Saturday, January 06, 2007

Barcelona post-break status report

The first two full training sessions after the Christmas break have now taken place, although due to various reasons both were attended by only 13 players.

injury update

Last I heard, Samuel Eto'o is still on course to begin training with the team mid-January. He's currently going around training hard, doing good deeds and being missed by everyone associated with the club. Considering that increasingly desperate lamentations about the damage his absence has done to the team are now a staple part of interviews with Barca players, he must be feeling pretty good about himself.

Lionel Messi is presumably enjoying his extended holiday in Argentina, while giving interviews to concerned Argentinean sports dailies (many thanks to Soccer Mad In America for translating) and cursing his hated crutches. He'll be back in Barca on the 1st of February, and hopefully ready to return to training by then.

Zambrotta still needs at least a week to recover from his muscle problem, while Thuram will be out for at least another two weeks with his own muscle tear. Oleguer, who played the Atletico game while injured, is also still recovering from a knee problem but apparently he might be fit for the Getafe game, which would be good news for the injury-hit defence. Barca have great strength in depth in defence, but this many injuries really isn't helping.

Gio and Motta have returned from holiday with flu, and have not yet trained.

the two amigos

Ronaldinho and Deco did not endear themselves to me when they got yellow cards for dissent in the last game before the break (some say deliberately) so that they would both reach the five-yellows threshold and be suspended for the first game back. If they were going to get suspended, they could have at least waited until the Getafe game and missed the Copa del Rey clash with Alaves - which they would have never been playing in anyway - instead. Now they've seriously jeopardized Barca's chances of catching Sevilla when we play our game in hand against Betis.

The reason that some suspect Ronnie and Deco of deliberately drawing bookings is to extend their holidays in Brazil - so that when they reported back a day late to training, people could shrug and say 'they can't play anyway, who cares?' Which was admittedly my response when I read that both of them, along with Marquez and Saviola had returned to training a day late.

Saviola had a death in the family, and he might as well not turn up anyway considering his chances of playing, so no one's too bothered about that. Deco's reason/excuse was family issues, while Marquez and Ronaldinho both cited flight problems.

In any case, whether you believe that or not, Marquez and Saviola were back in full training the next day, while Deco and Ronaldinho worked by themselves in the Camp Nou. I'm not going to speculate on what that might indicate, but it certainly has piqued the interest of the Spanish press. Frankly, this is really not a good time for drama within the squad - not that there's ever a good time for that stuff.

Oh, and by the way, if the Italian press are so keen to see Ronaldinho, Messi and Eto'o play, they can move to Barcelona, because Barca's first choice frontline certainly aren't moving the other way anytime soon.

Getafe v Barca preview

Predicted Barca line-up:

----------- Valdes

Depending on fitness, Oleguer might start ahead of Belletti or Marquez. The rest of the line-up seems fairly straight-forward, which is my way of saying that we haven't got many options. Saviola may make an appearance as a substitute - well, I'm hoping he will. If he doesn't play now, he's never going to play. It's not such a weak line-up, but this will be the first time Barca have been missing Messi, Eto'o, Ronaldinho and Deco at the same time since all four started playing for the team. That's quite a loss of fire-power, leadership and skill.

Getafe, on the other hand, have had some problems scoring goals, but they're very, very tight at the back and dangerous on the counter, not to mention set-pieces. The stadium is a difficult one to play in. It doesn't look very good, does it? Barca could drop points, as is their usual habit in the game that comes straight after the winter break. Problem is, we can't afford to. Real Madrid aren't that far behind, and Sevilla will take any chance to pull ahead.

This marks the start of a very difficult month for Barca, full of tricky games that will test the squad's resolve and fitness, not to mention its strength in depth. Come on, boys.


risingson said...

Hey Linda, I read the Messi interview from the link you provided. Isn't it funny that Messi prefers to play behind 3 forwards? Even HE thinks he shouldn't play up front.

On another note, did you watch Gago play yesterday? I can't believe he started the match. I distinctly remember having a discussion with you about Argentinean players being given little time to adjust in a new league...

His performance seemed to prove my point. But, Capello said he liked Gago's performance and took him off only because he was tired.

I'm on the fence with that one... I hope I'm proven wrong

linda said...

I've long suspected that he prefers to be in midfield, but if NT coachs play him as a striker he's hardly going to complain about it. To be honest, I think he's actually alright up front as long as he's paired with a more natural goalscoring forward with some pace (in other words, not Tevez and not Crespo).

I saw highlights of the Depor-Madrid match - if you can call them highlights. I agree with you about giving players time to adjust, and I find it hard to believe that Capello wanted to throw Gago in there just like that. Perhaps he was pressured by club suits? The president did promise that Gago would play against Depor in the middle of his transfer saga.

Some people have been saying that he looked much better than Diarra, who he replaced, but just looking at what's happened to Diarra is a warning. The guy was Real's most expensive summer signing, for God's sake (I remember Capello saying that if Diarra could play for Real they'd win the league), and now he's completely out of favour.

Anyway, I hope Gago is successful at Real - but I have a gut feeling it's going to take him a little while to settle in.