Monday, February 27, 2006

Phil Ball on the racisim in La Liga

Phil Ball, writing on Soccernet about the events in Aragon on Saturday night.
Crikey! Perez resigns as president of Real

Florentino Perez has resigned as president of Real Madrid with immediate effect. Can't say I care all that much but it is fairly out of the blue.

In more Catalancentric news, 'dinho is out of the Brazil game in midweek against Russia with an ankle sprain. Ludovic Giuly is almost back from injury and may be able to play against Depor at the weekend.
Sid Lowe on racism in Spain

Sid Lowe in todays Guardian on the racist idiots in Saragossa on Saturday Night (and every other night).

Amy Lawrence on the coming of age of La Masia graduates Leo Messi and Cesc Fabregas (from yesterdays Observer)

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Scumbags and racists: Dublin and Saragossa

Thuggery and rioting in Dublin verus moronic racism in Saragossa. It's hard to know which is worse.

One also has to wonder whether the Spanish FA (who fined Saragossa €600 for similar chanting last year, six-fucking-hundred euros, they'd get a stiffer fine if they parked the team bus illegally) will do anything about this or if it will be the same old vague and empty promises, something along the lines of "this sort of behaviour cannot be tolerated" while ignoring it and hoping that it might go away. The only way to deal with this is by docking the clubs who allow this ignorant behaviour to take place points or give them heavy stadium bans. The clubs have loads of money and unless the fines are €1,000,000 upwards they're unlikely to take any notice of them. Losing three points because some idiots want to make monkey noises at Samuel Eto'o or Julio Baptista or playing a few games behind closed doors is far more likely to have an impact and make them sit up and do something. Otherwise you can expect to hear racist fucks ooh-ooh-oohing to their hearts content, safe in the knowledge that nothing will happen to either them or their club as a result of it.

Like it matters all that much in light of what happened but Barcelona won the game 0-2 with a Ronaldinho (who limped off late on) penatly after former Barça player Albert Celades handled on the line in the seventy ninth minute and Larsson converting Eto'os cross in the eighty first. which leaves them eight points clear of Valencia after their draw this afternoon with Getafe and ten of Real who lost for the second time in a week, 2-1 away to the utterly useless Mallorca.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Toys out of pram

Loads today about last nights game for you to mull over.

Richard Williams, Kevin McCarra and Phil Ball.

Predictably Jose Mourinho is whining about del Hornos red card. Oddly he wasn't as vocal about Josep Reinas sending off as a result of Robbens play acting. The referee, Terje Hauge, has today defended his decission to send off the Basque defender.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

A special one: FCB win 1-2

What a game! Two own goals! Del Horno sent off! Messi amazing, Motta shocking, Valdes shaky, Ferriera and Terry (despite his own goal) outstanding, pitch absolutely dreadful, Marquez emense. An fantastic game from start to finish. The Battle of the Somme pitch didn't help either side and there was some fairly loose passing from both sides, Motta and Deco in particular were giving-it-away, giving-it-away, giving-it-away now all evening in midfield. The best chance of the first half fell to 'dinho who's shot on the half hour was brilliantly saved by Cech. It all kicked off (as a snarling Andy Gray would say) in the thirty-fifth minute when del Horno clattered into Leo Messi, getting none of the ball and all of the Barça forward. After much rolling around, pushing and shoving and overly dramatic hand gestures del Horno was shown a straight red which which considering it was a deliberate and cyncial foul is fair enough. Geremi came on in place of Joe Cole as Chelsea re-shuffled their defence. Geremis only meanful contribution of the first half was to stop Rafa Marquez shot with his hand (no penatly though).

After the first 45 it was Crespo off and useless donkey Drogba on. Long ball ahoy! Despite enjoying over 60% of posession, FCB did damn all for the first fifteen minutes and almost on the hour mark Chelsea score from a Frank Lampard free kick that both Valdes and Motta make a complete balls of, running into each other and John Terry and haplessly watching the ball cannon off either Thiagos arse or Victors knee and into the net. Five minutes later Motta is limping off (who knows what he's injured this time but he's been rubbish this evening so no loss) Larsson on and on seventy minutes it's game on when Terry gets involved at the other end of the pitch and deflects 'dinhos freekick past Cech. For the final twenty Barça poured forward and despite some incredible Chelsea defending Samuel Eto'o got on the end of Marquez cross and powered a header past Cech. 1-2. Some other stuff happened after that, more shots on goal, more yellow cards and more last ditch defending from the Blues (it's late okay, read the match reports if you want more details, I'm going home to bed...)

The Guardian's minute-by-minute match report is here and the fcbarcelona.es one here.
The countdown

Just under an hour to go until kick off at the bridge so just enough time for me to nip to Donnybrook Fair for some nosh and get back infront of EyeTV to catch the game. It's really hard to predict how this evening is going to go, Chelsea have been playing poorly of late but then, Saturdays win over Betis aside, so have Barça. The pitch is a waterlogged mess and is bound to cause problems for FCBs passing game, who unlike Chelsea with Drogba, can't really punt it high and long and hope Eto'o gets his head on it.

Giuly aside, Barcelona are at full strenght. Chelsea are missing William Gallas and the suspended Michael Essien (he's out for both legs). I'd expect Barça to go for it this evening, as if they know any other way... I'm curious to see how Leo Messi fairs against the likes of Terry and Carvalho, stronger, more physical defenders than he's used to facing in La Liga. Right, to the fair! I'll post up some post match reaction later on. Forca Barça!

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Interview with Samuel Eto'o in todays Sunday Times

An excellent interview with Samuel Eto'o by Ian Hawkey from The Sunday Times.
Barça open a can of whoop ass on Betis plus sponsorship news

It's fairly easy to see what's wrong at Betis. Their joint top scorer with a mere four goals is Ricardo Olivera who has been out injured since the start of November. Olivera scored 22 goals last season and powered Betis to a fourth place finish above Sevilla (thus ensuring their first ever appearence at the Champions League) in addition to winning the Copa Del Rey. Without Olivera and with a defence leaker than the port tunnel, regularly conceeding three, four and five goals per-game, Betis have been kicking around the religation zone and could well do a Celta Vigo and see both the European Cup and La Segunda Liga in the same season.

They were on the end of a 5-1 whooping last night. Henrik Larsson started and opened the scoring after 20 minutes with his fifth goal of the season. Poor old Joan Melli scored two own goals. Ronaldinho scored a free kick and Messi completed the rout in the 85th minute after Joaquin had pulled on back for Betis. After two defeats on the bounce Barça were back to their awesome best last night. Victor Valdes pulled of some excellent saves and looked back to his old self after his calamitous mistake that allowed David Villa to score the only goal in the Valencia game last week. Thiago Motta, carefully side stepping some rakes and a banana skin came on mid way through the second half and managed to avoid breaking or dislocating anything. Messi also came on in place of Larsson and scored his sixth of the season and ought start against Chelsea on Wednesday night at Stamford Bridge. Speaking of young Leo, Kevin Palmer has a good article on the rapidly maturing Argentine forward.

Oh, an update on FCB and shirt sponsorship. Bet and Win will not be defiling the blaugrana shirt with their garish logo after the company withdrew their offer. No loss.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

More on Henrik Larsson and Eto'o is African Player of the year (again)

More here from Reuters on Larssons impending return to Sweden with Helsingborg.

Samuel Eto'o has won the African Player of the Year for the third year in a row, The only other player to do this was Abedi Pele when he was playing for Olympique Marseille. He beat Chelsea's Drogba by two votes. A complete list of all the winners since 1970 is here.
Dirty Tricks and Larsson going back to Sweden

The forever injured Thiago Motta spoke today of how Barça expect dirty tricks from Chelsea in their Champions League encounter. Considering the nonsense that went on last year with Andres Frisk, Ricardo Carvalho's challange on Victor Valdes as the winning goal was scored and the general poisionous atmosphere between the two clubs, I'm hoping it's the football we'll be talking about this time rather than Jose Mourinhos mouthing off about everything from Deco's diving (he has some nerve) to Frank Rijkaard daring to speak to the referee.

Also reported today by the BBC is Henrik Larssons return to Sweden at the end of the season, signing an 18 month deal with Helsingborg. No surprise here, between injuries and Eto'os amazing form Larsson has hardly gotten a look in since he joined the club in 2004 from Celtic.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

As if!

As predicted, the Eto'o to Chelsea speculation is just that, speculation. "It's only because the game is getting closer. If we advance and we play against Juventus, then they will say that Fabio Capello also wants me." Move along, nothing to see here...

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

The numbers game, Eto'o to Chelsea? plus injury update

This is especially for John Clancy who's complained about my lack of posting now that Bar
ça are losing like it's going of fashion. After playing their worst game of the season last Sunday against Athletico Madrid, the blaugrana took on second placed Valencia and Victor Valdes disasterous mistake aside, FCB were much the better team. They had 69% posession, 18 shots on goal and totally dominated but just couldn't make it count. Missing Ronaldinho, Deco and Messi and seeing Giuly go off with a muscular contraction at half time, this is the first time they've failed to score since their 0-0 draw with Panathinaikos back in early October. The result leaves FCB six points clear of Valencia (just two weeks ago it was twelve) and seven ahead of Real, who beat a sorry Bilbao side 0-2 in the San Mames on Saturday (I watched the first six minutes, which was all it took Madrid to score and then switched over to Aliens on Sky Cinema. From the match reports I've read it doesn't sound like I missed much, though it seems injury magnet Jon Woodgate played well)

Both Sid Lowe and Phil Ball wrote about the game yesterday and their colums are worth a read.

And so it beings

Everytime Chelsea played Liverpool last season the "Gerrard to Stamford Bridge" story would leak out a few days beforehand. It was always the same, some massive bid that was too good to refuse would be launched, Rafa Benitez would use the money to buy x, y and z and Gerrard, fed up with Liverpools underachivement would move south in order to win both the Premiership and the Champions League. Things didn't quite work out that way, Liverpool beat Milan on penalties in Istanbul to win the European Cup , Gerrard stayed ("how could I leave after this?") and Chelsea bought the over-rated Michael Essien instead. Fast forward to this season and it's Samuel Eto'os turn. With their Champions League match eight days away, the first of the "Eto'o to Stamford Bridge" stories have started to appear. The figure being mentioned is £30 million but no doubt that has just been plucked out of the air. Of course it also ties in nicely with the Thierry Henry stories. Expect it to resurface before the second leg is played too.

Eto'os strike partner, Leo Messi seems to be recovering well from the muscle strain in his right leg. He's back in training and should be fit for the Betis game. With the aforementioned Giuly doubtful this is indeed good news.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Run ends at 14 and the Valencia game tomorrow night

It had to be Athletico didn't it? The only team to beat Bar
ça in the league thus far had to be the ones to end the run. Languishing in 11th place and seldom looking the sum of their expensively assembled parts, the matress makers seem only to play well against Barcelona. They've beaten them three times out of the last four (the other game being a frustrating 0-0 draw in the Vicente Calderon) and Sunday nights result was so completely inevitable, to typically FCB, to come within one victory of emulating the Real Madrid side of the early sixties with 15 wins on the bounce, only to blow it against the other team from Madrid, the crap one, losing their first home game since this time last season, a 0-2 defeat to, you guessed it, Athletico-bloody-Madrid. Barça were dreadful. Without Ronaldinho, Eto'o and with Leo Messi taken off injured at half time they were completely blunt and ala the Saragossa match in the Copa, all over the place at the back. It's as bad as they've played all season in la liga and doesn't bode at all well for tomorrows trip to the Mestalla to face second placed Valencia (Sky Sports 1, 8:00pm)

The squad for the game has been announced and while Eto'o is back from missing penalties at the African Cup of Nations, Bar
ça will be without Deco (left leg), Messi (thigh) and 'dinho (suspended). Considering their current up-and-down form (two victories and two defeats in the last four) I think the best the blaugrana can hope for is a draw. Valencia are very tight defensively, David Villa is on top form at the moment (he's scored 14 thus far) and they're unbeaten in their last 11 league matches. After his abject perfromance against Athletico I imagine Gabri will drop back onto the bench with Oleguer at right back, the midfield will be Van Bommel, Edmilson, Iniesta with either Larsson or Santi Ezquerro coming in for 'dinho on the left of the forward line.

Unfortunately I won't see that match as I'm working Sunday night (and most nights from now on, I don't know what I'm going to do for the Chelsea games...)

Round up: Out of the Copa, Eto'o to keep his nerve and a new pitch at the Camp Nou

As I'm sure you know FCB were knocked out of the Copa despite winning 2-1 in the return leg against Saragossa (who went on to trounce Real 6-1 in the first leg of the semi-final, have a read of the hilarious match report on realmadrid.com). Old news at this stage.

Second up is Samuel Eto'o, still top scorer in La Liga despite his two week absence, says he won't shy away from taking penalties after his miss in the epic shoot-out against La Cote D'Ivorie. Considering I've seen Sammy miss as many as he scores this is a brave decission indeed.

There's a new pitch at the Camp Nou! As the old one was dreadful this can only be a good thing.

Lastly, thanks to Jose for inviting me to catch FCB matches with you guys but at the moment, as I mentioned already, I'm working evenings and nights so unless Bar
ça are playing on a Saturday I don't get to see the games.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

The transfer window shuts, the Copa squad for tonight
Yesterday Gabri turned down a move to West Ham (who have signed Depors Lionel Scaloni on loan instead) in what was pretty much the only FCB related transfer activity in January bar Damias move to Santander. Gabri wanted to stay and I'm happy he has. He gives another option down the right, more defensive than Belletti and a bit more assured than Oleguer who still gets caught out of position occasionally when he's playing right back.

The squad for tonights "don't call it a comeback" match against Saragossa in the Camp Nou has been announced. It's as expected, no Maxi or the aforementioned Gabri as the squad can only be 16 rather than the 18 allowed for Liga games. Deco, Puyol and Giuly are back. Bar
ça need a 2-0 win to progress to the semis against Real. They should do it.

Oh, thanks to Sergi of catalansadublin.com for linking to my blog. It also turns out that for non-Catalan speakers like me, there is an English translation at the bottom of each page, so check it out. And my apologies Sergi for not spelling Bar
ça correctly. Rather than ignorance it's been down to pure laziness on my part. It shant happen again.