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


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


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

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


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


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


Real Madrid, City and Bayern all flex their muscles

April 17, 2016

“Manchester City, Real Madrid and Bayern München all returned to domestic action with a bang on Saturday, scoring 11 goals between them and conceding only one.” UEFA


Champions League semifinals yield intriguing, tough-to-call pairings

April 17, 2016

“The Champions League semifinal draw kept apart the two teams from Madrid and also denied Pep Guardiola the opportunity to face his club for next season, Manchester City–at least until a potential final. When the names were drawn out in Nyon, Switzerland on Friday, it was Manchester City vs. Real Madrid and Bayern Munich vs. Atletico Madrid. Both semifinals will be fascinating, but on the basis of the quarterfinals, you could argue that the two weakest teams still left face each other, as do the two strongest teams.” SI


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)


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


Tactical Analysis: Real Madrid 0-1 Atletico Madrid | Atleti shut down the center

March 6, 2016

“The Madrid derby is always one of the fiercest in the world, and the past several years have only heightened the rivalry. With Diego Simeone leading Atleti back to success, the past four years have seen the derby pick up in quality as well as intensity. Real hasn’t beaten Atleti in three seasons, an embarrassing stat for Real. Both teams needed three points to keep up with Barcelona in the chase for the league title as well.” Outside of the Boot


Cristiano Ronaldo: Real Madrid forward appears unhappy with team-mates

February 28, 2016

“Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo said ‘if we were all at my level maybe we would be leaders’ after his side’s 1-0 derby defeat by Atletico Madrid. A first defeat under Zinedine Zidane leaves Real nine points behind leaders Barcelona, and four below Atletico. Real were missing Gareth Bale and Marcelo through injury, while Karim Benzema was replaced at half-time.” BBC

Zidane Can’t Save Real From Losing Another Madrid Derby
“When Zinedine Zidane was a player, he could raise his game like few other men to breach almost any defense. As a coach, he no longer has that power. And in his own stadium, with a team of players as expensive as any on earth, the futility of that predicament clearly tortures him. Zidane railed to no effect as Real Madrid lost, 1-0, on Saturday to Atlético Madrid in their derby match.” NY Times


Atlético Madrid Without the Ball

February 7, 2016

“The famous analyst Leo Tolstoy once eloquently stated ‘Every great attacking team is pretty much the same; every team that isn’t great at attacking is not-great in their own, unique way.’ Powerful and flowing words. Why is this? Mainly because our statistical understanding of soccer is mainly shaped by the team with the ball. We can measure most of what teams do with the ball and while 10 years from now we will look back on the rudimentary stats and conclusions we are reaching with amusement, we are least on a track that will lead us to a robust understanding of the game. When teams don’t have the ball we are still generally foraging in the dark. It’s not easy to get stats that correlate at even a .4 level while attacking stats correlate at .7 or more routinely. This makes not-great attacking teams often fuzzily look somewhat similar.” Stats Bomb


Champions League title, or failure – Guardiola under pressure

February 2, 2016

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“Pep Guardiola has won the Bundesliga twice and the DFB-Pokal once. From Bayern’s point of view, it possible to think of the Bundesliga and the Pokal as useless. If you win the Bundesliga eight times in ten years, you would not be celebrating either. We all know what ambitions Pep Guardiola had when he came to Bayern. He wanted to infect Bayern with his football ideas, building his second Barcelona. Did he succeed? Partially, yes!” Bundesliga Fanatic

Pep Guardiola must realise Manchester City’s dream of joining the European elite
“For Manchester City, it feels as though the announcement that Pep Guardiola will take charge in the summer is the culmination of a four-year process. From the moment Txiki Begiristain and Ferran Soriano arrived as director of football and chief executive respectively, their aim was to appoint the man with whom they had achieved such success at Barcelona.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Money League – Oh! You Pretty Things

February 2, 2016

“A couple of weeks ago Deloitte published the 19th edition of their annual Football Money League, which ranks leading clubs by revenue, this time for the 2014/15 season. On the face of it, little has changed compared to the previous year, as Real Madrid once again top the table for the 11th year in a row with annual revenue of €577 million (£439 million), and there are no new entrants in the top 10. However, there has been some movement with Barcelona (€561 million) overtaking both Manchester United (€520 million) and Bayern Munich (€474 million) to reclaim second place, as they became only the third club to break the €500 million revenue barrier.” The Swiss Ramble


Around Europe: Mourinho looms over Man United; Argentine attackers star

January 25, 2016

“As the transfer window gets set to shut and teams in Europe’s top leagues take stock of where they stand, significant developments continued to unfold around the continent. Arsenal, down to 10 men, lost ground in the title race after a London derby defeat, while Manchester United also slipped again at home in the Premier League. Real Madrid dropped its first points under Zinedine Zidane, while Pep Guardiola is facing another injury-induced challenge at Bayern Munich. Two Argentine strikers are fighting it out for top honors in Italy, while in France, the title race is over already. Here is what caught our eye Around Europe this week.” SI


Real Madrid looks rejuvenated as Zidane wins first game in charge

January 13, 2016

“Zinedine Zidane wore the number five shirt during his time as an iconic player at Real Madrid, so it was somehow fitting that Real Madrid beat Deportivo La Coruna 5-0 on his coaching debut Saturday night. This was a first game that even the Frenchman could not have imagined, with two early goals settling the nerves and a last-minute Karim Benzema strike that underlined a huge improvement in performance, attitude and atmosphere.” SI


Messi the favorite, but could Neymar jump Ronaldo in Ballon d’Or voting?

January 10, 2016

“What do Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Franck Ribery and Manuel Neuer all have in common? In the last four years, each was the ‘gooseberry’ on the Ballon d’Or podium behind Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. This year could be different; for the first time since 2010, when Ronaldo slipped to sixth (Iniesta was second and Xavi third) the Messi-Ronaldo duopoly could be broken by the player Barcelona signed to one day replace Messi: Neymar.” SI (Video)


Gerard Pique takes on Real Madrid: Will it ever end?

December 17, 2015

“Even when he’s halfway around the world, Gerard Pique just cannot let it lie. The Barcelona defender’s running verbal battle with most of the Real Madrid squad continued in Japan on Wednesday as he refused to back down after igniting yet another row, this time with Bernabeu duo Alvaro Arbeloa and Sergio Ramos. We all know there’s little love lost between Barca and Madrid, but no figure on the pitch seems to embody the rivalry more closely than Pique.” BBC


The Outsiders, Part 5: AP Campionese

December 10, 2015

“‘And this is Campione d’Italia’, she’s the Italian comune in Switzerland, you know, she’s an Italian enclave and exclave surrounded by Switzerland but still in the Province of Como, Lombardia, in the Swiss canton of Ticino’. Introducing the small town of Campione d’Italia, is much like describing a distant relative at a very large family celebration. She’s both vaguely recognisable and completely unfamiliar. She has the same plump and contented face as aunty Giulia, yet she’s definitely got the nose of grandpa Müller.” Football Pink

The Outsiders, Part 6: FC Andorra
“As countries go, there are few that can match the sheer stunning beauty of Andorra. Nestled firmly in the Pyrenees between France and Spain, Andorra is the sixth smallest nation in Europe in terms of size, its population could fit inside Barcelona’s Nou Camp stadium. It has a rich culture stretching back over a thousand years and is a constitutional monarchy with an official language of Catalan, though French and Spanish are widely spoken too.” Football Pink

The Outsiders, Part 7: The New Saints
“Around the globe, football teams that have incorporated their sponsor’s name are common place. Of course, Red Bull have taken on teams in New York, Leipzig and Salzburg, aptly named the New York Red Bulls, RB Leipzig and FC Red Bull Salzburg whilst Bayer Leverkusen in Germany have taken their founders’ name since their emergence in 1904, as did PSV Eindhoven in 1913. Hyundai have taken on two teams in South Korea, Jeonbuk and Ulsan whilst Toyota even got in on the act in Japan.” Football Pink


The Ten Oldest Stadiums in Spain

November 21, 2015

“Before I start, I have to admit that there is a flaw in a club claiming to have the oldest stadium. It’s a bit like Trigger’s Broom (or Theseus’ Paradox if you’re that way inclined). Can something which has had all of its component parts replaced over the course of time, remain fundamentally the same? Well for the sake of this article, the answer is a resounding ‘Yes’. Quite simply here are the 10 oldest stadiums in Spain. Just a couple of criteria apply; The current stadium has to be on the site of the original ground and it must have hosted a match in any of Spain’s top three tiers. So in reverse order, in at number 10 is… ” Inside Spanish Football


Goal Analysis: How Sevilla’s pressing worked against Real Madrid

November 16, 2015

“Real Madrid travelled to Sevilla as La Liga leaders and started far brighter than the Andalucians; who have struggled to find the form they hit in the 2014-2015 term, seeing them finish in a highly respectable 5th position and lift the Europa League trophy, mustering up only 3 wins from their first 10 fixtures this season before this encounter.” Outside of the Boot


Getafe CF 0-2 FC Barcelona: Match Review

November 1, 2015

“With Real Madrid winning earlier on Saturday, it was important for Barcelona to match Madrid’s result against Getafe and stay level with their rivals. With it also being a Champions League midweek on the horizon, coach Luis Enrique would’ve been hoping to see the game off as quickly as possible.” Barca Blaugranes


Positives for both sides as Real Madrid topple Celta Vigo

October 28, 2015

“Sooner or later, reality bites in football – especially for football clubs like Celta Vigo. Unbeaten in La Liga up to last Saturday, the humble Galician outfit had found themselves sharing top spot on merit with visitors Real Madrid. But sooner or later, despite your dash, your verve, your high intensity pressing, reality bites.” backpagefootball


Life After Messi & Ronaldo: The definitive search for the world’s third best player

October 23, 2015

“For all the complaints over how closed the title races of modern football have become, competitions such as the Premier League and La Liga are practically wide open to all-comers in comparison to the annual battle to be named the best footballer in the world. Historic seasons by a treble-winning Wesley Sneijder in 2010, Germany’s World Cup claiming, sweeper-keeper extraordinaire Manuel Neuer in 2014 and Franck Ribery, whose irresistible wing-play also inspired his club-mates to a treble in 2013, were not enough to overcome the incumbents who have swapped the honour since 2008.” Squawka