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.