Samuel Eto'o turned 28 on Tuesday and was in jovial mood on the eve of FC Barcelona's home second leg against Olympique Lyonnais, wishing luck to all of Spain's hopefuls and shrugging off his barren run in front of goal.
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Samuel Eto'o has an enormous capacity to spring surprises on a football pitch which partly accounts for his prolific scoring over the years.
A twist and a turn, or a clever one-two, and FC Barcelona's predator has shaken off his defender and hit the net. But he is also full of little surprises as a person. Ahead of Barcelona's UEFA Champions League first knockout round second leg against Olympique Lyonnais, Eto'o, celebrating his 28th birthday on Tuesday, announced a party for the local media the day after Wednesday's game – but then ticked them off for not being supportive enough of Josep Guardiola's team recently.
Eto'o moved on to say he hopes all four of Spain's UEFA Champions League representatives go "as far as possible". When one journalist interjected, "Even Real Madrid?" the Cameroon forward responded: "I'm tired of English teams dominating the latter stages and I'd like all the sides from Spain, including Madrid, to get to the last four ... so long as it's us who lift that cup with the big ears."
There was more. Even though team-mate Daniel Alves has nicknamed Eto'o 'Mr Goal', the man himself professes to be utterly unfazed by the fact he has not scored since mid-February. "I've already scored a barrow-load of goals this season, so I'm not worried at the moment," said the purveyor of 23 Liga and one UEFA Champions League goal this season. "It's not a drama. This is just a little sequence without the normal amount of goals, but experience tells me I could be switched on again at any moment. As long as we win and I do my work then that's fine."
Coincidence has it that Eto'o will follow his birthday with a potential match-up with a man he has known since birth. He and Lyon centre-half Jean-Alain Boumsong, who is recovering from a hamstring strain, grew up in the same Cameroonian village. "We are not related but he's like a cousin or even a brother to me," said the No9. "If we have to face off then I'll try to get one over on him, but we'll be arm in arm like family again after the game."
If Boumsong plays, Eto'o expects his defensive line to be put under pressure even though Barcelona do not need to score following the 1-1 first-leg draw in Lyon. Andrés Iniesta's return from injury in Saturday's 2-0 defeat of Athletic Club Bilbao gives the attacker further cause for confidence. Eto'o said: "I don't want to second-guess the boss but hopefully Andrés will start and we'll play an attacking match with the team stationed high up the pitch. We haven't done a tactical study of Lyon yet but I know we'll play to win despite having a first-leg advantage. A 0-0 draw is regarded like a defeat at the Camp Nou so we'll treat Lyon with all the respect they deserve but strive to win."