Monday, August 13, 2007

Rock on 'til the break of dawn

Update: Marquez is out for a month with a torn muscle in his right leg but ironman Puyol is fit and will play against Atletico

Last night's game against Stuttgart was the first ninety minutes of Barcelona that I've seen this season. Baring half an hour of the Sevilla game it's all I've seen. Which goes a long way to explaining my complete lack of blogging. That and a bunch of other stuff.

Anyway, Stuttgart. Puyol, Messi, Marquez, 'dinho and most importantly, Victor Valdes.

I've dished out some fairly harsh criticism of Valdes (most of it deserved) but I'm always quick to hoist him up on my shoulders whenever he has a good game. And crikey did he have a good game last night. After Barça's early dominance yielded nothing, Stuttgart came at the blaugrana late in the first and early in the second, and only for Valdes' Casillas-esque golkeeping, a double save, first onto the bar and then getting down to palm away the follow-up header was nothing short of incredible, they easily could have been 2-0 down despite looking far and away the better team.

Indeed it took a half-crocked Carles Puyol to stab home the first gol after Schafer flapped at 'dinho's long range header. Thierry Henry, who would later do well for Messi's gol, stood rooted to the spot as the ball dropped infront of him only for Puyol, the only player alive to the loose ball, to react. It was an ugly gol but a top finish from the blaugrana captain.

Puyol was only on due to Rafa Marquez departing after seven minutes. Puyol would later come off with what looked like a strain when he over stretched but the club have said that he just took a knock. Whether he's fit to face Atletico Madrid on Saturday remains to be seen but I doubt he'll play. With Marquez, Milito, Edmilson, Toure and Zambrotta already out the defense is likely to be Oleguer, Thuram, Abidal (at centreback) and Sylvinho, which doesn't bode well against Forlan and the in-form Aguero

Another issue will be whether 'dinho, who started well, threading through two superb passes to Messi and Henry early on, faded badly in the second half and looked hopelessly unfit, getting himself into a pickle more than once, despite some neat touches, will start. He doesn't seem up to lasting a full game so Bojan, who almost scored last night, or Dos Santos will probably get a run out after about an hour or so.

Barça of course don't even need 'dinho at the moment, such is the form of Leo Messi. His gol last night brought his tally to seven thus far and he has quite simply been on fire, tearing it up against Sevilla, Saragossa and Levante in La Liga. There has been plenty of talk of him being World Player of the Year but I think that has to go to Kaka, who has been sensational in the last twelve months, sometimes singlehandedly winning games for Milan.

I know there's been all sorts of Barça news that's come and gone since I was last posting; Maxi to FC Moskva, Giuly to AS Roma, Belletti to the sinking ship that is Chelsea, Motta to Atletico (where he has yet to start), the death of Antonio Puerta at Sevilla, the nou Camp Nou, the Eto'o injury, out for at least two months and Bojan and Gio Dos Santos' first team blooding. There is much to talk about. But for now, I'm off into the rain to grab some nude fude.