Shakhtar see off Barca with Rat infestation
Greetings from a half-empty Camp Nou, where fewer than 20,000 are watching Barca playing Shakhtar Donetsk, who have a player called Rat, in a pointless final group game.
ItÃ¢ÂÂll be the same at Old Trafford tonight, except the crowd will be three times the size. And itÃ¢ÂÂll be a lot colder.
Barca fans noticeable by their absence
ThereÃ¢ÂÂll be few empty seats on Saturday when Real Madrid visit for El Clasico. The Madrid who sacked coach Bernd Schuster on Tuesday, an event which turned a busy day writing into a manic one.
Given MadridÃ¢ÂÂs dreadful recent form, I knew it was coming, especially when Schuster said he couldnÃ¢ÂÂt see Madrid winning against Barca at the weekend. Such a defeatist attitude didnÃ¢ÂÂt wash with his players, the fans, the media or the directors who relieved him of his duties.
Thankfully, Manchester United donÃ¢ÂÂt change their manager every time itÃ¢ÂÂs cloudy, so I rarely write about big managerial sackings.
BarcaÃ¢ÂÂs football has been incredible lately, their 4-0 victory last Saturday over a Valencia side who had not lost away from home was close to being the complete performance.
Tonight though, SaturdayÃ¢ÂÂs hat-trick hero Thierry Henry is on the bench as Pep Guardiola does his best to confuse commentators by fielding three right-sided players called Sanchez, Vazquez and Rodriguez. In fact Rat is marking all of them. Go on Rat! Gnaw away at the ezs. Sanch, Vazqu and Rodrigu would be much easier for the men with the mikes.
As I donÃ¢ÂÂt have to write about tonightÃ¢ÂÂs game, IÃ¢ÂÂm going to leave before the end so that I can train with Manchester La Fianna for one last time before Christmas. We train at 10pm every Tuesday. WeÃ¢ÂÂre still unbeaten and at the top of our group, but then weÃ¢ÂÂve only played five league games so far this season.
To keep the players occupied, weÃ¢ÂÂve arranged friendlies. We need to because there are times when there are hardly any games Ã¢ÂÂ our match on Saturday will be our only one in seven weeks.
Stephen F. Kelly is coming over with his family for El Clasico. As are the entire first team of Dutch first division side NAC Breda. One of our players is sorting them out a club after the game so they can chat up girls while sounding like Steve McClaren.
The scourge of Barca: Razvan Rat inspires Shakhtar success
Anyway, Stephen is a lifelong Liverpool fan who has written 18 books (IÃ¢ÂÂll tell him thatÃ¢ÂÂs one for every year since Liverpool won the league) and a thoroughly pleasant man. Three decades of living in Manchester have done his development no harm, but I like hearing his stories of being a union man at the Cammell Laird shipyard on the Mersey in his younger days.
That was before he became a political journalist, working on Tribune and heavyweight television programmes like World In Action.
IÃ¢ÂÂll try and get him a ticket for El Clasico, then IÃ¢ÂÂll write my 600-word match report before getting my head down ahead of any early morning flight to Helsinki Ã¢ÂÂ and then a later one to Tokyo for the World Club Championship next week.
Ã¢ÂÂCome on Rat. Give it to Fernandinho!Ã¢ÂÂ Sorry. Where was I? Yes, Tokyo City, as in the Massive Attack lyric: Ã¢ÂÂTokyo CityÃ¢ÂÂs one place that we toured.Ã¢ÂÂ
I bet one British pound bought them more than a grain of rice when they did tour. Unlike now. ItÃ¢ÂÂs no joke, this credit crunch. My print manager emailed today to say that paper is going up in price by 9% in January. The weak pound is to blame. That may not affect most people, but then most people donÃ¢ÂÂt publish a paper-based publication like United We Stand.
Shakhtar have just scored. And RÃÂzvan RaÃ Â£ started the move! HeÃ¢ÂÂs buzzing his head off as the 44 away fans unfurl a mighty banner ofÃ¢ÂÂ¦ a mouse. HeÃ¢ÂÂll be fuming now.
IÃ¢ÂÂm now getting evil looks off a fat Catalan journalist and two Ukrainians for shouting: Ã¢ÂÂGive it to Rat, you prick!Ã¢ÂÂ In doing so I broke the laws of press box etiquette, but itÃ¢ÂÂs not every night that the worldÃ¢ÂÂs greatest rodent-named left-back gets a chance to showcase his substantial talents.
ItÃ¢ÂÂs now three hours later and I canÃ¢ÂÂt sleep because IÃ¢ÂÂve been playing football. IÃ¢ÂÂve just seen RieraÃ¢ÂÂs goal for Liverpool. Nice lad, Albert. I helped him settle in Manchester when he joined City two years ago as he didnÃ¢ÂÂt know anyone and we had a mutual friend.
Riera rocket guides Liverpool to group summit
His younger brother Sito was at Barcelona at the time in the B team. HeÃ¢ÂÂs crackers. I once saw him try and stand on a surf board and then surfÃ¢ÂÂ¦ on a street.
And IÃ¢ÂÂve just seen that Shakhtar won 3-2. Guess who set up the killer third goal? IÃ¢ÂÂll leave that honour to Graham Hunter, writing for UEFA:
Ã¢ÂÂRÃÂzvan RaÃ Â£ is involved again as Shakhtar restore their two-goal advantage in Camp Nou. His low cross goes all the way to the back post where Fernandinho is lying in wait to slide in and find the back of the net.Ã¢ÂÂ
I knew IÃ¢ÂÂd spotted a star.