Analysed: Are Barcelona the new Stoke or are Stoke the new Barcelona?

September 25, 2021


“It’s fair to say that the atmosphere at Barcelona is not exactly rosy at the moment. The off-field chaos is impossible to ignore, with debts of over €1.2 billion meaning one of the world game’s most famous clubs faces the very real prospect of bankruptcy. Of course, such huge financial difficulties have spilt onto the pitch, with Barcelona forced to offload some of their most prized assets — including Lionel Messi, the best player in their history (which is saying something when Diego Maradona and Johan Cruyff have also worn their colours). This was always going to lead to a drop-off in quality in Barcelona’s performances on the pitch, but the fans still expect more than they’re getting. …”
The Athletic (Video)
Barcelona’s 54 crosses in one dreadful game – how Koeman’s side are ‘playing like Stoke City’


Marcos Alonso and the Genius of Thomas Tuchel

September 25, 2021


“Things got so bad, at one point, that even Marcos Alonso’s father was telling him to go. His fallout with his coach at Chelsea, Frank Lampard, had been spectacular and it had been total. Alonso had been substituted at halftime during a game at West Bromwich Albion, but instead of dutifully filing out to support his teammates, he had instead skulked off to wait on the team bus, stewing at the injustice of it all. When Lampard found out, he was furious. First, he rebuked Alonso for his disloyalty, his petulance, in front of his teammates, a public shaming that often functions as soccer’s nuclear option, and then he ostracized him entirely from his team. For four months, Alonso did not play so much as a minute of soccer. …”
NY Times
W – Marcos Alonso


2021–22 UEFA Champions League

September 22, 2021


“The 2021–22 UEFA Champions League is the 67th season of Europe’s premier club football tournament organised by UEFA, and the 30th season since it was renamed from the European Champion Clubs’ Cup to the UEFA Champions League. The final will be played at the Krestovsky Stadium in Saint Petersburg, Russia. It was originally scheduled to be played at the Allianz Arena in Munich, Germany. However, due to the postponement and relocation of the 2020 final, the final hosts were shifted back a year, with Saint Petersburg instead hosting the 2022 final. The winners of the 2021–22 UEFA Champions League will automatically qualify for the 2022–23 UEFA Champions League group stage, and also earn the right to play against the winners of the 2021–22 UEFA Europa League in the 2022 UEFA Super Cup. …”
W – 2021–22 UEFA Champions League, W – 2021–22 UEFA Champions League group stage
Guardian – Champions League 2021-22 draw: group stage analysis and predictions


Vinícius kickstarts Bernabéu party and comes of age as Real Madrid hero

September 20, 2021


Vinícius Júnior
“In the end, the police had to pull him out of there. There was a party back at his place and Vinícius Júnior was enjoying this more than the last time he was there and probably more than he should have been, but he didn’t care and you couldn’t really blame him: this had been a long time coming and when at last it did, boy was it good. Boy was he. After 560 days, football finally returned to the Santiago Bernabéu and, having conceded inside 200 seconds, twice trailed and been reacquainted with whistles, the Brazilian put Real Madrid into the lead and on course for a 5-2 win over Celta de Vigo that made a celebration of their homecoming. …”
Guardian
NY Times – At Barcelona, a Feeling Worse Than Sorrow: Pity


2021-22 UEFA Champions League Group Stage

September 11, 2021


The map is a standard location-map showing the locations of the 32 qualified teams in the 2021-22 UEFA Champions League Group Stage. There are several other aspects to the map page… 1). Groups A through H… At the very top of the map are the eight 4-team groups of the Group Stage, arranged with with each club’s home-country flag shown alongside. 2). Allocations vs. Qualified teams, by country… At the left side of the map page, Allocations (by member-nations) are shown, via a list of the top 41 UEFA Member-Associations in their current [2021-22] Country Co-efficient ranking. I stopped at 41 (out of the 55 total UEFA member-nations) because #41 is the current ranking of Moldova, and Sheriff Tiraspol of Moldova was the club from the lowest-ranked country to qualify for this season’s tournament. This is the first time a club from Moldova has qualified for the elite competition that is the Champions League. But it is not really any sort of fairy-tale story of a David making it into the realm of the Goliaths. …”
billsportsmaps


Johan Cruyff

September 9, 2021


Hendrik Johannes Cruijff OON (Dutch: [ˈjoːɦɑn ˈkrœyf] (About this soundlisten, internationally spelled Cruyff; 25 April 1947 – 24 March 2016) was a Dutch professional football player and coach. As a player, he won the Ballon d’Or three times, in 1971, 1973, and 1974. Cruyff was a proponent of the football philosophy known as Total Football explored by Rinus Michels, and is widely regarded as one of the greatest players in the history of the sport, and one of the greatest managers. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Dutch football rose from a semi-professional and obscure level to become a powerhouse in the sport. Cruyff led the Netherlands to the final of the 1974 FIFA World Cup and received the Golden Ball as player of the tournament. … Cruyff is widely seen as an iconic and revolutionary figure in history of Ajax, Barça, and the Oranje. David Winner, the author of Brilliant Orange, wrote about Cruyff’s influential career in the football world, ‘There have been lots of brilliant football figures down the years, but none has been as significant as Johan Cruyff. … As coach at Ajax and Barcelona, he built thrilling sides, nurtured a remarkable number of genius players and influenced many of the most important teams in the world. .. Once radical and revolutionary, Cruyffian principles have become standard throughout the modern game. His blueprint for developing young players has been copied all over the world.’ …”
Wikipedia, W – Style of play and views on the game
Total Football Journeyman: From Mighty Magyars to Flying Dutchmen
Guardian: What formation did Holland’s Total Football side actually play?
Cruijff’s Total Football Guide (433-2)
W – History of AFC Ajax
W – Rinus Michels, W – Ruud Gullit, W – Frank Rijkaard, W – Marc Overmars, W – Dennis Bergkamp, W – Louis van Gaal
YouTube: Total Football Explained 5:09, Football’s Greatest International Teams .. Netherlands 1974 26:08, Netherlands – Argentina: Bergkamp Goal 1998, Johan Cruyff ● Flair Like No one Else (Rare Footage)


Fans don’t want legacy clubs dominating or state-funded clubs, so can football ever be happy?

September 4, 2021


“OK, so let me get this straight. We don’t want blue-blood clubs, like Liverpool and Manchester United, dominating for decades at a time and we are deeply suspicious of how enthusiastically these aristocrats embraced financial fair play (aka, Operation Drawbridge). When it comes to winners, we want to spread it around a bit — we like disruption. But we do not want these new challengers to be funded by oligarchs or sovereign wealth funds — unless it is our club, then it is completely fine — and we are not too keen on American investors coming over here and expecting to make some money. Is that right? If it is, many of you are going to be disappointed. But you will not be the only ones. …”
The Athletic


The Problem When Teams See Athletes as Assets

September 3, 2021


“One of the things that appealed most to Manchester City about Marlos Moreno was his flexibility. The club spotted him as a teenager, coming off the back of a breakthrough season in which he helped Atlético Nacional, his hometown club in his native Colombia, win not just a national title but the Copa Libertadores, too. Moreno, then 19, had the air of a rising star. He was the sort of prospect who stood out among the thousands of players around the world whose names and performance data flash in front of the eyes of the scouts and analysts at Europe’s biggest clubs. … Executives were sufficiently excited by the acquisition of a player they felt was one of the most promising in South America to mention his name to Sheikh Mansour, City’s owner. …”
NY Times
Who is Man City owner Sheikh Mansour and what’s his net worth?
W – Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan


Athletic Club 1 – 1 Barcelona

August 28, 2021


“Barcelona moved to the top of La Liga on goals scored as Memphis Depay rescued a point in an entertaining draw at Athletic Bilbao. Depay’s ferocious strike cancelled out Inigo Martinez’s headed opener after Athletic Bilbao had dominated. Both sides hit the crossbar and passed up numerous chances to claim all three points. Barca defender Eric Garcia was sent off in injury time for fouling Nico Williams when clean through. There is no doubt Ronald Koeman’s side are in transition – the loss of Lionel Messi leaving them in search of a new talisman and trying to find new ways to win. …”
BBC
10-man Barcelona forge their new side in the fires of San Mamés after 1-1 draw with Athletic Club
YouTube: Tactical Analysis : Athletic Club 1 – 1 Barcelona | Barca Tactics In The Post Messi Era, Highlights Athletic Club vs FC Barcelona (1-1)


Gerard Piqué shows his Barcelona colours as pay cut helps set up victory

August 16, 2021


“Gerard Piqué was 13 or 14 the day the Barcelona manager came to tea. When his grandfather proudly introduced him as the future Camp Nou centre-back, Louis van Gaal walked over and without a word pushed him to the floor. Standing over him, he looked down at this kid lying there and delivered a devastating verdict: you’re too weak to play for Barcelona. Twenty-one years, 567 games, eight leagues, eight cups and four European Cups later, a World Cup and a Euros too, he’s not just still standing; he’s carrying the club on his shoulders. Well, someone has to. …’
Guardian
Guardian: Barcelona lift post-Messi gloom with win over Real Sociedad
Five talking points from Barcelona 4-2 Real Sociedad (Audio)


2021–22 La Liga

August 11, 2021


“The 2021–22 La Liga will be the 91st season of La Liga, Spain’s premier football competition. It will begin on 13 August 2021 and will conclude on 22 May 2022. On 24 June 2021, the Spanish Council of Ministers resolved that spectators could return to stadium by means of a modification of the royal decree regulating the ‘new normality’, in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Atlético Madrid are the defending champions, having won their 11th title in the previous season. RCD Espanyol, Real Mallorca and Rayo Vallecano are joining as the promoted clubs from the 2020–21 Segunda División. …”
Wikipedia
W – La Liga


Paying the Price for Premier League Riches

August 7, 2021


Andreas Pereira is known as the Preseason Pirlo. But he has nowhere to go.
“The headed clearance did not quite get the requisite power, or direction. It floated, rather than fizzed, out of Brentford’s penalty area, the danger not quite clear. Two Manchester United players converged on it, sensing opportunity. The ball bounced off the turf, not too high, not too quick, and hung in the air for just a second. And that is where Andreas Pereira met it.There is a reason some Manchester United fans have come to know Pereira — with equal parts affection and admonishment — as the Preseason Pirlo. …”
NY Times


How Barcelona’s wage bill has gone from highest in the world to on a par with AC Milan and Tottenham

July 24, 2021


“… That was Joan Laporta, Barcelona’s new president, who has essentially walked into a financial nightmare devised by Sir Alfred Hitchock. Speaking to La Vanguardia after his recent election victory, he painted a bleak picture. ‘We’ve encountered a squad with old-fashioned contracts and we will have to work out what to do,’ he added. ‘The existing contracts can be changed or restructured. After that, there are more drastic measures that we hope we don’t have to adopt.’ Barcelona are not alone in their struggles, as Real Madrid are finding things a little warm under the collar too. As The Athletic’s Dermot Corrigan has outlined in concise detail, Barcelona and Real Madrid find themselves in a bit of a mess when it comes to their salary cost limits for next season. …”
The Athletic (Video)


The Super League Thought It Had a Silent Partner: FIFA

May 22, 2021


“Tucked away in the pages and pages of financial and legal jargon that constitute the founding contract of the Super League, the failed project that last month briefly threatened the century-old structures and economics of European soccer, were references to one ‘essential’ requirement. The condition was deemed so important that organizers agreed that the breakaway plan could not succeed without satisfying it and yet was so secret that it was given a code name even in contracts shared among the founders. Those documents, copies of which were reviewed by The New York Times, refer to the need for the Super League founders to strike an agreement with an entity obliquely labeled W01 but easily identifiable as FIFA, soccer’s global governing body. …” NY Times


Money, Power, and Respect at the Champions League Final

May 10, 2021


“The grand spectacle is almost upon us. Real Madrid, the great but ancient empire of European soccer, have been swept aside for now; Paris Saint-Germain, the fast-rising upstart, have faltered in their ascent. As Chelsea and Manchester City, their respective conquerors, prepare to contest the third men’s UEFA Champions League final between two English teams, there is a sense that they are announcing another next great rivalry. … Now, Foden has been coached by Pep Guardiola for only a few seasons. Yet he is such an accurate embodiment of the Spaniard’s footballing philosophy—tactically versatile, endlessly fluid in his movement—that he seems to have been working with him since he was able to walk. … Both should be leading figures for their club for several seasons to come. …” The Ringer (Audio)


How Barca got themselves into €1.2bn debt: in-depth analysis

April 30, 2021


“Alex Stewart of Tifo Football explains how Barcelona‘s overall debt has risen to €1.2bn over the last few years and how they could get themselves out of this money pit. Barcelona are said to owe Liverpool more than 50 million euros, as per Diario Sport. These are the instalments that have to be paid as part of the Philippe Coutinho deal. Barca’s idea is to try to sell the Brazilian for that price so that the debt can be paid. Coutinho has made just 14 appearances for Barca this season, scoring 3 goals and recording 2 assists. Overall, the 28-year-old played just 90 games for Blaugrana. …” TRIBUNA (Video)


How the Super League Fell Apart

April 22, 2021


“For 48 hours, soccer stood on the brink. Fans took to the streets. Players broke into open revolt. Chaos stalked the game’s corridors of power, unleashing a shock wave that resonated around the world, from Manchester to Manila, Barcelona to Beijing, and Liverpool to Los Angeles. That internationalism is what has turned European soccer, over the last 30 years, into a global obsession. The elite teams of western Europe are stocked with stars drawn from Africa, South America and all points in between. They draw fans not just from England, Italy and Spain, but China, India and Australia in numbers large enough to tempt broadcasters across the planet to pay hundreds of millions of dollars for the rights to show their games. …”
NY Times
W – The Super League
CBS – European Super League collapse explained: What’s next? Real Madrid, Barcelona quiet; Premier League clubs out (Audio)
BBC – European Super League: All six Premier League teams withdraw from competition (Video)
YouTube: All six English clubs confirm plans to exit European Super League


Capitalist Greed Created the European Super League

April 21, 2021


Roberto Firmino of Liverpool shoots while under pressure from Éder Militão of Real Madrid during the UEFA Champions League quarter-final second-leg match on April 14, 2021 in Liverpool, England.
“Yesterday, once again, the prospect of a breakaway European Super League (ESL) reared its head. The proposal — to carve out a continental competition in which fifteen of the game’s elite clubs could never be relegated — was met with widespread dismay by those who love the game. Despite a year that has shown just how vital fans are for the ‘spectacle’ of football, it was the match-going fans that once again were of least concern. Instead, if the plans go ahead, the future of football will be shaped by television and advertising — an entertainment industry that the top clubs estimate will deliver them £300 million per year, far outstripping their current domestic and Champions League revenues. It’s important to point out that the Super League isn’t an anomaly. …” Jacobin, European Super League explained: the contracts, plots and threats that shook football to its core, Guardian: The greed of the European Super League has been decades in the making, Guardian – ‘It’s war’: what the papers say about the European Super League, NY Times: Super League Appears to Collapse as City Walks Away


The Barcelona Legacy: Guardiola, Mourinho and the Fight For Football’s Soul – Jonathan Wilson

April 11, 2021


“Wilson’s historical study gives fans a keen, thrilling insight into the philosophy of the game’ The New Yorker Manchester, 2018: Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho lead their teams out to face each other in the 175th Manchester derby. They are first and second in the Premier League, but today only one man can come out on top. It is merely the latest instalment in a rivalry that has contested titles, traded insults and crossed a continent, but which can be traced back to a friendship that began almost 25 years ago. Barcelona, late-nineties: Johan Cruyff’s Dream Team is disintegrating and the revolutionary manager has departed, but what will come next will transform the future of football. Cruyff’s style has changed the game, and given birth to a generation of thinkers: men like Ronald Koeman, Luis Enrique, Laurent Blanc, Frank de Boer, Louis van Gaal, and Cruyff’s club captain Pep Guardiola and a young translator, Jose Mourinho. …” Kinokuniya Book, The Barcelona Legacy Podcast (Audio), amazon


Sometimes the Numbers Lie

February 20, 2021


“This is the story of a struggling striker. He has scored only twice since November: once in a cakewalk of a cup game against an overmatched opponent, and once from the sort of position in which he really could not miss, the ball falling to him a couple of yards out, a goal by accident rather than design. The latter was a welcome fillip — sometimes that is what you need, after all, that jolt of luck — but it did little to gloss over the striker’s troubles. Five goals in 23 league games since joining his new club remains a paltry return. His confidence seems to be shot, as if he has hit ‘rock bottom,’ as one pundit observed. …” NY Times


Soccer Isn’t Blameless in Its Culture of Abuse

February 15, 2021


“This time, it was Yan Dhanda. A few days ago, it was Axel Tuanzebe and Anthony Martial. Before that, it had been Alex Jankewitz and Romaine Sawyers. It happened to Lauren James, and to her brother, Reece, too. So pernicious, so constant is soccer’s problem with racist abuse that it is, at times, hard to keep up. Almost all of these cases echo what Dhanda experienced on Wednesday night: The names and the details can be changed, but the themes are the same. That evening, the 22-year-old Dhanda played for his team, Swansea City, in an F.A. Cup match against Manchester City. Swansea lost, 3-1. After the game, Dhanda checked his Instagram account. And there, waiting for him, was a racist, abusive private message. …” NY Times (Video)


Champions League’s Last 16 Will Be Quite Telling

December 16, 2020


“By the time the UEFA Champions League’s knockout stage begins, much could change. A winter transfer window will have come and gone, though with COVID-19 impacting club finances across Europe and some already having spent big in the summer, it remains to be seen how substantial the forthcoming moves will be. Barcelona will have held its club presidential elections, a pivotal moment for a giant in turmoil and one that could have plenty of say in how the club operates moving forward. Influential players currently out injured should return, and the form, fitness and focus levels of clubs will certainly vary to what they currently are. …” SI – Jonathan Wilson


The Barcelona Inheritance: The Evolution of Winning Soccer Tactics from Cruyff to Guardiola – Jonathan Wilson

June 21, 2020

“From Cruyff’s ‘Total Football’ to the epic rivalry between Guardiola and Mourinho, a gripping chronicle of the rise and fall of Barcelona’s dominance in world soccer. Barcelona’s style of play–pressing and possessing–is the single biggest influence on modern soccer. In The Barcelona Inheritance, Jonathan Wilson reveals how and why this came to pass, offering a deep analysis of the evolution of soccer tactics and style. In the late 1990s, Johan Cruyff’s Dream Team was disintegrating and the revolutionary manager had departed, but his style gave birth to a new generation of thinkers, including Pep Guardiola and José Mourinho. Today, their teams are first and second in the Premier League, marking the latest installment in a rivalry that can be traced back twenty-five years. The Barcelona Inheritance is a book about the tactics, the personalities, the friendships, and, in one case, an apocalyptic falling-out that continue to shape the game today. …”
amazon


Football is all about speed: The growing importance of coaching

June 15, 2020

“I moved to Barcelona in January 2008, six months before Josep Guardiola took over as the head coach of FC Barcelona. It was the beginning of four years of tika-taka. Although I have always liked Real Madrid more than their rivals, I was somewhat seduced by the style of football played by the Catalans, especially Messi, Iniesta and Xavi; the latter in that period deserved to win one of Messi’s Ballon d’Or. After a year of watching tika-taka, I grew tired of the often pointless sideways passing of the ball. The worse part was that, at times, it seemed as if Barcelona were unable to change their tactics, as a growing number of opponents had learned how to play them. I started to wonder whether Guardiola’s rigid belief in ‘one-system-fits-all’ was not only ruining the extraordinary players’ freedom but also showing a lack of tactical skills. …”
Football Pink


Champions League: Neymar’s Hat Trick Powers P.S.G. in Rout

October 5, 2018


“Paris St.-Germain’s attack overwhelmed Red Star Belgrade, 6-1, in the Champions League on Wednesday, with Neymar scoring a hat trick that included two brilliant free kicks. P.S.G. Coach Thomas Tuchel went with his strongest lineup up front, with Neymar, the World Cup star Kylian Mbappé, Edinson Cavani and Angel Di María. They all scored in the first half except for Mbappé, who had to wait until the 70th minute for his goal, created with some more deft footwork by Neymar.” NY Times


Paul Pogba: which clubs could offer him escape from Manchester United?

September 30, 2018


“Paul Pogba, who was stripped of the Manchester United vice-captaincy on Tuesday, could potentially leave the club in January after his relationship with José Mourinho hit an all-time low. But with a salary of £250,000 a week and a fee likely to be in the region of £100m, which clubs have the financial might to sign the French World Cup winner?” Guardian


Atletico Madrid’s Slow Start

September 12, 2018

“Atletico Madrid are off to a curiously slow start. It’s the rare year where there might be some cracks at the top of La Liga. The departure of Cristiano Ronaldo from Real Madrid means there’s a crack of daylight at the top of the table. But, three games in, the perennial favorites, Barcelona, and Ronaldo-less Madrid are perfect and Diego Simeone’s team has already dropped five points. Is there anything amiss with Atletico, or have their opening three games been the kind of fluke that the next 35 games will make everybody forget?” StatsBomb


Claudio Marchisio, Andres Iniesta and football fans’ false memories

September 4, 2018

“This month marked the end of an era for Juventus, with former midfield general Claudio Marchisio ending his 25-year association with the club. ‘A thousand thoughts and a thousand images accompanied me throughout the night,’ the 32-year-old wrote of his decision to part ways with the club he joined as a child. Marchisio’s exit might have been overshadowed to a degree by Gianluigi Buffon also leaving Turin this summer, the World Cup winner having opted to see out his career with Paris Saint-Germain, but there’s something a little different about the departure of a man who has known no other home in his professional career.” The Set Pieces


La Liga: Why Real Madrid and Barca changes could pave way for Atletico Madrid

August 18, 2018

“The new La Liga season gets under way this weekend amid plenty of intrigue, especially for Real Madrid – as the three-in-a-row European champions begin life without iconic duo Cristiano Ronaldo and Zinedine Zidane. Real are by no means the only team going through a period of change, however, with similar – although less dramatic – transitions being experienced by their biggest rivals, Atletico Madrid and domestic champions Barcelona.” BBC (Video)


Barcelona Season Preview: Messi the Great Facilitator

August 18, 2018

“By any realistic measure Barcelona had a dominant season last year. They won their domestic league by 14 points, while losing only a single game. They also won their domestic cup. But Barcelona are a club destined to fail to live up to expectations that only they can set. And what came to define their season, more than the raging success of their domestic campaign, was a stunning Champions League quarterfinal defeat to Roma. And so it is that the team which ran up 93 points in La Liga set about correcting for a failed season.” StatsBomb


It’s the Sids 2018! The complete review of the 2017-18 La Liga season

June 2, 2018

“All that and in the end it came down to this … nothing. There were tears and plenty of emotion, Fernando Torres serenaded off and Andrés Iniesta sitting alone on the Camp Nou turf long into the night, lights out for the last time, but for the first time in history there was no dramatic ending and nothing to play for on the final day of the Spanish season. Not the title, not Europe, not relegation, not the Pichichi, not the Zamora either – and not even a first-ever unbeaten league campaign. Barcelona had lost that record seven days earlier, finally defeated 37 games in, without Leo Messi. Still, they did win a friendly in South Africa three days later, so that’s okay. They also won the league of course, which they were always going to. Only, they weren’t – not really. …” Guardian


Anticipating Anthem Protests, Spain Braces for ‘Verbal Violence’

April 25, 2018

“BARCELONA, Spain — A long hail of whistles and jeers from a crowd numbering in the tens of thousands might not be the most articulate way to express a political opinion, Arnau Pans acknowledged with a shrug. But, in his eyes, it can serve a purpose. Pans, 24, is a die-hard fan of the soccer club F.C. Barcelona and, like many such fans, an active supporter of the Catalan independence movement. On Saturday, for the fifth consecutive year, Barcelona — the most high-profile of Catalan institutions — will appear in the final of the Copa del Rey, the oldest soccer tournament in Spain. And for the fifth straight year, that means questions about free expression and the boundaries of political etiquette are being debated as vehemently this week as questions about team tactics and lineups. …” NY Times (Video)


Roma send Barcelona out of Champions League: ‘Debacle’, ‘ridicule’, ‘fall of an empire’

April 13, 2018

“There is certainly a consensus among the Spanish media: Barcelona got what they deserved in Rome on Tuesday night, suffering elimination from the Champions League at the quarter-final stage for the third consecutive season after an abject performance. Having a 4-1 first-leg lead overturned by a Roma team 21 points off the pace in Serie A was the last thing Barca expected, and it will take a while for reality to sink in as the Catalan giants come to terms with one of the most shocking results in the club’s recent history. …” BBC


Barcelona’s Piqué and Suárez rub it in after Roma’s own-goal gifts

April 5, 2018

“Roma scored three at the Camp Nou but their chances of reaching a first Champions League semi-final since 1984 are slim. This time it was not Lionel Messi who scored and while Luis Suárez ended his year-long wait for a Champions League goal, it was two own goals that set Barcelona on course for a first-leg victory. …” Guardian


Champions League quarter-finals: tie-by-tie analysis

March 18, 2018


“We run the rule over the last-eight matches, including the all-Premier League duel between Liverpool and Manchester City, and predict who will triumph …” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Grounds for closer inspection, part 1: Sevilla and Real Betis

February 27, 2018


“In the first of a new series, JAMES EVANS examines the evolution of pairs of stadiums across the world; starting with the Spanish city of Seville and its two clubs – Sevilla and Real Betis. …” Football Pink, Grounds for closer inspection, part 2: Portsmouth and Plymouth Argyle, Grounds for closer inspection, part 3: Barcelona and Real Madrid


The Inverted Sheepdog

February 27, 2018

“I’m standing just outside the Barcelona dressing-room door at Wembley, about an hour after Manchester United have been defeated 3-1 in the 2011 Champions League final. The dancing, singing and beer-drinking in the Catalan dressing-room have only just died down. I’ve been charged with interviewing two of the winning players, with the trophy, for the final Champions League Weekly television programme of the season and there is a desperate need for a player to emerge from the fiesta. Getting them agree to the damn request is another thing again. …” The Blizzard (2012)


Disjointed, vulnerable and slow: Barça exposed by Chelsea’s tactical rigour

February 22, 2018

“The first leg, you suspect, went just as Antonio Conte would have wanted it to go – apart from the bit about not playing a square ball across your penalty area to Andrés Iniesta with 15 minutes of a Champions League match remaining. But that is the problem with great tactical plans: they always rely, ultimately, on that most fallible of species: humans. …” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


The ‘Two Worlds’ of the Champions League Keep Drifting Apart

February 22, 2018


Sadio Mané and Liverpool put five goals past F.C. Porto last week.
“As he readied his players to face Manchester City in the last 16 of the Champions League last week, F.C. Basel Coach Raphaël Wicky realized he had a problem. Ordinarily, Wicky would dedicate one training session shortly before a game to a shadow match: On one side, his likely starting team, and on the other, 11 squad members slotted in to simulate Basel’s forthcoming opponent. They would line up in the same system, adopt the same style, play in the same patterns. The aim of the exercise is to familiarize the first team with the challenge that lies in wait. …” NY Times


‘We weren’t even allowed swap jerseys!’ – when Shelbourne battled Barcelona at the Nou Camp

February 4, 2018

“A COFFIN STOOD stiff and isolated in the bowels of the Nou Camp as 11 Irishmen shuffled past in quiet disbelief. On their way through the famous corridors on a mild October evening en route to the away dressing room, the cohort of Shelbourne players passed by a museum, a dentist, a morgue and, puzzlingly, the most idyllic of chapels inside of which sat a wooden box. They were 1,300 miles away from Tolka Park, situated snug in-between endless rows of brick houses on Richmond Road in Drumcondra, but it felt so much more. This was a different planet altogether. …” the42


No Ne-exit For Neymar

January 30, 2018

“1) Neymar pledges PSG future. Time for a bit of a giant media reverse with beep-beeping and hazard lights in full effect. Neymar is going nowhere next summer except to Russia for the World Cup and no doubt a lengthy vacation in Brazil. His club boss says it, his manager says it, the footballer’s ‘people’ say it and heck, the football says it too. The player is ‘2000% percent’ going to be playing with PSG next season, whether the French club wins the Champions League or not. ‘I’m happy with my team-mates and I’m happy at PSG,’ was Neymar’s message after Saturday’s 4-0 win over Montpellier. So back off, Real Madrid and pack away any sneaky ideas in a bag marked, ‘not in a million years’.  …” Bein-Sports (Video)


An Englishman Abroad

January 26, 2018

“Thirty years ago this summer, Gary Lineker came to the end of a highly successful first season with Barcelona. Signed from Everton after his exploits with England at the 1986 World Cup, where he won the Golden Boot, he was an instant hit at Camp Nou, scoring a match-winning hat-trick against Real Madrid in the Clásico and finishing his first season with 21 goals. …” The Blizzard


La Liga At the Break: Valencia, Girona and Atlético

January 4, 2018

“In just a scant few days the La Liga teams will return from their truncated winter rest. Before we dive head first into the home straight of the season, let’s take a look back at what the first chunk of games has taught us, shall we? This isn’t technically the halfway-point as Spain’s domestic break comes after 17 games rather than 19. Don’t worry though, we’re not about to let that get in the way of a good ol’ rummage through the numbers! …” StatBomb


Barcelona halfway report: Midfielders

January 3, 2018

“… Go back to the summer of 2017 and many wondered if Andrés Iniesta was even first choice anymore. At 33 years of age, it could have been argued that the Spaniard had given all he had but the reality was that a change of system was needed to get the best out of the club captain. Ernesto Valverde deployed him in a position that does not require a large amount of running whilst still allowing him to see plenty of the ball. His importance to the team is once again obvious and while he will continue to pick up injuries, he has missed 40 days through injury this season, the reduced amount of KM covered should lessen his time out and allow him to be ready for the final stages of the season. …” Barca Blaugranes


The Barca Way Spreads Far From Catalonia

December 29, 2017


“Everywhere you look, the fingerprints are visible. They are there in those places where the lights shine brightest, and they are there where the lights don’t shine at all. At the summit of the Premier League; among the rich and famous of the Champions League; at suburban schools in the United States; at provincial, second-tier clubs in China; at village teams in Africa: In every corner of the world and at every level of soccer, there are indelible traces of Barcelona. Wherever they are found, they are present for the same reason. Across the planet, the word Barcelona — the idea of Barcelona — has over the last decade come to connote not just success but beauty, too. That has inspired countless clubs, large and small, to try to distill and import the magic, to find someone to sprinkle a little of that stardust on them. …”
NY Times


The Three Epic, Early Champions League Showdowns

December 14, 2017


“The draw for the Champions League round of 16 is set, and even though the first games will not be played for two months, we already know that at least one true European power will be eliminated before the quarterfinals kick off, and a couple more elite clubs could be in trouble. This is because the Champions League draw pitted some of the best teams in the world against each other in early clashes. According to Soccer Power Index, six of the nine best teams to make the knockouts have been drawn against each other. These three matchups — each of which consists of two games, one at each club’s home grounds — should give the Round of 16 a new level of drama. … ” fivethirtyeight, NY Times: Real-P.S.G. and Barcelona-Chelsea in the Champions League, YouTube: The Three Epic, Early Champions League Showdowns


Tactical Analysis: Barcelona 2-1 Sevilla | Barca’s diamond-esque shape hands them victory

November 21, 2017

“Despite being written off by many this season after the loss of Neymar and rivals Real Madrid’s dominance last season, Ernesto Valverde’s Barcelona side came into this game at home to Champions League chasing Sevilla in inspired form. 9 wins from their opening 10 games and Lionel Messi in the form of his life had shut up many critics as they cruised towards their 3rd league title in 4 years with a 4 point lead over 2nd place Valencia and 8 points over bookies’ title favourites Real Madrid in 3rd. …” Outside of the Boot


Girona offer Catalans pride after La Liga downing of powerhouse Madrid

October 31, 2017


Girona offer Catalans pride after La Liga downing of powerhouse Madrid
“Pablo Machín stood by the table football in the middle of the Montilivi dressing room where two teams lined up rigidly in 3-3-4, one in blue, the other in white, and told his players – the real ones in red – they should be proud. He didn’t speak for long, just a few seconds standing there among the socks, bandages and bottles on the floor, and when he finished there was applause from everyone and for everyone. There was no cava, Girona’s coach said, but there was a celebration and, he admitted, euphoria. …” Guardian


Ronald Koeman’s Everton story exposes shortcomings of the post-Cruyffians

October 27, 2017

“Long before he was sacked, a criticism of Ronald Koeman at Everton was that he seemed to regard the club as a stepping stone. ‘He called us Everton, he never called us us,’ as the former Everton captain Kevin Ratcliffe put it on Monday. Koeman’s ultimate ambition, as he has made clear since he took his first steps in management with Vitesse in 2000, is to manage Barcelona. …” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


It’s time to stop blaming the game – and the fans – for society’s ills

October 27, 2017

“Football can suffer from high visibility. Some ­people see far too much of it for their liking. Others cannot resist the profile it offers. ­Newspapers are always looking for ways to move it from the back pages to the front. Take the case of Douglas Ross, now Tory MP for Moray and an assistant referee (or linesman) at high levels of the sport. National outrage has supposedly been sparked by his engagement at the Nou Camp in Barcelona last week when he could have been abstaining in person at the House of Commons. …” The Scotsman


Argentina Savior Messi Enforces His Brilliance When His Nation Needs Him Most

October 12, 2017

“Twenty years ago, Lionel Messi, then a 10-year-old playing for a youth team at Newell’s Old Boys, headed into rural Santa Fe for a game against Pujato. These were always difficult, physical matches, and Messi took a kicking. … Messi has been getting the face on a lot recently. With Neymar gone, Ousmane Dembele injured and general chaos at the Camp Nou, it feels as though Barcelona’s perfect start to the season has been the result of him, fired by the ‘bronca’ that used to motivate Diego Maradona, dragging Barcelona forward almost single-handed. …” SI – Jonathan Wilson


Barcelona in the strange and symbolic eye of a storm over Catalonia

October 3, 2017


Football fans await outside the stadium before the Spanish league football match FC Barcelona vs UD Las Palmas at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on October 1, 2017.
“At every Camp Nou game for almost six years now, chants for Catalan independence have gone up when the clock reaches 17 minutes and 14 seconds, commemorating the year the city fell to Felipe V, but not this time – not on the day they were perhaps closer to independence than ever before. This time, Europe’s largest stadium was silent. No fans could be heard, only footballers. Occasionally, the referee’s whistle rang out or somebody clapped yet there were no chants, no songs and no one to sing them. At the side of the pitch where Barcelona played Las Palmas, stewards in orange bibs lined up to keep an eye on stands that had no one in them. Ninety-eight thousand seats sat empty; barely a couple of hundred people were there, and many of those wished they weren’t. …” Guardian


Races tighten in La Liga, Serie A; Manchester City stumbles again

January 19, 2017

“While the Bundesliga continues to remain on break, the title races came alive in two of Europe’s other preeminent leagues as Real Madrid and Juventus both slumped to surprise defeats to reignite the drama atop La Liga and Serie A. In England, Pep Guardiola has more problems to deal with at Manchester City, which is now out of the Champions League spots and 10 points behind Chelsea in the Premier League. Meanwhile, there is a new owner in Ligue 1 at one of France’s clubs hoping to rebound and rediscover greatness. This is what caught our eye around Europe this weekend. SI


Tactical Analysis: Villarreal 1-1 Barcelona | Los Cules held yet again by another masterful defensive display

January 19, 2017

“Two of La Liga’s top sides clashed in this encounter as the Yellow Submarine looked to continue their promising start to the season and cement their place in next season’s Champions League. In contrast, Barcelona came into this game in what could only be described as disappointing form in comparison to their usually high standards. 6 points off leaders Real Madrid who had a game in hand, a win was essential if they wanted to maintain any chance of winning their third straight league title.” Outside of the Boot


Manchester City bounce back to leave Wenger fuming – Football Weekly

December 19, 2016

“It must be (nearly) Christmas, because on today’s Football Weekly, my true love sent to me AC Jimbo, Barry Glendenning, Paolo Bandini, and Barney Bloody Ronay! … We then brush aside the Premier League and turn our attention to Italy, where Juventus saw off Roma in a top o’ the table Serie A clash. Finally, we hear from our long lost pal Sid Lowe about Real Madrid’s victory in the World Club Cup final and the state of play in La Liga, which has downed tools until the new year. Rafa Honigstein will be with us for Thursday’s show, so if you have a question for the World’s Greatest Bavarian, post it on the blog below.” Guardian (Video)


The Evolution of the Number 6: Beauty and the Beast

December 12, 2016

xavi-2016
“Football goes in cycles, the past is the key to the future and old systems and styles may become popular in the future. A good example of this is the 3-5-2 formation originally used in 1986 by the world cup winning Argentine team. The formation went out of vogue but has been resurrected by Antonio Conte in Juventus and in the Italian national team and is actually becoming popular as even Bayern and most recently Everton have used the formation.” Outside of the Boot


Champions League last 16: Tie-by-tie analysis

December 12, 2016

“1) Manchester City v Monaco. Pep Guardiola will be content with this draw, but Monaco are among the most exciting sides in Europe and perhaps the most underrated team in the competition. Leonardo Jardim has created an exciting side who have scored an incredible 53 goals in 17 Ligue 1 matches. Although Monaco share the goals around impressively, it is notable that Radamel Falcao has found his shooting boots again, scoring five goals in Monaco’s past two games. They are also tactically flexible, able to play both 4-4-2 or 4-2-3-1 effectively, as they demonstrated with 2-1 victories home and away against Tottenham Hotspur in the group stage.” Guardian – Michael Cox


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

December 5, 2016

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“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


Tactical Analysis: Real Sociedad 1-1 Barcelona | Catalan frustration continues

December 1, 2016

“Barcelona went into the encounter against Real Sociedad at the Anoeta, winless since 2007 against the Basque side at their home. Barcelona have endured a dip in form in recent weeks compared to their high standards while Sociedad have been finding themselves in the top 5 in the league table, performing really well.” Outside of the Boot


The death of possession football

November 18, 2016

guardiola
“Former Bayern Munich manager and current Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola, speaking after Bavarian side’s 5-1 triumph over Arsenal last season, was famously said: What I want, my desire, is to have one hundred percent possession. Bayern Munich had enjoyed sixty nine percent of possession in that game as goals from Robert Lewandowki, Thomas Muller, David Alaba and Arjen Robben gave Arsenal nightmares that probably suggested the extent of damage that possession football can usually do.” backpagefootball