by Tim Stannard
Martin Braithwaite makes Barcelona squad for Saturday’s Eibar game
As Lionel Messi confirmed this week, 'weird' things keep happening at Barcelona. Thursday was just another case in point. On the same day that Martin Braithwaite was presented as a soccer savior to confused fans - on Friday, the Dane was presented to confused players - two Barcelona strikers scored.
These were the two strikers that Barcelona let out on loan in January in a truly cunning plan to put the side in the situation of robbing Leganes of their best chance of staying up this season by poaching Braithwaite in an apparent dire 'emergency'. Both Carles Perez and Abel Ruiz scored for Roma and Sporting Braga respectively on Thursday night in the Europa League.
Braithwaite was naturally the focal point of conversation for Quique Setien in a press conference on Friday with the Barcelona boss declaring cheerfully that “we have faith and confidence in him” while claiming that the club had been observing the forward for some time. Confidence is so high in actual fact that the Dane has been called into the squad that takes on Eibar on Saturday – live on beIN SPORTS at 10am – where the Barca coach might have to gauge whether the player will be booed more by disgruntled fans either from the start or by coming on later in the game as a substitution.
Further touching on the general weirdness around Barcelona these days that Messi alluded to, the story that the club’s leadership had been paying good money to Insta-slam (is that a thing) the team’s own players was also a topic of conversation. “We are very focused on what we need to be focused on, and that’s footballing matters.”
La Liga's weekend gets underway live on beIN SPORTS at 3PM ET with a Betis side still waiting to get the season started taking on a struggling Mallorca.
Over on beIN SPORTS CONNECT there is a double treat of Ligue Un football as Nice hosts Brest at 1:30PM followed by Lyon away at Metz, as the visitors try to find some kind of form ahead of next week's Champions League match against Juventus.
Javier Aguirre backs his players…unlike Barcelona…but admits no tricks left up his sleeve
Over in Leganes, Friday was the first chance for the Leganes manager to talk about how Barcelona came a knock’in on Thursday and poached a footballer that was responsible for most of the team’s goals in a relegation fight.
That manager is Mexican legend of the dark arts, Javier Aguirre, and he had to do what Barcelona didn’t – show faith in the footballers he already had in his squad. “I have 26 players. it would be a lack of respect to say we are screwed, because they are great players. But I don’t know what I can invent. I don’t have any more rabbits to pull out of the hat.” The challenge for survival continues live on beIN SPORTS XTRA – no subscriptions, no cost – at 7AM ET on Saturday with a visit to Celta Vigo, another relegation rival.
Around about the same time, just a few miles away at Real Madrid’s training ground Coach Zizou was talking about…the weather pretty much. No social media plots, no genre-shattering transfer moves, no talk of Neymar coming. Indeed, there wasn’t even that much on Gareth Bale. However, that peace is quiet is likely to end fairly quickly with three big games coming up. The first is a testing away visit to Levante on Saturday at 3PM ET followed by a Wednesday clash against Manchester City in the Champions followed by Sunday’s El Clasico.
Zidane’s time in the spotlight is just around the corner.
The Sports Burst live show will be looking at all things Madrid and Barca, as it previews the weekend at 12PM ET on Facebook live and our Youtube channel.
Pep defends Raheem Sterling after Real Madrid declaration of love
Speaking of Manchester City and Pep Guardiola was in speaking action on Friday as well. Very reluctantly by the sounds of it.
On his particular agenda was reaction to the fairly polite comment from Raheem Sterling that Real Madrid was “a fantastic club” in an interview with AS ahead of the two teams meeting up next week in the Champions League. "Players are free to talk and say what they believe and think," shrugged City’s Spanish boss, refusing to join in the transfer speculation fun.
That speculation is arising because of Manchester City’s impending two-year ban from European football, another topic of the conversation for Guardiola. "I know how hard we work. I am so proud about how hard we've worked all these years,” boomed the Man City boss.