Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Barca 3 - 0 Atletico, presswatch and other news

(I've recently taken over the Argentina World Cup Blog, so that's where all Argentina-related posts will go in the future.)

Atletico were the last team to beat Barca at Camp Nou in the league back in February of 2006. Since then, Barca have gone 30 games undefeated at home, of which 22 were victories. So you could say that this was a bit of a test.

  • The midfield, especially Deco, who has regained the form of his first season and is once again the complete player, and Iniesta, who has really taken to the holding midfield role with intelligence and aplomb.
  • Messi's amazing run continues. It's worth pointing out that he has now scored 20 goals in his last 23 games for Barca, starting with that hat-trick against Real Madrid in March, but the biggest difference between the Messi of this season and, say, two years ago is that he can now take on the responsibility of carrying the team forward.
  • Whisper it, but Ronaldinho is starting to look fitter. I don't want to tempt fate, because we've had so many false dawns before, but maybe, just maybe, he is going to be fully fit soon.
  • Puyol looks great after his comeback from injury, and the much-anticipated partnership with Milito seemed to work like a charm.
  • Oleguer has played well since Zambrotta got injured. Shocking, I know. But since we went through the double-winning season with him playing rightback in almost all the big games, you'd think more people would remember that he is a decent player - not great, certainly not as good as Zambrotta, but not that bad either.
  • Glad as I am that the '3 little ones' midfield is working, we've got a problem coming up quite soon: Deco is on 4 yellows. What are we going to do when he gets suspended?
  • took our foot off the pedal when 2-0 up: dangerous hint of complacency?
Barca now have their 6th consecutive victory and are unbeaten so far this season, which sounds pretty impressive but as Frank Rijkaard would no doubt point out it wasn't easy.

It is interesting that, as usual, he has been keen to criticise the players for their lapses in victory, this time about losing concentration in the second half. This is part of what I like about him - when we lose or draw, he doesn't get overly negative, and when we win, he never gets carried away.

Javier Aguirre
was classy as always in defeat, crediting Barca while refusing to blame poor old goalkeeper Christian Abbiati for his blunder.

Lastly, this match was notable because it finished with 8 home-grown Barca players on the pitch, and that was just on our side. (Atletico's Luis Garcia being yet another Barca youth product.) Given that those 8 players were Valdes, Oleguer, Puyol, Xavi, Iniesta, Messi, Giovani and Bojan, the cantera certainly looks to be in good health.

other news

Puyol, Messi and Ronaldinho have been named in the FIFPro World XI for the 06/07 season, which makes Barca the best represented team in the XI and tells us that these guys are very popular, if nothing else, since the vote is taken amongst their peers. I say that because neither Ronaldinho nor Puyol (much as I love him) were at their best last season, both for fitness reasons. Messi, well, I think there's little question that he is deserving.

13 players have been called away on international duty. Unlike Laporta, I will not say that player should take it easy, but here's hoping that everyone returns fit and ready to play. Here are the call-ups:
  • France (Euro qualifiers against the Faroe Islands and Lithuania): Thuram, Henry and Abidal
  • Spain (Euro qualifier against Denmark and friendly against Finland): Puyol, Xavi, Iniesta
  • Portugal (Euro qualifiers against Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan): Deco
  • Iceland (Euro qualifiers against Latvia and Liechtenstein): Gudjohnsen (who is apparently fit again)
  • Spain U21 (Euro qualifier against Poland): Bojan
  • Argentina (World Cup qualifiers against Chile and Venezuela): Messi and Milito
  • Brazil (World Cup qualifiers against Colombia and Ecuador): Ronaldinho
  • Mexico (friendlies against Nigeria and Guatemala): Giovani
I previously mentioned Cesc Fabregas' comments about how Henry intimidated the other players at Arsenal. (I should probably make it clear that the comments were made in a friendly spirit and that Henry himself agreed with Cesc.) It is funny how his role has changed at Barca, though, because while still playing a guardian role to the youngsters, he's no longer the one great star. This has been echoed in his latest comments, which I found interesting:

"I learn so much every day playing and training alongside people like Lionel Messl, Samuel Eto'o or Ronaldinho," he said."But Thuram is also still doing it and I use that to gain inspiration too."

He also made a good point about the work put in by the squad, which is not always recognised when people talk about stylish victories:

"It is a great team when you win. We have extraordinary players and everyone is talking about us," he continued."But even with all those great players it is not always easy."

Lastly: scoring poll, anyone? Who's going to score first, Giovani or Bojan?


Phil Ball on fine form about Valencia's problems and a history lesson on Levante; the ever-amusing Sid Lowe on Barca-Atletico; Tim Stannard of La Liga Loca with a great rant about the current Spanish TV dispute that is depriving audiences all over the world of some fine football; and a nice article on the FIFA website about the Messi-Aguero rivalry and friendship and their respective rises to fame and fortune.

non-Barca news

This is actually kind of Barca related - club legend Hristo Stoichkov has left second divison club Celta Vigo for 'personal reasons'. The press says he was sacked, but the club president maintains that is not the case.

The UEFA Cup draws are out. Atletico have a reasonable draw in Group B, with Panathinaikos, Lokomotiv Moscow, Copenhagen and Aberdeen. Villarreal have AEK Athens, Fiorentina, Mlada Boleslav and Elfsborg in Group C. Finally, Getafe rounds out the Spanish teams in Group G, where they will face Anderlecht, Tottenham Hotspur, Hapoel Tel Aviv and Aalborg.


fernando said...

El Barcelona fue muy superior al At.Madrid. Incluso pudieron vencer por mayor nĂºmero de goles.

un abrazo.

Gonzalo said...

In case you missed this: The definition of irony is Gaspart telling Laporta to be more measured in his public statements. Oh, how I laughed...

Linda said...

fernando: (my Spanish is non-existent, so excuse my response in English.)

Thanks for stopping by! Atletico did start well, but that first goal knocked all the fight out of them. From their perspective, that's a big attitude problem.

Gonzalo: thanks! Oh Lord, that's hilarious. Laughter is really the only possible response.

I may slag off Laporta, but at least he's not Gaspart.

Johnny Centreback said...

Eight homegrown players is a great sign for this Beautiful FC. Arsenal is also very good at this sort of thing...

Linda said...

Yeah, that was great to see.

What impresses me about Arsenal is that they've managed it with the severe restrictions on youth academy recruitment in England.