The Hard Tackle brings you a roundup of some of the major stories regarding La Liga Champions FC Barcelona.
Gerard Pique may be punished for his recent comments about referees after Barcelona’s 2-1 loss to Athletic Club. According to a report in Sport, the Technical Committee of Referees will analyse whether the Spaniard should face consequences for his comments and he may even be banned.
The Copa Del Rey tie had a number of controversial refereeing decisions that helped shift the tie in the favour of Bilbao. Barcelona were denied two penalties by the referee and striker Aritz Aduriz wasn’t sent off for a clear foul on Samuel Umtiti.
After the game, he said, “The penalty on Neymar was extremely clear and the one that Gorka did to me, too. But we know how this works already and we saw what happened yesterday in Sevilla vs Madrid. In line with what’s happened recently. We want to play football and not roulette, which is what this refereeing causes.”
Pique’s sentiments were echoed by his teammate Ivan Rakitic, although in a manner far less blunt. The Croatian playmaker said of referee Fernandez Borbalan, “I don’t think the referee will have the best night when he re-watches the match”.
However, Barcelona are not short of confidence and believe that this tie is still open and there for the taking. Pique believes that the only way his side could be stopped was with fouls and insists that he remains optimistic for the second leg.
Rakitic shared Pique’s optimism, saying, “I am optimistic and with all respect to Athletic Bilbao, I believe we will get through. At no point did we consider the tie lost.”
Barcelona captain Andres Iniesta remained diplomatic and refused to point fingers at the referee, but insisted that the tie was far from finished. “The tie is open, we tried until the end,” he said. Speaking of the foul on Neymar and the general intensity of the game he said, “They are moments in the game, some favour you, others count against you. The game was intense, it couldn’t be any other way at this stadium.”
It was a fiercely contested game at the San Memes and Athletic finished the game with 9 men, after Raul Garcia and Iturraspe Derteano were both sent off in a space of 6 minutes. Aritz Aduriz and Inaki Williams both scored in the first half, taking advantage of a bad start by the Blaugrana.
Lionel Messi’s 24th goal of the season in the 52nd minute may have helped soften the blow, but despite Barcelona finding their groove in the second half, they couldn’t manage a fightback. The return leg is set to be held on the 11th of January at the Nou Camp.
In recent weeks, there has been a lot of speculation surrounding Luis Enrique’s future at Barcelona post the end of the season. Barcelona have made it clear that they want him to continue post the end of the season, but Lucho’s desire to leave discussions for the end of the season have forced Barcelona make up a shortlist of managers to approach, should the 46-year-old leave.
One of the names linked with the hotseat has been that of Everton manager Ronald Koeman. The 53-year-old had spent 6 season at the Nou Camp as a player between 1989 and 1995, winning 10 major trophies as a part of Johan Cruyff’s ‘dream team’.
When asked for his thoughts on being linked with a return to the Nou Camp after 22 years, he said, “They[rumours] aren’t important, my name is always linked to Barcelona, but I am not at Barcelona, I’m at Everton. The reason I signed on here is because we have a project, we need time, but we want to grow on and off the pitch.”