Saturday, October 20, 2007

Barca news ahead of the Villarreal game

Club football is back with a bang with some interesting games in Spain this weekend and the return of the Champions League midweek, amidst the sound of club coaches grumbling about their charges returning injured (poor Arjen Robben) or tired.

Internationals

Gabi Milito
and Leo Messi scored the goals for Argentina as they beat Venezuela away to top the qualifying table with 6 points. Hasta El Gol Siempre has a match report, and I definitely recommend checking out Messi's goal.

Congratulations to Thierry Henry who broke Michel Platini's record to become the leading scorer in France's history. He scored both goals as France made hard work out of beating Lithuania by dominating but not breaking the deadlock until late on. The second in particular was very nice. Eric Abidal and Lilian Thuram also played.

Spain played a (brilliantly timed) friendly against Finland which was described by the press as a training match. (It was a 0-0 draw, naturally.) Puyol, Iniesta and Xavi all played 45 minutes.

Deco played 90 minutes yet again for Portugal as they beat Kazakhstan 2-1 in a victory which was reportedly more laboured than the 2-0 win over Azerbaijan. (If Portugal somehow contrive to miss out from a group featuring such luminaries, then there should be an inquest. Happily, they appear to now be on course.)

Eidur Gudjohnsen played for Iceland as they went down 3-0 (!) to Liechtenstein. Oh dear.

Ronaldinho played and scored in Brazil's 5-0 victory over Ecuador in the Maracana stadium. This was a much needed result for them after the way they played against Columbia, and apparently Ronnie is starting to look a bit better.

Giovani Dos Santos played the first 45 minutes for Mexico as they went down 2-3 to Guatemala. To be fair to him, Mexico only began to collapse in the second half, although I've heard conflicting things about his performance.

Villarreal v Barca

The big story of this game is the reunion of old Arsenal and France pals Robert Pires and Thierry Henry. So we've got Pires being encouraging and positive about Henry, as he's been since the beginning, while warning team mates to watch out for that Messi guy too. The official site has an article detailing the past history between the two, and UEFA.com's preview also focuses on them.

Problem: Ronaldinho didn't even make the Friday training sesson, so he's obviously in no condition to play 90 minutes on Saturday. Worryingly, his natural substitute Giovani doesn't get back until Friday either, although he did make training. If Yaya Toure were fit, the easy solution would be to play Iniesta in Ronnie's left-wing position, but he's not, so that won't work either. Ronnie has been left out of the squad, which is probably a wise decision, given that it will keep him fresh for the Rangers game, but I'm not sure what the alternatives are going to be in this game.

Villarreal were the last side to defeat Barca, the 2-0 result in El Madrigal perfectly summing up the malaise of last season. Ironically, that game sent Villarreal on their amazing winning run which lasted for 8 matches - straight to the end of the season. To be fair, Frank Rijkaard's Barca has often found Villarreal away a difficult game to deal with. I have painfully vivid memories of the 3-0 thrashing in the 04-05 season orchestrated by one Juan Roman Riquelme.

Other news

Barcelona have drawn CD Alcoyano of the Spanish third division in the Copa del Rey. The official website also has this great story about a Barca B game against Alcoyano: In the 2005/06 season, Alcoyano and Barça B took part in a bizarre match that saw Barça B travel to Alcoy on no less than three occasions to complete the 90 minutes. First the Barça B party had to return from Alcoy after the match was suspended due to heavy snowfall. At the second attempt the match was once again suspended in the 50th minute after a technical fault left the El Collao stadium without electricity. It was a case of third time lucky for Alcoyano, who finally won the match 2-0.

Samuel Eto'o is now a Spanish citizen, which means that the only non-EU player on the roster is Yaya Toure.

There's an interesting interview with Thierry Henry from the New York Times, where he talks about his charity work, the differences between Spain and England, and his love for Basketball amongst other things.

Update on Giovani's contract situation: the boy himself says that negotiations will probably be completed in November or December, if things go according to plan.

Txiki gave a recent interview in which he said that the club were looking to give Messi and probably Iniesta a better contract. Messi's dad and agent Jorge has come out and said that they're not actually too bothered about a new, better contract, which is about the first time I've heard that from an agent.

6 comments:

atleti said...

Yaya doesn't count as an extracommunitarian based on the new agreement in Liga to treat African players as EU players, I think.

Too bad the higher-ups once again denied countless viewers the opportunity to see the game. They did show (live) Depor v Valencia in it's place, which was OK. I was hoping for the Villarreal game, though.

Linda said...

Yeah, he won't, but the paperwork still has to go through first.

I was able to catch the game on ESPN. Always depressing when we lose, but at least Villarreal are a decent side, so it's not too bad.

Anonymous said...

This is a very well-balanced blog.
Bizarre you support Argentina.

Linda said...

Thanks!

(And if you think me supporting Argentina is strange, my father - who introduced me to the game - supports Brazil. And Real Madrid.)

-atleti said...

That's hilarious! I'm sure you two have some very interesting discussions.

Anonymous is right: you're very well-balanced and objective when it comes to Argentina. I couldn't blog about the NT to save my life--my biases would take over instantly.

Linda said...

We argue all the time, but that's par for the course no matter what we're talking about. :D

I'm as biased as everyone else - I've just gotten used to concealing them beneath a veil of objectivity.