Wednesday, May 31, 2006

News update: Gabri and Edmilson to miss the World Cup

My season round up remains half-written and neglected. With my going to A town next week it will probably remain unfinished for a while yet. I'll get there though. In the meantime a little, and I stress a little, Barça news.


Gabri has now officially left the club. He gave his final press conference with Joan Laporta on May 29th. His most likely destination would appear to be Ajax, Henk ten Cate has stated that he'd like to bring in the Catalan midfielder. That said, should he not want to uproot his young family, Espanyol, where good footballers go to die, might be an option, but he can do better than that.

On a more somber note, FCB midfielder Edmilson today picked up an injury that will rule him out of the World Cup. He was in tears as the made the announcement today at the Brasil training camp in Weggis. Edmilson has had an absolutely outstanding season with Barça this year after missing so much of last year with a knee injury. It's the same right knee that (though this time a ruptured kneecap *ouch*) that sees him sit out the World Cup in Germany. He's a huge loss to Brasil who are very short on decent defensive players. His replacement is Minerio of Sao Paolo, who I've seen play only 1nce, against Liverpool in the World Club Super Mega Hyper Trophy Cup last year in which he scored the winner.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Twenty Six

I doubt I’ve seen a worse game all season. Barcelona, shorn of most of their starting eleven, weren’t bothered. Athletic Bilbao, who were pretty much at full strength were rubbish. Samuel Eto’o scored with a fantastic drive from outside the box in the first half to claim the Pichichi and equal Hugo Sanchez record of fifty goals in two seasons. Bilbao, who were awful beyond description for the first period came back to score three in the second, with Iriola, Felipe (in his last game for the club) and Oleguer (a hapless attempt at a clearance that went straight past Jorquera) all finding the net.


Maxi played alright at times but he was no where in the second half (much like the rest of the team) Jorquera made one or two good saves late on but could do nothing about any of the goals. Orlandi had a reasonable game at left back (he had one great free kick that Santi Ezquerro really ought to have put away) and er, that was about it. It’s never nice to loose but in the circumstances, who cares. Sammy got his goal and that’s all that matters. Move along, nothing more to see here.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Athletic squad plus ten Cate press conference

With most of the Bar
ça squad having left for international duty with their respective World Cup squads and having both Sylvinho and Gabri suspended, the squad for tonights game at the San Mames has a somewhat unfamiliar look to it. That said, the likes of Motta, Eto'o (currently tied with David Villa on 25 goals for the
Pichichi), Giuly, Belletti and Oleguer all make the trip to Bilbao for what is a completely meaningless game for both sides. Athletic have a full squad to choose from bar Fran Yeste who's injured.

Henk ten Cate took his final press conference (there's a good picture of Frank and Henk) today before he leaves for Ajax. ten Cate is a huge loss to the coaching staff at the Camp Nou and I'm very curious to see who will replace him.

I very much that hope Sammy can score tonight, he'd not only take the Pichichi but he'd also match Hugo Sanchez record of scoring fifty goals in two seasons. So echoing my noisy friends from Barcelona... A l'Eto'o! A l'Eto'o!

Friday, May 19, 2006

Ajax and Thierry Henry

As expected, Henk ten Cate has been unveiled as the new coach at Ajax Amsterdam today. He suceeds Danny Blind. He has signed a two year contract.

Also, Thierry Henry has decided to say at Arsenal, signing a new four year contract. Good news as his arrival at Barça would have seriously unbalanced the team and set Leo Messi's development back. It would probably have seen Giuly leave too.

I've not had time to post up a review of the Champions League Final yet, I've been very busy but I shall get to it over the weekend. Oh, no squad news ahead of the Bilbao game tomorrow.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Campions!

Gol Eto'o! Gol Belletti (Belletti?!) Forca Barça! I am quite drunk and insanely happy. More on this tomorrow. Until then have a read of the FCB report and that of The Guardian.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Paris Match

Three hours to go...

No team news as of yet but I suspect that Barça will line up as follows:

Valdes in goal, Oleguer, Puyol, Marquez and Van Bronckhorst in defence, Iniesta, Edmilson and Deco across the midfield and 'dinho, Giuly and Samuel Eto'o up front. While Messi is fit it's highly unlikely he'll start and having been out injured for three months it would be most unfair to expect him to.

I expect tonight to be tight, Arsenal have a water-tight defence but I don't think they'll contain Barça for ninety minutes. I'll stick my neck out and say that the blaugrana will win 2-1. Should it go to extra time and penalties I'd have to fancy Arsenal. Lehmann is much better than Valdes and Eto'o will take a penalty and miss it. I have lots of stuff to get done between now and then so, I'm out. Visca Barça.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

The calm before the storm

BREAKING NEWS!

Messi declared fit! Crikey! He probably won't start but still... He's fit.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch...

I'll get to posting my thoughts on the match in Paris tomorrow morning but before I head into work, a quick round up.

Barça lost for the first time in fourteen on Saturday night, 3-2 to UEFA Cup winners Sevilla. Despite going 2-0 down early on, the blaugrana battled back to 2-2 at half time with goals from Santi Ezquerro and Sylvinho. Kepa won it for Sevilla late on and gave them a fantastic chance of making the Champions League for the first time in their history should they beat Real Madrid at home this evening.

The game saw debuts for Ludovic and Montanes. It was good for them to get a run out and with so many Barça players joining up with their respective World Cup squads after Wednesday we could well see them again on Friday night at the San Mames. Defeat aside in what was a completely meaningless game for Barça the only negative was Gabri's sending off (in stoppage time too) which means he's played his last game in a blaugrana shirt (he's highly unlikely to feature tomorrow). It's a shame that his seven years at the Camp Nou had to end on such a downer. It was also Henrik Larsson's last La Liga game though even with Messi being back in the squad he should play some part in Paris. Right, that's your lot for the moment. I've to get gone.

Friday, May 12, 2006

'ooo are ye?

Eto'o. Ronaldinho. Giuly. Messi. Puyol. Marquez. Edmilson. Deco. van Bronckhorst. Not one of this lot will be in Sevilla this Saturday. The squad features three Barça B players (Rodri, Ludovic Sylvestre and Francisco Montañés) and one from Barça C (Francisco Javier Martos). Barça fucking C. If I were in Sevilla myself this weekend with a few hours to spare and a pair of football boots, I reckon my chances of a run out late on would be pretty good.

Expect Jorquera in goal, with Maxi and Ezquerro up front alongside Larsson. Gabri will start too, either in the holding role in midfield or at right back. If Sevilla, still on a high after their UEFA Cup victory, don't beat Barça tomorrow then they'll never beat them.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Rearranged

Get out your log books and abacus because the LFP is doing some re-arranging of the fixture list thanks to the Sevilla game being rained off. This was supossed to be played on May 20th but it's now been switched to this Saturday. Barça's final match of the season will still be on the 20th, but it will be at the San Mames, against Athletic. With the Champions League final only days away, the blaugrana are going to put out the B team this weekend anyway, so why all this shuffling I don't know.

In more Sevilla related news, they hammered Middlesboro 4-0 this evening in Eindhoven to win the UEFA Cup. Saviola only played the first fourty five but he has a medal to show for his efforts. Good for him.

Also, Gabri has confirmed he's leaving Barcelona after 7 years. Gabri is a decent player somewhat handicapped by the fact that he can play either at right back or in midfield and thus never really managed to hold down a place in either possition. I of course wish him all the best. Expect him to start the final two La Liga games.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Hijos de putas Espanyoles

It must be hard being an Espanyol supporter. Not only are you a scumbag Castalian facist but your team are hopeless and how galling must it be that your best player is ex-blaugrana, Ivan De La Pena. It must be particularly difficult on days like today when you're only two points above the relegation zone and you've just been beaten 2-0 by your title winning neighbours FC Barcelona.

This evenings game was Henrik Larsson's last at the Camp Nou and when he came off late in the second half for Santi Ezquerro there were a few tears in his eyes. Mine too. Henrik has been nothing short of phenomenal this season. Speaking of phenomenal, Albert Jorquera was on point tonight. Nine saves, his best coming from Luis Garcia in the first half and then Walter Pandiani late in the game with a fantastic one-on-one stop. Jorquera is a solid goalkeeper, very good at coming off his line and shot stopping. With Valdes assured of the Zamora he will probably sit out the remaining games at the San Mames next week and in Sevilla (whenever that ends up being played, the 20th still seems likely)

For much of the ninety Barcelona were in complete control. Espanyol gave the ball away at every oppertunity and FCB enjoyed most of the possession and chances on goal. That said, Puyol aside, the defence wasn't really at the races; Sylvinho always pushing forward, Belletti doing likewise and once again showing lack of a basic understanding of offside (he was badly at fault for Luis Garcia's chance) and Oleguer, who looked a little short of match fitness. And so Jorquera had a busy evening despite Espanyol's general poor play but he was equal to everything that was thrown at him. As his last game for the first team was the drubbing at Saragossa in the Copa it was good to see him play so well.

Oh, before I go to bed, there was a rather crap interview with Leo Messi on Football Focus today. It's on their website, should feel like boring yourself to tears as young Leo is asked stupid questions to which he gives rather non-committal, footballer-type answers. Bona nit.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Campions!

Gol Arango! Gol Doni! Thanks to Mallorca's 2-1 win over second placed Valencia, Barça were campions at half time against Celta Vigo. None the less they produced a solid second half performance and won the game 0-1, with the gol coming from Samuel Eto'o on fifty-five minutes. With the fire at Dublin Airport and a few other things going on this evening I didn't get to see any of the game so this ends here. G'night.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Drought

The 2-2 draw with Santander aside, it's been a month since Barça have scored more than one goal in either the Champions League or La Liga. There's been an uncomfortable amount of 1-0 victories and worse, 0-0 draws with fairly weak opposition (Malaga, Benfica, Cadiz). While the defence has looked resolute in the past few weeks, particularly against Milan in the first leg of the semi-final one can't help feel that if they are huffing and puffing as they were at the weekend to beat a team that's almost certain to be relegated, then ala Juventus in Italia, Barça are more likely to be limping over the finish line than flying off into the distance. On Saturday night they looked spent and with yet another game tomorrow (against fifth placed Celta de Vigo) the end of the season can't come quick enough. It seems like a very long time ago the blaugrana were thumping teams four and five nil.

Sevilla vs. Barça B

A quick update on the rained off Sevilla game. It's scheduled to be played on Saturday May 20th. That's right, a week after the season has finished and three days after the Champions League final. Not only is it likely that the game will be completely meaningless at that stage (Barça will have won the league and Sevilla qualified for the UEFA Cup) but as the season will have ended any players called to their respective World Cup squads will already have left. Brilliant.

Henk ten Cate

In a move that will leave a huge hole in the coaching staff at the Camp Nou, Henk ten Cate, Frank Rijkaard's assistant has been widely tipped to take over from Danny Blind at the next coach of Ajax. ten Cate has said that he will make an announcement on his future on May 18th, hopefully with a Champions League medal around his neck.