January 21, 2012
Éric Abidal signed a new contract on Monday, January 16, keeping him with the team until at least the end of June 2013. Two days later he scored just his second goal for Barcelona; his other goal, against Athletic Bilbao, was in a January Copa del Rey match last season.
Since that goal in San Mames, Abidal has suffered and recovered from a liver tumor that sidelined him for more than a month. He returned in the Champions League semifinal second leg against Real Madrid at the Camp Nou, subbing on for the final few minutes to rapturous applause. When the team won the Champions League a few weeks later, it was Abidal who was given the armband and the right to lift the trophy in front of the obligatory volcano of blue and red confetti.
January 20, 2012
When he stomped on Javier Casquero in April 2009, Pepe was sent off and handed a 10-match ban. It's easily arguable to say that his deliberate stamp on Lionel Messi's hand during their
Champions League Copa del Rey encounter last night was nowhere near as bad. Yet it is merely a part of a pattern of behavior that stretches back at least to the beginning of his Real Madrid career and it deserves a lengthy suspension.
The match last night had several moments of contemptible actions by both teams, including Xabi Alonso's repeated deliberate fouls and Ricardo Carvalho's tackle from behind on Lionel Messi. Cesc Fabregas kicked out at Pepe, and Lionel Messi and Fabio Coentrao got into it before the latter attempted to shove the former's head into the ground. Both teams also engaged in play acting resulting from some of this harsh play and Pepe was a major actor in that part as well.
January 10, 2012
When the ref blew for the end of match, some of the Barcelona fan base muttered something about where his whistle could go. Others yelled about it. Still more tweeted it. Yet the lesson overall is hardly that Turienzo Alvarez is bad referee or, worse, biased - Marca went with a play on words about it and even Raúl Rodríguez, the man who committed the late handball, admitted that it was one - but rather that there are no easy games and never a dull moment when you're the worldwide target.
Perhaps the team were looking forward to Monday’s FIFA gala and Messi's third consecutive Ballon d'Or win (with Xavi coming in 3rd for the 3rd year running as well), but whatever it was, they looked listless and were outplayed. Pochettino put out a squad that, in very imprecise terms, "wanted it more" and filled the midfield. Barca gave the ball away more than Espanyol (88 to 86) while they had fewer shots (9 to 13), which suggests that, in several areas they were outplayed by their city rivals.