Temperatures dropped in Barcelona this week in what is in reality the most positive part of F.C. Barça's participation in the Club World Cup this weekend. A pre-winter break beano to Dubai commences this Wednesday, and how long the team stay in the Arab emirate really depends on how seriously they take the competition.
The tournament that Manchester United famously dropped out of the FA Cup to concentrate on, the Club World Cup is really FIFA's desperate attempt to create a lucrative competition in the megabucks club side market.
Like the Supercup, teams usually feature many changes from the lineups that earned them qualification, and the trophy is only of any significance once won. Andres Iniesta talked up the competition this week, before promptly shooting himself in the foot by admitting to knowing nothing about Wednesday's opponents.
Expect Leo Messi to be used sparingly in the three potential games, in which the main focus will surely be injury prevention. Barcelona's squad have been lucky with fitness so far this year, but a couple of k.o blows would be disastrous for the second half of the 2009/10 season.
Barça are currently five points ahead of Real Madrid, ensuring that they will top the league when Spain is popping grapes into its collective mouth on New Year's Eve. A dodgy penalty at the weekend to put away local rivals Espanyol made sure of that, whilst Madrid's late late show against Valencia denied the Catalans an even better send-off, Real will play their game in hand with the best case scenario still leaving them on the back foot.
Still though, better to worry about the challengers when sat by the pool in Dubai.