Ball doesn't discuss the Valencia match yesterday, which I didn't see because GolTV, in their infinite wisdom, have sublicensed the rights to first-choice Primera games (other than Barca-Real) to something called WorldSport HD that no one gets, but following it online, it sounded as if Barca had the lionshare of the play, but didn't do enough to threaten the Valencia goal. The write-up of the first goal sounded eerily like both of Espanyol's goals in Barca's last loss, which were the result of dreadful marking in the box. Barca's defense remains a little shaky. The one additional note I'd make, though, is that Barca have a terrible record at the Mestalla. They lost there last year in a season in which they won the Primera and European titles. They got clobbered there in the 2000 Champions League semifinals. Plus, Valencia is playing as well as anyone in Europe not named Inter right now, so there's no shame in losing 2-1 to Valencia. Sid Lowe has a good write-up of the match and also manages to sing Valencia's praises, thus illustrating that club harmony isn't necessarily critical for success. He also is dead-on when he points out that Valencia is very dangerous to a team like Barca because Los Che can sit back and wait for the Blaugrana to over-extend themselves, but that style doesn't work against lesser clubs that are themselves playing on the counter.
One other exculpatory note for Barca: they aren't the same team when Gudjohnsen is playing. He simply doesn't finish the chances that are created for him. The team will be better against Liverpool with Saviola and they'll be much better if Eto'o comes back. It goes without saying that a home win against Liverpool is absolutely critical. Barca's road form has been poor this year, but they've been unbeatable at the Nou Camp (nine wins and two draws in the Primera; two wins and one draw in the Champions League) and if that falls by the wayside, then they're in real trouble. Fortunately, Liverpool's discord make Barca's look tame by comparison. Eto'o might be attacking Ronaldinho in print, but at least he hasn't been described in this way:
At one point, the police seemed to be slapping him around the face, trying to bring him round and sober him up because he was so drunk. He kept apologising over and over again but the police did not want to know.
This article is even better:
The dispute involving Bellamy and Riise seemingly started with a karaoke competition in the early hours of Friday morning, when Bellamy took offence at the Norwegian left-back's refusal to sing.
Increasingly irritated by the Welshman's jibes, Riise reportedly became incandescent and, surrounded by fellow players, the pair squared up to each other, trading expletives. Although things calmed down as the group dispersed and headed for their rooms, Bellamy apparently felt he had lost face in front of his team-mates and, having armed himself with a golf club, tracked down Riise before allegedly swinging it at his legs.
If there isn't a saying about Welshmen and their karaoke, then that's a damn shame.