Stuttgart 0-2 Barca
A 2-0 away win against the German champions, who hadn't lost at home for 19 games - yeah, I'll take that. We've never had an easy time in Germany, and this was no different. This result, combined with Rangers' fantastic win, have left us very well placed in the group.
However, Rijkaard criticized the forward line for being wasteful and hinted that the star players would have to work harder. The players who were interviewed - including Valdes, Oleguer and Deco - seemed to agree.
"The only thing he can't do is play in goal." - Rijkaard on Andres Iniesta.And damn right, too. Iniesta is a brilliant talent who is criminally underrated. Frankie also praised the crucial saves made by Valdes, the great job Abidal did as an emergency centerback, and the fitness of Ronaldinho.
Congratulations to Xavi for becoming the player who has played the most international club matches for Barca at 86 games, 70 of them in the Champions League. Remarkably, he's still only 27. His first Champions League game, incidentally, was that memorable 3-3 draw at Old Trafford in 1998.
Congratulations are also due to Leo Messi, who has scored 7 goals in his last 5 consecutive games for Barca. The Argentine is currently top of the scoring charts in both La Liga and the Champions League, despite not being an out and out striker. So you could say that he's got some form at the moment. This bests his record last season of 5 goals in 3 consecutive games. (It's worth pointing out that despite missing 3 months through injury and thus only playing 36 games for Barca last season, he managed 17 goals, a remarkable tally.)
So, 5 victories in a row, 15 goals scored, 3 conceded. Not bad. 11 of those goals came courtesy of Messi and Henry, which is a pretty scary statistic (the others are an own goal, Iniesta, Marquez and Puyol).
injury crisis time
This was the state of our defence after the Stuttgart game. Available players:
defensive midfield: Marc Crosas
central defence: Thuram (yes, we've only got one fit central defender. Oh dear.)
Thankfully, both Puyol and Milito trained on Thursday, so it seems that they will be fit to face Atletico Madrid, fingers crossed.
The news on Marquez is not as good. He's going to be out for a month with a torn muscle in his right leg, which means we've got no defensive midfielders for a month at the very least. Any more of this and I'm going to start missing Motta. (He's injured too? Oh. Poor guy.)
So here's the injury list as it stands currently:
Long term - Eto'o (2 months, torn leg muscle), Zambrotta (1-2 months, torn leg muscle), Toure (1-2 months, torn femoral biceps), Marquez (torn leg muscle), Edmilson (2-3 months, knee problems)
Short term - Gudjohnsen (knee trouble)
I'm starting to see a theme here with the long term injuries, and I don't like it.
Barca v Atletico
Atletico are never easy opponents for Barca, and the state of our defence does not inspire confidence at the moment. Mr Guardiola? Can you spare, say, your entire defence? The first team needs to borrow them.
On the other hand, our 'black beast' and former chief tormentor Fernando Torres has now left for Liverpool, which is nice, if not for the fact that he's been replaced by Diego Forlan.
The Barca website builds the game up thus:
All in all, Sunday’s match in the Camp Nou looks set to be a classic encounter: fourth versus fifth, two historic rivals, two attacking teams, the two top scorers and two teams in great form.Atletico star Sergio 'Kun' Aguero has been speaking about the great start to the season made by both himself and good friend Leo Messi. The two little Argies top the goalscoring charts in Spain with 5 goals each. Not bad for a pair whose combined age is 39.
The game will also see the return of some familiar faces to the Camp Nou. Unfortunately, as I mentioned above, Thiago Motta is unfit and will not travel. Fellow youth team graduate Luis Garcia will be returning, though, and I hope he gets a good reception. I've always liked him, and he certainly contributed a lot to Barca's rise in the 03-04 season. Also returning will be Simao Sabrosa, who had the misfortune of being signed by Louis van Gaal at a time when he wasn't ready for La Liga. He has now developed into a mature player as well as a skilful one, and will no doubt be a handful for the Barca defence.
On a different note, here's a great article about Barcelona's cantera, or youth system.
Lastly, it seems like former Barca assistant coach Henk ten Cate, who is now coach of Ajax, will indeed be joining Chelsea - the club he branded 'pathetic', amongst other things, during Barca's turbulent meetings with them in 04-05 and 05-06 - as an assistant coach. This is the man who allegedly kicked a Chelsea staff member up the backside. I'm strangely saddened by this.