Sunday, January 29, 2006

That's more like it, FCB win 3-0, go 12 points clear

Crisis averted, normal service returned, Barca back to winning ways and any other cliche you care to throw in. Only saw the first half which was rather uninspiring stuff. Larsson had two good chances, one a chip that went just over and another from a pass from Ronaldinho (who was booked for absolutely nothing and thus will miss the Athleti game next week, as will Edmilson). Giuly took his goal very well, excellent close control in bring the ball down from Decos pass and firing home through Moyas legs.

Messi, who came on for Larsson in the 73rd minute scored the blaugranas second and third goals in what my Dad tells me was a much better second half display. With Osasunas first home defeat of the season (to Betis...) and Valencia drawing with Saragossa, FCB are, as mentioned, now 12 points clear at the top of La Liga.

In other African Cup of Nations news, Samuel Eto'o scored again in The Cameroons 2-0 defeat of DR of Congo to set up a quarter final with Cote D'Ivoire, who looked rather poor in their game against Egypt on Saturday night. I'd fully expect to see Eto'o et al make the semis and probably go on to win it.
Catalans in Dublin

My mate Mal sent me this link. It's a site for Catalans living in Dublin developed by a guy he used work with. Being as my Catalan is limited to asking for the bill, bidding someone good night and wishing them a Merry Christmas I have no idea what's on there but none the less...

http://www.catalansadublin.com

Saturday, January 28, 2006

And so we begin again

After the shambles that was Thursdays 4-2 defeat to Saragossa, things, as D:Ream would say, can only get better for FCB this Sunday evening when they're away to Hector Cupers Real Mallorca. Cupers side are a dour lot (much like Cuper himself) and having narrowly avoided relegation last season are right back down in the dog fight this year too. They have the second worst defence in the league (conceeded 34, only Sociedad have leaked more with 39) and Samuel Eto'o alone has scored almost as many (18) as Mallorca have as a whole (20). In short they're rubbish and Barca should kick their boring asses. That said, RM do have some decent players, former Juve man Mark Iulanio in defence, Arango (their top scorer with a nose-bleed inducing 6 goals) Doni, Farinos and recent signing Basinas in midfield and er, that's your lot. Argentine Pereyra is alright too but they are seriously lacking up front (Eto'o, Diego Tristan, Walter Pandiani and Albert Luque have all left the island club in recent seasons for pastures greener and pay packets fatter).

Deco, moronic suspension over with, is back in the squad, as are Puyol (left out on Thursday to disasterous effect) and Giuly. The injured Belletti misses out so it will be Oleguer at right back. With both Puyol and Valdes back the collective brain freeze that saw the hitherto stingy Barca defence leak 3 goals in five minutes should be able to hold out against a team averaging a single goal per game. And so long as Deco doesn't pull anyones hair, steal their lunch money or kick in their locker, the midfield ought be in better shape too.

The blaugrana need a good win to put Thursday behind them and Mallorca, being as they are hopeless, is just the place to do it.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Run ends at 18... and how

4-2! 4 goals shipped! 4! Good god! If ever evidence were needed that Carles Puyol holds Barcas defence together this is it. 4 goals! 3 in five minutes. Thankfully it's only Mallorca on Sunday evening. Being as I was in work I didn't see any of this debacle so match reports will have to be poured over in the morning, stats analysed, hair pulled out, expletives uttered. 4-2! Good-bloody-night...

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Keep on truckin'

So FCB did just fine without Samuel Eto'o at the weekend, winning 2-0 against Alaves and maintaining their 10 point advantage over both Valencia and Osasuna and making it an incredible 18 wins in a row. Eto'o meanwhile has scored 4 goals in two games (inc. a hatrick in the opener against Angola).

Tonights game against Saragossa (Sky Sports 1, 7.30pm) in the Copa sees both Puyol and Giuly rested (the squad for the game is listed here). It's a well earned break for Puyol whos run of 35 straight matches came to an end when he came off after 85 mins on Sunday. Expect both to be back for the league match against Mallorca on Sunday (Sky Sports 1, 6.pm)

Oh, it's worth mentioning that Maxi Lopez got his first run out of the season on Sunday, he came on in the 85th minute for Giuly and recieved a fantastic reception from the Camp Nou. With the transfer window almost closed it would seem that he's staying at Barca, at least until the summer. Good for him.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Bottoms up

Tonight it’s top against bottom at the Camp Nou and at half time it’s still 0-0 and Alaves, who won 2-0 away to Depor in their last outing and held Barca to an incredibly frustrating 0-0 draw on the opening day of the season with an inspired performance from Roberto Bonano (who doesn't play tonight), have had some decent chances, not least a free kick that Victor Valdes tipped onto the crossbar on 25 minutes.

Barca are, as expected, dominating, Giuly has just missed a sitter and both Marquez and Larsson have put headers just wide but the final ball has really been lacking. Far too much of the play has gone down the centre where Alaves are strongest... As I type this Larsson has just scored from a Giuly cross after a complete balls up by the Alaves keeper Costanzo. Much more of FCBs passing is going down the flanks and the game is opening up much more than in the first 45.

As the battery is about to run out on my iBook so I'll have to keep the rest of this rather short. Decos red card in the last La Liga game against Bilbao for pulling Carlos Gurpegi's hair is to stand. He's suspended for both tonights game and the Copa Del Rey game on Thursday against Saragossa.

I'll post a match report tomorrow afternoon. ('dinho has just missed a penalty by inches... argh!)

Monday, January 16, 2006

Sweet Sixteen *groan*

2-1, sixteen wins in a row, with goals from Ronaldinho and Messi after going 0-1 down to a header from Llorente after only fifteen minutes. Barcelona were, from what I saw of the highlights of the first half, all over the place until 'dinhos penalty brought them level. They were much, much better in the second, Mark Van Bommel in particular was dominant in midfield.

Whatever of the match though, it's what was said afterward by Bilbao coach Javier Clemente that's getting all the attention today. In the 90th minute Deco took a rather blatant dive on the edge of the Bilbao area. Carlos Gurpegui, taking acception to this kind of blousy behaviour said something to our Portugese playmaker who promptly got up and clouted Gurpegui around the back of the head and pulled his hair (yes really). Within seconds everyone was involved, lots of pushing, shoving and other instances of handbaggery with Deco having to be lead off the pitch by Frank Rijkaard.

In the two minutes or so that remained there was plenty more posturing and just a little bit of spitting in the face of Unai Expósito by Samuel Eto'o. Contemptable as Eto'os actions were it was nothing compared to Clementes post match statement that "I thought that spitting was something only done by those who have just come down from the trees."

In sharp contrast to the muted reaction to Luis Aragones calling Thierry Henry a "black shit", the media response in Spain today has been damning. Whether this is down to Clemente being about as popular with spanish journalists as Tana Umaga at a Landsdowne Road as opposed to actual outrage at his comments is open to debate, Clemente is a disagreeable sort who has few friends in the media, born mostly of his spell in charge of the national team. That said it's a start for a country that regularly sweeps instances of racial abuse at football matches under the carpet or issues laughable fines to those clubs involved.

Read Sid Lowes article on Clemente from todays Guardian.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

A is for Athletic

It's Athletic Bilbao this Sunday at the Nou Camp for Barcelona. Poor Athletic, back under the stewardship of Javier Clemente, are second from bottom in La Liga and just off a 4-0 hammering at the Bernebau in the Copa del Rey.

Athletics poor form this season is perplexing, they have just three wins out of eighteen (against barrel scraping Mallorca, Betis and Real Sociedad on the opening day of the day). While they have lost Del Horno and Ezquerro to Chelsea and Barca respectively, they still have an abundance of decent players,
Aranzubia in goal, Karanka, Iraola and Orbaiz in defence (fantas)Tiko, Yeste, Etxeberria, Gurpegi in midfield and the awkward Vieri-a-like Urzaiz up front. Yet they have been less than the sum of their parts, losing matches like it was going out of fashion and looking very much like getting relegated for the very first time in their history.

Thus Barca should look to make it 16 wins in a row this evening without too much hastle despite being without Thiago Motta for up to six weeks having injured his knee in training. Motta, as Bill Clement would say, just can't seem to catch a break. Back in the side after missing most of last season through, you guessed it, a knee injury, he was playing well and making the holding role in midfield his own. Expect Mark Van Bommel or Marquez to come in for him this evening.

This will be Samuel Eto'o last game before he heads to the African Cup of Nations in Egypt (which starts on Friday, coverage on BBC Three).

Coverage of the second half is on Sky Sports 1 from seven. What happens in the first fourty five minutes will just have to remain a mystery. Of course all of the Madrid game against Sevilla is being shown afterward...

Copa del Rey

Now to quickly round up other FCB news. Barca beat Zamora 6-0 in the Copa on Wednesday night and will now play either Athletico Madrid or Zaragoza in the quarter finals. Their match was postponed due to 17 Athleti players coming down with gastroentiritis.

Maxi to say at the Camp Nou

Maxi Lopez, linked with loan moves here, there and everywhere in the past month has said that he is going to stay at Barca and fight for his place. Good for him. I really like Maxi and would very much like to see him get a run out in Eto'o absence (though Larsson will probably be first choice). He scored his first goal of the season against Zamora.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

It's been a long time...

So it's been a while since I last posted anything. I'm currently broadbandless in my new abode (on the Merrion Road) and don't have blogger access in work so you'll have to excuse my lack o' posting for another week or two. Loads of stuff has been going on at FCB of late. Here's a quick run down:

Henry staying at Arsenal - good news if your name is Leo Messi or Ludovic Giuly but rather disappointing if you're anyone else at Barca. Henrys arrival in the summer seemed a certainty but yesterday he said that he will sign a new contract with the Gunners.

Damia loaned to Santander - hardly in the same league as the Henry story, but the right sided defender is being loaned to Racing for the remainder of this season and next. There is no option to buy. With Belletti, Gabri and Oleguer all ahead of him in the queue it's a sensible move for him. He ought do well in a Santander side who are fairly poor.

Eto'o and the African Cup of Nations - Samuel Eto'o, scorer of the winner last night in the derby against Espanyol, will join up with The Cameroons after the game this week against Athletic Bilbao. He'll miss the games against Alaves, Mallorca and Athletico Madrid plus some Copa Del Rey games. So long as he doesn't get injured in Egypt I don't see there being anything to worry about here, the aforementioned three are poor sides and Barca should beat them anyway.

1-3 win at Zamora in the Copa Del Rey - Barca beat Zamora, who play in Segunda B, 1-3 away. The only points of interest were Van Bommels return and the fact that Zamora scored first. The second leg is to be played in the Camp Nou this week. Nothing more to see here, move along.

Putas, putas Espanyoles! 1-2 win in the derby - only caught the very end of the first half and the second last night. Barca the better team with goals either side of half time from Deco (who was stretchered off after being knocked unconcious after colliding with Motta) and Eto'o. Espanyol looked much better once they scored and made a right go of it in the end. Motta was excellent as were Eto'o, Edmilson and Messi. The win is the blaugranas 15th in a row.