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


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


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


Europe Plunders Paris for Talent, and P.S.G. Pays the Price

April 7, 2021



“Paris St.-Germain could not, in the end, have sped Tanguy Nianzou along much quicker than it did. He was captain of the club’s under-19 side when he was only 16. He was called up to the first team at 17, training alongside Neymar and Kylian Mbappé and the rest, and soon made his debut. He even started a game in the Champions League. And still, despite all those opportunities, he left. Nianzou had just turned 18 when, on July 1 last year, he was presented as a Bayern Munich player. P.S.G. did not even have the solace of being able to pocket a premium fee for a player it had nurtured. Nianzou’s contract was expiring. He walked out of his hometown club for nothing. …” 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


A History of Soccer in Six Matches

April 18, 2020


Hungary’s visit to Wembley in 1953 was a seminal moment in the modern game.
“A few weeks ago, I asked readers to submit ideas for what they would like to see in this column. Not because I am short of them, you understand, but because in this bleak new reality of ours writing about sports very much falls into the category of ‘things you want,’ rather than ‘things you need.’ There was a flurry of suggestions, on every topic under the sun, most of which I know absolutely nothing about. One theme that stood out, though, was that many would welcome the chance to immerse themselves in the comforting nostalgia of soccer history. Even with my understanding editors and generous word counts, that is a vast, unwieldy subject. You can write soccer history in a million different ways: through the lens of teams and individuals, through tactics or geography or culture. …”
NY Times (Video)


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


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)


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


Sergio Ramos and the Egyptians

June 2, 2018

“On Saturday Spanish football club, Real Madrid, became European club champions for the third time in a row. It was also its 13th continental championship since 1955 (the most for any club). The game was won through a sublime overhead kick by their Welsh winger, Gareth Bale (rivaling a goal scored by his coach, Zinedine Zidane, in the 2002 final) and the repeated blunders of Liverpool FC’s goalkeeper Loris Karius (Real Madrid scored twice from those). But it was the antics of Madrid defender Sergio Ramos that has dominated online discussion since. …” Africasa Country


Real Madrid 3-1 Liverpool: freak goals hand Real their third straight European Cup

May 29, 2018

“Two crazy goalkeeping mistakes and an all-time great goal from substitute Gareth Bale earned Zinedine Zidane his third European Cup in three attempts. Zidane decided to use his diamond midfield here, meaning Isco started instead of Bale, with Karim Benzema leading the line. Jurgen Klopp’s side was as expected – injury problems meant he didn’t really have any selection dilemmas. …” Zonal Marking – Michael Cox


Real Madrid’s Champions League Triumph Defined By Bale’s Heroics, Salah’s Injury

May 27, 2018


“KIEV, Ukraine – The decisive goal, scored with a Gareth Bale overhead kick moments after he had come off the bench, was brilliant, and the two Loris Karius mistakes that gifted Madrid goals either side of that were ghastly. But there was no doubting what had been the decisive moment as Real Madrid won its third European title in a row and its fourth in five years with a 3-1 triumph over Liverpool. As Keylor Navas went to take a goal kick, Mohamed Salah slowly subsided, sinking with a desperate sadness to the ground. It looked bad, and confirmation soon followed from Liverpool’s medical staff. He had not recovered from an injury suffered a couple of minutes earlier and his final was over after just half an hour. As Salah walked off, his face crumpled in tears, his right arm hanging awkwardly limp, Cristiano Ronaldo and Sergio Ramos both consoled him, but the truth is his departure had been Ramos’s fault. …” SI – Jonathan Wilson


Zinedine Zidane Has the Wins at Real Madrid. Where Is the Praise?

April 29, 2018


“MUNICH — Unlikely as it seems, it may be time to consider the distinct possibility that Zinedine Zidane — winner of the Champions League in each of his first two seasons as a manager, and now on the brink of guiding Real Madrid to the competition’s final for a third year in a row — may be quite a good coach. That his brief managerial career has thus far delivered eight trophies in not quite 30 months should have made that perfectly obvious, of course; by this stage, the fact that he could steer his team to a 2-1 victory at Bayern Munich in the first leg of a Champions League semifinal should barely be worthy of note. Zidane the coach, not unlike Zidane the player, has known nothing but success. …” NY Times


Bayern: The Invisible Giants

April 13, 2018

“Sports Burst knows exactly how it feels to be overlooked, ignored and underappreciated for its greatness. After all, it looks at its readership stats every day. Basically, the column is Bayern Munich this week. While the world was clucking and fretting over the demise of Manchester City, Barcelona and Juventus in the Champions League and oozing over Liverpool and Real Madrid, the Germans did their thang by qualifying for the final four of Europe’s top club competition, without anyone really noticing. …” BeinSports (Video)


Juventus’ Near Miracle Against Real Madrid Ends in Controversy

April 13, 2018

“MADRID — Gianluigi Buffon, Juventus’s veteran goalkeeper, has lived through all the highs and lows of soccer, from winning the World Cup with Italy to getting relegated with his club because of a match-fixing scandal. But even by such standards, his exit from the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday night will rank as one the most dramatic events in his career. In the dying moments of the game, Buffon was shown a red card for angrily protesting a penalty that allowed Real Madrid to advance to the semifinals of the competition. …” NY Times


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 ‘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


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


Cristiano Ronaldo Is Human After All

January 22, 2018


“We’re doing this again, huh? Last summer, Cristiano Ronaldo began to walk toward the exit of the Santiago Bernabéu. He even turned the door handle—only to, and I’m guessing here, realize that, along with the value of the British pound, his scoring rate was about to plummet. Brexit has consequences, and so does trading Marcelo for Ashley Young. Although Spanish authorities dogged him for the (reported) €14.8 million he hid in a shell company in the British Virgin Islands, he eventually came back to Spain after a summer vacation ready to … uh, oh boy. …” The Ringer


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


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


Season of instability will tell us a lot more about Zinedine Zidane

December 14, 2017

“Going into Saturday’s clash with Sevilla, Real Madrid had been experiencing their worst La Liga start since 2008. Questions were being asked of Zinedine Zidane. Despite his incredible European and domestic success in the last two years, there are still those who doubt him. And while the 5-0 thrashing dished out to their hapless weekend visitors was a timely reminder of their capabilities, questions remain about the champions and their manager. …” Backpage Football


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


Jose Mourinho ready to renew rivalry with Rafa Benitez, the man he hated first

November 17, 2017

“The last time that Jose Mourinho and Rafa Benitez had one of their many flashpoints, back in that odd exchange in the summer of 2015 when the Spaniard was Real Madrid manager and his wife Montse even had comments about how they ‘tidy up his messes’, it wasn’t actually the Portuguese who was most bothered. Mourinho’s loyal long-time assistant Rui Faria seemed to care the most.” Independent


Tottenham’s defeat of Real Madrid is a warning to Europe’s super-clubs

November 7, 2017

“It was one of the greatest nights in Tottenham’s history. It was better than beating Internazionale 3-1, probably the equal of those fraught nights in 1983-84 when Bayern Munich, Austria Vienna, Hajduk Split and Anderlecht were overcome on the way to the Uefa Cup. Almost whatever happens over the next three decades, it is safe to assume that in 2050 Christian Eriksen’s goal will still be included in the pre-match White Hart Lane montage as Danny Blanchflower’s voice, the crackle of time even more pronounced, explains once again that the game is about glory. …” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson (Video)


Tactical Analysis: Tottenham Hotspur 3-1 Real Madrid | Spurs Make A Statement

November 7, 2017

“Pochettino looked to take a secure approach of press as Tottenham didn’t always insist on disturbing the early phase of Real’s build-up. Tottenham assigned the pressing work based on a 5-3-2-ish shape, with Christian Eriksen slightly higher than the other two central midfielders. The Dane pressed Casemiro while Harry Kane and Delle Alli kept an eye on Real’s both center halves. The other defensive duty for Tottenham’s 8 was that they also had to maintained good access to Kroos and Modric. …” 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


Tactical Analysis: Girona 2-1 Real Madrid | Girona’s Pressing Hassles Los Blancos

October 31, 2017

“In a shocking turn of events, newly promoted Girona FC thoroughly outplayed and beat Real Madrid 2-1 on the tenth match day of the league season. For Madrid fans, there was reason to be slightly worried from the very beginning of the match. Instead of receding into a defensive shell, Girona came out pressing with intensity. It took 10-15 minutes before Real Madrid could even string a coherent spell of possession together, but they soon threw that level of control away thanks to lethargic giveaways and general complacency. Girona took advantage of this by regaining the impetus and striking two shots off the post. However, one of those attempts off the woodwork sparked a Real Madrid counter that resulted in a goal against the run of play. The scoreline would hold till the break. …” Outside of the Boot (Video)


Tottenham’s coming of age performance in the Bernabeu proves they are here to stay

October 18, 2017

“Perhaps Tottenham were slightly fortunate to get a draw in Madrid on Tuesday night, given that Cristiano Ronaldo hit the post and Hugo Lloris made a barely credible close-range block from Karim Benzema and a spectacular tip-over from Ronaldo. But maybe they weren’t. After all, as Brian Clough always used to say after a performance of particular excellence from Peter Shilton, the goalkeeper is a part of the team. Plus, Harry Kane and Christian Eriksen both had chances to win it, Spurs should have had a penalty for Casemiro’s foul on Fernando Llorente and there was probably a foul in the move leading up to Serge Aurier’s stupid challenge on Toni Kroos that led to the penalty from which Ronaldo equalised. Nobody could realistically argue that Tottenham deserved to win, but it’s easy enough to conceive how they might have done. …” unibet – Jonathan Wilson


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: Sevilla 3-3 Real Madrid | Record breaking Real pushed to the limit

January 19, 2017

“Real Madrid had turned in one of their most comprehensive performances of the season in thumping Sevilla 3-0 last mid-week in the reverse fixture of this Copa del Rey Round of 16 match. The two were set to meet again on Sunday in the league, and with Sevilla able to pull within three points of Los Blancos, manager Jorge Sampaoli opted for a decidedly rotated squad, leaving out the likes of Franco Vazquez, Steven N’Zonzi, Nico Pareja and Mariano. Zinedine Zidane did likewise, with Luka Modric and Cristiano Ronaldo not making the squad and Karim Benzema being restricted to a twenty minute cameo.” 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: Atletico Madrid 0-3 Real Madrid | Zidane ends Real Madrid’s derby woes

November 26, 2016

“Real Madrid extended their unbeaten run in La Liga to 24 matches with a comprehensive victory in the last ever derby to take place at the Vicente Calderon. Atletico had not lost at home in the league for over a year but Zidane successfully came up with a game plan to maintain his unbeaten away league record since taking over as Real Madrid manager.” Outside of the Boot


The death of possession football

November 18, 2016

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“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


Guardiola wants Manchester City to be perfect in crucial Barcelona clash

October 31, 2016

“Pep Guardiola has warned his Manchester City side they will have to play “almost perfectly” if they are not to suffer again at the hands of Barcelona and leave their hopes of qualifying for the Champions League knockout stages at serious risk. Two weeks after Guardiola’s team lost 4-0 at the Camp Nou, the sides renew acquaintances in Manchester with City’s manager knowing that another defeat against his former club could have costly repercussions given the standings in Group C and the possibility of Borussia Mönchengladbach moving into second position by beating Celtic.” Guardian (Video), Guardian – Champions League


Real Madrid rallies; Manchester City, Dortmund cruise in Champions League

September 15, 2016

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“Defending European champion Real Madrid scored twice in the final minutes to turn defeat into victory on a Champions League night that was far livelier and less predictable than the first half of Matchday 1. After a string of thumping wins for the elite clubs on Tuesday, Wednesday brought tension and drama. A Bruno Cesar goal had had Sporting Lisbon dreaming of an improbable victory, but Cristiano Ronaldo leveled with an 89th-minute free kick against his former club before Alvaro Morata’s injury-time header delivered the three points.” SI – JONATHAN WILSON


Gulf in class evident for Barcelona, Bayern Munich in Champions League openers

September 15, 2016

“The build-up to this season’s Champions League was dominated by talk of the disparity in resources between the haves and the have nots of European football and two of the superclubs playing on the first day of this season’s group stage did nothing to dispel that. Favorites Bayern Munich and Barcelona cruised to 5-0 and 7-0 victories over Rostov and Celtic, respectively, to kick off this season’s competition in style.” SI – JONATHAN WILSON


Tactical Analysis: Real Sociedad 0-3 Real Madrid | Madrid stay tactically disciplined to keep Sociedad at arm’s length

September 1, 2016

“Real Madrid picked up where they left off last season with a comfortable 0-3 victory at the Anoeta against a Real Sociedad side who would normally provide tough opposition for most clubs in the division. Zinedine Zidane’s side understandably came in as favourites given the strength of their squad, however the absence of key players such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema was sure to give Sociedad some hope that they could possibly snatch a win. Unfortunately, this was not to be as Real Madrid raced into an early lead when a Dani Carvajal cross met the head of Gareth Bale to put them ahead in just the second minute. After that, despite the best efforts of the Basque side, the away team remained in complete control of the game, defending compactly and resolutely to force Sociedad into wide areas and exploiting their high defensive line on more than one occasion.” Outside of the Boot


After lengthy USMNT layoff, expect Copa continuity as World Cup qualifying resumes

August 28, 2016

“If it feels like it’s been a while since we heard from the U.S. national team, that’s in part because it has been—Jurgen Klinsmann and Co. rarely go more than two months without a game or camp—and in part because so much has happened in the meantime. The American men aren’t often so far from the spotlight for this long. Since the whistle blew at the conclusion of the Copa América Centenario bronze medal game on June 25, Lionel Messi missed a penalty kick, retired, then unretired from international football. Cristiano Ronaldo coached Portugal to the European crown, and Neymar kept his composure while Hope Solo lost hers.” SI


Over/Under: European club, season predictions for 2016-17

August 20, 2016

“With the new top-flight seasons set to kick off in Italy and Spain this weekend–and Germany one week later–and the Premier League just underway, there are lots of predictions to be made and questions to be answered. Will the competitive imbalance in France, Germany and Italy continue to be a problem? Will we see a surprise winner in any league? Will there be an outsider who cracks the Champions League elite? And just who will Jose Mourinho fall out with next? With all of those questions–and more!–in mind, we take a look at the European club landscape in the over/under prism to provide as much clarity as possible entering a nine-month quest for trophies and championships…” SI


Low crowds and chaotic La Liga fixture list cannot deter from guarantee of drama

August 20, 2016

“Spain’s football stadiums will be full this season – and that’s an order. Well, they’ll look full, anyway. The Spanish league will fine clubs whose grounds aren’t at 75% capacity, double for those who don’t reach 50%. The part of their grounds that are visible on TV screens, that is. There will be someone there whose job it is to count and sanctions will apply to the stand and the corners opposite the master camera – the televisual U, it’s called. The bit that can be seen. As for the bit that can’t be seen, well, that bit can’t be seen.” Guardian


A Victory in the End, but Not a Just One

May 31, 2016

“Time, and the record books, still divide the city of Madrid when it comes to soccer. It is written that Real is the imperious one, the club that since 1955 has won the European Cup or the Champions League an unprecedented 11 times, while its neighbor, Atlético, has never worn that crown. Sports, like life, isn’t always fair. Atlético fans call themselves and their team ‘El Pupas,’ the Cursed Ones, and that remains their fate after Saturday’s Champions League final in Milan. Real Madrid did not win that final; it won the penalty shootout that even Cristiano Ronaldo, the man who struck the last decisive kick, has said is always a lottery.” NY Times


Pep, Mourinho, Simeone and more: Ranking world’s top 10 club managers

May 26, 2016

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“Just as the Champions League format has allowed an elite group of clubs to dominate in recent years, the coaching landscape, too, is overshadowed by the personalities of a revered few who are hired at a huge expense with the guarantee of trophies. The perfect example of that is in the Premier League, where all the attention is going to be on Manchester’s clubs City and United when next season kicks off, despite their recent fourth and fifth respective finishes in the league. City will have Pep Guardiola in charge, while United looks set to have Jose Mourinho. It’s a personal rivalry that dominated Spanish football when the pair locked horns during two controversy-laden years at Barcelona and Real Madrid, respectively.” SI (Video)


Cristiano Ronaldo v Atlético: Will he score?

May 26, 2016

“Cristiano Ronaldo scored the last time Real Madrid met Atlético in a UEFA Champions League final, but can he do so again in Milan? UEFA.com picks out some key statistics.” UEFA


Talent Radar: La Liga Young Players Team of the Season 2015-16

May 17, 2016

“For three years now, this website has continued to focus on the younger generation of footballers, often over-looked by mainstream media. For three years we’ve also published a Talent Radar Team of the Season across Europe’s top six leagues, having monitored these players in our Team of the Week and Player Rankings feature. You can read this for all details on Talent Radar, who is eligible under it and what else we publish within this feature.” Outside of the Boot


How La Liga can prove it’s got bigger cojones than the Premier League tonight

May 5, 2016

“Although the reality is largely as inaccurate and wayward as Roberto Soldado’s shooting, there is a deep-seated perception of the social divide between Real Madrid and Atlético Madrid fans across Spain. Especially from folk peering in from abroad. The Madridista is commonly seen as a royalist, Spanish-flag waving member of the elite. The horrible boss with the ‘Hala Madrid!’ ringtone. The aristocratic toff that won’t even let you eat cake as they want to hoard it for themselves.” FourFourTwo


Hump Day Dumpster Dive: Crisis-hit Barcelona is crumbling to a domestic double

May 5, 2016

“By the time you read this, it may or may not be Wednesday. “Hump Day” is a cute concept, but some meaning is lost when you’re a functional alcoholic who treats Tuesday as the start of the weekend. But enough about your dad. Let’s dive into the dumpster together.” Fusion