Created on 31-03-2009 at 00:00 AM
One similarity between Champions League quarter-final rivals Bayern and Barcelona is the scarcity of players to be seen on the clubs’ training grounds right now. The Säbener Strasse is shorn of eight current internationals, and the Ciutat esportiva, the Catalans’ headquarters in Sant Joan Despí on the outskirts of Barcelona, is also heavily ‘depopulated’ at the present time.
With ninth-placed Real Valladolid up next in La Liga, Barca coach Josep “Pep“ Guardiola is without no fewer than 16 members of his first-team squad. Eleven are away on World Cup qualifying duty, while Andres Iniesta and Yaya Touré are carrying injuries sustained in last week’s defeat of Malaga. Carlos Puyol, Gabriel Milito and Eric Abidal are the club’s long-term absentees at the moment.
Cup final berth assured
However, the Spanish league leaders are entirely accustomed to this state of affairs during international weeks. The Azulgrana (blue-and-reds) take such hindrances in their stride, and especially so this season, as they continue a seemingly relentless pursuit of the magical treble comprising championship, knockout cup and Champions League.
The quest is coming along nicely at present. Barcelona are safely through to the final of the Copa del Rey, where the awe-inspiring line-up featuring Lionel Messi, Thierry Henry, Samuel Eto’o and their team-mates meet rank outsiders Athletic Bilbao on 13 May. With ten league fixtures remaining, the Catalan giants lead arch-rivals Real Madrid by six points at the head of the standings. Barca’s remarkable record of 84 goals scored and an astonishing goal difference of +60 suggest new records are about to be set.