Getting back on the horse
It's seldom I'd give a damn about an early round Copa Del Rey game against some third division no-hopers but Barça's 1-2 win at Badalona on Wednesday night was much needed after two fairly abject performances was badly needed. Eidur Gudjohnsen, dire in both the Chelsea and Real games, hit both of Barcelona's gols. It took Barcelona over an hour to put the ball in the net against incredibly poor opposition and they did conceed an injury-time penalty but still, they did win and it gets them back in the right head space for Saturday nights game at home to Recreativo Huelva (the oldest team in La Liga).
Of greater note than the Copa game was Frank Rijkaard's interview on Radio Catalunya on Tuesday. "I haven't done well. The alignments and the style of play haven't been clear, and my substitutions have not helped us to win the last two games." He added that "I have done things which have affected the team and taken us away from our usual tactics. The team hasn't functioned well and we can't continue like this. It has been a warning call for me."
It's hard to imagine many other managers speaking with such candor. Compared to the usual "of course we are not worried." bollocks that Rafa, Wenger et al spew when things are going badly, Frank is remarkable, er, frank. It's impossible not to like Rijkaard. He's a straight-talking, no-nonsense kinda guy who doesn't wish to take centre stage ahead of his players and who shys away from the media circus. He is in so many ways, the anti-Jose Mourinho, both tactically and in personality. Thank god.
The squad for the Huelva game has been announced. Messi, who still has ankle trouble after being kicked out of it against Madrid, won't play. Nor will Zambrotta, who makes way for Belletti. Also sitting this one out is Gio. After his gol-scoring exploits against the might of Badalona, Guddy will probably start upfront alongside 'dinho and Giuly. I'll eat my N*E*R*D hat should Saviola line out ahead of him.
Finally, Barcelona and Nike have extended their kit deal with Nike until 2013. The deal is worth €150 million, which should keep 'dinho in sweatbands and gold chains for quite a while. Maybe Leo Messi will be able to afford a decent haircut. We can but hope.