The End of Barcelona

May 26, 2011

The Great Fish Market – Jan Brueghel the Elder
“I have a new piece in Slate about the Champions League final and whether we’re about to see the end of Barcelona’s magical run of the last few seasons. Of course, no sooner had I ventured this possibility in a draft than I went down with a sudden, bad case of food poisoning; most of this was written while I was clinging to the edge of the bed, sustained by nothing but Gatorade and rice. So take that into account, if you believe the universe avenges its chosen children.” Run of Play

Sic Transit Gloria Messi
“For the past three years, soccer has been dominated, utterly and ruthlessly, by a reign of Spanish prettiness. Spain’s national team won Euro 2008 with a rapturous mix of intricate passing and outrageous goal-scoring, then repeated the feat, albeit less dazzlingly, at the 2010 World Cup. Meanwhile, F.C. Barcelona took many of the same Spanish players—plus Lionel Messi, the Argentine superstar who’s lived in Spain since boyhood—on a fey romp through worldwide club soccer.” Slate

The tale of how Guardiola and Barcelona fell in love

May 26, 2011

“‘Citizens of Catalunya, now we have it here with us,’ were Pep Guardiola’s words to the celebrating masses on 24 May 1992. Barcelona had been to Wembley and come back with the club’s first European Cup. The skin-and-bones No 10 with the full head of thick, jet-black hair was 21 years old. He had marched up to take charge of the extra-time free-kick from which Ronald Koeman would score, only to be pushed away by Hristo Stoichkov, five years his senior.” Independent

Five things to watch in the Champions League final Story Highlights
“It’s here: the biggest game of the year in world club soccer. Five things to watch for in Saturday’s UEFA Champions League final between Barcelona and Manchester United (2 p.m. ET, Fox)…” SI

Can’t England get United behind the red half of Manchester in the Champions League?
“On the day of the game, when Manchester United last played in Lisbon in 2007, Sir Alex Ferguson commandeered a crew from in-house broadcasters MUTV and headed out to Oeiras, west of the city. In the Jamor sports complex, surrounded by woodlands, lies the Estadio Nacional, an oval arena, medium-sized, that is the traditional setting for the Portuguese cup final. Ferguson had the crew film him walking out on to the pitch and at various points around the stadium.” DailyMail

Champions League Final Predictions: What the bloggers say
“There’s nothing predictable about Saturday’s Champions League Final between Manchester United and Barcelona – but ITV have asked a selection of the top football bloggers to give it a go anyway…” itv

Ten conclusions to make from Arsenal’s season 2010/2011

May 26, 2011

“1. Mental fragility cost Arsenal the season. There is a valid assertion that with the youth policy, certain characteristics – in some cases, the key characteristics that make up the anatomy of a successful football club – have had to be exaggerated and the others, harder to reproduce. Indeed, the most attractive qualities of Arsenal since the beginning of Arséne Wenger’s reign – the youth, fluidity, intelligence, pace and confidence in possession – have effectively taken over the team.” Arsenal Column

Lessons from the 2009 final (part one)

May 26, 2011

“As this season’s Champions League final is a repeat of the final from 2009, it’s well worth taking a look at that contest before Saturday night’s game. The footage, if you’re interested, is available on YouTube here (with the following parts on the links down the right-hand side). Here are five conclusions from that match – five more (plus the usual preview) to come.” Zonal Marking

Lessons from the 2009 final (part two)
“A continuation of the earlier conclusions from the 2009 Champions League final between Barcelona and Manchester United. The majority of points are, of course, related to Manchester United’s tactics – since they lost that final, and have to put things right this time around.” Zonal Marking

Football Culture Clash: a debate with Paul Hayward

May 26, 2011

“On a flight back from Spain, a chance meeting with Paul Hayward, Chief Sports Writer for The Observer, led to a lengthy discussion on the cultural differences between the English and Spanish game. Our conversation took place in the aftermath of the Champions League semi finals that did little to enhance the reputation of La Liga in the eyes of the British press and public. With this Saturday`s Champions League final bringing our two footballing cultures together, Paul Hayward and I thought it would be interesting to continue our comparisons of attitudes and approaches to the sport via email and publish them here. Here`s the first couple of exchanges between Paul and I. Please join in the debate and check back later in the week when our focus turns to the big game between Manchester United and FC Barcelona at Wembley…” Guillem Balague, (2)

Fourteen: #1

May 26, 2011

“This is the first part of a David Peace-style fictionalisation of the 1974 World Cup Final, its specific focus being the Dutch squad of Rinus Michels and Johan Cruyff. I’m not entirely sure where I’m going this – I started it while sitting in a coffee shop to pass the time and just kept writing – but I’ll publish it in several parts and see it through to its conclusion regardless. If the prose seems clunky then that’ll be because I very rarely turn my hand to fiction, but it’s been fun to write and so this is the first instalment of what may be several to follow.” The Equaliser