An international break never allows for ideal preparation and FC Barcelona have always encountered this problem. The much-maligned FIFA virus is usually rampant in the Catalan capital, and in some respects this weekend was further proof. Though first, I would like to address the positives from yesterday’s display.
First up we have Lionel Messi. The brace he scored yesterday took his tally for the season to a mind-boggling sixteen goals. On numerous occasions the diminutive Argentine exhibited world-class control, whether it was apparent in his ankle-breaking runs or the first touch when faced with a pass; quite simply he put on a clinic for the Camp Nou crowd. Each goal cemented his place as the premier goal-scorer in all of world football; the man can simply do no wrong.
Why am I so surprised by this seemingly obvious and universally-accepted fact?
This was a man who only returned just a couple of days prior to the match, and to get there, he had to fly back from Venezuela. Was he jet-lagged? Did he seem at all fatigued? In fact, was there any hint that he had been on the receiving end of huge criticism for his national team’s shortcomings? Whether the punishment he faces is mental or physical, Lionel Messi just gets on with it.
Maxwell had to train with the B team players in the absence of his teammates, but he started against Racing, and did not put a foot wrong. I did not see him misplace any pass, shy away from any tackle in short, it was a fine showing from the Brazilian. The past season or so has not be kind with respects to injury problems, and the emergence of Adriano, but Maxwell will surely push on to rival Adriano for a spot on the bench, and considering the injury of Gerard Pique (which we will come to later), the ex-Internazionale man could find himself in the starting XI a little more regularly.
Then there was Carles Puyol. Just last month the legendary Catalan was on the sidelines recovering from a serious injury. Now he is playing two games in a week, both for club and country. His passion remains, and the will to win is as strong as ever. Some thought that Carles Puyol may be on his way out of the game, I on the other hand beg to differ. From what I have seen in the past few weeks is a player not yet at the peak of his powers, but a guy who is improving with every match.
Same with Xavi, the tendonitis in his Achilles was supposed to be a hindrance, but again he is hitting top form. Orchestrating the play as always, he even slotted into a holding midfield role yesterday, and reserved high praise for Thiago, whom he believes is a complete midfielder capable of devastating the opposition in attack or helping on defense.
All seems positive for the Blaugrana, but problems are on the horizon.
Even before the kick-off at the Camp Nou the pressure was on Barcelona to deliver all three points. Real Madrid recovered from a poor first half showing to dispatch early pace setters Real Betis 4-1. Amongst the scorers was Kaka, and while part of me is happy for him, it is worrying from a Barcelona perspective to see the ex-World Player of the Year threatening a return to the glory days. Kaka has found it tough since moving from AC Milan, but now he is beginning to hit top gear. Good news if you are a Madridista, but for us culés, it is a concern.
Even more concerning is the form of the Real Madrid front-line, with Gonzalo Higuain bagging yet another hat-trick. El Pipita is too finding his feet, and has seemingly regained his starting berth from Karim Benzema, but the Frenchman has been in formidable form as well. Jose Mourinho’s side are not at top form, though the strike-force has ensured that form is not a problem for the team.
Cristiano Ronaldo may be talking in the third person, but on the pitch he has shown a more generous side, providing assists where he would usually shoot, and while another few seconds in the Barcelona carousel would probably send him back to his petulant self, it could be another concern.
Cristiano Ronaldo gets owned by FC Barcelona (via kubrak93)
All of that pales in comparison to this new problem: the frequency of injuries that are laying waste to the Barca squad. Gerard Pique was the latest to tweak his hamstring, but he is not the first, and will not be the last. Andres Iniesta just returned from a hamstring injury, while Alexis Sanchez and Cesc Fabregas are currently out of action with the same injury. There were also concerns over Eric Abidal’s hamstring too, but he got through yesterday’s match unscathed.
Now, why are these injuries occurring? Is it down to the pre-season preparations – or lack thereof? Could complacency be an issue? By that I mean that the players may not be working as hard in training because of their success and injury resistance is not what it used to be. Perhaps Cesc Fabregas is cursed...who knows!
Either way, it is getting rather ridiculous and here’s hoping for a quick recovery for all the players currently injured.
In the world of Barca Blaugranes there is good news in that Jeremy has re-joined the writing team, and there are more to follow, including a familiar face from SBNation. We hope to bring you an exclusive Q+A this week, but considering the busy week ahead for the Blaugrana, it may be hard to fit it all in.
As I posted earlier in the week, we have a new Google+ profile for you to keep updated with all the stories, and while I posted an email address in last week’s review, we have been forced to change to a new email.
So if you sent an email to the original address and did not receive a reply, just send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will be in touch. That’s it for this week, but please take the poll, it’s a very serious matter based on a piece of news Bostjan picked up on during the week...
Roll on Viktoria Plzen and Visca el Barca! Have a good week everybody.