La Liga

Good win for Barca at the weekend but problems between Eto’o and Rijkaard (see article below) and they now have a 3 point cushion with Sevilla only drawing. The two Basque teams lost (Sociedad after being 1-0 against Madrid) and Sociedad in particular are in big trouble.

Angry Etoo up in arms as uncivil war begins
Rick Broadbent

Samuel Etoo made the transformation from substitute to whistle-blower last night with an astonishing attack on Frank Rijkaard, the Barcelona coach, and the accusation that the European champions are a divided team. With only a week to go before the next round of Champions League matches, the internecine warfare will be music to the ears of Liverpool supporters.

The Cameroon striker was incensed after Rijkaard and Ronaldinho made comments about him after Sundays 2-0 win over Racing Santander at the Nou Camp. Rijkaard claimed that Etoo had refused to take the field with seven minutes left, prompting Ronaldinho to suggest that his co-star should think more about the team than himself.

However, as Etoo launched his counter-assault, the waters were further muddied when Joan Laporta, the Barcelona president, said the player had merely been concerned about a knee injury and that when he speaks to Frank it will all be cleared up. That is unlikely to be the case given the very personal nature of Etoos public remarks. As well as questioning Rijkaards integrity, the suggestion that the team is divided into two factions will cause concern among the Bara hierarchy.

Mr Rijkaard is the one who said what he said, Etoo said. He is the one who has to speak to you. Its a bad person who gives a press conference to say that Etoo has refused to play. If anybody has balls they should tell it to me face to face.

Warming to his hatchet job, Etoo then rounded on the squad. At Barcelona there are two sides, two groups, he said. One is the one of the president and the other related to another person. The others are those that are worried. That other person is Sandro Rosell, the former vice-president, who as the head of Nikes South American division helped to lure Ronaldinho to Catalonia.

When he was my boss, Etoo said, reportedly of Rosell, he never said hello and now he comes from behind to attack me. That really is a bad person. Ronaldinho, too, did not escape the fury of a striker scorned. If a teammate says that you must think of the team, its up to him to think of the team, he said. Personally I always think first about the group and then money.

Etoo has scored 68 goals for Barcelona since arriving from Mallorca in 2004 and has been voted Africas top player for the past three years. He was also third in the Fifa world player award of 2005.

He has not been a stranger to controversy, however, and was fined 12,000 (about 8,000) in May, 2005 for insulting Real Madrid, his former club, during Barcelonas title celebrations. His strength of character was also evident when he threatened to walk off the field during Barcelonas game away to Real Zaragoza after being racially taunted by home supporters. It was no surprise that Laporta was happy to back Etoo, given the indelible links between Rosell and his galcticos. His knee needs time to warm up and he didnt have enough time, Laporta said. He preferred to be careful. He didnt do anything inappropriate or wrong.

With Barcelona still leading La Liga, Laporta might argue that talk of civil war is overstating the case, but Etoo was happy to pursue the military analogy. This is not my war, but this is a war, he said. Im in the middle of a war between two people and Im the one who is taking all the punishment. But I will return to play.

Etoo is on the comeback trail from a knee injury picked up in Barcelonas Champions League match away to Werder Bremen in September. The chances of him making his European comeback against Liverpool a week today would now seem to be very slim.

Paper talk

All Spanish eyes will be on Barcelonas training session this morning when Samuel Etoo faces his team-mates for the first time after yesterdays outburst. Frank Rijkaard, the manager, will meet Txiki Begiristain, the sporting director, to discuss disciplinary action. The drama was played out in the Spanish papers with Real Madrid-supporting titles Marca and AS revelling in the situation. The Barcelona-supporting Sport had some serious back-tracking to do after a headline yesterday read: There is no problem with Etoo.

I thought Valencia would be Barca’s main challengers but they lost at the weekend. They have Barca at home this week and really have to win it.

I don’t think Sevilla will challenge. Since the Winter break they have looked really jittery and nervous. They got thoroughly outplayed by Betis in the derby the other night and somehow scraped a 0-0. Betis missed a penalty (skied about 10 yards over the bar) and a whole host of chances.

Madrid just aren’t good enough. They have no pace in their team at all other than Reyes, who we all know has little if any footballing nous or ability. If they’re now relying on Beckham then they’re in trouble. Van Nistelrooy has seen better days as has Raul and Cannavaro has been nothing more than average for them. The two Argentine guys they signed at Christmas will need time to settle in and develop although Higuain looks like he’ll be a top player. They don’t have the class of Barca though.

If Barca get a result at Valencia I think they’ll go on and win it quite comfortably. They were pretty good on Sunday night and could have had several goals.

Didn’t realise Barca were at Valencia this weekend - might postpone cancelling sky for another week so.

Sevilla are a good side but a La Liga title this season would be too soon for them. It took Valencia a few years of knocking on the door before they made the breakthrough in 2002.

rock, Sky do have all the Ireland games live at the Cricket World Cup.

Xavi was particularly class the other night. After missing most of last season he struggled at the WC and then I hadn’t been too impressed with him in the early part of this season but he was super the other night.

Messi made his comeback too.

Eto’o’s a loose cannon, a troublemaker and a law unto himself, tension between between him and Rijkaard has been visible before, he never follows the manager’s instructions on the pitch and does whatever the hell he likes, I remember one instance att he beginning of last season when Rijkaard called him over to the sideline to tell him what to do twice in the first twenty minuites…

His strength of character was also evident when he threatened to walk off the field during Barcelona’s game away to Real Zaragoza after being racially taunted by home supporters

Don’t think that shows any strenght of character, considering he celebrated a goal in the same ground the season before by aping (sic) a monkey whit his hands under his arms and had always made himself out to be big and bold enough to take any abuse he got, saying it didn’t bother him and he would do his talking on the pitc blahblahblah

I agree with the first point Souldressing but not the second. I think it takes guts to stand up to abuse that is unacceptable in other countries and other areas of life and I’d have no problem with anyone who refused to play when suffering that sort of abuse. Indeed I hate seeing guys acting all ambivalent to it.

Much better weekend for Barca with Sevilla, Valencia and Real Madrid all dropping points and Barca playing very well in beating Athletic 3-0. Bilbao have fallen back into the relegation zone and Sociedad and Nastic look doomed already.

I couldn’t believe it when Valencia conceded in injury time 'cos 'Nastic had pretty much done fook all for the whole game but that’s the danger of sitting on a 1-0 lead.

Barca were excellent last night and I know I cringe when the English media go totally ott when Ronaldo or Henry terrorise a team in the lower reaches of the league but Ronaldinho’s performance deserves a mention. That run in the second half where he hit the bar was incredible skill. Eto’o was lively enough considering his spell on the sidelines and the goal will do wonders for him. Liverpool supporters should be well aware there’s plenty of football still to be played at Anfield.

Betis v Sevilla in the Copa del Rey tonight. Sevilla went one up and then their manager was hit on the head with a bottle and knocked unconscious. He’s been carted off to hospital and the game is abandoned.

I saw that. It’s disgraceful really and Sevilla should be awarded the tie rather than the remaining 30 odd minutes being played at a later date. I’m all for hurling insults at the opposition but missiles are another matter altogether. Great goal by the prolific Freddy Kanoute too.

Saw that last night
How can a bottle (and a plastic one at that) knock you unconscious?

Another masterclass from Griezmann tonight.


The real deal

@Jabaldinho @balbec we used this thread last week to discuss the Barca Atletico match but the posts were wiped in the changeover.

Thanks Fagan.

Sound man.

I watched a bit of Villarreal yesterday, they were fantastic in the first half. It’s hard not to be all-eyes on them at the moment given everything that’s happened. Samu Castillejo and Manu Trigueros are 10x the players they were under Marcelino. An awful shame they didn’t get an easier draw in the CL, looks like Monaco are a serious outfit this year. With everyone fit and Marce still in charge they’d still probably have gone through.

Eibar draw 1-1 with Real Madrid at the Bernabeu.

They were ballsy in their approach, often with 5/6 players in Real’s third. It’s been great to see how them, Las Palmas, Villarreal have had the balls to go up the field and not just load up on the defense. Same with Alaves against Barca.

Thought Bale was good, Kovacic was looking much more confident too, but Ronaldo has been woeful of late (Dortmund aside - I thought he was quite good), Benz and Morata not much better. Can’t understand why they didn’t buy a backup to Casemiro.

It’s been such a fantastic La Liga season already. The variety, the unpredictability, the quality in general. If the likes of Malaga, Betis, Sociedad, Valencia can get going, the standard is going to be through the roof.

Aduriz just scored a beaute in the first 2 minutes for Bilbao too. What a man.

Three draws in a row now for Real. Only one against a real top side in Villareal.

Celta take the lead against Barca, Sisto 22 minutes.