Pep opts against chicken dance as Barça face Big Bullies from Milan

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It’s all very well Barça being the Goody Two-Shoes, helping old ladies across the road kind of club with their wholesome values, but that doesn’t help at all when it comes to any kind of confrontation, at which stage Pep’s Dream Boysn usually turn into namby-pamby, jiggling jelly-fish.

The message from the culé camp ahead of Tuesday’s visit of AC Milan in the Champions League was largely one of fear and the desperate hope that two of the Serie A club’s more unhinged figures don’t come to the Camp Nou looking for some dinner money-stealing, wedgie-giving action.

Fortunately for Pep Guardiola, one of those big bully boys, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, won’t be returning to Catalunya, having missed out on the opportunity of a happy reunion with his former coach by injuring himself in Monday’s training session. “What a coincidence!” wrote Marca on the Swede’s misfortune from the safe distance of the other side of the Med.

Pep Guardiola’s reaction to the news of Zlatan’s absence was typical of his usual infuriating nice-guy schtick, with the Barca boss claiming that “before I had him, he seemed like a fantastic player and after having him, even more so. He’s a footballer on another level. I thank him for everything he gave us. It’s a shame he couldn’t come.” A disappointed LLL was so hoping for an ‘Arrested Development’-style chicken dance from the Barça boss at the mention of Zlatan’s sudden injury.

Another bogey man for Barcelona, and Andrés Iniesta in particular, is Marc Van Bommel. The high-browed midfielder criticised the Dutchman over the summer for being a dirty old man during the World Cup final. On Monday, with the Dutch midfielder somewhere in the city, Iniesta stuck his chin out and boasted that he wasn’t “afraid of any rival.”

Van Bommel, of course, was then probed on Iniesta’s words before the exasperated Milan press officer banned journalists from asking them in the pre-match conference. “Perhaps Spain and Holland are playing tomorrow?” joked the Milan man. “The match was a year ago, it seems strange that you are asking me about this but I guess you have to write something,” scoffed the former Barcelona midfielder, forgetting that the concepts of ‘strange’ and ‘Spanish football press’ go hand-in-hand. Even Pep Guardiola had sympathy for the legendary tough tackler - “you asked the poor guy 250 questions on the World Cup final. You have to have a bit of respect.”

The Barça press’ response to the Real Sociedad draw has followed the identical pattern of the previous occasions the side has slipped up. Weeks of editorials claiming Barcelona are invincible are then followed by days of sober editorials noting that Barcelona aren’t invincible before yet more editorials proposing that Barcelona are indeed invincible again. 

“We are convinced that the mistake of San Sebastian will have consequences and that the Italians will pay the prices,” boomed Josep María Casanovas in Sport, another columnist who doubts Zlatan’s injury and will be hoping to avoid a dark alley moment in the near future with the six-foot-a million loon. “A suspicious injury has left him in Milan and who knows if it is to avoid the boos of the Barcelona fans.”

Barcelona are just one of two Spanish sides in Champions League action on Tuesday. Valencia are the other and facing Genk The blog did hear though that the Mestalla men’s flight to...Genk...was delayed when Miguel Brito started to barf and feel unwell. But after chuckling knowingly, LLL then remembered that the Portuguese fullback had only just promised that his nightclubbing days were behind him. The official explanation given was that Miguel had suffered an allergic reaction.

There is still a bit of la Liga business to squeeze out at the end with Málaga thrashing poor old Granada 4-0 on Monday with two goals from the lovely Santi Cazorla and a brace from Joaquín to leave Granada without points at the bottom of the table.