x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Henry backed to find form for Barca

Pep Guardiola, the Barcelona manager, thinks Thierry Henry's goal in the thrashing of Racing Santander could be the spark which helps the striker rediscover his best form.

Barcelona's French forward Thierry Henry celebrates his goal against Racing Santander.
Barcelona's French forward Thierry Henry celebrates his goal against Racing Santander.

Pep Guardiola, the Barcelona manager, thinks Thierry Henry's goal in the Primera Liga thrashing of Racing Santander could be the spark which helps the striker rediscover his best form. The previously-prolific France forward netted only his third goal of the campaign in the 4-0 home victory at the Camp Nou with a free kick in the 29th minute. "We hope the goal lifts his spirits. His teammates and myself expect a lot from him," Guardiola said. "I have never lost confidence in him because we desperately need him but we need him playing to a slightly higher standard than he has been doing. I demand more from him." Henry cut a forlorn figure on the bench in Barca's previous three matches. An ankle injury to Zlatan Ibrahimovic saw the Swedish striker drop out of the squad on Saturday and Henry make only his 13th start of the season before being substituted near the end. Txiki Begiristain, the Barca sports director, backed the coach's assessment of the 32-year-old. "It's always good to score a goal. We hope it lifts his spirits, his confidence and his desire to help out," Begiristain told Canal Plus. "He is a great player who last year made a huge effort for the team playing on the wing and scoring 26 goals. For this we will always be grateful." Andres Iniesta, scorer of Barca's opening goal, believes his side's comprehensive victory was just the performance they needed ahead of the resumption of their Champions League defence this week.

Barca went into the game having suffered their first league defeat of the season against Atletico Madrid in their previous outing last weekend, while they were also missing a host of first-team players through injury. "When you lose what you want is to play again quickly and win, and this gives us confidence for Tuesday's game [away at Stuttgart]," said Iniesta, who made his 300th appearance for Barca and scored his first goal in almost 10 months. "We were efficient, we dominated and we scored early, maybe we lacked a little authority but now we must think about Tuesday. A change in television scheduling means that the Primera Liga now has a Monday night fixture with Valencia hosting Getafe at the Mestalla in tonight's match. Carlos Marchena, Valencia's veteran centre back, says his side's defensive injury crisis is the perfect chance for some of Los Che's fringe players to show what they can do. Third-placed Valencia could have four senior defenders unavailable for the game. Bruno Saltor, Alexis and David Navarro were all out injured for Thursday's Europa League trip to Club Brugge and Jeremy Mathieu tore ankle ligaments in that match which could rule him out for the remainder of the season. Of the quartet, Alexis is the only one who looks like he could make the Getafe match, while Unai Emery, the coach, will also have to do without injured wingers Vicente and Jordi Alba. "Unfortunately we're losing quite a few players in defence, but for that we now need to show that we are a squad and not just a team," Marchena, the Spain international, said. "We need everyone to pull together and give it everything. The time has arrived for some players [to stake their claim]." The injury to Mathieu capped a disappointing night in Belgium for Valencia, who suffered their first defeat in 19 European games after going down to a solitary second-half goal. They also had midfielder David Silva sent off. * With agencies Valencia v Getafe, midnight, Aljazeera Sport + 2