Most thoughts at Dundee United today turned to Barcelona as preparations for Thursday’s glamour friendly against the Spanish giants got under way (writes Tom Duthie).
|With a stand-in goalkeeper and a striker to find, however, Tangerines boss Craig Levein also had other things on his mind.|
Fan and player focus for the next few days, though, will be firmly on Barca, who flew into Edinburgh at lunchtime before heading for St Andrews, where they will be based for the rest of the week.
With the Spanish season finishing little over a month ago, their pre-season work only started on Saturday and, as well as games against United and Hearts, Frank Rijkaard’s superstars face double training sessions most days here.
Not on the plane from Spain were Copa America stars Lionel Messi and Raphael Marquez, they will remain on holiday until next week, while club captain and key defender Carles Puyol is missing pre-season work because of injury.
Heading for Fife, though were the likes of Ronaldinho, Deco and, of course, massive summer signing from Arsenal Thierry Henry.
At Tannadice, Craig Levein made no attempt to hide the fact the prospect of doing battle against such talent meant there was an extra buzz about the place when his players arrived for training this morning.
“Of course there is. This is a game everyone wants to be involved in, and all the players will be trying to show they should be,” he said. “I’m no different. To be working towards a game against Barcelona is nice.”
That won’t stop the gaffer taking care of the business he has to in the run up to the start of the SPL season on Saturday week, tickets for the opener against Aberdeen are on sale now, and his search for a striker continues.
Now added to the many calls he’s been making about an attacker are enquiries concerning goalkeepers after it emerged Lukasz Zaluska had broken his foot and will be out for six weeks.
“You’ve no idea just how much work I’ve been doing to fix up a striker. I’d like one for Thursday, but the most important thing is I get a player of the right quality so I can’t say that will happen,” added Craig.
“Now I’ve also got the goalkeeping situation to think about as well. We knew Lukasz had a problem, but didn’t realise how bad it was until he got a scan and he didn’t either.
“With the Barcelona game so close, it is obviously a big disappointment for him, but these things happen in football and now it is a case of looking around for cover.”
Craig was happy with yesterday’s 2-2 draw against Raith at Stark’s Park, a game that saw young Ghanaian Prince Bauben make his debut.
The 19-year-old has been on trial and has signed a three-year contract. He is seen as one for the future, but his early progress suggests he may force his way into the squad sooner than expected.
“He’s got talent, though the reason he played yesterday was because he needed games.
“The game was a good exercise and very competitive.
“It gave the boys a good run out and I was pleased to see (Christian) Kalvenes and (Willo) Flood get action.”
I feel fully confident in a 2-1 victory for the Tigers and you all know how rarely my sports predictions are wrong.