Swine flu and Jose Mourinho all in the same week – it could be a very difficult few days for Barcelona's European champions.
Eric Abidal and Yaya Touré miss today's visit to Athletic Bilbao because of the virus and Barça are hoping that they have prevented a mass outbreak ahead of their decisive Champions League match with Internazionale on Tuesday.
Coach Pep Guardiola said there was to be no crying over the absentees, he is also without the injured Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but admitted the set-backs had come at the wrong time. Barcelona are only a point clear at the top of La Liga, have the clasico next weekend and, most importantly, must at the very least avoid defeat against Internazionale to stay in the Champions League.
Mourinho, who admitted he had taken time out to phone Ireland's Italian boss Giovanni Trapattoni to console him, was revelling in the comparative calm in Milan. His side also play tonight but Wesley Sneijder is their only injury concern and they have a six-point cushion at the top of Serie A ahead of the trip to Bologna.
Mourinho was anxious to point out that rotations were not necessary because it was Barcelona and not Inter who have to win Tuesday's meeting. "This game is not like our last match against Dynamo Kiev in which we were playing for our lives," he said. Should Inter win and Rubin Kazan beat Kiev, Barcelona will be playing for a place in the Europa League in their final group game.
Mourinho's Inter are set to touch down in Barcelona on Sunday night after what should be another domestic away win. They have won four of their five league matches on the road this season, conceding only twice.
Samuel Eto'o is set to start in attack with his mind already focused on Tuesday's Group F game, which will give him a most unexpected opportunity to dump out the team that dumped him in the summer. However, he has admitted missing the Nou Camp since his departure and has promised not to celebrate on Tuesday, should he score.
Guardiola, the coach whose decision it was to sell Eto'o in the summer, was concentrating on the swine flu outbreak last night.
He said: "We have to try to contain it so that the least number of players catch it as possible. We have isolated them and hopefully they will get well soon. It is a bad time for it to happen because these are such big games coming up."
Both Barcelona's swine flu victims and Ibrahimovic expect to be back for Tuesday's European fixture ... if Barça lose it could take the club the whole season to recover.
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Everybody's talking about... Louis van Gaal
The Bayern Munich mafia have been piling the pressure on coach Louis van Gaal ahead of the club's home game with table-toppers Bayer Leverkusen tomorrow. The club's General Manager Uli Höness said: "We can't pretend things are fantastic when we are eighth in the league." And president Franz Beckenbauer added: "From the first day he [Van Gaal] has not stopped making changes and he has still not found the right formula."Reuse content