Barcelona v Bayern Munich: the evolution of Pep Guardiola – video

May 6, 2015

“In the build-up to Wednesday’s Champions League semi-final first leg, Jonathan Wilson analyses how Bayern Munich and Barcelona have changed since they last met in 2013; how Pep Guardiola might set up his team and who will he play up front if Robert Lewandowski doesn’t make it; and how Barcelona have evolved under Luis Enrique from the team that Pep built” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Champions League Semi Final: The Barcelona perspective

May 6, 2015

“The biggest event on the footballing calendar is drawing close, and we’re at the last stop on the road to Berlin. With excitement coming close to fever pitch, we at Outside of the Boot decided to get a closer look at the challenges and opportunities each team will face at this stage. Here are the opinions of one of our writers.” Outside of the Boot

Champions League Semi Final: The Bayern Munich perspective Outside of the Boot

Spanish Contenders Can’t Relax Before European Tests

May 3, 2015

“There are two ways to prepare for this week’s Champions League semifinals — the Spanish way, and the way the rest of Europe does it. In Spain, where the domestic title is going down to the wire, both Barcelona and Real Madrid were obliged to put out the best teams they could Saturday to sweat out games played in the upper 80s in Andalusia. Barcelona toiled for over 40 minutes before it opened up and beat last-place Córdoba, 8-0.” NY Times

Like everything in Spanish soccer, the relegation picture’s a complicated one

April 29, 2015

“When Las Palmas’ fans started rushing on to the pitch, there was no indication they would stop. Veteran midfielder Apoño had just given the club a lead that could have sent it into Spain’s top flight. The Basque folk from hilly Éibar had already purchased their seats next to Barcelona and Real Madrid, and so too had Deportivo de La Coruña, now a ghost of the team once hailed as SuperDepor. Only one spot remained in 2014-15’s Primera División.” Fusion

Guardiola Returns to Same Camp Nou, But Different Barça

April 27, 2015

“Early Friday morning, the news that many wanted to hear (and some of us feared) was officially announced: FC Barcelona will face Bayern Munich in the Champions League semi-final. The two-leg match, which is set to be played in Barcelona on May 6th and in the Allianz Arena on May 12th, will be the most anticipated clash of the season, and will signal the return of Pep Guardiola, Barça’s most accomplished and prolific manager, the man who perfected Cruyff’s tiki-taka style of play, to the Camp Nou.” Barca Blaugranes

José Mourinho, the anti-Barcelona, stands alone in modern football

April 24, 2015

“Todern football was invented in Barcelona in the mid-90s. Of this season’s Champions League quarter-finalists, four sides are managed by players who turned out for Barça in 1996: Pep Guardiola, Luis Enrique, Julen Lopetegui and Laurent Blanc. Within a couple of years, they had been joined by Frank de Boer and Phillip Cocu as well as the coach, Louis van Gaal, and his assistant, Ronald Koeman. In slightly differing ways, the eight are apostles for the Barcelona way – or, more accurately, given the influence of Ajax on that style, the Barçajax way. However, there was another presence there, initially as a translator and then as a coach. In the Barçocracy of modern football, there is a fallen angel.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Returns, rematches, powerhouses mark Champions League semifinals

April 24, 2015

“The Champions League semifinal draw was conducted Friday and while the names may be familiar, the opportunity for new storylines to arise is bountiful. There will be reunions for coaches and a chance to avenge previous defeats, and, with three teams still dreaming of clinching a European, league title and domestic cup treble, plenty at stake.” SI

Valencia heads to Barcelona ready to cement its place among Spain’s best

April 20, 2015

“History warns us to be skeptical of foreign ownership in Spanish soccer. One minute we’re being told Racing Santander ‘could compete with Real Madrid and Barcelona,’ and then the man that told us that, Ashan Ali Syed, disappears off the face of the earth, wanted by Interpol. Racing is now in the second division. Malaga’s tale isn’t as dramatic, but neither did it have the happy ending Sheikh Abdulla Al-Thani had promised us. Once in the Champions League, he decided to asset strip the squad, flogging the likes of Santi Cazorla and eventually Isco, and instead let the team rebuild itself through youth. At least it’s still in the top flight.” Fusion

Berlin-Bound: Which Team Has the Best Chance of Winning the Champions League?

April 16, 2015

“As we told you a few weeks ago, the drama’s all but gone from the major domestic leagues across Europe. Thankfully, the Champions League is here to save us. The quarterfinals of soccer’s greatest annual competition kick off today with Atlético Madrid hosting Real Madrid in a rematch of last year’s final and Monaco traveling to Juventus. Tomorrow, FC Porto welcomes Bayern Munich and Barcelona visits Paris Saint-Germain.” Grantland

Luis Suárez: another dimension for Barcelona

April 16, 2015

“‘Luis Suárez did what he does best,’ sighed Edinson Cavani, fresh from watching his Uruguay team-mate score a pair of magnificent goals at the Parc des Princes. The forwards had just experienced wildly contrasting evenings, but even the crestfallen Cavani had to admire the way his international colleague had put FC Barcelona on the brink of the UEFA Champions League semi-finals with a 3-1 win at Paris Saint-Germain.” UEFA (Video)

La Liga’s top Spanish scorer may have played his way to Portugal

April 13, 2015

“The messages started arriving, and they didn’t stop. ‘There were more than 100,’ Rayo Vallecano attacker Alberto Bueno told El País. ‘And that’s not including Twitter. I couldn’t even keep track of the ones which were coming through on there.’ Manchester United’s Juan Mata wasn’t among those who sent a message, but he did phone Bueno, who he played with at Real Madrid many moons ago, to congratulate him on his 14-minute, four-goal haul in Rayo’s win over Levante at the end of February. And the goals didn’t stop there: One more came against Barcelona, two against Granada and another at Eibar.” Soccer Gods (Video)

Clock Is Ticking on Xavi’s Storied Career at Barcelona

April 8, 2015

“Andrés Iniesta and Xavi Hernández have played tiki-taka since childhood. They have grown closer than brothers, can find one another with a pass in their sleep and have won every honor in the global game. Their days together are numbered. They do have unfinished business because Barcelona still might win, three more trophies this season to add to the 24 that they have won as integral parts of both their club and the national team, Spain.” NY Times

The Fun in France: Are We Set for a Boring End to the European Soccer Season?

April 3, 2015

“Can you believe it’s April already? While there have been times over the past eight months when the season’s felt like an interminable drag — those weeks of domestic cup games, the handful of international breaks, consecutive weekends in which the best game involves Newcastle — we’re finally here. With just about two months left in most leagues across Europe, it’s the stretch run, where the rubber meets the road, the standings approach finality, and things become truly exciting. Except, maybe not this year.” Grantland

Barcelona and Real Madrid are on board, but Spain’s new television revenue plan is still stalled

April 3, 2015

“Share the wealth, we say, but when you’re as wealthy as Real Madrid and Barcelona, it might not pay to take that stance. La Liga’s upper class is strictly limited to those two clubs, and they each pocketed close to $174 million in television revenue last season. Leading the middle classes was Valencia, with $59 million, while league champions Atlético Madrid only had $51 million to show for toppling El Real and La Blaugrana.Soccer Gods

Barcelona 2-1 Real Madrid: both sides threaten but Barca superior at finishing

March 28, 2015

“Barcelona moved four points clear at the top of La Liga thanks to Luis Suarez’s winner. Sergio Busquets was only fit enough for the bench, so Javier Mascherano played in the holding role, with Jeremy Mathieu the left-sided centre-back. Otherwise, the team was as expected. Xavi Hernandez had surprisingly started over Ivan Rakitic in the reverse fixture, but Luis Enrique didn’t replicate that error, so we had the unusual sight of Barcelona without either Busquets or Xavi, the two players who usually control this game.” Zonal Marking

Poor top-level management will eventually see Córdoba relegated

March 27, 2015

“At 90 minutes, when the pitch invasion started, Córdoba were staying in the Segunda Division for another year as they trailed Las Palmas 1-0 in the play-off that would send the winner to the top flight for the 2014/15 season. At 99 minutes, when order had been restored, Córdoba were heading to the big league as Uli Davila tapped in an away goal that made history; for the first time in 42 years the club from Andalusia would be among football’s elite.” backpagefootball

Tactical Analysis: Barcelona 2-1 Real Madrid | How Barca exploited half spaces

March 24, 2015

El Clasico has become perhaps the most high profile fixture in club football. The historic rivalry between the clubs, the battle for supremacy between Ronaldo and Messi along with a star studded supporting cast, the possible implications in the title race all combine to form a heady mixture of apprehension and euphoria. The world waits with bated breath for kickoff only for it to be taken away by the plethora of talents on the pitch.” Outside of the Boot

Luis Suárez’s Validating Strike Lifts Barcelona Past Madrid
“Last October, Luis Suárez made his debut for F.C. Barcelona in a disappointing 3-1 loss to Real Madrid. He was substituted during that game after a long ban that had prompted questions over whether he could return to form and justify the record transfer fee that brought him here. On Sunday, Suárez repaid at least part of Barcelona’s investment by scoring a spectacular and decisive goal in a 2-1 victory over Real Madrid in the latest Clásico between the two giants of Spanish soccer. With the win, Barcelona opened up a 4-point lead over Madrid at the top of La Liga, with 10 games remaining in the season.” NY Times

Lionel Messi Is Back on His Game

March 24, 2015

“It has been a pleasure to watch Lionel Messi playing with Barcelona during the past week, in a way that it hasn’t been in a long time. When I profiled the Argentine superstar for the magazine in June of last year, just before the World Cup, he was in a bit of a funk. As one Argentine writer told me at the time, ‘It’s like he’s tied up.’  Messi had been having a (relatively) poor year with Barcelona, his club team in Spain, and there was a noticeable lack of spark in his play. He was hurt earlier in the year, and plagued by drama off the field at Barcelona, but nobody knew what the real root of the trouble was. He just didn’t look like himself.” NY Times

Spain’s tabloids are always partisan, but it’s peak slant ahead of a Clásico

March 22, 2015

“The first rule of Clásico club: Take everything you read with a pinch of salt. With three points, the La Liga title and those famous bragging rights at stake between Barcelona and Real Madrid, anything goes on the Spanish press’s playground as judgment day looms. Punching in Barça’s corner are Catalan newspapers Diario SPORT and Mundo Deportivo, while Madrid is counting on Marca and Diario AS.” Soccer Gods

Manchester City Was Ready for Lionel Messi, or So It Thought

March 19, 2015

“The moment that encapsulated the game came after about 40 minutes. Lionel Messi, Barcelona’s wizard in residence, had the ball near the sideline. James Milner, a sturdy Manchester City midfielder, approached. Messi caressed the ball with his foot. Milner tried to shuffle along. Suddenly, the ball was through Milner’s legs, Messi was off behind him and Milner collapsed onto his rear end, unable to stand up against Messi’s bag of tricks.” NY Times

Watch the 8 Best Goals Scored by Premier League Managers

March 13, 2015

“Sam Allardyce | Bolton Wanderers vs. Ipswich Town. 21 April 1979. Big Sam gets accused of being many things: long ball merchant, unambitious, over indulgent at the buffet. But I can only accuse him of abandoning an excellent mustache. While playing for Bolton Wanderers, Allardyce scored this thunderbolt of a header against Ipswich Town. In the early 2000s, Allardyce’s returned to Bolton as manager and would take them back into the Premier League and the Europa League. Sadly, the mustache did not come with him.” 8 by 8 (Video)

Cristiano Ronaldo should be dropped according to some rather stupid Real Madrid fans

March 9, 2015

“One-third of respondents to a poll by AS want Real Madrid to drop Cristiano Ronaldo. In another, simultaneous finding, one-third of respondents are idiots. To be fair, Ronaldo did go a whole three matches without scoring in February, dropping his record to a lackluster 41 goals in 39 games for club and country this season. All-time in La Liga, he’s only scored 207 goals in 171 appearances. Maybe the fans are right, maybe El Real can find someone better. Why not just clone Isco and play him up front as well? They’d like that.” Soccer Gods

Barcelona might not be able to afford Lionel Messi, so get ready for a long, long summer of transfer rumors

March 9, 2015

“You can imagine Barcelona’s directors cackling like Vincent Price at the end of Thriller as they signed off on the $309 million release clause in Lionel Messi’s contract last May. ‘No one will be able to afford that,’ they probably laughed, lighting cigars. ‘Messi will be ours… FOREVER!’ That was before the English Premier League signed a new TV deal worth precisely 1.5 gazillion pounds, though. (That converts to approximately 3.8 bazillion dollars.) Hence, with Financial Fair Play looking about as toothless as a three-month old baby, the idea of a club meeting that release clause and Messi moving on from Barcelona does not sound quite as crazy as it did a couple of months ago.” Soccer Gods

FC Barcelona’s Race is On for the Treble

March 4, 2015

“… A 3-1 scoreline has given FC Barcelona a bit of breathing room heading into the second leg of the Copa del Rey but it would be foolish to underestimate the quality Villarreal possess. Marcelino’s men are perfectly capable of surprising the upper echelon of Europe with the likes of Vietto, Uche and Cherychev among others at his disposal. Estadio El Madrigal is regarded as one of the toughest away grounds in Spanish football however the Catalans should expect a result sufficient enough to book their seat in the final where they would face the winner between Athletic Bilbao and Espanyol.” Barca Blaugranes

Juventus must find a way to cope with Dortmund’s pressure

February 25, 2015

“The greatest aspect of top-level European competition is the opportunity to witness contrasting footballing styles face one another; pleasingly, despite the globalisation of football and the increased movement of players and coaches across borders, obvious differences remain between Europe’s best leagues. The obvious example from this week’s set of Champions League fixtures is the clash between Borussia Dortmund and Juventus in Turin on Tuesday night. Whereas some of the second round ties are frustratingly familiar — Manchester City vs. Barcelona, PSG vs. Chelsea, Schalke vs. Real Madrid — these two sides haven’t met since the European Cup final of 1997. The clash of styles should be fascinating.” ESPN – Michael Cox

Javier Mascherano: Barcelona’s Voice in Defence?

February 23, 2015

“Mascherano’s quality is not in doubt. He is one of the best defensive midfielders in the world and proved that in last year’s World Cup in Brazil as one of the best players in the tournament. So highly was he rated as a teenage talent that he prodigiously made his senior Argentina debut before his senior club debut for River Plate. The bite, aggression and intensity that he plays with is married to leadership and an exquisite level of tact that comes from his perceptive game-reading ability. Allied to all that is the technical ability and technique to contribute positively to his team’s build-up play from the back, which was one of the prerequisites to him joining Pep’s Barça.” Outside of the Boot

Barca woes return, Real Madrid extend lead: Five things we learned in La Liga

February 23, 2015

“Things are not well at Barcelona again after a defeat to Malaga, while in Madrid, Real are firing on all cylinders and Mario Mandzukic and Antoine Griezmann are impressing for Atletico. Here are five things from the weekend’s La Liga action.” ESPN

Luis Suarez shines as Barcelona provider for Lionel Messi & Neymar

February 23, 2015

“With just seven goals in his first 22 games for Barcelona, at first glance it appears former Liverpool striker Luis Suarez is struggling to adapt to life with his new club as he prepares for Tuesday’s Champions League last-16 first leg at Manchester City. Indeed, with just four goals from 15 La Liga appearances, in terms of scoring this has been the least productive domestic campaign of Suarez’s career.” BBC

Riquelme’s reminder: There’ll always be a place for art in soccer

January 26, 2015

“Call me old fashioned, but Juan Román Riquelme is my favorite kind of player. Riquelme was never the fastest, strongest, or even remotely close to the most athletic player on the field. But somehow, the Argentine midfielder made a career out of the remaining scraps, relying exclusively on technique, awareness, and an ability to read the game with such precision that at times he came off as a master puppeteer. The other 21 players on the field frequently looked like extensions of Riquelme, only there to be manipulated by his thoughts and movements. Riquelme created exquisite art. Last night, Riquelme announced his career as an artist was over. Eight weeks after his final appearances, the Argentine virtuoso announced his retirement. His work is done.” Soccer Gods

Eric Abidal: A Tribute to the Legend

January 22, 2015

“There are footballers retiring every year, from top professionals who will go down in history as some of the greatest we have seen – such as Thierry Henry, Paul Scholes and Alessandro Nesta in recent times – to the lower division journeymen who most football fans would never have heard of, with all due respect. There are a myriad of reasons for retirement, be it injury, to prepare for the apocalypse – hello, Carlos Roa – or after falling out of love with football like David Bentley. How we remember footballers would depend on the legacy that they leave behind, the lasting impression that they made on us. It is the memories that we as football fans hold onto most dearly; perhaps it was a last minute winner in a fiercely-contested derby, a coolly-taken penalty in a shootout or someone who played for only one club throughout his career. However, for all the memories, only a certain few can leave behind a legacy that touches us on a human level, away from the pitch. Eric Abidal is one such player.” Outside of the Boot

The Catalan Roller Coaster

January 19, 2015

“It’s been a mad few weeks for F.C. Barcelona, turbulent and stressful in the extreme. Let’s break it down, shall we? It seems every season since Pep Guardiola left, rumors pop up suggesting Messi is fed up with the club and the board and is demanding a transfer. Obviously, these rumors have been false up until this point, and there’re several reasons why the greatest player to ever grace a football pitch will not leave the club for many years.” Soccer Pro

Baby-faced Vietto is South America’s latest marksman to find his range in Europe

January 19, 2015

“Silence camouflaged Atlético Madrid’s Vicente Calderón stadium as Luciano Vietto dropped his shoulder and spun to his left. Propelling himself into the Atleti area, the Villarreal attacker thumped the ball beyond goalkeeper Miguel Ángel Moyà, ending the La Liga champion’s 18-month unbeaten home run in the league. He’d only been in Spain for four months. On the touchline, Atlético boss Diego Simeone was left conflicted. He’d just seen his star defender, Diego Godín, made to look like the Statue of Liberty, something very few players have been able to do over the last two years, as Villarreal robbed his side of key points in the race to retain the Primera División. Still, the man that was wearing the balaclava, Vietto, was someone he couldn’t help but be glad for.” Soccer Gods

Copa del Rey’s lopsided draw has Spain’s underdogs dreaming of Cup glory

January 17, 2015

“One by one, Valencia’s players filtered through the mixed zone on Tuesday, each one looking as dejected as the next. Outside, beery-eyed Espanyol fans filled bars surrounding the club’s Cornellà El-Prat stadium on the outskirts of Barcelona, their faces wearing ear-to-ear smiles. Their team had just knocked Los Che out of the Copa del Rey, result that had them dreaming of reaching the final. Back in Valencia, a storm had begun. The newspaper Super Deporte said the club’s supporters felt ‘defrauded’ by professionals they expect much more from.” Soccer Gods

Barça Bluster: How Can a Team With Neymar, Messi, and Suárez Consider Itself in Crisis?

January 14, 2015

“What do you call a team that’s one point out of first with 20 games to play? A side that’s conceded six fewer goals than the second-stingiest defense in the country? A club that’s breezed through the early stages of both its domestic cup and Champions League campaigns? A squad that just soundly defeated its second-biggest rival and the defending league champs? Read enough English-language coverage of Spanish soccer, and you’ll be able to convince yourself that the proper answer to all of those questions is a firm ‘in crisis.’ So let’s just get this out of the way right off the bat: Unless your definition of crisis is ‘title-contending team that isn’t quite as good as when it was maybe the best team in the history of the sport,’ Barcelona is not in crisis. Things in the north of Spain certainly are a-changing, though, so let’s take a deeper look at what all the fuss is about.” Grantland

Crisis brewing at Barcelona as club’s foundation is put to the test

January 7, 2015

“With each passing day, each passing season, FC Barcelona, perhaps the greatest passing team the world has known, moves further from the glories of the Pep Guardiola days. First there was drift, then there was decline, now a sense of chaos seems to be engulfing the club. These have been a turbulent few days at the club, bringing problems to such a head that there will be an emergency board meeting on Wednesday to discuss the future of coach Luis Enrique, although his position is not thought to be under immediate threat.” SI – Jonathan Wilson

Lionel Messi’s complex legacy stays in crosshairs for everyone but himself

December 29, 2014

Roadside graffiti in Rio de Janeiro depicts a disappointed Lionel Messi, one with his head in his hands.
“Time was slipping away, yet Lionel Messi still had plenty. Germany’s Bastian Schweinsteiger, who committed the 120th-minute foul that offered Messi the opportunity for one last look at goal, was receiving treatment a few feet away. The Argentine maestro took advantage of the pause. He stood quietly for a moment then bent over and pressed his fingertips into the ball, testing the air pressure. Messi was calm and deliberate, as if he hoped the measured pace of his movement would help clear his mind and calm any nerves. He was about 25 yards away and to the left of Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer. Argentina trailed, 1-0, in the dying seconds of the World Cup final at the Estádio do Maracanã and its fading hopes for a third title rested where they always had – at Messi’s feet.” SI

Diego Simeone gets his wish: a chance to resurrect Torres at Atlético

December 26, 2014

“Blame Diego Simeone the player for our one-track minds, but it’s hard to see el Cholo the coach as anything but an extension of the man on the field. As head coach with Atlético, he’s been an obstinate disbeliever — a person whose combination of dedication, optimism and talent leave him unconvinced that Spain’s established pecking order applies to his club. That same mentality that lead to 106 caps for Argentina is upending the duopoly in La Liga.Soccer Gods

Twelve glimpses of soccer Christmas

December 26, 2014

“DEC25. CR7. Wake; put on my own-brand underwear and my own-brand t-shirt. Listen to commentary of the 61 goals I scored in 2014 on my own-brand headphones. Doubt: is my statue too small? Does Messi have a bigger one? Think about going to my museum to check, but I remember: It’s Christmas. It’s shut. But frustration passes. My online store is always open.” Soccer Gods

Real Madrid’s tactical flexibility allows for success in multiple ways

December 21, 2014

“Real Madrid’s recent dominance culminates in the club’s first chance to win the FIFA Club World Cup on Saturday. In brushing off Cruz Azul, 4-0, in the semifinals, Real again showed its versatility as likely the most complete team in the world. Club president Florentino Pérez and his philosophy of buying the best talent available fits with manager Carlo Ancelotti’s tactical flexibility. Ancelotti has a swath of individual talent at his disposal that ensures minimal need for overarching structure in attack. Of course, as a disciple of famous AC Milan tactician Arrigo Sacchi, Ancelotti would never be able to eschew defensive discipline. A staunch 4-4-2 in defense gives way to a 4-3-3 hybrid in possession that allows free rein for devastating combinations and individual play in the final third.” SI

Analysis: Emiliano Velazquez’s Exceptional Start to life in La Liga with Getafe

December 21, 2014

“Emiliano Velazquez continued his impressive form in La Liga this term by putting in another solid defensive showing against the inordinate talents of Barcelona’s frontline. In the driving rain, Velazquez and his side did an outstanding job keeping the score to 0-0. After the match, Velazquez spoke of his side’s terrific effort and how it was great to keep his compatriot Luis Suarez goalless.” Licence to Roam

Champions League: Holders Real Madrid draw Schalke 04 in last 16 stage

December 16, 2014

Champions League draw
“Champions League holders and arguably Europe’s most in-form team Real Madrid were drawn against German side Schalke 04 in the last 16 of Europe’s most prestigious competition. Real, which defeated city rival Atletico Madrid 4-1 in Lisbon last year to win ‘La Decima’ — it’s 10th title — is attempting to become the first team to successfully defend the Champions League. Two of England’s three clubs face tough ties, with Chelsea drawn against Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City paired with Spanish giants Barcelona.” CNN

Rematches, Wenger reunion headline Champions League knockout draw
“After a group stage in which the main lesson was that Real Madrid and Bayern Munich are still the teams to beat in this competition, the draw for the round of 16 took place Monday. The odds on the two favorites will have shortened considerably after decent draws, and two big guns will fall by the wayside after Paris Saint-Germain was drawn against Chelsea and Manchester City against Barcelona in a pair of repeat matchups from last season. There was also a moment of sentimentality in the draw, as Arsenal was drawn against AS Monaco, where coach Gunners coach Arsene Wenger was manager from 1987-1994. Here’s a breakdown of Monday’s draw…” SI

A bizarre halt in the rise of Martin Montoya

December 16, 2014

“With Spain’s success at youth level on the international stage, particularly over the past 5 years, one would naturally expect a lot from a player who featured heavily for La Rojita in their recent consecutive U21 Euro title wins. Comparing Spain’s starting XIs for both finals, against Switzerland in 2011 and Italy in 2013, there were 3 constants on the pitch. One of those players is now 1 of the best goalkeepers in the English Premier League and another was a key component in Bayern Munich’s successful defence of their Bundesliga title in his debut 2013/14 season. The 2 players in question? David de Gea and Thiago Alcântara respectively. And what of the third? Well, that was Martin Montoya.” Outside of the Boot

Video Analysis: Barcelona’s Build-up Play

December 7, 2014

“Guardiola’s Barcelona and its tiki-taka way of play dominated Europe but soon enough, teams got around to figuring a way to make them ineffective. Successive Barcelona squads have had to deal with this and have started to incorporate certain tactical elements which are noticeable from where we sit. Luis Enrique’s Barcelona have often had to vary these tactical elements and tailor them depending on the team they were facing. One such game was back in September when Barcelona played Athletic Bilbao. While Suarez was still prohibited from playing at this point, the other big name signing, Rakitic, was seen playing a crucial role in their build up play.” Outside of the Boot (Video)

Spanish Football Column: Death of Deportivo supporter blights the weekend’s action

December 2, 2014

“Spanish football is left mourning the death of Deportivo La Coruna fan Jimmy Romero who had to be pulled from the Manzanares River close to Atletico Madrid’s Calderon stadium, where Atletico beat Deportivo 2-0 in a match that became a mere footnote to the violence that marred it. Eleven other people suffered injuries while there were reports that over 200 people were involved in an organised fight that took place about an hour before Sunday’s kick-off. Atletico coach Diego Simeone said the trouble was a social problem and his club president Enrique Cerezo would say it ‘had nothing to do with football’. A local politician Cristiano Cifuentes called it an ‘isolated event’ that the police, kept at 200-strong because it was seen as a low-risk game, could not have foreseen.” Outside of the Boot

David Moyes: Real Sociedad boss plays second to Messi on debut

November 25, 2014

“David Moyes kicked off his Spanish managerial career by guiding Real Sociedad to a 0-0 draw at struggling Deportivo La Coruna on Saturday night. Although the game itself was unremarkable, especially during a flat second half, it was still a highly eventful debut day for the former Preston, Everton and Manchester United boss, featuring a diverted aeroplane, a series of selection decisions, a bizarre touchline bust-up and a midnight finish. So how did he fare?” BBC

Lionel Messi showing some promising signs in a new Argentina role

November 14, 2014

“Whenever the subject of the greatest player in the history of football is debated, the 47th minute of this year’s World Cup final might figure highly in the argument. It was that minute when Lionel Messi dragged a left-footed shot wide of the far post, his best opportunity to win a tense, tight final, and put himself alongside Pele and Diego Maradona as World Cup winners. Messi can, of course, still be considered the all-time greatest without a World Cup to his name, especially because in the modern age, the European Cup is played at a higher standard than the World Cup. To some, however, his lack of international honours remains crucial — it’s not an insurmountable barrier, but a significant caveat.” ESPN – Michael Cox

Barcelona policy switch means they risk becoming just another superclub

November 8, 2014

“Barcelona’s peak under Pep Guardiola probably came at Wembley in the 2011 Champions League final. It was not only the performance, hugely impressive though it was, but the sense this was a dynasty that could last for an awfully long time. Barça beat Manchester United 3-1 to win the competition for the second time in three years – having missed out in the middle season because of a combination of extraordinary resilience from José Mourinho’s Internazionale, an Icelandic volcano and ill fortune. With a long-established philosophy and much-admired academy, they seemed to have the ideal platform for success.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

La Liga: UD Almeria 1-2 FC Barcelona: Match Review

November 8, 2014

“After slipping to two successive La Liga defeats, FC Barcelona looked set for a third as they fell behind in Andalusia to UD Almeria in the early Saturday afternoon kick-off. Former Espanyol striker Thievy got the goal, clinically finishing a chance on a counter-attack as Barça seemed to have no answer for the tactical setup of the hosts. However, a host of changes at the break, not least the introduction of Luis Suarez and Neymar, slowly but surely turned the tide in the Blaugrana’s favour as Neymar converted a Suarez cross to tie the teams at 1-1 before Luisito provided once again, this time for Jordi Alba to grab a winner. Deserved? Nope, but three points nonetheless as Barcelona temporarily moved into top spot.” Barca Blaugranes

Barcelona 0-1 Celta Vigo: Tactical Review

November 5, 2014

“Two defeats in a row have piled the pressure onto Barcelona manager Luis Enrique. Losing a Clásico is never going to do a coach any good, but Barça were quite unlucky and it seemed like there were positives to be taken from that game. This loss, however, has the alarm bells ringing loud and clear. It was supposed to be a glorious occasion, the first time that the much-vaunted front three of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suárez started at home for Barça and Celta Vigo, flying high even before this game, weren’t expected to present too many problems. Obviously this wasn’t communicated clearly enough to Celta manager Eduardo Berizzo, and his players tore up the script in spectacular fashion.” Barca Blaugranes

Barcelona’s Abundance of Riches

November 3, 2014

“Time will tell whether Barcelona has assembled the greatest front three ever seen in the club game. But for now, there is little question that this forward line is the most hyped in soccer. That’s what you get when you take Lionel Messi and Neymar and add Luis Suarez to the mix, as the Catalan club did over the summer. Messi, 27, is in the conversation as the greatest player ever and is a four-time Ballon d’Or winner. Suarez, also 27, was the joint-top goalscorer in Europe last season and won both the writers’ and players’ awards as the English Premier League Footballer of the Year. Neymar, still just 22, is the man on who carried Brazil’s World Cup hopes and arguably the most credible candidate to take the “Best Player in the World” crown once Messi and his arch-rival Cristiano Ronaldo are ready to hand it over.” WSJ

Spanish football column: Real Madrid’s Clasico, managerial changes and more

October 29, 2014

“The season’s first Clasico was won by Real Madrid and their devastating counter-attacking that left Barcelona unable to deal with the scintillating football the home side produced in the Bernabeu on Saturday evening. Luis Enrique’s bold decision to hand Luis Suarez his competitive debut for the club, 2 days after his 3 month ban for biting concluded, first looked like it would pay off, but then it back-fired as the Uruguayan’s lack of match-fitness became palpable.” Outside of the Boot

Tactical Analysis | Real Madrid 3-1 Barcelona: El Clasico won by Marcelo & Isco’s partnership

October 29, 2014

“Experience in tactical decision making ultimately won the El Clasico as Carlo Ancelotti’s Real Madrid proved to be better organised, more mature and adept at taking on this fixture, while Luis Enrique could be accused of a little naivety in his first managerial experience of this monumental game.” Outside of the Boot

Player Ratings: Benzema the hero as Madrid crush Barcelona

October 27, 2014

Real Madrid CF v FC Barcelona - La Liga
“Real Madrid put on a performance to match any seen in the history of the Clasico at the Bernabeu on Saturday. The home side went behind to Neymar’s early goal but rebounded to carve out a 3-1 win that should have been even more emphatic. Tactically, Carlo Ancelotti outdid his Barcelona counterpart Luis Enrique by deploying two wide men in Isco and James Rodriguez, who had the desired effect of pulling Barca’s back line out of shape. Luka Modric and Toni Kroos bossed the midfield contest — Enrique elected to leave Ivan Rakitic on the bench — and Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema were duly handed the freedom of the Bernabeu.” ESPN

RATINGS: Suarez impressed but Benzema has final say in El Clasico
“In a game that attracted a worldwide audience of around 400 million people, Real Madrid claimed El Clasico bragging rights with a 3-1 destruction of Barcelona. Luis Suarez impressed on his long-awaited debut but it was Neymar who silenced the Bernabeu by opening the scoring after only four minutes before Cristiano Ronaldo sent the teams in level with a penalty for his 16th league goal of the season. The second half belonged to the hosts who doubled their lead through a header from defender Pepe before Karim Benzema completed a beautiful passing move to slot home their third and final goal.” Daily Mail

La Liga El Clasico: Real Madrid 3-1 FC Barcelona: Player Ratings
“A detailed, player-by-player breakdown of Barcelona’s gut-wrenching La Liga loss in the El Clasico.” Barca Blaugranes

Luis Suarez: Do sporting suspensions work?

October 24, 2014

“Although he’s vowed to keep his famous chops to himself, the world will soon find out if Luis Suarez can keep bagging goals without literally leaving his mark on defenders. This weekend, the 27-year-old forward will complete his four-month ban for a third on-pitch biting offense, and could make his Barcelona debut in the battle known as ‘El Clasico’ against Real Madrid on Saturday. ‘Don’t worry, I won’t do that again,’ the gifted Uruguayan promised, soon after arriving at his new club. But will he?” CNN

Champions League: Bayern Munich thrashes Roma amid goal bonanza

October 22, 2014

“Tuesday’s Champions League action brought thumping wins for Chelsea, Shakhtar Donetsk and, perhaps most impressively, Bayern Munich, who hammered Roma 7-1 at Stadio Olimpico. Manchester City’s misery went on as it threw away a lead to draw in Moscow, while there was another defeat for Athletic Bilbao away to Porto. Here is what caught our eye from the day’s games, when a Champions-League-record 40 goals were scored…” SI – Jonathan Wilson

Robben impressed by rampant Bayern
“Arjen Robben, Bayern forward. Afterwards it’s always easy to talk. I’m still convinced Roma have a very good team – they’ve shown that this season – but we should pay a big compliment to us, to all the players, but also to the coaching staff who prepared this game in the way we played, the way we created chances and scored goals. There were some great goals tonight. We played a little different tonight. Everybody has seen it, but it’s not good to talk about our tactics and how we want to play. Everybody can see it and watch the match to analyse us. But a big compliment to the team and the tactics.” UEFA

Video Analysis: Atletico Madrid’s Defensive Discipline

October 17, 2014

“2013-14 finally saw a break from Barcelona and Real Madrid hogging the La Liga limelight. It was Simeone’s Atletico Madrid that stole all the headlines, taking the league all the way to the last match day. A massive part of that success was their discipline and organisation in defensive. Last season saw Atleti concede just 26 goals in the entire campaign, 7 fewer than the next best team, Barcelona. Certainly Simeone’s team will look to continue this impressive defensive display. Krzysztof Sierocki has done an in-depth analysis of Atleti’s defensive organisation against Real in their recent fixture.” Outside of the Boot (Video)

The Ball Is the End: Assessing Lionel Messi’s Career on the 10th Anniversary of His Debut for Barcelona

October 8, 2014

FC Barcelona v APOEL FC - UEFA Champions League
“Lionel Messi played in his first competitive match for FC Barcelona 10 years ago this month, on October 16, 2004. He was already famous, of course, among the hardest-core coterie of Barça fanciers, the types who write forum posts about training-academy gossip; to the rest of the world, his eight scoreless minutes at the end of Barcelona’s 1-0 win over Espanyol didn’t do much to make him a household name. Still, if you watch the video now, it’s pretty clear, even allowing for the benefit of hindsight, that at 17 Messi was a frightening talent. He’s not ready yet, not quite, but he already has that strange quality of slant directness, that mysteriously straightforward elusiveness, that would later make him seem magical, insoluble.” Grantland

Quiet Steps: A New-Look Barcelona and Messi Embrace the Old Ways

October 1, 2014

“The reports of Barcelona’s death may have been greatly exaggerated. This season has started as perfectly as possible. Any worries after a scoreless draw at Málaga last week were swept aside by Lionel Messi & Co. when they put six on Granada in the next match. New manager Luis Enrique has guided his team to the top of La Liga’s table, with 16 points from their first six games. Barcelona have yet to concede a goal, and, scarily, they are nowhere near their peak form. Luis Suárez has yet to play a minute for his new squad, and Neymar is only now rounding into shape after his World Cup injury. Barcelona’s decline, to the extent that there ever was one, appears to have been arrested. And it’s all thanks to evolution.” Grantland (Video)

Tactical Analysis | PSG 3-2 Barcelona : Marquinhos, Luiz, and Motta steal the show as Messi is thwarted
“One of the Marquee clashes of the group stage would be the two games between PSG and Barca. With Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Thiago Silva and Ezequiel Lavezzi all ruled out due to injury, the Parisian side were definitely on the back foot and were second favourites for the clash. However a performance of tactical discipline and heart saw them emerge triumphant in a five goal thriller.” Outside of the Boot

Barça face cross-border issues, Athletic hit rock bottom

October 1, 2014

“‘Ha! Zat eez wot ‘appens when ze Barca do not have ze Granada every week! Ha!’ snarked a much-loved French friend of LLL after PSG’s 3-2 victory in the Champions League on Tuesday night. Actually, that’s a bit of a porky-pie lie. The voice creeped out the imaginary mouth of an imaginary French friend living in the blog’s largely empty head. It is very unloved. Although it’s a little knee-jerk, which is what LLL is all about deep down, this is one possible reaction to Barcelona’s first loss this season – and the first goals conceded for that matter.” FourFourTwo

Elite Force Is Back in Spain, Dominance Undiminished

September 28, 2014

Lionel Messi nets goal number 400 of his senior career. His teammate Neymar scores a hat trick. And Barcelona hits Granada for six. Cristiano Ronaldo takes his personal account to eight goals in one week with Real Madrid. Diego Simeone returns in full voice to the coaching area. His new striker, Mario Mandzukic, returns in a black mask nine days after fracturing his nose, and Atlético Madrid crushes Sevilla by four goals.” NY Times