Sergio Ramos bares striker’s soul to leave Barcelona on ropes in title race

December 5, 2016

4580
“It was time, Ramos time. In fact, if anything, he was a little early. The clock had reached 89 minutes in the first clásico of the season and Barcelona were winning 1-0, Madrid’s lead at the top reduced to three points, game on again, and Luka Modric was standing by the ball out on the left where Arda Turan had gifted them one last chance, the kind of moment this man is made for. Thirty yards away, Sergio Ramos nodded “over here” at him, eyebrows, eyes and head gesturing surreptitiously. At least he hoped it was surreptitious. As he took up his position – offside for now, ready to step back on – Gerard Piqué watched him and tracked him, or tried to; in Piqué’s way was Lucas Vázquez, pushing, diverting, annoying.” Guardian


Tactics: back three back in fashion

December 5, 2016

“Chelsea, Manchester City, Everton, Tottenham Hotspur, Juventus, Roma, Sevilla, Wales, Serbia, Italy, Spain. The list of teams who have played with a back three at some point this season is long, varied and growing. In the Premier League, playing three at the back has spread with extraordinary speed since Chelsea manager Antonio Conte reacted to his side’s defeat at Arsenal by returning to the shape he had favoured with Juventus and Italy.” World Soccer – Jonathan Wilson


Jose Mourinho is a fraction away from turning Man Utd into title challengers – just get rid of that walking suicide note Marouane Fellaini

December 5, 2016

“There was a moment in the second half at Goodison Park on Sunday which suggested Jose Mourinho’s permanent look of sour misery may be about to change.His Manchester United side unleashed a sequence of first-time passes, pinging the ball around with genuine fizz. As passes spun with training ground precision from Matteo Darmian to Anthony Martial to Michael Carrick to Ander Herrera, it was possible to see exactly what the United manager is trying to achieve with his team.” Telegraph


Exclusive interview with new USA coach Bruce Arena

December 5, 2016

“USA coach Bruce Arena told The Set Pieces that Christian Pulisic has a “very bright future” with the national team after meeting the Borussia Dortmund teenager for the first time at the weekend. Having recently been appointed as US head coach for a second time, Arena was in Germany to check in on the American contingent in the Bundesliga. On Saturday, he attended Dortmund’s victory over Borussia Mönchengladbach at Signal Iduna Park to watch Pulisic and Gladbach’s flying full-back Fabian Johnson.” the set pieces


Tim Vickery’s Notes from South America: Chapecoense may find that renewal comes in the form of playing again

December 5, 2016

“The Atanasio Giradot stadium deserved some joy. Last Wednesday the ground in Medellin was packed, with thousands left outside, as the Colombian public gathered to pay tribute to those who lost their lives in the Chapecoense air disaster. It was a deeply moving ceremony, and a show of solidarity that left Brazilians in awestruck gratitude. The only connection between Medellin and Chapeco was the game of football which was to have been taking place at that time on Wednesday evening. And with Medellin efficiency and a warm Colombian heart, Nacional – as well as requesting that the title of the Copa Sudamericana be awarded to Chapecoense – had put together a sincere and touching tribute.” World Soccer


Inside Italy’s ultras: the dangerous fans who control the game

December 2, 2016

landscape_4256
“On 7 July this year, Raffaello Bucci’s body was found at the bottom of the so-called “viaduct of suicides”. Just a day before, he had been interviewed by police investigating links between football and organised crime. The viaduct is an impressive structure connecting Turin to Cuneo, a city 100km to the south, and south-eastern France. The arches carrying the dual-carriageway over the Stura di Demonte river are 45 metres high. It was on this same spot that Edoardo, only son of Gianni Agnelli (the late owner of Fiat and Juventus), ended his life in 2000.” Guardian


Pep Guardiola v Antonio Conte: a tactical showdown of brooder against extrovert

December 2, 2016

“It would, perhaps, be the defining irony of Arsène Wenger’s uneasy relationship with Chelsea if it turns out that when he finally devised a way of beating them it provoked a tactical shift that won the Blues the title. Since Chelsea switched to a back three when 3-0 down at half-time at the Emirates, they have conceded only once, winning seven Premier League games in a row. They passed one major test by coming from behind to beat Tottenham last week but on Saturday represents an even more severe examination as they go to Manchester City.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson