England Rules: Four Questions That Explain the Summer Transfer Window

July 27, 2015

“While there’s still more than a month remaining, something about the current transfer window just seems … off. Most of the big clubs — Chelsea, PSG, Arsenal, Barcelona, and Real Madrid — have been relatively quiet, and the star we all expected to leave looks like he might stay put in Italy for another year. Now, there’s been plenty of movement in Munich, Manchester, and everywhere else, but even those transactions have been underpriced, overpriced, or seemingly out of nowhere. In short, the silly season’s gotten weird. Here are four questions to sort through all the mayhem.” Grantland


Lionel Messi’s idol just retired

July 17, 2015

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“Pablo Aimar, the curly-froed magician, and the one player who could make even the great Lionel Messi blush, has retired at 35 after a series of debilitating injuries. Aimar recently penned a farewell letter to his River Plate teammates after he was left off of the team’s Copa Libertadores squad by coach Marcelo Gallardo. The past few seasons had been torrid for Aimar as he underwent three ankle surgeries, a sadly recurring theme in what’s been a career hampered by injuries. Though younger fans of the game may not be know him well, it’s not hard to see why Messi idolized Aimar, an effortless player who seemed born to dance on the field. An entertainer rightfully nicknamed ‘El Payasito’ (the clown) for his effortless ability, Aimar was a fan favorite everywhere he went.” Fusion (Video)


Sergio Busquets – the underrated key of Barcelona’s success?

July 11, 2015

“When you think of Barcelona’s successes from 2008 onwards the three players who immediately come to mind are Lionel Messi, Andreas Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez. There’s another player though who is rarely spoken about that should receive equal praise in relation to how Barcelona perform. His name is Sergio Busquets.” backpagefootball


The Barcelona presidential elections, explained

June 30, 2015

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“It’s election season at FC Barcelona. On July 18, tens of thousands of Barça fans will hit the ballot box to choose their fearless leader. Will it be the quiet incumbent or the charismatic challenger? Because let’s face it, no one else has a chance. Barcelona is one of the handful of clubs (along with Real Madrid, Athletic Bilbao, and Osasuna) in which the fans vote for the president. But not just any Barcelona fan can vote. You have to be a paying socio, or member.” Fusion


Barcelona 3-1 Juventus: Barca pounce to end spells of Juve pressure

June 11, 2015

“Barcelona won the European Cup – and completed a treble for the second time in seven years – with a 3-1 victory over Italian champions Juventus. There were no surprises on Luis Enrique’s teamsheet. Andres Iniesta had been the only slight injury doubt, but he was fit to start and wore the captain’s armband. Luis Enrique continued with his policy of using his reserve goalkeeper in cup competitions, which meant Marc-Andre ter Stegen started on home soil, with Claudio Bravo on the bench.” Zonal Marking


Juventus, Barcelona, and Beyond: How the Champions League Final Challenges What We Thought We Knew About Soccer

June 7, 2015

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“Thanks to Sepp Blatter, the FBI, a hastily called FIFA press conference, and years and years of unchecked corruption, the state of the game has been the talk of the soccer town this week. Of course, none of that talk has anything to do with, well, the way soccer is played on the field. Thankfully, tomorrow we get the biggest (men’s) soccer game of the year: the Champions League final between Barcelona and Juventus. With championship games, there’s always a temptation to turn the result into a referendum after the fact, to take what happened in the final and retroactively apply it to the season gone by. But if Barcelona lose tomorrow despite their status as heavy favorites, it doesn’t mean they were any less dominant for the six months prior, and if Juventus get blown out, that doesn’t make their unlikely finals run any less meaningful. It’s not the final game that makes the trend; it’s everything leading up to it.” Grantland

How do Juventus stop Lionel Messi and Barcelona’s front three?
“It’s a question that opponents have been asking since the four-year-old Lionel Messi first wandered on to a dusty pitch in the Rosário suburb of Grandoli, nudged the ball in front of him and set off on a slaloming gambeta that took him past three players. How do you stop him? Before the semi-final Pep Guardiola, who perhaps knows his game as well as anybody, admitted that you just couldn’t. As Messi demonstrated against Athletic Bilbao in last Saturday’s Copa del Rey final, when he’s in the sort of form he is in at the moment, even surrounding him with three players and placing another three between him and the goal isn’t enough. So what do Juventus do?” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Vintage Barcelona display suggests Champions League legacy has a future
“The holy grail of becoming the first team to retain the Champions League remains unclaimed but this Barcelona, after winning a third European title in seven years on Saturday, can surely be regarded now as not merely a great team but a great dynasty. This Barça perhaps now stand comparison with the Real Madrid team that won the first five European Cups. That is not to say that winning three times in seven years with three semi-final appearances is greater than winning five in a row, it’s to say that the core of this Barça side has remained more consistent than the core of that Madrid one; that – remarkably in this age of transfer-market frenzy – this Barcelona have managed to keep winning with essentially the same players.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Tactical Analysis: Juventus 1-3 Barcelona | Barcelona’s quality, and poor positioning from Juventus make the difference
“We all waited for this fantastic evening, and what a game it was. Barcelona took on the lead very early after a pretty shaky period for Juventus, thanks to the man of the match, Iniesta who found Rakitic with a cut-back pass into the penalty-spot. Juventus did eventually shake things up and did also find the equalizer to keep the final dramatic enough, but with the attacking-trio of Barcelona, Juventus proved to be too vulnerable to direct counter-attacks.” Outside of the Boot

4 Champions League Final Storylines – and How Messi’s Presence Could Make Them Irrelevant
“In coming up with an angle for writing this, I was conflicted. On one hand, there are an exorbitant number of spectacular storylines for Saturday’s Champions League Final. When this many legends-in-the-making take the pitch at once, there are bound to be more than a few fascinating plot points. But then I kept coming back to one thing: Lionel Messi will be on the field. I’m going to run through four of the most interesting storylines for Barcelona vs. Juventus on Saturday, and then I will get to Messi. As you read them, just remember the presence of that diminutive Argentine could render all of them basically irrelevant. Here we go.” Soccer Pro

Europe’s best, Barcelona finishes treble run with 3-1 win over Juventus
“Barcelona capped an incredible season with a 3-1 win over Juventus in the Champions League final on Saturday, sealing a treble of trophies and ending the 2014-2015 European soccer season on an exciting high note. Ivan Rakitic opened the scoring in the fourth minute with the fourth-fastest goal in a Champions League final, and it looked like Barcelona would ease to the title. But Gianluigi Buffon made a number of clutch saves, and Alvaro Morata, the former Real Madrid striker, found an equalizer in the 55th minute, finishing off a rebound from a Carlos Tevez saved shot.  Luis Suárez scored the eventual winner 13 minutes later, though, and Neymar, who earlier had what he thought was Barca’s third goal ruled out for a handball, tallied the insurance goal with the last kick of the game.” SI

How Barcelona’s tactics helped it beat Juventus in Champions League final
“As long as it played to its capabilities, Barcelona always seemed likely to win the Champions League final against Juventus on Saturday. It did just that, taking its fifth European Cup with a 3-1 victory while controlling most of the match with its flexible possession. Barcelona’s unchanged lineup set out in its traditional 4-3-3 system. Neymar played wider than Lionel Messi, who cut inside as a situational No. 10. A relatively flat line of three in midfield filled in the front line’s gaps, and the fullbacks also provided width when the forwards tucked in.” SI


How Barcelona’s Luis Enrique proved everyone wrong – and ended the hunting season

June 4, 2015

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Juventus’ possible defensive formation.
Luis Enrique declared hunting season open in the first week of November and it lasted well into the new year. Barcelona had just been beaten at home by Celta de Vigo, the first time the Galicians had ever won at the Camp Nou, and the Catalans’ coach, who had watched the criticism grow almost from the start, sarcastically foresaw a ‘nice week’ ahead. As it turned out, that was optimistic: it was more than a week and it would get a whole lot ‘nicer’. A 0-0 draw with Getafe followed in December and when 2015 opened with a 1-0 defeat at Real Sociedad, a crisis opened.” Guardian

UEFA Champions League Final: How will the teams tactically set-out?
“We have now finally come to the final stage of the Champions League, with a team that has not been good enough in the past few editions of the Champions League in Juventus, and Barcelona, who also started off this season with problems as well on and off the pitch, with an apparent rift between Messi and Enrique, but after the defeat against Moyes’ Real Sociedad, has transformed into an unstoppable team, not losing a single game. If we could separate these teams in any way, than that would without doubt be on the basis of style of play. The percentage of the ball-possession that Barcelona has in a game on average (this season) is 62 % while on the other hand you have Juventus with 52 %.” Outside of the Boot

Juventus and their Champions League conquest
“For the first time since 2003, the black and blue striped jerseys of Juventus FC, will be seen in the Champions League Final, which this year will be held at the Olympiastadion in Berlin. On June 6, Gianluigi Buffon will have the chance to lift the trophy for the first time in his career and there is no better time than right now for him and Juventus to win the Holy Grail. After many years of failure in Europe, Juventus have finally made it to the big time. What has changed? What finally made the Old Lady sing in tune? To start off, we must address what makes Juventus such a difficult team to beat. What cannot be denied, is their defensive prowess, composure and organisation.” backpagefootball

Find a Free Pirlo: How Juventus Built a Champions League Finalist on a Budget
“Why are Juventus in the Champions League final? The short answer is Paul Pogba, the guy who might just be the best player in the world not named ‘Lionel Messi’ or ‘Cristiano Ronaldo.’ After joining Manchester United at 16, Pogba’s relationship with Sir Alex Ferguson soured over a lack of playing time. He left on a free transfer,1 signed with Juventus, and, three years later, here they are: one win away from a treble. Of course, the longer answer is, well, longer. But Pogba’s move is of a piece with an approach that built a team capable of overcoming plenty of more expensive teams.” Grantland


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