Real Madrid 1-1 Barcelona: Real press excellently but tire and allow Barca chances

“Real pressed effectively in the first half, but Barcelona exerted their dominance after the break. With various absences, Jose Mourinho was forced to name a makeshift backline – Ricardo Carvalho played alongside Rafael Varane, Alvaro Arbeloa had to play left-back, so Michael Essien deputised on the right. New signing Diego Lopez started in goal, Jose Callejon was in for the suspended Angel Di Maria, and Kairm Benezema got the nod upfront.” Zonal Marking

Real Madrid claw back Barcelona thanks to Raphaël Varane’s late header
“In a clásico in which Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo did not score for once, the game’s biggest moment came from a 19-year-old defender who was included in the side because of injury and suspension. Raphaël Varane, who started in the absence of Sergio Ramos and Pepe, capped a colossal performance with a second-half header that equalised Cesc Fábregas’s opener and left the Copa del Rey semi-final poised at 1-1. Barcelona take an away goal; Madrid will feel that they too can get one in the second leg in a month’s time.” Guardian


African Cup of Nations: Quarter final preview

“After twelve days of soccer in South Africa, eight nations are set to battle it out as the journey towards the final of the 29th Africa Cup of Nations continues. South Africa, Cape Verde, Ghana, Mali, Burkina Faso,Nigeria, Ivory Coast and Togo have all booked their places in the last eight of the Africa Cup of Nations tourney. The Black Stars of Ghana will lock horns with the Blue Sharks of Cape Verde in the first of a series of four quarter final games starting on Saturday, January 29. Coming into the game as the clear under dogs, Cape Verde will undoubtedly hope their fairy tale story in South Africa continues especially after defying the odds to qualify for the next round ahead of the more fancied Morocco and Angola in Group A. Though they had eliminated Cameroon during the qualifiers for the tourney, little was expected from the debutants, who have so far defied expectations. The Blue Sharks boisterous march in the tourney, led by coach Lucio Antunes, has caught the attention of many soccer pundits.” Think Football

Emmanuel Adebayor puts Cabinda behind him as Togo go through
“Togo secured the draw they needed against Tunisia and so made it through to the quarter-final of the Africa Cup of Nations for the first time in their history. Those are the bald facts, but they don’t begin to tell anything like the full story of an extraordinary night at the Mbombela. It may not have been great football, but it was magnificent drama. The Sparrowhawks, exploiting Tunisia’s shambolic offside line, broke through again and again in the early stages and eventually took the lead after 13 minutes, Emmanuel Adebayor laying in Serge Gakpo, whose firm low shot from just inside the penalty area beat Moez Ben Cherifia.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Tactical Analysis: Zeman needs to be given time at Roma

“It was a surprise appointment. He was a forgotten offensive guru when Pescara appointed him before 2011/12 Serie B season. Roma wanted him because of his background, because of the footballing culture and attractive offensive philosophy that comes from his Foggia days during the early ‘90s. Now, Roma admitted sacking the him was an option. That would be the sign of a failed revolution. History teaches us a lot about failed revolutions. When Roma appointed Czech manager Zdenek Zeman for his second stint with Giallorossi, they hope to bring on a new football idea in the mouldy Italian football. The idea was to run the succesfull Zeman’s 4-3-3 in the Catenaccio land. An attacking football based on speed, quickness and veticality. Not all worked during this first half of the season as Roma had up and downs.” Think Football

Sneijder confident in taking road less traveled to Turkey

“Wesley Sneijder, the Dutch national team captain, was on the phone from Istanbul, and I asked him something that had never entered my mind until this week: Is it realistic to think Galatasaray could win the UEFA Champions League? The Turkish club may be the most intriguing team in world soccer right now after pulling off a double-stunner in the past week to acquire Sneijder and Ivory Coast star striker Didier Drogba. Sneijder chuckled a little bit at the question. He has won a Champions League, after all, with Inter Milan in 2009-10, and he knows how hard it is to raise the most important trophy in world club soccer. But doing it with Galatasaray?” SI

David Beckham needs to beware the motives of Qatar moneymen behind his move to Paris St-Germain

“Good old Paris, always the city of romance. David Beckham and Paris St-Germain fell into each others’ arms, smitten with a short-term passion from the Englishman’s perspective and an amorous long-term game-plan devised by the club’s Qatari owners.” Telegraph – Henry Winter