Saturday, April 12, 2008

He's back yo

It's been thirty nine long days since Leo Messi limped off the Camp Nou pitch in tears. In that time Barça have gone from contenders to also-rans in La Liga, down to third place behind Villarreal, winning just one game in five (a laboured victory against Valladolid), getting knocked out of the Copa Del Rey and scraping past Schalke 04 to make the semi-finals of the Champions League. In Messi's absence Barcelona have been abject, throwing away leads and playing uninspired, flat, one-dimensional futbol. Their best player has been the seventeen year old Bojan, who's been outshining the listless Thierry Henry and the out-of-sorts Sammy. The midfield has lacked drive and any sort of incisiveness and the defense has been leaking gols in such an amateurish manner, poor marking from corners and freekicks, ballwatching etc that it's only down to the ineptitude of the other teams chasing the title, Real and the Yellow Submarines, that they're down by more than seven points.

Now of course Barcelona were in a state before Messi got injured. Their current problems are not as a result of his being out of the team but it hasn't helped. Deco's absence too has been keenly felt (there's still no return date from him though it's hoped he'll make the semis), putting a great deal of pressure on Xavi and Iniesta. Ala Milan with Pato there's been far too much talk of Messi as a fix all when he laces up his boots again. He'll certainly make a difference to the forward line, ideally seeing Henry drop to the bench and Sammy move back into the centre and Bojan out wide on the right but Barça's problems are as much off the field as they are on it. 'dinho is effectively out the door already with Galliani speaking openly of signing him and the Spanish papers reporting that he met with Txiki Begiristain on Thursday. The aforementioned Deco may be joining him, especially in light of comments made by Xavier Sala Martin on Wednesday, where he spoke of the club inventing injuries in order to sideline players from the squad. Barça have of course refuted the claims but we all know who he's talking about and that he's probably telling the truth. Why however, he chose to air this just hours before the Schalke game I don't know.

Ah yes, the Schalke game. Now I didn't see any of this but from what I can gather from Sid Lowe's match report, talking to my Da about it last night and the txt msgs I received during the game, I gather that the blaugrana were fairly crap but Schalke, who couldn't hit a donkey's arse with a banjo, were pretty hopeless too, so it evened out. Henry again played like he's forgotten how and was moaning again today about playing out on the left. He'd do well to shut up and start making an effort. One of his lines was the hilarious "I've never run so much in my whole career." This from a man who couldn't be more static if his feet were nailed to the pitch. His signing, galactico-like in it's stupidity, has been a disaster. He's out of the Recre game on the weekend and he really is no loss.

Speaking of which, it's a bit of a mixed bag on the injury front for Saturday's outing. Iniesta, Henry and Bojan all out, Messi and Santi back in. Marquez and Xavi have overcome knocks they sustained in midweek. It's hard to know who will start upfront alongside Samuel Eto'o and Giovani Dos Santos. I can't see Messi being risked from the jump off but if Guddy slots in then who takes Iniesta's place in the middle? Edmilson? Rafa Marquez? That's an incredibly defensive line-up alongside Yaya Toure. I really don't know and crikey it's late, so further musings are going to have to wait. More on Sunday folks, when I'll be sitting in front of the fire, MacBook in hand watching the Masters. Bona Nit.

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