Barcelona vs. Spartak Moskva  3 - 2

Article

Vilanova: We need to improve

20 September 2012 03:22

Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova admitted his team were not at their best during a hard-fought 3-2 win over Spartak Moscow on Wednesday.

The La Liga giants needed a brace from Lionel Messi in the final 18 minutes to come back after trailing during the Champions League clash at Camp Nou.

Vilanova said it was far from his team's most polished performance, but was glad they opened Group G with a win.

"The performance was good, but not the best. We played well, opening up the pitch," he said afterwards.

"The best thing was the reaction of the players. It's a good feeling because it's important to start with a win.

"They were difficult to unlock and made things hard for us with a couple of counter-attacks.

"We had a lot of chances. Teams only employ this kind of approach when they play us."

Barcelona felt the absence of Gerard Pique, who was substituted after 12 minutes because of a foot injury, and Vilanova said youngsters would be used – if needed – to fill the void left by the defender.

Spartak Moscow coach Unai Emery, meanwhile, said his team were unable to produce the 'perfect' performance needed to beat Barcelona.

"We got 50 percent of what we wanted. I have the misfortune of being in a group of coaches who have never won at the Camp Nou," the former Valencia boss said.

"The most important thing was to score goals, which we did, but it was not enough. In attack we wanted something more. To beat Barcelona you need to play a perfect match."

Emery's side troubled Barcelona on the counter-attack throughout the clash and led 2-1 when Romulo struck on the hour-mark.

But Messi put away a Cristian Tello pass and then headed in an Alexis Sanchez cross as Barca took all three points.

"You can stop Messi for a certain amount of time, but when you concentrate on him other players find space so it is very difficult," Emery said.

"Overall the match was great and I am happy with our display, if not the result."

Article

Thiago values Champions League

19 September 2012 10:59

Barcelona midfielder Thiago has claimed the Champions League is more important than any other competition.

Barcelona are currently preparing for their Group G opener at home to Spartak Moscow, and the Spain Under-21 international is eagerly anticipating the encounter with the Russian giants.

"The Champions League is the most important competition for any footballer," Thiago told reporters.

"There aren't a lot of games and that's why it is valued so highly.

"However, we play all in competitions with the intent of winning them."

The 21-year-old then went on to say he cannot be compared to any of his team-mates because they each have their own unique characteristics.

"Every player is different. Some score more goals, others have better vision of what’s going on. Barca make us feel comfortable with each other."

Article

Vilanova focused on Spartak task

18 September 2012 21:02

Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova has played down his side's Champions League favouritism ahead of their clash with Spartak Moscow on Wednesday.

The Spanish giants are being heavily backed to win Europe's premier club competition for a fifth time, and start their bid at home to Spartak.

Vilanova was in bullish mood when asked about the game at Camp Nou against Unai Emery's side, calling the Russian Premier League team 'difficult and dynamic'.

"It is too early to be thinking about the final at Wembley," Vilanova told reporters. "In the Champions League, any team can beat any other. There are no easy games.

"The Champions League is basically the most important competition, besides our league. The first game of the tournament is a very important one – you have to give it your all because of its importance.

"It will be a tough game. Spartak will not be easy, they are a dynamic team that want to succeed. Unai Emery always makes it difficult for us, he's always brave with his selections. I'm sure they will put us under pressure."

Barcelona have made a strong start to the season and top La Liga with a perfect 12 points from four matches, but Vilanova said his players were not getting ahead of themselves.

"I don't think the players are euphoric, they're accustomed to winning four games in a row," he said.

Article

UEFA Champions League Group G preview: Barca await Spartak visit

18 September 2012 10:58

Heavyweights Barcelona start their bid for a fifth title in Europe's premier club competition against Spartak Moscow on Wednesday.

The Spanish perennial favourites should top Group G with ease but it is the scrap for second and third that will pose the greatest intrigue.

Spartak are notoriously difficult to beat at home, and will pose a threat to even Barcelona, while Benfica and Celtic will both expect to make a big impression on the group.

Spartak have the unenviable task of being the first club to trek to Camp Nou on Wednesday after missing out on the Champions League altogether in 2011/12.

Meanwhile, Barcelona, under Tito Vilanova's new regime, will hope to rebound from last year's shock semi-final exit to eventual champions Chelsea.

Lionel Messi bagged an incredible 14 goals in last season's edition and is well on his way to better Raul's record of 76 goals in the competition, with the Argentine 25 goals away from breaking the mark.

Benfica start their journey two men down after the departure of stars Axel Witsel and Javi Garcia for a combined 48 million pounds.

Neither were replaced leaving Jorge Jesus with the monumental task of ensuring safe passage to the knockout stage for the second consecutive season without them.

Jesus has proven himself a shrewd and adaptable tactician and helped knock out Manchester United last season in the group stage.

A win over Zenit St Petersburg in the round of 16 was followed by narrow defeat over two legs to Chelsea in the last eight.

Once a fortress under Martin O'Neill and Gordon Strachan, Celtic Park will again play host to the elite of European football after a four-year hiatus.

Considered by many as the group's underdog, Celtic no longer have arch rival Rangers to worry about domestically and can put more resources into a successful Champions League run.

The visit of Barcelona on November 7 will be the highlight for Celtic fans.

Striker Gary Hooper will lead the line having bagged an impressive nine goals in Celtic's 2011/12 title-winning season, putting him on the radar of a number of English clubs.

Primera División table

# Team MP D P
1 15 +42 39
2 15 +29 35
3 15 +14 32
4 15 +8 30
5 15 +15 28

Premier League table

# Team MP D P
4 17 +10 31
5 17 +8 30
6 17 +6 29
7 17 +5 27
8 17 -1 26