Damning stats put Ibrahimovic on spot as Messi runs on empty

Euro Zone

Pete Jenson
Sunday 23 October 2011 08:07

Barcelona striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic very nearly covered less ground than his own goalkeeper in midweek against Internazionale according to damning post-match performance statistics.

Barça have Leo Messi running on empty after 24 consecutive starts and are beginning to question Ibrahimovic's contribution after the mileage figures reinforced the impression that he was a passenger in the Champions League semi-final first leg.

While players such as Xavi Hernandez, Pedro and Gerard Pique covered every blade of grass in the San Siro, Ibrahimovic was immobile and ineffective until being replaced midway through the second half having run only 400m further than Victor Valdes.

"I have to do a lot more," he said ahead of today's league encounter against bottom side Xerez. "We as a team have to do more than we did in the first leg. We will have to wait to see what happens in the Champions League and the league and then I will be able to judge how my first season has gone. I have to learn how to play better in the Barcelona system."

The former Inter striker could be without strike partner Messi as Guardiola contemplates resting the Argentine who has played all but 57 minutes of Barcelona's last 24 games. Messi has started each one of those matches and only three times not played a full 90 minutes.

Real Madrid travel to Zaragoza hoping strugglers Xerez can repeat their last three away games and take at least a point from a Barcelona side with their minds fixed on Inter's visit on Wednesday. Jermaine Pennant has a calf strain and so misses the visit of Manuel Pellegrini's side who could have Kaka back on the bench after his six-week disappearance. The Brazilian midfielder has been given the nickname 'The Mundialista' or 'World Cup man' by his team-mates – a reference to the suspicion he is conserving himself for this summer's South Africa finals. The big money summer signing from Milan has not started a game since he was taken off in the second half of Real Madrid's Champions League defeat to Lyon back in March complaining of a groin injury.

Barça's European Cup rivals Inter travel to Atlanta this afternoon this time without the advantage of playing 24 hours before Pep Guardiola's side. Yesterday was St George's Day in Barcelona celebrated by men giving roses to women and women giving books to men. The Barça coach admitted receiving In Praise of Pessimism by French author Lucien Jerphagnon. Subtitled 'The past was always better', the book is a study of the one thing Barcelona fans are trying not to display as they countdown the hours to Inter's arrival.

Roma will be hoping Inter travel to Spain still only second in Serie A as they look to protect their one point lead over Jose Mourinho's side at home to fourth-placed Samdoria. After winning last week's Rome derby Claudio Ranieri's men know their most difficult game is over and the title is in their grasp if they can just win their four remaining matches.

Deschamps' Marseille nearly French champions

Marseille can close in on the French title if they can beat St Etienne. It will be Didier Deschamps' side's seventh straight win and set them up nicely for next week's trip to second place Auxerre who currently lie five points behind them.

In Portugal Benfica could seal the title when they play Olhanense at the Estádio da Luz. They are six points clear of SC Braga and will win the league if they can better Braga's result away to A. Naval 1º Maio.

Sex scandal overshadows Bayern's performances

Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich face Borussia Monchengladbach after a week of mixed fortunes. They took a one goal lead against Lyon in their Champions League first leg semi-final but had Franck Ribery sent off and have had to weather the storm caused by accusations levelled at the French winger regarding his off-the-field behaviour.

Ribery and Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema, as well as Lyon's Sidney Govou have all been investigated as part of crack down on a brothel using under-aged prostitutes. Benzema is alleged to have used the services of Zahia Dehar when she was 16 and Ribery is accused of doing so when she was 17. Using a prostitute in France under the age of 18 is punishable with a fine of up to €45,000 or up to two years in prison.

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