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FC Barcelona News: 17 February 2012; Afellay Returns to Training, Copa del Rey Final Saga Continues

VILLARREAL, SPAIN - JANUARY 28: Cesc Fabregas of Barcelona in action during the la Liga match between Villarreal and Barcelona at El Madrigal on January 28, 2012 in Villarreal, Spain.  (Photo by Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images)
VILLARREAL, SPAIN - JANUARY 28: Cesc Fabregas of Barcelona in action during the la Liga match between Villarreal and Barcelona at El Madrigal on January 28, 2012 in Villarreal, Spain. (Photo by Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images)
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Madrid-Barca dispute over Spanish Cup final venue a divisive saga - Sid Lowe -
Two years later, the teams are repeated. But two years later the teams are determined that the same scene is not repeated. Both Athletic and Barcelona want to play the game in the biggest stadium, possible. With the Camp Nou (capacity: 99,000) ruled out because Barcelona are in the final, that means the Santiago Bernabéu. It is the perfect venue.

New signings have scored 23% of the team's goals | FC Barcelona
Barça’s signings this season have brought in a lot of goals for the first team. Cesc Fábregas, Alexis Sánchez and Thiago Alcántara - his first year as a first-team player- have scored 23% of the team’s goals (29 of the 124). Cesc has 15, Alexis 11 and Thiago 3. Andreu Fontás also joined the first team this season, but before he could net any goes he sustained a serious injury.

'It's only a little thing' - Xavi unfazed by leg injury -
Barcelona midfielder Xavi has played down the severity of his leg injury after reports surfaced that he may be forced to remain on the sidelines for an extended period of time.The World Cup winner did admit that the swelling has caused him discomfort over the past few weeks, but did not rule out appearing in Sunday's crunch clash with Valencia in La Liga.

Why Ask Why? Just Enjoy Messi -
Hagemann’s theory is common-sense. "If the best footballer already knows what is going to happen," he wrote, "then he will know where to direct the attention. Players like Messi are great at decision-making. They have anticipation abilities that help them solve complex problems in the best possible way." Players like Messi are one in a generation.

Alexis Sanchez is the perfect player for Barcelona, says Ronald Koeman -
"I did not know much of him, because I didn't see him often at Udinese last year. He has pleasantly surprise me, though. Alexis is the perfect player for Barcelona," Koeman was quoted as saying by Sport.

The alternatives to Alves and Mascherano | FC Barcelona
Josep Guardiola will be forced to replace Dani Alves and Javier Mascherano, both suspended, ahead of Barça’s next league match against Valencia at the Camp Nou this weekend. The manager will either have to call up reserve players or reshuffle his first-team line-up in order to fill the centre back and right back positions.

Welcome back, Keita! | FC Barcelona
Two players were the focus of all attention on Thursday morning at the Ciutat Esportiva: Seydou Keita and Ibrahim Afellay. The Malian is back after an excellent performance at the Africa Cup of Nations, where his country came third and he was named in the All Star XI. Keita, who left for Gabon in early January, was given a rapturous welcome home by his team mates.

Afellay starts training on the field | FC Barcelona
Ibrahim Afellay worked out separately from the rest of the team at the Ciutat Esportiva on the first occasion he has been seen on a football pitch since sustaining his injury. In the company of a physio, the Dutchman did circuit training and running exercises at different paces.

Valdés: "The Champions League will affect what happens in the League" | FC Barcelona
Víctor Valdés reckons that Tuesday's win away to Bayer Leverkusen was very important for the team. Doing so well in Germany "keeps us alive in the competition, which is something very important for us ... And at the same time it provided inspiration for the league." Valdés feels that the way they performed at the BayArena was ideal preparation for what's left of the season.

Di Stefano donates 659 personal possessions to Real Madrid museum -
The legendary Alfredo Di Stefano has donated 659 personal possessions to the Real Madrid museum. The former Madrid star explained that he received offers from elsewhere for the memorabilia but felt that they belonged at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Match Report: Lazio 1-3 Atletico Madrid -
Atletico Madrid have drawn first blood in their Europa League last-32 tie against Lazio, after cruising to an impressive 3-1 win at the Stadio Olimpico on Thursday. Two goals from Radamel Falcao along with an Adrian finish inspired the Spaniards to a powerful victory, despite Miroslav Klose's opener early on, giving Edy Reja's side a steep mountain to climb in the return leg, having also conceded three away goals.

Stoke City 0-1 Valencia | Europa League last-32 1st leg match report | Football | The Guardian
Tony Pulis has transformed Stoke City's fortunes over the past six seasons but he will need to mastermind a result in the second leg to surpass anything that he has achieved so far as manager if the Premier League club are to proceed to the last 16 of the Europa League. Mehmet Topal's splendid first-half goal gave a slick Valencia only their second win on English soil in 16 attempts.

Valencia midfielder David Albelda signs new deal - ESPN Soccernet
Albelda, 34, will remain at Los Che until the summer of 2013 in a deal that will leave him just one season short of Ricardo Arias' record 16-year stay at the Mestalla. Albelda, who was capped 51 times by Spain, made his Valencia debut in 1997-98 and has since won two Primera Division titles and a UEFA Cup as well as reaching two Champions League finals.

Official: Legia Warsaw sign Sporting de Gijon striker Nacho Novo -
Sporting de Gijon have announced that they have released Nacho Novo, who has signed for Polish side Legia Warsaw. The 32-year-old arrived at Sporting in 2010 after a fruitful six-year spell at Rangers, but failed to impose himself at the Spanish club, making 41 league appearances and scoring seven goals.

Villar re-elected amid controversy - Yahoo! Eurosport
Angel Maria Villar was voted in unopposed for a seventh four-year term as president of the Spanish football federation (RFEF) on Thursday amid allegations of irregularities in the electoral process. The 62-year-old, who is also a vice president of UEFA and FIFA, was the only candidate for the post at a general assembly at the RFEF headquarters outside Madrid and received 161 of 167 votes, with five blank votes and one void.

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