi Hernandez, who has overcome his hamstring discomfort, but on the downside, Adriano will miss the game against Ajax because of a ligament sprain in his left ankle.
The match against Ajax (20.45) is the away match that has raised most expectation amongst Barcelona fans
Amsterdam police remind everybody that consumption of alcoholic beverages on the street is banned, as well as carrying glasses and glass containers
Over 2,400 Barcelona fans will travel to support the team on Tuesday at the Amsterdam Arena. The match against Ajax (20.45) is the away match that has raised most expectation amongst Barcelona fans. This is the first time that Barcelona will have played in the Ajax stadium in an official competition.
In the two European trips this season, the number of fans who accompanied the team didn’t exceed one thousand: 807 to Glasgow and 936 to Milan.
Fans who travel to the Netherlands should bear in mind the recommendations of the Amsterdam police. According to what they communicated to Barcelona, consumption of alcoholic beverages on the street is banned, as well as carrying glasses and rigid glass containers. Consumption of alcohol is only permitted in enclosed areas such as bars and pubs.
Barcelona’s next opponent in Champions had a comfortable win at home, their 3 goals scored by Hoesen, Fischer, and Klaassen
Milan draw, despite playing against 10 men for an hour, and Celtic win 3-1 at home against Aberdeen, with 2 very late goals
Four days before Barcelona visit the Amsterdam Arena on the fifth matchday of the group stage of the Champions League, Ajax comfortably won in the league (3-0). Frank De Boer’s team only needed two minutes to go ahead with a Hoes goal and maintained the lead until the second half. Towards the end, they sewed up the three points with two goals, from Fischer and Klaassen. Following the win, Ajax went to the top of the Erevidisie pending the outcome of Vitesse’s match.
Celtic win and Milan draw
The other two teams in group H of the Champions League also played their respective domestic matches on Saturday. Neil Lennon’s Celtic beat Aberdeen at Celtic Park with two goals in stoppage time (3-1). Celtic went ahead just after the half hour mark with a goal from Commons, but, just before the break, Aberdeen equalised. After the break, Celtic repeatedly went looking for goal, but the win didn’t come until after the regulation 90 minutes were up. Boerrigter, then Commons, scored the two late goals to ensure the three points. Celtic now have 33 points and have opened up a gap at the top of the Scottish League.
Milan is the only team from the Champions group that were unable to gain the 3 points. Massimo Allegri’s outfit drew 1-1 against Genoa at the San Siro, despite playing almost an hour with a player more. The Brazilian Kaka made it 1-0 in the early stages of the game, but the hard-working Gilardino equalised from the penalty spot on 10 minutes. Just after 30 minutes Manfredini was sent off for a foul in the box, but Balotelli failed from the penalty spot. Despite great efforts from the Milan players, they were unable to score again, and the 1 point leaves them mid-table with 14 points.
With 37 points, 38 goals scored and a goal average of +30, Gerardo Martino's team have had the best start to a season in recent Club history
FC Barcelona have secured spectacular results this season. When comparing the team’s performance after the first 13 rounds in La Liga to past seasons, Tata Martino’s Barça come out on top. Barça have won 37 points this season, scored 38 goals and have a goal average of +30.
Since the 2003/04 season, Barça have taken the top spot of the table after the opening 13 rounds on eight occasions. Barça only failed to take the top spot three times: 2003/04 (5th), 2007/08 (3rd), and in 2011/12 (2nd). Just as in past seasons, Barça are top of the table this year too, with a three and six point advantage over Atlético Madrid and Real Madrid, second and third, respectively.
Better average compared to last year
Last year’s Barça also secured 37 points after the first 13 league matches. Last season, Barça scored more goals (38 to 42), but this year’s team have conceded fewer times (8 to 15) and have a better goal average (+30 to +28). Barça’s best goal average of the last decade was set in the 2008/09 and 20011/12 seasons, when the team had a +31 goal average.
Also in the Champions League
Barça’s numbers in the Champions League this season are, at minimum, just as good as the ones the team put up in the past decade. Barça, mathematically in the next round of the competition, are top of their group on 10 points from four matches, the same feat achieved in the 2005/06, 2007/08, 2008/09 and 2011/12 seasons.
Six league titles and three Champions League crowns
Despite the excellent start, these results are not definitive but it is true that they may show a glimpse of what’s to come.
In the last decade, FC Barcelona have won La Liga six times (2004/05, 2005/06, 2008/09, 2009/10, 2010/11 and 2012/13) and they won the Champions League three times (2005/06, 2008/09 and 2010/11).
“Messi hasn’t returned because he never left in the first place," says Mascherano on the Argentinian's two-goal performance against the Italian team
Questions raised by the press about FC Barcelona’s style of play and particularly Messi’s ostensible crisis given his recent four-match goalless streak were, in part, answered on Wednesday when Tata Martino’s men took on AC Milan at the Camp Nou.
After Barça’s 3-1 victory over the Italians, Mascherano told 8TV that “Messi hasn’t returned because he never left in the first place,” when asked about the forward’s two-goal performance. The reconverted center back went on to address the debate hovering over FC Barcelona’s style of play: “This is an issue because we have to compare ourselves to the team that won six titles in one year. I understand these debates because one of the best things about football is that we all get to have an opinion. But I do take issue with being belittled.” Mascherano concluded by saying that the team “has room to grow and can play better.”
The Madrid-based daily Marca also took note of Messi’s performance as it led with the headline “Messi crises are a breath in length” after Wednesday’s victory. “He’s still not at his top level, but he’s showing symptoms of recovery and that’s all he needs to decide games ... Messi led the Blaugrana to victory over Milan.”
ESPN’s Shaka Hislop follows suit: “Some in the media were saying that Barça were in crisis, they had not been playing that well and Lionel Messi hadn’t scored in four games. Keep in mind that they haven’t lost a game this season, and how does a four-game scoring drought translate to a crisis? I’m not really certain.”
The former goalkeeper is echoed by his ESPN colleague, Dermot Ledwith: “Zero goals in four games since a return from injury was described as a slight dip in form by some, while others, mostly in the Spanish capital, called it a crisis. Just how anyone who has now hit 65 goals in just 82 Champions League games, only six fewer than Raul at the top of the list, can have a crisis is anybody's guess.”
The columnist also notes that the forward’s recent string of injuries have impacted the player’s consistency on the pitch, but “a crisis it never was” he concludes.
The Argentinian’s stats speak for themselves. Messi has featured in 13 official games this season in the Champions League and La Liga and has scored 14 goals and given 4 assists.
Another look at the FC Barcelona - AC Milan match
Take a look at the hours leading up to kick off and what it was like at the Camp Nou after the Barça-Milan match was over
The Barça-Milan movie is here. Take a look at the hours leading up to kick off and what it was like at the Camp Nou once the game had ended.
The footage is taken from a first person perspective, so you’ll know what the Barça and Milan players go through before and after a high-level match.
FC Barcelona have made it into the second round of the UCL with games in hand in 8 of the last 10 editions
After beating AC Milan 3-1 last night, Barça are into the last sixteen of the Champions League. And it’s by no means the first time they have fast-tracked their way into the knockout stages. In fact, in only two of the last ten editions have they needed to wait until the last game to confirm their place.
Two games in hand
This year, as in 2011/12, 2008/09 and 2005/06, it has taken just four games for FCB to clinch a second round berth. It’s also comforting to observe that in the two latter cases, the Catalans went on to claim the title.
Barça have made it into the last sixteen in every edition of the Champions League since 2004. And only twice has that qualification gone down to the last game. The first was in 2009/10, when they eventually topped their group ahead of Inter, and the second was in 2006/07, when they had to settle for second behind Chelsea.
Top of the group 7 times out of 9
Having secured passage, Barça’s next aim is to finish top of the group and thus be seeded for the second round draw. They haven’t failed to do that since the aforesaid 2007 season. In the last nine years, Barça have not only made it out of the groups every time, but on all but two occasions have done so as group winners.
“We saw a good Barça tonight. The team are playing well and our goal is clear: play at a good level and win matches. That’s our philosophy," says Xavi
He scored Barça’s second goal against Milan this Wednesday and he also was one of the standout players of the match. After the game, Sergio Busquets said that he was very pleased that he got to score, especially from a header: “We aren’t a tall team, most of the time we play the short option on free kicks and corners. But we managed [to score from a header] this Wednesday and I’m happy.”
The midfielder is also pleased that Barça have qualified for the next round of the Champions League: “We’ve reached our goal. I think that we played a good first half, it’s a shame that we conceded an own goal. Even though we had some trouble in the second half, the match was played well and I’m pleased that we won and that we have a spot in the next round.”
When asked further about the second half, the midfielder explained that Milan were more incisive because “they varied their tactics and it was difficult for us to cover the wings. Abate went deep and Muntari covered the middle. I think that's when Milan were most dangerous, but everything was easier when we got our third goal.”
Praise for Messi
When Busquets was also asked about Messi’s current form, the midfielder said “we knew it was only a matter of time because he's decisive and in front of goal he’s always on form.” He added that the team “are not at 100% and it will be difficult to replicate the form the team showed during the Guardiola years, both because our level and the level of our rivals, they didn’t know us back then.”
Here are statements made by some of the players after the match:
“I’m happy that we won. We played a good match, it got a bit complicated when they scored but we could have won by a wider margin.”
“We saw a good Barça tonight. The team are playing well and our goal is clear: play at a good level and win matches. That’s our philosophy.”
“We will try to play at an excellent level in order to secure good results. We’re on the right path. Logically, it’s difficult because we have to play against teams that close themselves off at the back.”
“I think Messi is playing well. Everyone can always play better football, and he’s set the bar very high.”
“I’m happy because we won and that we secured a spot in the next round.”
“We still have a way to go, but the most important thing is to keep on growing as a team.”
“Leo Messi is a great player, a genius. He’s the best in the world. I think that he can win another Ballon d’Or.”
“We can improve. We’re coming off of three to five successful years, now it seems that everything we do comes up short.”
The Barça manager is pleased that his team have qualified for the Round of 16 of the Champions League thanks to this evening's win over AC Milan
With a spot in the Round of 16 of the Champions League secured, manager Gerardo Martino talked to the press after this evening’s match against AC Milan: “We’re happy, we’ve reached an important objective.” He continued: “Qualification is what we were looking for, and it’s good that we got it early. Now we have more clarity for the things to come.” He added: “We have the obligation to finish at the top of the group, it will be especially good for our self confidence.”
Two different teams
Martino admitted that his team showed two different versions of itself this evening against Milan: “We saw two Barcelonas, in the first half we had more control and the second we were more direct. I don't dislike either version. We did a good job in the first half and in the second half we needed to take advantage of open space. Attacking with three forwards invites us to attack more directly.”
The manager then went on to address a couple of aspects of this team’s play that need rectifying. “At times we allow our rivals to get into the game after we take a lead,” said Martino. “We have to be more decisive when it comes to winning back possession. There is always something that can be improved. I would love it if everyone liked how we play, but that’s not the case and that’s why we train on a daily basis.”
Praise for this players
Martino then went on to congratulate his players on their performances. Leo Messi was first: “He always comes out on top in these kind of situations. He played a phenomenal match, there was a spark to his play.” On Busquets, the other goalscorer against Milan, Martino said: “All you have to do is look back at what happened during the Guardiola era, the Tito era and his career with the Spanish national team...” Finally he explained why Carles Puyol wasn’t included in the team this evening: “He needs more training in order to be fit for high-level matches.”
Valdés becomes the keeper with the second most appearances in the Champions League
Víctor Valdés is now the keeper with the second most appearances in the Champions League, including qualification rounds. With the match against Milan under his belt, the Catalan takes his appearance record to 108 matches, which means he leapfrogged his hero Oliver Kahn who had 107 appearances in the competition. Iker Casillas tops the list with 133 appearances. To surpass Kahn is “a source of pride” for Valdés, who made the statement before the match against Milan on social media.
Security in goal
Valdés made his debut on August 14 of 2002 in the qualification phase of the competition against Legia and since then he’s averaged under a goal a game in the Champions League in each season he played, with the exemption of one (1.54 goals on average). He’s played a total of 108 matches and his average stands at 0.81 goals per match (88 total goals).
When Barça won its second Champions League title he only conceded 5 goals in 12 matches, which is an average of 0.41 goals conceded per match. Of these, two were scored in the group stage, two in the Round of 16 against Chelsea and one in the Paris against Arsenal. He was vital to Barça’s successful Champions League bid especially in the semifinals and quarterfinals, where he didn’t conceded any goals.
In the group stage, Valdés has been key in helping the team reach the Round of 16 as he’s made it a tradition to not concede many goals. From the 2009/10 to 2011/12 he only conceded seven goals in the group stage: 2 in 2009/10, 3 in 2010/11 and 2 in 2011/12, respectively.
Active player with the most titles
When it comes to titles, Valdés leads all active keepers with three Champions League crowns (2006, 2009 and 2011). He’s followed by Iker Casilals (2000 and 2002) and Dida, who now plays for Gremio Porto Alegre (2003 and 2007). In the overall ranking, Valdés shares the top spot with Juan Alonso (Madrid), Sepp Maier (Bayern), Heinz Stuy (Ajax) and Ray Clemence (Liverpool).
Century, against Milan
Milan have played an important part in Valdés’ impressive career seeing that it was against the Italian team that the keeper played his 100th career match in the competition, when Barça fired for four unanswered goals to qualify for the next round of the Champions League.
The forward, who netted twice this evening at the Camp Nou, has scored a total of eight goals against the Rossoneri
From the San Siro to the Camp Nou. Sandwiched in between the two matches against AC Milan was Leo Messi’s goalless run: three matches in La Liga against Real Madrid, Celta and Espanyol, a total 366 minutes without finding the back of the net. But that’s all behind him now as slotted home a penalty that Neymar won on the 29th minute.
65 goals in the Champions League
Barça’s forward wasn’t satisfied with his first goal and, in the dying minutes of the match, he linked up brilliantly with Cesc to scored his second of the night. He’s netted a total of six goals in this edition of the Champions League (only one behind Ibrahimovic and two behind Cristiano Ronaldo) and in total he has 65 goals throughout his career in the Champions League, only six goals adrift of the all time record set by Raúl (71).
AC Milan are Messi’s favourite opponent in the competition seeing that he's netted eight times against the Rossoneri. In fact, he’s the first player to ever score eight goals against the same team in the whole competition. It’s worth noting that of these eight goals, four of them were scored from the penalty spot.
First team squad trained on Camp Nou pitch this Wednesday morning
Players staying at the Princesa Sofía Hotel until they return to the stadium at 19.00
The 20-man squad for tonight’s game at the Camp Nou, had their final training session at 11-30 at the stadium this morning. It was a gentle session, as Gerado Martino put the finishing touches of his plans for the clash with Milan.
Lunch at the team hotel
At 13.30, the squad set off for the team hotel – The Princesa Sofia - where they will have lunch and rest. At about 19.00, they will then come back to the stadium for the 20.45 kick off.
Follow our minute by minute coverage of the build up to tonight's game
19.35 Barça starting line up: Valdés, Alves, Piqué, Mascherano, Adriano, Sergio, Xavi, Iniesta, Alexis, Messi and Neymar.
19.20. Gates at the Camp Nou open to the fans.
19.10. AC Milan arrive at the Camp Nou.
19.05. FC Barcelona arrive at the Camp Nou.
18.40. Some of the personalities who will be in the Directors Box are teh President of Catalonia, Artur Mas, teh Mayor of Barcelona, Xavier Trias, Catalan ministers Francesc Mascarell and Josep Maria Pelegrí, ex-players Luis Suárez and Demetrio Albertini and the Catalan cyclist 'Purito' Rodríguez.
18.20. The team is having tea at the moment.
18.00. Don't miss the Barça-Milan game! Tickets are still avaiable via the FC Barcelona web.
17.45. Nearly 1,200 Milan fans will be at the Camp Nou to cheer on their team tonight.
13.31 The first team squad are leaving the Stadium for the team hotel - The Princesa Sofía. There they will have lunch and rest ahead of their return to the Camp Nou ahead of the match this evening.
13.06. Training finished a few minutes ago
12.55. The referee for tonight's game is the Serbian Milorad Mazic, who will be in charge of his sixth Champions League game-He has reffed Barça once before - in their 3-2 win over Spatrak Moscow in the 2012/13 campaign.
12.04. If he plays tonight, Víctor Valdés will beat his hero Olver Kahn's appearance record in the Champions League.
Tomorrow I can beat my hero Olver Khan's appearance record in the Champions League - A really proud moment for me pic.twitter.com/XjiWcK24P1
Mañana puedo superar en partidos oficiales en Champions a mi ídolo, Oliver Khan. Todo un orgullo para mi! pic.twitter.com/XjiWcK24P1— Victor Valdes (@1victorvaldes) November 5, 2013
11.47. Here's the entrance gate for the Milan fans tonight - gates 50 and 51 - with a welcome message in Italian.
11.30. The team begins training on the Camp Nou pitch.
11.15. The players have arrived at the Camp Nou ahead of training.
Of Milan's last seven visits to the Camp Nou, they've only managed to win once
Cesc Fàbregas and Alexis Sánchez are one yellow card away from suspension
FC Barcelona will host AC Milan this evening for the fourth round of the Champions League group stage. Here is a collection of what we consider to be the most interesting stats and facts surrounding this evening's match:
• A victory for FC Barcelona would mathematically qualify the team for the Round of 16.
• Of the seven matches played at the Camp Nou against AC Milan, only one ended in victory for the visiting team. The rest saw the home team win four games and draw twice.
• The last Barça-Milan at the Camp Nou was played on March 12, when Barça won 4-0. Messi (2), Villa and Jordi Alba got on the scoresheet that evening.
• Barça’s overall record against Italian teams at home is very positive: 12 Barça victories, 4 draws, and only 2 defeats.
• Since the match at the San Siro, AC Milan have lost twice (3-2 against Parma, and 0-2 against Fiorentina) and tied once (1-1 against Lazio).
• FC Barcelona have only lost one of their last 23 matches played at the Camp Nou in the Champions League. It was against Bayern Munich (0-3) in last season’s edition of the Champions League.
• Cesc Fàbregas and Alexis Sánchez are one yellow card away from being suspended.
• The Chilean has scored a total of eight goals in the last seven matches, this includes matches with the Chilean national team.
• The referee for this evening’s match is the Serbian Milorad Mazic. He’s refereed Barça on one occasion, when the Blaugrana hosted Spartak Moscow (3-2) in the 2012/13 edition of the Champions League. He has never refereed AC Milan before.
Adriano makes the team after missing out on Friday's match against Espanyol
Cuenca, Oier and the injured players aren't in the squad
Gerardo Martino named 20 players to the team for tomorrow’s match against AC Milan. Oier Olazábal and Isaac Cuenca didn’t make the team for technical reasons, while Jordi Alba, Ibrahim Afellay and Jonathan dos Santos are all injured.
The good news is that Adriano Correia, who missed last Friday’s match against Espanyol due to injury, was named to the team. It’s worth noting, however, that Martino will have to cut one player from the team before kick off tomorrow.
Training session on Wednesday
The team trained at the Camp Nou this evening at 19.00, and they’ll do it again on Wednesday morning before the match. The team will spend the night at Princesa Sofía Hotel.
“Our numbers are spectacular, but we aren’t playing as well as we have in past years,” says the right back
Dani Alves focused on Barça’s style of play in the pre-match press conference ahead of tomorrow’s match against AC Milan. “We will defend our style of play to the death because it’s what made us the best team in the world,” declared the right back. He also admitted that Barça are employing alternatives to how they play: “Before we were monotonous, and it made things easier for our rivals, now we’ve introduced a variation which is giving us good results.”
This “monotony” in Barça’s play that Alves highlighted prompted a flurry of follow-up questions from the gathered press. “The only thing that’s different now is that we don’t need 18 to 20 passes to reach our rivals’ goal, we’re more direct,” he explained. The variant, according to the right back, doesn’t necessarily change the team’s style of play: “We still have a lot of possession and we dominate matches. With the exception of the Rayo game, it’s always been like that.”
Closing the debate
Dani Alves then went on to say that Barça can and should improve: “Our numbers are spectacular, but we aren’t playing as well as we have in past years.” The objective is to “improve in each match, even though it’s harder every time.” He added: “If we continue with our philosophy, the debates will eventually go away. The best thing about this team is that we’re always ready to compete.
“There will always be debates,” said Alves. “Before we needed alternatives, now it seems we’re missing a center forward...” he said with a bit of sarcasm. He then said that he’s not “worried about Messi’s form” and that “I’d bet that Messi scores a goal” against Milan tomorrow.
Maximum respect for Milan
When asked about FC Barcelona’s rival tomorrow, the right back joked about the unusually high number of showdowns between the two teams: “Milan are almost family.” He then added, in a more serious tone, “historically they are a great team and it doesn’t matter how they come into the match. I’d say that they’ve never come here on their top form and it’s always been difficult for us. Tomorrow will be the same.”
The AC Milan manager urges his men to "play a better game than the one at the San Siro"
On Messi: "How is he not playing well? It's not true, he's still the best player in the world"
AC Milan come into tomorrow’s match at the Camp Nou after a string of poor results in the Serie A. In the Champions League they have five points, two adrift of FC Barcelona and a two-point advantage over Celtic, their principal rivals for a spot in the next round of the competition. In order to qualify, getting at least a point on Wednesday is vital. Milan’s manager, Massimiliano Allegri, is aware of how difficult it will be to take points off Tata Martino’s team: “It’s always difficult to play against Barça. We’ll have to waste physical and mental strength, because the way Barça play forces us to do it.”
Allegri believes that his team will have a chance if they can play an organised defensive game: “We will have our chance if we play well defensively, like in the first game against Barça.” For the manager, the challenge is “to have a better game than the one at the San Siro.”
In any case, the match at the Camp Nou is a welcome break for AC Milan given their recent form in the Italian league. “It’s stimulating to play here. We don’t have to motivate ourselves,” said the manager. The keeper Abbiati, who missed the match in Milan, agrees with his manager: “The match comes at a good time. It’s a challenge.”
When asked about Messi’s recent form, Allegri was clear: “How is he not playing well? It’s not true. He’s on form, that’s what we saw in the last match. He’s dangerous and he’s still the best in the world. We’ll have a tough time if we don’t pay any attention to him.”
It’s worth noting that AC Milan travelled to Barcelona with Mario Balotelli, who missed the match at the San Siro, and with Kaká and Robinho. Bonera, who’s been out of action for the past three months, also returns to the team, while El Shaarawy is still injured.
Read all the news published on our site in teh build up to the Barça vs AC Milan match
The two top teams from Group H will face off on Wednesday at the Camp Nou, here are their stats from the first three matches of the competition
Barça are undefeated and lead Group H of the Champions League on seven points. The Blaugrana are followed by Milan, who are also undefeated, on five points. This means that tomorrow’s match at the Camp Nou will bring together the two top teams of Group H.
Here are the stats from both teams after the first three games of the group stage:
*Stats from www.uefa.com
Previous FC Barcelona v AC Milan matches at the Camp Nou
Previous FC Barcelona v AC Milan matches at the Camp Nou.
The first team was back at work today after taking Sunday off, but Piqué and Adriano were absent
Carles Planas and Denis Suárez of Barça B also participated
FC Barcelona were back at work today after taking Sunday off. On Monday at the Ciutat Esportiva the first team players were also joined by Carles Planas and Denis Suárez of Barça B.
However, neither Gerard Piqué nor Adriano Correia were involved. The former is following a specific programme, while the latter worked out in isolation. Adriano is still struggling with his left hamstring and sat out the Espanyol match as a precaution.
Back on Tuesday
Tata Martino will be calling his squad together for the next time on Tuesday at 19.00, this time in the Camp Nou. This will be the penultimate session before Wednesday night’s Champions League clash with AC Milan (20.45).
AC Milan have only collected one of the last nine points they have contested in Serie A
Barça's next Champions League opponents are tenth, seven points adfrift of Europe and18 of leaders AS Roma, with one game less
AC Milan’s season is not going at all to plan. The return of Kaka was meant to give a breath of fresh air to the team but instead the red-and-blacks are in big trouble. But neither has luck been on their side since holding Barcelona 1-1 at the San Siro, with late goals turning a potential draw into defeat away to Parma (3-2), and a home win against Lazio into a draw (1-1). Last weekend, they tumbled at home in the San Siro to Fiorentina (0-2).
Loss in Parma
At Parma, they went behind to two early goals from Parolo and their former player Cassano, who both beat goalkeeper Gabriel following defensive errors.
But in just three minutes, from the 61st to 63rd, Milan pulled back level with goals from Matri and Silvestre. The first was a well-placed finish from the striker, and then the centre back pounced on a rebound off the bar to beat Mirante. But four minutes into stoppage time, Parolo grabbed Parma’s winner from a long range free kick.
Kaka like a fish in water
Kaka’s return to the starting eleven was the big news when Lazio were the opposition at the San Siro. Milan took the initiative with some quick combination football, although there was no score at the break.
After the restart, Kaka curved home a beautiful strike from the edge of the area to delight the home crowd. The three points seemed to be in the bag, but then Ciani picked up a loose ball in the area to get Lazio back on level terms, and that’s how the game ended.
The visit by Fiorentina to the San Siro seemed the ideal chance to get Milan’s league form back on track, against a side that had just lost 2-1 at home to Napoli.
Allegri opted for an attack-minded formation with all of Balotelli, Birsa and Kaka starting, but the star of the day turned out to be Borja Valero. He supplied the assist for the visitors’ first goal, scored by Vargas, and then got the second himself.
It has been a disappointing weekend for Barça's Champions League opponents. Celtic only managed a draw and Ajax lost in injury time
Wednesday's visitors to the Camp Nou, AC Milan, lost at home to Fiorentina (0-2) and are out of the European places
Barça’s Champions League opponents have had an awful weekend. AC Milan lost 2-0 at home to Fiorentina and are struggling in mid-table, seven points adrift of Europe. Ajax also suffered home defeat, 1-0 to Vitesse. And Celtic also dropped points at home after being held by Dundee United.
Loss at San Siro
Milan’s Serie A campaign is not getting any better. The side that face FCB at the Camp Nou on Wednesday were toppled by Fiorentina after being held by Lazio midweek. Balotelli, Virsa and Kaka were all played in an attack-minded formation, but Borja Valero was the hero of the day, supplying the pass for Vargas to score the first, and adding a goal of his home to settle the tie.
Ajax crash and Celtic held in Glasgow
Ajax also lost on home turf, 1-0 to a Vitesse who grabbed the winner in injury time. And although there were celebrations when Mulgrew bagged a late equaliser for Celtic at home to Dundee United, the Scottish Premiership leaders expected a lot more than one point out of this game.