The FC Barcelona Doom Metric

April 28, 2014

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“Earlier this week, during a raid in the port city of Alicante, Spanish police confiscated a batch of hallucinogenic chocolates that had been molded into the shape of the FC Barcelona crest. The chocolates, which were allegedly laced with marijuana and mushrooms, had been disguised as soccer-themed candies by the only person arrested in the operation, a master confectioner nicknamed ‘Willy Wonka.’ The incident gave rise to a whole host of significant questions. For instance: Isn’t ‘Willy Wonka’ pretty much the only possible nickname for any master confectioner freelancing in black-market drug work? Was there even a fallback option for this guy? Is ‘master confectioner baking controlled substances into candy products’ the topic heading of basically the shallowest nickname pool known to humanity? Is the phrase ‘my candy guy, Willy Wonka’ inevitably followed by a bemused chorus of ‘which one?’ at drug-kingpin summits? How does the fraternal organization of master confectioners keep its narcotics mailers straight?” Grantland – Brian Phillips


Three Things: Fulham vs. Hull

April 28, 2014

“Reaction to Fulham and Hull’s 2-2 draw in the Premier League. 1. Magath pays for his initial caution. On paper, Fulham appeared as if they were replicating Hull’s back three, with Felix Magath’s side featuring three natural centre-backs plus John Arne Riise and Sascha Riether, both buccaneering wing-backs.” ESPN – Michael Cox


Know Your Enemy: Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer

April 28, 2014

“Success came early to Manuel Neuer, so it’s perhaps no surprise to learn that he was only 2 when he was given his first ball. He was born and grew up in Gelsenkirchen, attending the Gesamtschule Berger Feld, a school that has become famous for the number of footballers it has produced. Neuer was a classmate of Mesut Ozil — which added a frisson when he saved a penalty from Ozil while playing for Bayern Munich against Arsenal in the Champions League this season.” SI – Jonathan Wilson


World Cup watch: Ezequiel Garay, Gonzalo Higuain, Tim Cahill

April 28, 2014

“The World Cup is only 45 days away, with the opening match between host nation Brazil and Croatia taking place in Sao Paulo on 12 June. BBC Sport, with the help of European football expert Andy Brassell, is taking a weekly look at happenings from across the world of football and what impact they could have on the tournament in the summer.” BBC


Liverpool 0-2 Chelsea: Chelsea play ultra-defensively but win the game

April 28, 2014

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“Chelsea scored breakaway goals in stoppage time at the end of both halves. Brendan Rodgers named an unchanged side from the nervous win at Norwich last week. Jordan Henderson was still suspended, Daniel Sturridge fit only for the bench. Jose Mourinho named a heavily changed side, preserving his best players for the return match against Atletico in midweek. Chelsea’s defensive performance was highly effective, and Demba Ba capitalising on Steven Gerrard’s error meant they were able to continue with this strategy into the second half.” Zonal Marking

Title Hopes Dented, Not Destroyed
“Expecting to win a 12th game in a row is perhaps the new definition of insanity. We had to wake up sooner or later, eh? Still, it’s quite nice to wake up and find ourselves still top of the table. Man City may now be favourites, but they have to win their game in hand, and that’s not a foregone conclusion in a season of twists and turns. It’s fair to say that Chelsea had every right to play the way they did; although Jose Mourinho presumably can’t accuse anyone else of playing like it’s the 19th century or parking the bus.” Tomkins Times


City Top The Winners, Thanks To Chelsea

April 28, 2014

“… Time for a slice of humble pie, Manuel? If the Manchester City manager is to win a first-ever league title in Europe this season, he will owe a large share of gratitude to Jose Mourinho. Unable to beat his rival on two occasions and unable to out-think Liverpool with a better team than Sunday’s patch-work Chelsea side, Pellegrini has relied on Mourinho to afford City another chance.” Football 365


Team Founded by Unhappy Fans May Buy the Club They Abandoned

April 28, 2014

“Breaking up the soccer club they loved was hard for fans of Hapoel Katamon Jerusalem. Putting it back together may prove even more difficult. But for many Katamon fans, a reunion with the club they left, Hapoel Jerusalem, has been the goal all along after they walked away from the more established Hapoel in 2007 to form Katamon, the first fan-owned club in Israel. The new team started over in the fifth division, and as it won promotion after promotion, and even as Katamon played its first emotional matches against Hapoel this season, a reunion was still the goal.” NY Times


Bayern need pace but it’s far too early to herald the end of possession football

April 28, 2014

“You will remember that classic scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark when Indiana Jones is confronted by a smirking, cackling thug-assassin swathed in black and red and clutching a scimitar. The blade is shuffled from hand to hand, teased and flipped and twirled, its edge directed at every point of the compass whilst never threatening a kill. And then Indy pulls out a gun and shoots.” Guardian


San Lorenzo look to divine alignment to help break Copa Libertadores duck

April 25, 2014

San Lorenzo
“These are unexpectedly heady times for San Lorenzo. They are the Argentinian champions, and Wednesday night’s 1-0 over Grêmio in the first leg of their last-16 tie took them a step closer to winning the Copa Libertadores for the first time. There’s a long way to go yet, but this is a ferociously competitive side blessed with an exceptional young forward in Ángel Correa and, moreover, they are playing with a self-belief that defies rational explanation.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Real Madrid 1-0 Bayern Munich: Tactical Analysis | Solid defense & quick counter wins it

April 25, 2014

“With 14 Champions League titles between them, this match was always going to be special. Two of the biggest, most decorated and in-form teams in World football faced off at the Sanitago Bernabeu in the 1st leg of their Champions League semi-final. It was a closely fought battle, and a contrast of two different approaches. While one dominated, the other emerged victorious.” Outside of the Boot


Liverpool’s season through an Everton fan’s eyes

April 25, 2014

“I grew up in the dark yet magical Liverpool of the 1980s, a time when Liverpool FC won so many trophies that the team seemed to be on a permanent victory parade through the city’s streets, showing off their latest piece of silverware (watch the Super 8 footage here.) As a third-generation Everton fan in his formative years, witnessing Liverpool’s stars perpetually cruise by aboard an open-top bus was a searing sight. The players lolling casually around the cup on the front of the upper deck, a pose that suggested winning had really been no sweat at all.” ESPN (Video)


Al-Ahly sign Said as Aboutrika replacement

April 25, 2014

Al-Ahly
“While Egyptian football was sent into turmoil against the backdrop of the country’s revolution, Al-Ahly played as though nothing traumatic was going on at all. They racked up leagues titles — extending their run to seven in succession — and registered back-to-back triumphs in the CAF Champions League. Nothing could stop them, or so it seemed. This season, that changed. For the first time since trouble hit Egypt, its champion club had issues of their own. Al-Ahly suffered a shock exit from the CAF Champions League at the hands of namesakes Al-Ahly Benghazi. They have since made it their mission to become the first Egyptian club to win the secondary continental competition, the CAF Confederation Cup.” ESPN


David Moyes unable to adapt quick enough to fit at Manchester United

April 25, 2014

“On Sunday, an Everton fan dressed as the Grim Reaper, an inflatable scythe in his hand, sat behind the manager’s bench at Goodison Park. For David Moyes, the symbolism was all too apt. His Manchester United team proceeded to put in a lifeless display, being comfortably dispatched 2-0 by the Everton side he used to manage to confirm there is no mathematical chance of the Red Devils qualifying for the Champions League. That it should be the club he stabilized in the Premier League to inflict the fatal blow felt cruel, but it was indicative of how this season has gone for Moyes, who was unceremoniously axed by Manchester United Tuesday morning.” SI – Jonathan Wilson


Tough times for punk football

April 25, 2014

“For advocates of supporter-ownership, the current standings in League Two will make pretty grim reading. Two of the division’s fan owned clubs, Exeter City and Wycombe Wanderers are in the very heart of the fight to avoid relegation to the Conference, while another two, AFC Wimbledon and Portsmouth have had dismal seasons.” backpagefootball


Bendita Camino: Why I Love Atletico Madrid

April 23, 2014

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“I ambled into a random bar near the center of the Spanish capital on September 18, 2005, looking to catch Atletico Madrid, which was hosting Barcelona at Vicente Calderon Stadium in a Sunday nightcap. There was a television bolted in the upper-left corner of the room, and rarely did eyes stray from it. It was standing room only in this old man’s bar. There were men who were born during the Spanish Civil War; men who were born to parents who lived through the war; almost everyone inside was alive during Franco’s reign. It was like stumbling into a house of worship on a holy day. Everyone knew why they were there.” Grantland


Atletico Madrid 0-0 Chelsea: Tactical Analysis | The battle for a compact midfield

April 23, 2014

“Atletico Madrid and Chelsea went head-to-head at the Vicente Calderon in the Champions League semi-finals. It was a tactical battle that was certainly not pleasing to the eyes, it was never going to be. Both sides are in their respective title races but Atletico Madrid are in a  much better situation while Chelsea’s contention could come to a halt this weekend. Mourinho has been desperate for a Champions League with Chelsea, and a record third with a different club while Atletico Madrid are looking forward to a first final in 40 years.Outside of the Boot


Champions League: Real Madrid strikes, holds firm in win over Bayer

April 23, 2014

“Fabio Coentrao was excellent at left back, keeping Arjen Robben relatively quiet and getting forward well to link with Cristiano Ronaldo. Right back Daniel Carvajal dealt superbly with Franck Ribery, and Karim Benzema led the line with great intelligence, but for Real Madrid this was a victory rooted in defensive discipline. As ever Xabi Alonso was a mode of calm, sitting just in front of the back four, but the key for Madrid was Modric.” SI – Jonathan Wilson


Raheem Sterling and Liverpool Style Can Provide World Cup Template for England

April 23, 2014

“Raheem Sterling is a player whose sense of adventure and willingness to try the unusual brings a sense of glee. No neutral fan could watch him running with abandon at the Norwich City defence on Sunday and not feel a warm glow, while his goal against Manchester City, nonchalantly sending Joe Hart and Vincent Kompany to chase an imaginary foe, was breathtaking. There is something very special about those rare, still moments in football, when the goal suddenly emerges before a player and you know he has to score—those moments of potential fulfillment when the goal is inevitable.” Bleacher Report – Jonathan Wilson


Argentina’s 10 Best Home-Based Talents Bound for Europe

April 23, 2014

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“Argentina has a reputation as a footballing giant for a good reason. With the possible exception of Brazil, no other country exports so many wonderful talents across the world, giving leagues from Spain to Sweden and Italy to Israel a South American flavour. As the Torneo Final reaches its closing stages, many of the latest generation of youngsters are already being watched attentively by European scouts, hopeful of finding the next Messi or Kun Aguero. But who are the top young players currently playing in the Primera Division?” Bleacher Report


Team Focus: A Good Season for PSG and Blanc – But Where Next?

April 23, 2014

“When Thiago Silva lifted the Coupe de la Ligue trophy, high in the main stand of the Stade de France just after 11pm on Saturday night, the Paris Saint-Germain captain and his teammates celebrated with gusto. There was no tokenism, no sense that this was a mere trinket of consolation – just roars of joy. It was, evidently, a moment that PSG needed after the challenging spell that has followed their Champions League exit to Chelsea. The defeat at Stamford Bridge hit to the heart. It was a night on which, after André Schürrle’s opening goal for the hosts, the swagger drained out of Laurent Blanc’s side alarmingly quickly. The team with the third highest average proportion of possession in this season’s Champions League retreated into their shells to such a point that they ended up with just 48% in the match that they had bossed in the opening 20 minutes.” Who Scored


Why David Moyes’ sacking sows seeds for success

April 23, 2014

“After ten months of fighting against the inevitable, David Moyes cleared his belongings from his desk at Carrington, which Internet memes have consistently sought to show he didn’t look quite right sitting at from the very start. Given the long-standing success of Sir Alex Ferguson, the Scot always seemed doomed to fail, but his sacking will only temporarily damage the image of Manchester United football club. The resounding silence from Old Trafford despite media reports telling of Moyes’ dismissal lacked class on a human level, but the Red Devils’ managerial hotseat now represents a good opportunity for a top class coach, as opposed to an untenable position where David Moyes wittingly rested himself half-knowing the eventual consequence of his decision.” simonhfootball


Barcelona: Uncertainty and change loom over the Nou Camp

April 20, 2014

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“Wednesday’s Copa del Rey final defeat by Real Madrid, coming on the back of a Champions League exit to Atletico Madrid and a La Liga upset at Granada, marked the first time Barcelona have lost three consecutive games in more than a decade. More importantly, it left Barca’s chances of claiming a major honour this season hanging by a thread, meaning they are likely to end a campaign without serious silverware for the first time since 2008. It has been a disappointing few weeks for the Catalan club, who face a period of uncertainty and a likelihood of significant changes in the near future.” BBC


Liverpool will never forgive themselves if they fail to win title

April 20, 2014

“Liverpool stand three steps from Premier League heaven after all the qualities required to win titles were put to the test by Norwich City at Carrow Road. Brendan Rodgers’s side – it is still just too early to call them champions-elect – showed their attacking brilliance, resilience and enjoyed a little good fortune to hold out for a win that at one stage looked a formality. Early goals from Raheem Sterling and Luis Suarez were examples of the fluidity and brilliance that have become Liverpool’s trademark this season, but those other factors were at work as they dug in to go five points clear at the top of the table with a 3-2 victory.” BBC


The 54 Club – Malta

April 20, 2014

“Needing to use up some holiday time and in desperate need of some sun, beaches, countryside and football I elected to visit Malta. What little knowledge I possessed of the lonely island came from several chapters of Thomas Pynchon’s haunting novel V and I was uncertain of what to expect. Happily, I got on extremely well with Malta and while the tourist sites, ranging from ancient wonders to Second World War bunkers, were remarkable it was the miles of picturesque countryside and sun-drenched, arid farmland in between charming towns untouched for countless years that really impressed itself on me.” backpagefootball


Brazil 2014 – Messi’s crowning glory?

April 20, 2014

“When Lionel Messi received the honour of a fourth successive Ballon d’Or in January 2013 the record books had been rewritten. The Argentinian forward had surpassed Michel Platini’s haul of three successive FIFA World Player of the Year awards with Juventus and cemented his place as one of footballs all time greats at a mere 25 years of age.” backpagefootball


Argentina fret over form of Lionel Messi and fitness of Fernando Gago

April 18, 2014

Boca Juniors' midfielder Fernando Gago
“Football is always, ultimately, about compromise. Everything had been looking rosy for Argentina, who had qualified for the World Cup – for once – with games to spare and the sense of a cohesive team coming together, but then the injuries began. When the draw is made, the World Cup exists in a world of perfect possibility and you imagine every player at peak form and fitness, but it is never like that, and the job of a manager is always to balance the idea with what is possible.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Their Game, Now Ours

April 18, 2014

“What, you didn’t catch Liverpool storm back against Manchester City last week? You missed Wayne Rooney’s 58-yard wonder goal against West Ham United? There was a time not long ago when Americans — even worldly New Yorkers who regularly logged on to The Guardian website and claimed knowledge of the best little out-of-the-way pub in Shoreditch — could float along in a happy bubble of ignorance, pretending for all practical purposes that the world’s favorite sport, soccer, did not exist.” NY Times


Timing is everything for PSG, under-fire manager Laurent Blanc

April 18, 2014

“This is a story about timing. Two weeks ago, Paris Saint-Germain coach Laurent Blanc had enjoyed the best victory of his coaching career, the 3-1 Champions League quarterfinal first leg win over Chelsea. It was better than the 1-0 away win in Caen, back in May 2009, which clinched the Ligue 1 title for Bordeaux (that was its 11th straight league win), and the following season’s double over Olympiakos that took Bordeaux to the Champions League last eight; it was also better than France’s 2-0 Euro 2012 win over Ukraine, which sealed its quarterfinal place at the tournament.” SI


Is Samba fullback Wendell ready to waltz yet?

April 18, 2014

“German clubs, and Bayer Leverkusen in particular, have a long tradition of acquiring Brazilians. The latter club has also been very successful in doing so. Lúcio, Zé Roberto, Paulo Sérgio, Juan, Jorginho, Renato Augusto, França and Emerson each played over 50 matches for Die Werkself, most of them have even featured in over 100 games. Robson Ponte, another canarinho who had two periods in the outfit from North Rhine Westphalia, even got a techno tune of his own. Considering that only the most successful Brazilians are mentioned here, it’s safe to call Leverkusen a good destination for the boys from Brazil.” Bundesliga Fanatic


An Englishman’s English Week in Bavaria

April 18, 2014

“Having just returned from our third successive pre-Christmas trip to Germany, my brother and I had no desire to wait another year for our next dose of live Bundesliga action. The upcoming “English Week” in March was too big an opportunity to miss and when the fixtures were finalised our preferred Bavarian excursion fell perfectly into place. We were fortunate to find a direct flight to Nürnberg and having arrived on Friday afternoon we set about familiarising ourselves with the city that would provide a base for the opening five days of our stay. As has become customary, our attention primarily focussed on the local Brauhäuser so our first port of call was the nearby Hausbrauerei Altstadthof, where the traditional red beer proved a treat. We then moved on to the large cellar location of Barfusser to sample some more Franconian specialities that went down equally well.” Bundesliga Fanatic


Hillsborough anniversary: You’ll Never Walk Alone

April 16, 2014


“A service marking the 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster has ended with the crowd uniting to sing You’ll Never Walk Alone. The song has long been associated with Liverpool Football Club and has also come to symbolise the families’ campaign for justice. The tribute was led by singer Gerry Marsden, with 96 balloons released, one for each of the people who lost their lives.”
YouTube: BBC – Hillsborough anniversary: You’ll Never Walk Alone, Bells rung to mark anniversary
Guardian: Families and fans mark 25 years since the Hillsborough disaster (Video)
Independent: Hillsborough disaster anniversary: 25th anniversary of tragedy that claimed lives of ‘The 96’ marked as nearly 25,000 attend Anfield service (Video)
W – Hillsborough disaster
SI: 25 years later, Hillsborough disaster resonates more than ever – Jonathan Wilson
YouTube: HILLSBOROUGH DISASTER LIVE NEWS COVERAGE OF THE DAY 1989
YouTube: Hillsborough – Searching for the Truth (2012) | Part 1, Part 2
NYT: When a Game Turned Into a Disaster
ESPN: HILLSBOROUGH Directed by Daniel Gordon


Lionel Messi’s Argentina better for Carlos Tevez absence

April 16, 2014

“In a last-gasp attempt to get the stocky Juventus striker on the plane to Brazil, an Argentine musician has written a tango for Carlos Tevez. Daniel Ursini is using the medium of music to send a message to national team coach Alejandro Sabella, once an elegant midfielder for Leeds and Sheffield United. Entitled ‘Sabella, you’ve forgotten Carlitos’ the song’s melancholy tones accuse the coach of having taken the wrong path. ‘You can’t be so stupid as to leave out one of Argentina’s most popular players,’ argues Ursini. A year ago, Ursini wrote a song to mark the birthday of Lionel Messi, and separate songs for the two stars may well have been a wise move because it could boil down to a choice between one or the other in the Argentina national team. And that is not a particularly difficult decision to take.” BBC – Tim Vickery


Beijing’s Green Army

April 16, 2014

“Nike. Carlsberg. Samsung. Familiar sponsors flash past on electronic billboards. At the same time, red-letter propaganda banners line the pitch, proclaiming: ‘The Chinese Dream. You, I, Gather Together. You, I, Advance Together.’ Apart from its name—the ‘Workers’ Stadium’ — and the socialist realist statue outside the entrance, Beijing Guoan’s home ground shows no signs that it was first erected at the height of the Maoist era in 1959. Today the renovated stadium is ringed with slick bars and clubs; posters advertise an upcoming Bruno Mars concert. China may have not yet made much of an impact on to the world soccer stage. But it is not the country it once was. Along with the meteoric rise of its economy, Chinese soccer has developed rapidly over the past two decades.” Roads and Kingdoms


Liverpool 3-2 Manchester City: Liverpool start superbly, City respond after the break

April 16, 2014

“Philippe Coutinho’s late goal handed Liverpool a crucial victory in a superb match. Brendan Rodgers named his expected XI, which meant Joe Allen – often an option in big games – only on the bench. Manuel Pellegrini played Gael Clichy ahead of Aleksandar Kolarov because of his his defensive discipline, and decided Sergio Aguero wasn’t fit enough to start the game, so continued with a 4-2-3-1 and Edin Dzeko upfront alone. This was the classic game of two halves – Liverpool were dominant in the first period, Manchester City were superior after the break.” Zonal Marking

Steven Hero: Liverpool–Man City, the Premier League Title, and Tears of Joy
“In what lived up to its ‘Game of the Year/Century/Epoch’ billing, Liverpool beat Manchester City 3-2 at Anfield. Raheem Sterling toyed with City’s defense, tilting the field with a swivel of his hips, and suddenly looking like the next great attacking midfielder in a game filled with guys who already are. After another flurry-of-punches first half from Liverpool put them up 2-0, City — without Yaya Toure, who went off injured in the first half and might be done for the season— flipped the game back to even and nearly past it, thanks to the introduction of the brutalist architecture that is James Milner and David Silva deciding to remind Sterling that, yo, you can play this position without all that running. …” Grantland

Liverpool 3-2 Manchester City: Tactical Analysis
“It’s not often that you have Liverpool playing at Anfield, with just four weeks of football left, and have them in the title race. It’s not often that Steven Gerrard sheds a tear after the game. The occasion got the better of the captain, as Liverpool overcame their close rivals Manchester City in the title race, and took a huge step forward towards realising that dream.” Outside of the Boot


Chile tactics will ask a lot of the Socceroos

April 16, 2014

“In the final of the 2004 Copa America in Peru, Argentina dominated an experimental Brazil side. With three minutes to go La Albiceleste went 2-1 up. Surely the title was won. But with the last kick of the game, Brazil scored the equaliser. Argentina blundered into the penalty shootout with the air of men who had been blinded by the light, and Brazil kept its nerve to lift the trophy.” The World Game – Tim Vickery (Video)


Know Your Enemy: Ghana’s Kwadwo Asamoah

April 11, 2014

Kwadwo Asamoah
“In the career of Kwadwo Asamoah is written a parable of the tactical history of African football. When he emerged, making his international debut in 2006 when he was just 17, he was hailed as the first great Ghanaian playmaker since Abedi Pele. Until a decade or so ago, West Africa specialized in technically gifted attacking midfielders or second strikers – as well as Pele, there were the likes of Ni’i Lamptey, Theophile Abega, Jay-Jay Okocha and Kanu, players who dropped deep from the front line and had the patience and skill to hold the ball up, wait for a runner and deliver the pass.” SI – Jonathan Wilson (Video)


You Shall Not Pass: Atletico Madrid Suffocate Barcelona, Just Like They Planned

April 11, 2014

“Atletico Madrid’s triumph over Barcelona (2-1, on aggregate) might seem like a Champions League Cinderella story. But is it really a Cinderella story when a team does exactly what it was designed to do? What Diego Simeone’s side accomplished against the Catalan giants was hardly the stuff of scrappy underdogs; this was about the imposition of a defense perfectly constructed to neutralize Barcelona’s possession-based attack. And that’s what Atletico did.” Grantland


Bayern Munich 3-1 Manchester United: Guardiola uses his full-backs in midfield, but Bayern better with a standard system

April 11, 2014

“Pep Guardiola played an unusual system, but it didn’t help Bayern break down Manchester United. Guardiola fielded Toni Kroos in the pivot role, with Thomas Muller in midfield and Mario Mandzukic returning upfront. David Moyes brought Shinji Kagawa and Darren Fletcher into his midfield, and recalled Patrice Evra and Chris Smalling at the back. The pattern of the game wasn’t significantly different from the first leg, and the major talking point was Guardiola’s use of his two full-backs.” Zonal Marking

Bayern Munich 3-1 Manchester United: Tactical Analysis | Guardiola’s smart use of Lahm & Alaba
“Bayern Munich came into the game at Allianz Arena as clear favourites having been slightly disappointed with just a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford. A 0-0 would have been enough, but certainly Bayern Munich were always going to go for the win. Man United knew they had to score atleast once to stand a chance of progressing, a task in itself. Despite a dominating performance from Bayern, the sides went in 0-0 at half time. Patrice Evra gave United a surprise lead early in the second half, only for it to be tied again 22 seconds later as Mandzukic equalised. Goals from Muller and Robben saw Bayern comfortably through to the semi-finals with the final score being Bayern Munich 3-1 Manchester United.” Outside of the Boot


Borussia Dortmund 2-0 Real Madrid: Tactical Analysis | Klopp’s men work harder, but fall short

April 11, 2014

“Borussia Dortmund came into the game knowing that they had to pull off nothing short of a miracle to stand any chance of getting past Real Madrid in the Champions League quarter-finals. They knew that even a repeat of their 4-1 triumph last season at home, wouldn’t be enough. Jurgen Klopp had to go for the win, while a Ronaldo-less Real Madrid knew that even one goal would be enough. It was vital then that Dortmund came out the stronger attacking side, they needed the victory more than their opponents and were ensuring that they controlled the game. When Madrid received a penalty, it seemed like ‘game-over’ but the save from Weidenfeller spurred the side on. Two quick goals by Reus before half-time changed the complexion of the game, and if it wasn’t for some poor Mkhitaryan finishing, Dortmund would have (at the very least) ensured extra time.” Outside of the Boot


Baby Turtles on Fire

April 11, 2014

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“It was a goal, one of many. Vincent Kompany took the ball out of the center circle. Jesus Navas was loitering ahead on the right wing, totally unmarked. No man is an island, John Donne says, but Donne never saw Navas play against Southampton. Kompany rolled the ball up to his Spanish teammate, not with any real urgency — their Manchester City side was already up 3-1 at home, with 10 minutes left in the match — but just, you felt, to get his winger re-involved with mankind. Navas ran onto the pass and flicked a casual cross into the area. The ball did that juddering scythe thing it does sometimes, skipping ahead of three defenders by a few inches each. Southampton’s goalkeeper, Paulo Gazzaniga, tried to fall on it and failed. So it dropped at the feet of City’s Stevan Jovetic, who dinged it into the empty net. 4-1. From the center circle to the goal, the ball was touched three times. Ask not for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for midtable Premier League defenses.” Grantland – Brian Phillips (Video)


The Reds Have Bought Success? No Chance

April 11, 2014

“… Liverpool have of course spent some money to get into the hunt, but nothing compared with that spent by Chelsea, Man United and City in winning their titles of the past decade, during which time football became about billionaires and even trillionaires. Liverpool have five huge games left, but if they win the title it would make them the ‘cheapest’ champions in many a blue moon.” Tomkins Times


Champions League semi-finals: how last four teams compare

April 11, 2014

“Can Atlético Madrid last the pace? Will Pep Guardiola’s tinkering harm Bayern Munich’s hopes? Does José Mourinho have the right gameplan and will Real Madrid’s forward line be too strong for everyone? Here we analyse all four teams” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


World Cup 2014: Man Utd’s Valencia key to Ecuador in Brazil

April 9, 2014

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“With his ability to fill in at right-back as well as his more customary position higher up the flank, Luis Antonio Valencia is an extremely useful member of the Manchester United squad. For Ecuador, though, he is much more than that. A year ago national team coach Reinaldo Rueda referred to him as ‘the main reference point for Ecuadorian football, as a result of everything he has achieved’. A British readership might be unaware how special it is for Ecuador to have one of their own playing at one of the world’s major clubs, and in action in the closing stages of the Champions League. Less than 30 years ago Ecuador was a Latin American Luxembourg in footballing terms.” BBC – Tim Vickery


Jose Mourinho provides special touch as Chelsea makes CL semifinals

April 9, 2014

“All through the second half, there was a sense of pressure mounting, of Paris St-Germain’s belief ebbing and Chelsea’s correspondingly swelling. And then, with four minutes remaining, a Cesar Azpilicueta shot scudded across the box and was deflected into the path of Demba Ba, who forced the ball over the line from six yards. It was Chelsea’s day to reach the Champions League semifinals, doing so via away-goal tiebreaker after a 3-3 aggregate draw. It wasn’t the prettiest of goals, but it didn’t matter. Off went Jose Mourinho charging down the touchline as he had 10 years ago at Old Trafford when he announced himself to the English game with his exuberant celebration of Porto’s late winner over Manchester United in the last 16 of the Champions League.” SI – Jonathan Wilson


Manchester United A-B-C, Chelsea 1-2-3

April 9, 2014

“It’s because of football that I know what the capital of Cameroon is. Football has also taught me to make quick mental calculations when working out the possible permutations for final group standings in World Cups. I also understand how football can be hijacked to serve the purposes of totalitarian propaganda, how it can assimilate all manner of scientific breakthroughs to enrich it as a spectacle and how it can rival any form of dance when it is executed with exquisite precision. In short, football has educated me in ways that transcend the narrow parameters of the pitch or the screen. It’s because of football that my understanding of the world is a little better.” Dispatches From A Football Sofa


Expert Interview: How have Barcelona set-up Tactically this season?

April 9, 2014

“In anticipation of the massive Champions League ties in the Quarter-Final stage, we’ve done something special for our build-up. Eight teams, eight experts, each giving us their insight into their team’s chances, tactical set ups and bold predictions. Euler is the expert for this piece which focuses on Barcelona and their Champions League campaign.” Outside of the Boot


Cavani’s chance to be the main man

April 9, 2014

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“In the modern era, the importance of shirts numbered 1-11 has unquestionably declined, but it’s still pleasing to see combinations of players wearing traditional numbers: a left wing comprised of a no. 3 and a no. 11, for example, or a centre-back combination of 5 and 6. When PSG signed Edinson Cavani last summer, he was unveiled clutching the no. 9 shirt; traditionally the one worn by the main central striker. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, PSG’s other world-class striker, wears 10 (having initially worn 18 until Nene’s departure).” ESPN – Michael Cox (Video)


Irish football – the demand, or lack of

April 9, 2014

“As Jimmy Greaves would say ‘football is a funny old game’. There are few places where this idiom is truer than in Ireland. We, as a sporting nation, love football. At the 2012 European Championships in Poland we were lauded as the best fans in the world for cheering on our team even in defeat. At the same time another of our top-level teams, Monaghan United, went out of existence due to lack of support.” backpagefootball


Scandinavian weekly round up

April 9, 2014

“At the end of Round 25, we have a new name at the top of the Danish Superliga table. Aalborg have finally snatched first place from Midtjylland, and nobody can argue that they do not deserve to lead the way with only eight games left to play. To make it even sweeter for the boys from Nordjyske Arena, it was their victory against Midtjylland on Saturday that allowed them to take top spot, as they saw off early pressure by the former league leaders to beat them 3-2 in front of 11,500 fans at MCH Arena in Herning.” backpagefootball


Tactician’s Corner: On best options for Michael Bradley and the USA’s diamond MF

April 7, 2014

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“The United States’s 2-2 draw with Mexico Wednesday night included an overwhelming start that gave way to a blown lead, but add in a new formation and Julian Green’s highly anticipated debut, and it was worth staying up late to watch. For the first time in Jürgen Klinsmann’s time as head coach, the U.S. trotted out a diamond midfield, anchored by Real Salt Lake holding midfielder Kyle Beckerman, who plays the same role for his club team. Brad Davis and Graham Zusi, usually wingers, had more withdrawn starting positions, and Michael Bradley floated freely in the middle.” SI


Everton 3-0 Arsenal: Everton maintain their challenge for fourth place

April 7, 2014

“Everton outfoxed Arsenal with a surprise strategy and some clever movement. Roberto Martinez wasn’t able to welcome back Phil Jagielka, but John Stones has been excellent as his replacement. Ross Barkley was left out, with Leon Osman favoured – but Osman barely lasted ten minutes before getting injured, and Barkley replaced him. Arsene Wenger is without the preferred left side of his defence, as well as Mesut Ozil, Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott. Aaron Ramsey was on the bench after three months out, alongside Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who had been expected to return. Everton have often won games late on this season, but here they took command in the first half and sealed the contest on the hour mark.” Zonal Marking


Barcelona 1-1 Atletico: a predictable pattern, and two great goals

April 7, 2014

“Atletico and Barcelona played out their fourth draw of the 2013/14 campaign – with two crucial meetings still to come… Tato Martino selected his expected side for this match: his ‘big game’ shape with Cesc Fabregas in midfield, Andres Iniesta out on the left and Neymar on the right. Gerard Pique didn’t last the first half, and was replaced by Marc Bartra. Diego Simeone also named his expected side, and Atletico also suffered from an injury. Diego Costa was doubtful before the game and pulled up midway through the first half. He was replaced by Brazilian playmaker Diego, who played behind David Villa.” Zonal Marking


PSG 3-1 Chelsea: Tactical Analysis

April 5, 2014

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“One of the most evenly balanced of all the quarter final games, PSG and Chelsea both came into the match trying to build each other up as favourites. The Parc Des Princes, the venue that hosted the first ever European Cup final, was decked up and full of noisy and expectant fans. The two teams come from very different leagues, and have had good seasons, but are in different positions. While PSG have been dominant and conquered all that has been put in front of them, Chelsea have stuttered at times, losing their advantage in the league. The clash between Laurent Blanc and Mourinho also promised to be a very interesting battle tactically, as some of the top players in Europe clashed.” Outside of the Boot


The Rebuilding of Liverpool

April 5, 2014

“The long wait to win a Premier League championship might finally soon be over for Liverpool. After standing as English soccer’s marquee club for generations — including winning a record 18 titles in the old First Division — Liverpool have failed to win a league championship since 1990. With an eight-game Premier League winning streak that has included comfortable wins over Arsenal (5-1), Manchester United (3-0), and most recently Tottenham Hotspur (4-0), the club now controls its own destiny. If it wins each of its six remaining fixtures, the league championship will again return to Merseyside.” Grantland


Roberto Martinez: Everton boss faces Arsenal date with destiny

April 5, 2014

“Everton chairman Bill Kenwright was given an instant insight into the confidence and positive mind-set of the man he chose to replace David Moyes on his first meeting with Roberto Martinez. After appointing the 40-year-old Catalan to succeed Manchester United-bound Moyes after 11 years at Goodison Park, Kenwright revealed: ‘Almost his first words to me were I’ll get you into the Champions League.’ Martinez’s words were regarded by many as a bold private promise that he would struggle to keep in reality. One look at the current Premier League table gives the lie to those doubts.” BBC


Real Madrid 3-0 Borussia Dortmund: Tactical Analysis

April 5, 2014

“Real Madrid came into this game as favorites even though things didn’t go their way in the same tie a year back. This was partly due to change of manager for Madrid and partly due to the injury problems Dortmund are facing. The most missed absentee here was Lewandowski who was out through suspension as he had put four past Madrid when they met in Germany last year. Madrid started with a very flexible 4-3-3 shape with full backs pushing on and B-B-C given license to roam and swap places. The most interesting thing was the positioning of Isco. He was expected to start in a much higher role, behind the striker but instead was a straight swap for Di Maria who missed due to injury. He flourished in the deep role and deservedly got goal.” Outside of the Boot


Domestic league turbulence won’t affect Uruguay at World Cup

April 5, 2014

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“The directors of Uruguay’s FA resigned earlier this week, and a scare story was doing the rounds suggesting that this would result in the country’s national team being kicked out of the World Cup. There was never the slightest chance of this happening. The false justification for the fear was FIFA’s hard line against government interference in football administration. But this is not what had transpired in this case. The Uruguayan government had taken measures on a subject 100 percent within its proper jurisdiction — policing policy.” ESPN – Tim Vickery (Video)


André Schürrle withdrawal allows PSG’s potent trio to dominate Chelsea

April 5, 2014

“The general consensus was that José Mourinho had erred on playing André Schürrle as a false nine on Wednesday night, yet it was after he had gone off to be replaced by Fernando Torres that Paris Saint-Germain scored twice. That’s a simplistic way of looking at things, and Torres had barely been on the field when David Luiz conceded a needless free-kick and then put through his own goal to give PSG the lead, but it does tally with Mourinho’s post-match claim that Chelsea had ‘controlled’ the game until Torres came on because of the way Schürrle kept ‘dropping deep’.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson (Video)


Whither Marc-Andre ter Stegen?

April 5, 2014

“The shockwaves were felt far and wide. FIFA announced earlier this week that FC Barcelona had been found guilty of skirting the rules barring the international transfer of underage players. Of course, few football observers would be truly shocked at the idea of a major football power playing fast and loose with the rules. Perhaps the more-skeptical among the underwhelmed would say the real stunner was that FIFA was taking action of any sort. But the news item that pushed Barcelona’s Champions League semifinal to ‘in other news’ status was the punishment: no transfer action for the club over the coming two transfer periods. In other words, no player not currently under contract with FC Barcelona will be moving to the Catalan giants this summer, nor in the winter to follow.” Bundesliga Fanatic


Burn, destroy, wreck, kill

April 2, 2014

Sounders Win in Stoppage Time
“In 1859, an American farmer in the Northwest shot and killed a pig that was on his land. The pig belonged to an Irishman, who demanded $100 in repayment. Instead, the two men feuded for years, a squabble that escalated into an international conflict that eventually led to both American and British soldiers being called in to duty. No one fired a shot, and after a decade of periodic military huffing and puffing, the two sides resolved the issue. The absurd incident became known as The Pig War. A similar war has been ignited in the Cascadia region of the Pacific Northwest between the cities of Portland and Seattle. The battlefield is green turf with painted white lines. No pigs have been killed, but every week the armies suit up without ever stepping foot on the field that separates them.” SB Nation, Seattle Sounders, Portland Timbers