Penpix of Barcelona players before
Saturday's Primera Liga match against Real Madrid:
Star of the show at the Nou Camp, the prodigiously talented Brazilian
may not yet have reached the heights of last season, yet he is still
capable of setting any game alight. No other player in the Primera Liga
possesses his repertoire of shimmies, step-overs and assorted tricks. A
Victor Valdes, goalkeeper, aged 22:
One of the best young keepers in Spain and good enough to keep Turkish
international Rustu Recber out of the team last season. Quick, agile and
confident, he has conceded penalties for mistiming dives at the feet of
Carles Puyol, centre-back or right back, 26:
Shaggy-haired defender is the heart and soul of the new Barcelona.
Adored by fans for his never-say-die approach, he times his tackles well,
is confident with the ball and good going forward. The only question
mark is his fitness after picking up a knee injury in last week's defeat
Rafael Marquez, centre-half, 25:
After an inconsistent start at Barca, the Mexican international has come
into his own this season. Hard in the tackle, good in the air and
dangerous going forward, he can play in the back four or push up into
midfield with equal effect.
Oleguer, centre-back or right back, 24:
Versatile former reserve player who provides cover in several positions
at the back. Has matured into an efficient, no-frills defender under the
tutelage of Puyol and coach Frank Rijkaard.
Giovanni van Bronckhorst, left back or left midfield, 29:
The Dutch international has been in fine form this season. He gets
forward as much as possible, whipping in telling crosses from the left
and has weighed in with important goals.
Juliano Belletti, right back, 26:
Member of Brazil's World Cup-winning squad, Belletti is Barca's answer
to Robero Carlos. He likes to push forward down the right wing and is no
slouch in defence. His duel with his fellow countryman should be
Silvinho, left back, 28:
The former Arsenal and Celta Vigo defender has recently recovered from a
knee injury and is unlikely to start. Given his pace and attacking
instincts he is the perfect back-up to van Bronckhorst on the left.
Deco, central midfielder, 27:
Played an instrumental role in Porto's Champions League triumph last
season and in Portugal's run to the final of Euro 2004, and Deco has
been an instant hit at the Nou Camp. Has excellent control and is a good
passer of the ball. He is also a ball-winner and tireless worker in the
centre of midfield.
Ludovic Giuly, right wing, 28:
Speedy French winger who helped guide Monaco to the final of the
Champions League last season. Made a great start to his career at Barca,
but has gone off the boil after a thigh injury and has yet to recover
his early-season sharpness.
Andres Iniesta, central midfielder, 20:
Jewel in the crown of Barca's renowned youth system, the under-21
international is mature beyond his years and has won the confidence of
coach Rijkaard with a string of assured performances in midfield.
Reminiscent of former Nou Camp idol Michael Laudrup.
Xavi, central midfielder, 24:
Xavi has been Barca's key player this season and finally looks like
living up to his billing as Pep Guardiola's replacement. Constantly
searching out his team mates, he keeps everything ticking in midfield,
has an impressive range of defence-splitting passes and likes to take a
pot at goal. Has a great understanding with Ronaldinho.
Henrik Larsson, striker, 33:
The former Celtic hero has had to content himself with a supporting role
since his arrival at the Nou Camp. Has missed a few good chances in
one-on-one situations this season, but his work rate has been impressive
and he remains a great finisher.
Samuel Eto'o, striker, 23:
Once on Real's books, the Cameroon striker is always fired up for games
against his old club and will be even more so now that he has joined
arch-rivals Barcelona. Has been in electric form this season, grabbing
nine goals to top the scoring charts, and is certain to create problems
for the Real back four.