Friday, April 20, 2007

El Diego

So, that gol. Mexico '86 and all that. Coming as it did in a Copa Del Rey game against a Getafe team who are no world beaters it's really nothing to get carried away about... Like, yeah, as if. Let's get carried away, let's go off the deep end. I've watched the gol about fifty times now (and that is sadly, no exaggeration) and it doesn't get any less amazing. I didn't catch the game as it was screened at 11:00 on Wednesday night and as I'm suffering with the flu at the mo' I was tucked up in my bed at that stage but by the morning youtube was brimming with clips of the gol, the Spanish press were dubbing young Leo 'Diego Messi' and were running out of superlatives to describe it. Watch the El Diego side-by-side with Messi! Messi! Messi! here.

A few years ago when 'dinho won World Player of the Year he commented to FourFourTwo "People say I am the best in the world, but I am not even the best at Barcelona." in reference to Messi. At the time it seemed incredibly high praise indeed. Now it seems about right.

Taxi for a Javier Saviola

As Messi goes into the stratosphere, Javier Saviola is on his way out. Having received no offer from the blaugrana, he will leave when his contract expires at the end of the season. This is probably best for all concerned. Despite his talent and work rate, Javier has been unwanted at the Camp Nou for three successive seasons now, with loan moves to Monaco and Sevilla not yielding permanent deals, he was back in Barcelona to see out the final year. Whoever signs Javier will be getting a top quality forward. I hope he goes to a big club. Word is that Didier Deschamps, coach at Monaco during Saviola's time there, wants to bring him to Juve. He'd do well there and I wish him all the best. I'll be gushing more about number twenty two in coming weeks.

We all live in a Yellow Submarine

Barcelona play Villarreal this weekend so it's lazy headline time. One time bright young things of La Liga and the Champions League, a last minute missed penalty away from the final you'll recall, have fallen from grace this season. Blighted by injuries (Nihat and Pires), internal strife (Riquelme going back to Boca) and a distinct lack of gols (top scored Forlan has just ten) in addition to a leaky defense marshaled by Arsenal reject and all round useless sort Pascal Cygan, the sun hasn't shone quite so brightly El Madrigal. Currently twelfth, they look a shadow of their former selves and have been scrapping draws with La Liga's worst sides (Sociedad and Betis) and losing to Levante in recent games. They certainly won't get relegated but this season has been a complete write off.

All of which is good news for Barcelona, who, despite their high scoring Copa win on Wednesday, have been coughing and spluttering their way through games of late. Rijkaard has named a full squad, baring Motta, Edmilson and Belletti (all injured) and Marquez (a man who can lose games all by himself these days). 'dinho is back and will start alongside Eto'o and El Diego.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Original Gangster

An own gol. In the 89th minute. A saved penalty. Loose pass after loose pass. Zambrotta and Thuram looking like they left their footballing brains in Turin. Messi with his head down. Eto'o off the pace. It was not a good time at the Camp Nou on Sunday night. Mallorca are a very limited side, they packed the defense and pressured the blaugrana but penalty notwithstanding, they offered next to nothing going forward. Much like Barça, who time and time again gave away posession in midfield or lashed a cross out for a throw. They had chances, Saviola drawing a good double save from Moya and a Marquez header that came off the post, but they were more anomaly than the norm.

Barça dominated the game without ever looking like winning it until Xavi's freekick bounced around the six yard box, off Marquez, Saviola and finally former blaugrana Fernando Navarro and into the net. Outpourings of relief all around and a 1-0 victory, combined with Sevilla's defeat at the Mestalla and Madrid being mugged in Santander (I think both penalties were legit, certainly the second one and Reals only gol did come from a farcical mistake from the Santander defense) leaves Barça four points clear of the chasing pack with eight games remaining.

Of the many negatives that came out of the Mallorca game was an injury to Belletti that will see him out for the next four weeks. He'll be joined by Edmilson, who's out for two weeks. Thus neither is in the squad for the Copa game tonight against Getafe. Also out are Motta and 'dinho, plus Sylvinho and Giuly are not included. If he's good, Santi Ezquerro might get a run out.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Maxi

Sunday night sees the return of one of Barça's prodigal sons, Argentine striker Maxi Lopez, with his current team Real Mallorca. Pushed out of the Camp Nou in the summer, Maxi has had a reasonable run of it at the San Moix, playing twenty four games and scoring two gols (twice as many as he got for the blaugrana). In a brief interview on Thursday, Maxi was his typical humble self, saying his heart is with Barça, so hopefully he won't try too hard come seven o'clock tomorrow night.

The Eto'o is back in the squad but both Motta and 'dinho miss out through injury. Oleguer and poor Santi Ezquerro are left out just because. The team will likely line up with Messi, Giuly and Eto'o upfront and Deco, Xavi and Iniesta behind them. Only a fool would speculate as to the defense, which changes more often than the wind.

I'll be checking out the Santander Real game tonight, know your enemy and all that. Finally, an interview with Lillian Thuram I saw on the wires where he rails against Nicolas Sarkozy. Bravo Lillian!

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Why watching Barcelona is like watching Leinster

You have to wonder if Sevilla really want to win La Liga. At home to Santander on Sunday they could only manage a 0-0 draw that saw them remain one point behind Barcelona, who lost 1-0 to Saragossa on Saturday night. With their draw and FCB's loss, the real *groan* winners this weekend are Madrid, who won 2-0 at home against Osasuna. They've won three on the bounce and despite being absolutely awful for much of the season they're right there, only two points off the top.

Suffering the blaugrana's limp performance at the Romareda had much in common with my Friday night, spent watching Leinster make a balls of it in Glasgow, losing 26-20 yet still managing to stay top of the Magners League. Frustrating, depressing, a sinking feeling that 1nce they went behind that was pretty much it. Utterly battered in the first half, Barcelona, playing their "it worked that one time in the Copa" 3-4-3 formation, could have been at least three down, catching it from every angle yet somehow managing to go in all-square. After the break it was more of the same until Diego Milito bundled in the winner on fifty-seven, D'Alessandro somehow managing to fire a cross in past both Oleguer and Thuram and Diego getting in between Valdes and Puyol to nudge it over the line. It was a comedic gol to conceed but certainly no more than Saragossa deserved. Barça were well beaten and bar a few wild lashes in the direction of gol, they never looked like scoring.

Atletico Madrid aside, Barcelona have now played every one of the top six sides twice and have won all of two games, 3-1 against Sevilla and 2-1 against Saragossa, both at home. Nine games and two wins. Hardly the form of Champions.

Before I go, I did a little youtubing on Rodrigo Palacio and found this. Some cracking gols but most of them are against woeful opposition so it's very hard to judge.