Alexander Hleb’s Broken Dreams at FC Barcelona

April 24, 2016

“Alexander Hleb won the treble in his first season at Barcelona, but his move away from Arsenal wasn’t the platform he had hoped for. In the ensuing years, the Belarussian has spoken out about his regret of leaving North London. Still only 26 at the time Hleb was a central figure in manager Arsène Wenger’s team and alongside Samir Nasri and Cesc Fàbregas were forming a dynamic attacking trio.” Futbolgrad


Diego Simeone v Pep Guardiola: the defensive master faces the great creator

April 17, 2016

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“When Diego Simeone was appointed manager of Atlético Madrid in December 2011, he faced an awkward conversation with his son. Taking over in Madrid meant he would be spending less time with his family in Argentina. His son’s concerns, though, were rather different. ‘You’re taking on Messi and Ronaldo?’ the nine-year-old said and laughed at the implausibility of such an undertaking. Simeone has come out on top against Lionel Messi twice in his four and a half years in Madrid but he has chosen his moments well, twice leading Atlético to success over Barcelona in the Champions League quarter-finals. Tuesday’s victory was an archetypal snuffing out, a transcendent example of how to prevent an opponent’s stars from shining. Simeone took on the Messi problem and solved it.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Around Europe: Barcelona burnout; Ben Arfa makes his Euro case

April 12, 2016

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“There were decisive moments in the title race in England and Germany, as respective leaders Leicester City and Bayern Munich came closer to the finishing line, though a shock result in Spain has opened the door to the pack chasing defending champion Barcelona. A new coach with a familiar name enjoyed a successful start at Lazio, while in France, a new hat trick hero has given national team boss Didier Deschamps a selection dilemma leading into Euro 2016. Here is what caught our eye this week from Around Europe.” SI (Video)


Tactical Analysis: Barcelona 2-1 Atlético | Red card = Atleti pseudo-compactness, Suarez and Messi capitalise

April 12, 2016

“In a repeat of the 2013-14 quarter final, Barcelona were pitted against Diego Simeone’s stubborn Atletico side who were riding high in La Liga, 6 points off their opponents on Tuesday night in 2nd place, having just swept aside Real Betis 5-1 at the weekend. Barcelona, on the other hand, came into this fixture on the back of their first defeat in 39 games to none other than their arch rivals Real Madrid at the Camp Nou. Facing the other team in Madrid just a few days later, who on their day have proven just as difficult to beat as Real, ideally wasn’t what they were looking for in terms of a confidence booster. However, considering the absence of key Atleti’s centre-backs Jose Gimenez and Stefan Savic and Barca’s quite phenomenal record against los Rojiblancos (6 consecutive wins), Barca would likely have come into this game, as they do in every other game, believing they could come away with the victory.” Outside of the Boot


Barcelona’s Evolution: The beauty of the build-up phase

April 8, 2016

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“Nowadays, arguably the most important phase in football is the build-up. Whether a team uses long balls to reach the final third or plays swift ground passes to breach the opponent’s stronghold, the build up plays a pivotal role in determining the outcome of a football match regardless. Like a movie, there needs to be a build-up towards the climax or the final product. In football, it is a continuous and seamless process, interchanging between both building, finishing and defending phases at all times.” Outside of the Boot


El Clasico: Ronaldo, Real Madrid end Barcelona’s unbeaten run

April 4, 2016

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“On an emotional day at Camp Nou that served as a tribute to the great Johan Cruyff, Barcelona’s unbeaten run ended at 39 matches with a 2-1 loss against Real Madrid. Barça’s lead at the top of La Liga shrank to six points, and the gap ahead of Real also went down to seven as a result. Despite dominating possession, Barça couldn’t score in the first half. Madrid’s chippy defense frustrated the home team, as center back Sergio Ramos in particular showed no shyness in conceding fouls if it looked like he might be beaten one-on-one. The Barça players frequently looked toward referee Alejandro Hernández with their arms outstretched, begging for a whistle.” SI


Life’s a Pitch for Leo Messi

March 23, 2016

“Pitch concerns increase for Leo Messi as Suarez promises no return to naughty corner. Although Barcelona have a cushion at the top of La Liga that could comfortably house the most impressive of posteriors, the Catalan club will still be fretting and fussing outside football’s school gates as they drop their MSN at the rough-and-tough daycare that is the international break. Perhaps the biggest worry is over Leo Messi who has a fairly tough battle against Chile on Thursday night, followed by a clash in Cordoba against Bolivia on a pitch that looks a little like a post-apocalyptic cabbage patch.” Bein


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