Barca were held to a 1-1 draw by bogey team Atletico Madrid in the last La Liga game of the year, leaving the champions 3 points off leaders Sevilla with a game in hand. Not a bad league position considering how badly we miss Eto'o (and how leaky the defence is right now).
As for the game itself, I always thought we were going to lose because it's Atletico. They were the only side to beat Barca at home last season. Enough said. Then I looked at the squad list and was even more certain - Sylvinho suspended, Gio, Edmilson and Marquez rested, Zambrotta injured (in addition to long-term injuries Eto'o and Messi, of course). No left-backs, plus a frontline and midfield in desperate need of rest (how many games has Iniesta played without rest in such a short period?), in addition to a Ronaldinho who only got one training session before the game thanks to the FIFA World Player of the Year presentation in Zurich - something of a recipe for disaster, I thought.
And then I saw the starting 11 - Oleguer at left-back (WTF?), no Giuly. Kind of crazy, but it almost worked. And then poor Thuram got injured, so Motta had to play center-back, which was almost as scary as seeing Oleguer at left-back. Credit to the Catalan, though, he insisted on playing despite being injured and did a pretty good job.
We have got to stop conceding cheap equalisers - not that Argentine wonderkid (and 'new Messi') Aguero's strike was cheap, nor for that matter Drogba's. You would expect a team like Barca to be able to hang on to a 1-0 advantage, though, even if we're pouring forward in attack instead of sitting back. After all, that's how we got to the Champions League final.
The most infuriating aspect of the draw has to be Deco and Ronaldinho both getting booked for whining to the ref. It's behaviour unworthy of two great players, and bad for the team as a whole as the bookings will lead to both being suspended for the first game of the new year. No Deco and no Ronnie against Getafe - never an easy game to begin with. Thanks, guys.
Actual non-sarcastic thanks must go to Ronnie, too, for that cracking free-kick. Jet lag, what jet lag?
crocked strikers update
For your reading pleasure: an interview with Samuel Eto'o at ESPN Soccernet, where he offers his thoughts on a variety of issues, including how much he misses playing, Zidane's assertion that Eto'o should have won World Player of the Year, his pal Thierry Henry, the Premiership and his own recovery. Good stuff as usual, from a man with 'the brutal honesty of a Speak Your Weight machine in an American shopping mall' (TM Sid Lowe).
According to local media, Eto'o is as good as his word and has been working his socks off to recover quickly. Just don't overdo it, Sammy!
Lionel Messi - the original, one and only - also did an interview with local paper Sport, translated by the good folks of lionelmessi.org. He talks about the importance of Frank Rijkaard, his mentor Ronaldinho and reveals amongst other things that fellow Argentinean international and long-time friend (from his U20 days) Pablo Zabaleta, who plays for city rivals Espanyol, visited him almost everyday when he was stranded at home on crutches for a month. Aww, good to see that bitter city rivalry doesn't come before Argie solidarity.
Messi will return to Argentina tomorrow for the later stages of his recovery. Hopefully he has learned from his last experience and will not rush his comeback this time.
Lastly, former Celtic and Barcelona great Henrik Larsson has began training with Manchester United. I'd like to take this chance to wish Henke every success in his time at United. Here's hoping he leaves Old Trafford a hero, just as when he left Celtic Park and the Camp Nou.