Thursday, October 25, 2007

Hack and slash futbol

Tuesday seems like an awfully long time ago. The game at Ibrox is one I'd rather forget. Rangers, who beat Lyon 3-0 away and did a similar number on Celtic the previous weekend were awful. Masters of the long aimless punt, the needless foul and putting it out for a corner, they ofered little or nothing going forward and played, in the words of Leo Messi, "anti-football". That said, Barcelona hardly lit it up either. Plenty of possession, over 70% but absolutely no penetration, few genuine chances (a 'dinho free kick tipped over the bar, a Puyol header also saved and an Henry header that went over the bar were about the best) and a general lack of verve about their play.

That said, despite being so poor Barça still drew and one would imagine that they'll lay waste to Gers at the Camp Nou. A win would give them 10 points. Before I move onto La Liga, a word about Ronaldinho. Slow, ponderous, laboured, Robbie Keane-ing it when a simple pass would have done, he had one decent free kick, a good cross that Puyol got on the end of (Puyol was frequently Barça's most attack minded player, which says it all) and that was it. After missing the Villarreal game he needed to be showing more than this. No doubt he'll turn it on against Almeria on Sunday, doing some pointlessly showy step-over or flick and El Mundo Deportivo will be extolling his virtues again. *sigh*

Speaking of Almeria, they've done pretty well thus far. Mid-table after eight games, Cobeno is solid in gol (he did well at Sevilla when Palop was out last season) , they're unspectacular but look good to avoid relegation. I still don't give them a chance on Sunday evening. The Barça squad features Toure, Zambrotta and Rafa Marquez, all back from injury. Crosas, Thuram and poor old Santi miss out. Leo Messi, training by himself these last few days may be rested, with either Bojan or Gio stepping up. The game kicks off at 6.

Monday, October 22, 2007

We all lose to the yellow submarines

After a two weeks absence due to internationals Barcelona fell to earth with a bang (and without Ronaldinho) this weekend, losing 3-1 away to Villarreal and Deco for at least five weeks. At least Madrid lost too. The blaugrana are now forth, still two points behind leaders Real.
Villarreal were spectacular against Barça, completely dominating play, with old duffers Robert Pires and Marcos Senna controlling the game with ease. Even the introduction of Gio Dos Santos at the beginning of the second half for Oleguer didn't shift the balance and the yellow submarines stood firm. Deco hobbling off

Conspicuous by his absence was 'dinho, no doubt still drunk from his all-nighter with Robinho in Rio after the Brasil beat Ecuador. The story in O Globo puts him in the boot of a car at 11am the next morning to avoid being photographed leaving the club. Whether this is true I don't know but he certainly has previous and one must being to wonder if he's worth the bother. Hopelessly off the pace thus far this season and completely eclipsed by the explosive form of Leo Messi, 'dinho seems to be going down the same road Adriano, a road littered with night clubs, magnums of Cristal and XL jerseys to hide the flab.

There were few positives for Rijkaard's side but one was undoubtedly Bojan Krkic's gol, a fine finish from a deft Leo Messi pass. His first senior gol for the team, he became the youngest player ever to score for Barça. Bojan had a fabulous U-17 tournament for Espana during the summer and has looked very sharp in his first team appearances (typically limited to the last ten to fifteen minutes before Saturday's start).

The Old Firm

After their 3-0 victory over Celtic at the wknd, Gers are understandably in bullish about their chances at Ibrox. Barcelona's injury list is lengthy (Deco, Marquez, Edmilson, Toure, Eto'o, Zambrotta) and of particular concern is midfield, where either Marc Crosas or Ice Ice Baby will make their first start. Crosas is very raw and Guddy incredibly rusty given his lack of minutes. Crosas is also pretty lightweight. I think a draw would be a decent result for the blaugrana given how thin midfield is, an area that Gers, who like Barça have won their first two group games, will look to control. The game is live on Sky Sports 2 from 7:30 tomorrow evening.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The best of the best

The elite. The shortlist for FIFA World Player of the year was published today and it's a farce. The full list is here. It's hard to know where to begin so let's start at the Camp Nou. There are seven blaugrana on the list; Messi, 'dinho, Eto'o, Deco, Thuram, Marquez and Henry. Now Barcelona's season was far from disastrous but of the seven, Thuram and Marquez were among the worst players to wear the shirt, Thuram in particular has been very poor at times. Deco has been up and down too and far from the player he was in the European Cup winning season (though he's very much on point again right now). Of the others Eto'o spent the majority of the year out injured and again wasn't the best when he did return.

But that's not the half of it. Among those listed are: Canna, who's been rubbish at Madrid, Lahm, Nesta, Torres, Viera and Lampard. There is no place for any Sevilla player (that's right, no Dani Alves), no Iker Casillas, no Zlatan, no Totti (again, ala Sevilla not a single AS Roma player), no Sergio Ramos, no David Villa, no Jamie Carragher (who's picking this, Steve McLaren?)... it goes on.

Obviously this is a load of bollocks and who's to say who the best player in the World is but still, this is just a random list of famous players. Anyway, rant over. Kaka will win in any case and he deserves it. 100% Jesus. Good night.

Monday, October 08, 2007

The Big Easy

It wasn't the 6-0 hammering they dished out last time but Sunday's 3-0 win over Atletico Madrid was about as comprehensive as they come. Aided and abetted in no small part by Abbiati's dropping of Messi's cross at Deco's feet after only fifteen minutes for the Portuguese to score the opener, Atletico were torn apart by Messi, Iniesta and the afore mentioned Deco, who had a fabulous game. Valdes was again in fine form and made a few sharp saves when the defense had their requisite wobble followed by a mild panic. That said, for the most part the back four were solid, Puyol and Milito look a good pairing at the centre of defense.

Considering there was so much talk before the game of Aguero vs. Messi, El Kun was pretty disappointing, not registering a single shot on target and failing to ignite. But he was far from alone, Forlan, Simao, Reyes, all were fairly poor though ex-blaugrana Luis Garcia looked sharp when he came on.

With Madrid winning 2-0, Barcelona are still two points back with Villarreal away coming up next weekend.

One last thing worth pointing out is that Barcelona finished the game with eight players who've come through the ranks at La Masia, which is pretty incredible. Dos Santos put in a super cross for Xavi's gol late on and both he and Bojan look like stepping up to the first team ala Messi and Iniesta in the past three years.

The ArenA to the Bridge

Former Barcelona assistant coach Henk Ten Cate has left Ajax to become assistant to Avram Grant at Chelsea. After his incredible success alongside Frank Rijkaard, Ten Cate's reign at the ArenA was somewhat up and down, being dumped out of Europe at the first hurdle two years running (they lost both Champions League and UEFA Cup qualifiers) and while they did lose out to PSV only on gol difference last season in the
Eredivisie, the lack of European futbol hasn't done him any favours. Still he leaves Ajax just one point behind PSV and having won the Dutch Cup last season so his time as coach was far from a disastrous one. Daan Schippers from The Guardian wrote a good article about Ten Cate to Chelsea. Have a read of it here.

What he'll make of the mess at Chelsea remains to be seen. I'd be quite surprised to see Grant survive past Christmas should the Blues drop out of contention for the Premier League.