Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Barca news ahead of the Stuttgart game and a quick update on the Phoenix

I picked a bad time to be away, didn't I? Events in the past week have been strangely reminiscent of the 04-05 season: great play, great sense of team spirit, tons of injuries. Perhaps it's a good omen, as Barca won the title that time, but I hope the squad remember that they did it by sticking together and working hard through the bad patches.

Here's an amazing statistic: it's been 10 months since we last won 4 in a row. 10 months! That goes some way to explaining why last season was a failure, doesn't it?

I liked this from the Independent:
When over 20,000 people turn up to see you sign, you want to give them what they want. Scoring three times on a ground where in the last two seasons Barça have only been able to pick up a point was a good way to start delivering.

Exactly right, and thank you, Titi. I can't help but think about what would have happened if he had signed a season earlier and been there when Eto'o got injured then, but I suppose it's just great to have him now in Sammy's absence.

Other related matters:
  • Henry and Messi have really hit it off.
  • A very happy birthday to Frank Rijkaard, who turned 45 and was able to celebrate with a victory.
  • Henry did a bit of his post-match interview in Spanish, and was apparently pretty good.
  • Congratulations to captain Puyol on his return. Hopefully his form will return with a bit more game time.
  • Fair play to the Levante fans, who applauded Messi off the pitch. I believe they're the second (non-Barca) Spanish club to do so, after the wonderful fans of Cadiz a few seasons ago, who I still miss. (Come back to the top flight soon, guys!)
team news

Unfortunately, Gianluca Zambrotta is going to be out for a month with a torn muscle. This is a big blow given the sale of Belletti during the last transfer window. Having Oleguer and no one else in the rightback position for a month is not an ideal situation, much as I like the Catalan.

In the same vein, and arguably even more importantly, Yaya Toure is also out for a month with torn femoral biceps. Thankfully it seems that Marquez will be fit enough to take over the defensive midfield position for the next month, but Toure has really made this position his own and this is a bad time for him to get injured. On the other hand, Marquez does have cover - albeit inexperienced cover - in the shape of the uncanny Guardiola lookalike, young Marc Crosas.

Speaking of Toure, he has publicly apologized for injuring Zaragoza's Matuzalem with what was an unacceptably dangerous tackle. Having already made an apology to the player in private after the game, Toure wanted to make it clear that he had "not come to Spain to be dirty, but to play football", and I believe him. The tackle was wrong, but Toure's response has been impeccable.

Congratulations to Carles Puyol on a big occasion: the 29 year old will play his 350th game for Barca against Stuttgart.

Speaking of which, here's the squad list. It does include Ronaldinho, Marquez and Gabi Milito (who requires more tests before he'll be cleared to play), and doesn't include Yaya Toure, Gianluca Zambrotta, Samuel Eto'o, Edmilson (injured) and poor old Santi Ezquerro (rested).


Coverage of the weekend from Sid Lowe (general round-up and Real) and Phil Ball (on Messi, 'the best player in the world'). As always, well worth reading. And Pete Jenson from the same Independent article quoted above on Henry, Messi, and Rijkaard's birthday.

The lecturer of my media class just said: "the media is not interested in anything positive. They're only interested in confrontation and negativity." Admittedly, he was talking about politics, but it applies equally to football. Sid and Phil are consistently good because they're balanced, interesting, and at the same time not obsessed with negativity and sensationalism.

Wellington Phoenix 4 - 1 Perth Glory

Congratulations to the Phoenix on their first ever home victory, which moves them up to 4th in the table. Great stuff, especially from Brazilian midfielder Daniel. When I was in Wellington, I was impressed by all the advertising around town for the Phoenix's games and the team's visibility, compared to what the late lamented Knights had in Auckland. The fans impressed me too, making a right old racket in the Cake Tin (otherwise known as Westpac Stadium) even though they only numbered about 10000. Very good signs for the team in general.


Olympic Soccer Fan said...

Yeah, Happy B Day Frank!!

John said...

Very nice enhanced blog you have here.

Anyway good luck next weekend against France, who knows we just might meet in the final :-)

Linda said...

olympic soccer fan: it's odd to realize that he was playing football not too long ago, isn't it? Time does fly.

John: thanks! I would love it if Argentina met the All Blacks in the final. Right now, though, I'm a bit worried about the French. We'll see.

Gonzalo said...

You're right in that Barça seems to have found a good combination in Messi and Henry - at least two of the 'Fantastic Four' (with apologies to Eto'o, who can't yet do his stuff) are firing well.

It's also good to see Puyol back (and scoring!); he reminds me a lot of Camacho when he played in a similar position at Real way back when. It's a shame he picked up an injury on his return game; hopefully he won't be out for long. It must be worrying to see Márquez also limp off after just a few minutes - do you think this leaves the centre of defence vulnerable?

Linda said...

Gonzalo: One good thing about Ronnie's recent troubles is that at least Sport can't bang on about the Fantastic Four any more. I'm delighted with Messi and Henry finding form, though.

Phil Ball compared Puyol to Camacho in his book as well, didn't he? Thankfully the injury isn't serious. Barring the return of Milito and Puyol, Barca have only one fit central defender, so yes, you're right, we're a bit vulnerable in defence at the moment. :(