“Dortmund’s chaotic season has taken us all by surprise and Jurgen Klopp’s men are in a situation where they are having to balance their Champions League aspirations along with a bid to move away from the lower half of the Bundesliga. Schalke on the other hand are in the middle of a push for a spot of next season’s Champions League and would have backed themselves to get a result despite the home side’s recent resurgence.” Outside of the Boot
“An architecturally innovative park – conceived in Brazil’s modernity boom of the late 50s – in iconic Rio de Janeiro, will host some of the city’s 450th birthday celebrations, providing a visual reminder of a time when Brazil’s football was at the cutting edge of the global game.” The World Game – Tim Vickery
“Usually when the last ‘De Topper’ of the season is played, it’s often a title decider, but not this year. PSV came into the game with 14-point lead, and most pundits had already sent the title to Eindhoven before the game. Ajax knew if there should be even a little glimmer of hope, then they needed to claim all 3 points at the Phillips Stadium this Sunday. In a game dominated by PSV, Ajax managed to grab a 3-1 victory, and maybe put a little bit of doubt into the heads of the Eindhoven players.” Outside of the Boot
N.Y.C.F.C. fans watching an exhibition match at a Manhattan bar last month.
“New York sports fans can be a melodramatic lot, but in January one particular group had become agitated on a whole other level. The debut of a newly acquired star player, believed to be set for the season opener in March, had been pushed back at least three months for contract reasons, and they were outraged. Some returned the team jerseys they had bought bearing the player’s name. Others vowed to boo him when he did finally arrive. One group of die-hards issued a statement saying it ‘would like to publicly denounce’ the club and the player for the delay. A typical New York fan response to a team’s blunder. But here is the difference: The team, New York City Football Club, hadn’t played a game yet. Not just this season. Ever.” NY Times
“… A 3-1 scoreline has given FC Barcelona a bit of breathing room heading into the second leg of the Copa del Rey but it would be foolish to underestimate the quality Villarreal possess. Marcelino’s men are perfectly capable of surprising the upper echelon of Europe with the likes of Vietto, Uche and Cherychev among others at his disposal. Estadio El Madrigal is regarded as one of the toughest away grounds in Spanish football however the Catalans should expect a result sufficient enough to book their seat in the final where they would face the winner between Athletic Bilbao and Espanyol.” Barca Blaugranes
“After a week where Manchester City were convincingly defeated by both Barcelona and Liverpool, with 2-1 losses flattering the English champions on both occasions, manager Manuel Pellegrini’s tactics inevitably came under fire. For both contests, his 4-4-2 formation was outplayed in midfield and exposed between the lines, leading to many questions about whether the Chilean has the tactical nous necessary to get results against the biggest sides. The 4-4-2 itself isn’t necessarily a problem, although the implementation of the system is surely flawed. Atletico Madrid’s 4-4-2 is an example of the possibilities with that system, although realistically that shape is more like 4-4-2-0, with the strikers dropping back behind the opposition midfielders and keeping the side extremely compact. There’s a huge difference between that and the 4-4-2 used by Pellegrini — and, indeed, by his predecessor Roberto Mancini.” ESPN – Michael Cox
“Sunday’s Capital One Cup Final clash between Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur saw Jose Mourinho spring somewhat of a puzzle on pundits and fans alike as he named five defenders in his starting eleven. It would become apparent closer to kick-off that the Blues would not line up with five defenders, rather four; with 20-year-old powerhouse Kurt Zouma playing at the bas of a midfield trio, attempting to fill the shoes of one Nemanja Matic.” backpagefootball