‘Barca pulling ‘levers’? Real did it first’ — Jaume Roures, the man who crosses Spain’s conflicting football worlds

“On the 16th floor of an office complex in downtown Barcelona, we’re inside a meeting room that’s surrounded by glass walls and filled with trophies. This is the main headquarters of Mediapro, a Spanish communication group founded by Jaume Roures in 1994. Maybe you haven’t heard of Roures, but there are plenty of reasons The Athletic has come to meet him. …”
The Athletic

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Real Madrid, Mbappe and the story that won’t go away. Get ready for more smoke and mirrors

Real Madrid have not forgotten about Kylian Mbappe and Mbappe has most definitely not forgotten about Real Madrid. From the outside, things might appear to be quite different. Madrid have talked down the prospect of signing the 24-year-old striker — both publicly and privately — because they do not want this topic to be in the media. After what happened with their failed attempts to sign Mbappe last summer, they are proceeding with caution. …”
The Athletic (Video)

Why Xavi swapped Pedri for Gavi on Barcelona’s left – and how it was key to beating Real Madrid

“It was a good week for Barcelona. Seven days after beating Atletico Madrid 1-0 at the Wanda Metropolitano, they defeated Real Madrid 3-1 to win the Super Cup, bringing Xavi Hernandez his first trophy as Barcelona manager. The performances were, in many ways, very similar. In another way, there was a crucial difference. …”
The Athletic – Michael Cox

Real Madrid 1-3 Barcelona: Xavi’s first trophy, brilliant Gavi and lacklustre Real


Barcelona won their first piece of silverware under Xavi as they comfortably beat Real Madrid 3-1 in the Supercopa de Espana final in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Gavi put Barca ahead in the 33rd minute after a slide-rule pass from Robert Lewandowski before returning the favour for the striker, who put his side in full control when he scored himself in the 45th minute. Pedri put the finishing touches on the rout when he turned home another fine pass from Gavi in the 69th minute. Karim Benzema scored a consolation goal in stoppage time, but it was nowhere near enough for Carlo Ancelotti’s side. …”
The Athletic (Video)
The Athletic: Barcelona vs Real Madrid – an alternative guide to the first Clasico of 2023
Guardian: Villarreal find their level after Setién ‘shock’ to see off Real Madrid

UCL Dreams Dashed, Barcelona in Dire Need of La Liga Title Charge

Lewandowski has hit the ground running, and Barcelona will need every bit of his goalscoring prowess.
“There was a certain sense of inevitability that hung in the air at the Camp Nou. Bayern Munich winger Sadio Mané scored the opener in the ninth minute and hardly celebrated. A second went in in the 31st minute and all was already lost. The 84,000 supporters had seen this script play out before: Mighty FC Barcelona was simply not good enough against the German club. That didn’t stop the jeers from raining down at full time of Barca’s 3–0 loss, and it certainly didn’t ease the sting of what was a defeat of massive importance. Barcelona was out of the Champions League before the knockout stage in a season it needed to reach it more than any other. …”
SI

Antonio Mateu Lahoz plays his cards wrong to make Catalan derby history

“Barcelona and Espanyol were a quarter of the way into their first game for more than 50 days, La Liga back at last, when the referee, Antonio Mateu Lahoz, was suddenly set off. Urgently heading across the pitch wearing a determined look, triggered by what he heard or perhaps remembering something really important he had to do, he sprinted straight at Xavi Hernández, who was all in black and shouting. This was only ending one way. Pulling up pitchside, he grabbed Barça’s coach. And then he kissed him, whispering in his ear. …”
Guardian

Spain: 2022-23 La Liga – Location-map, with 3 charts…


“The map page shows a location-map for the 20 clubs in the 2022-23 La Liga, with recently-promoted and -relegated teams noted. (Promoted in 2022: Almería, Real Valladolid, Girona; relegated in 2022: Granada, Levante, Alavés.) The map also shows the 17 Autonomous Communities of Spain, and the 20 largest Spanish metropolitan areas. Those 20 largest Spanish metro-areas, with their 2018 population estimates, are listed at the top-centre of the map-page. …”
billsportsmaps
W – 2022–23 La Liga

La Liga Rest of Season Predictions 2022-23

“Who knows what to expect upon La Liga’s return? Spanish teams waved 83 players off to the World Cup – second only to the Premier League’s 126. How will that affect the players moving into the second half of the season? No fallible human could possibly know. But luckily, we’ve put the supercomputer to work, giving it one last push before it powers down for the Christmas holidays. And just like always, the machine was only too happy to oblige. We’ve got title numbers to give you, predictions for the top four and a sense of who will be spending next summer gearing up for a season in the Segunda division. …”
The Analyst

La Liga packs up for World Cup and some need a break more than others

“‘I’ll be watching it of course, at home, because I like football,’ Carlo Ancelotti said. ‘My teams will be the teams where my players play: Brazil, Spain, France, Uruguay, Croatia, Germany, lots of teams. I’ll follow the World Cup as a fan, and may the best team win it. Unfortunately, Italy can’t.’ There was a smile, a goodbye and with that he was gone. They all were. Just before midnight on a Thursday in early November and the Real Madrid coach was the last man to leave. La Liga was finished, everyone out of here for 50 days. Mentally, some had gone already. …”
Guardian

European roundup: Filip Kostic inspires Juventus in defeat of Internazionale

“Filip Kostic set up both goals as Juventus beat Internazionale in Serie A on Sunday in a challenging game where both teams had chances to win. Kostic took advantage of a cleared Inter corner and raced into the box, where Adrien Rabiot guided the assist elegantly into the bottom corner in the 52nd minute. Kostic then fed an unmarked Nicolo Fagioli six minutes before full time for the second goal. Juventus are fifth on 25 points, 10 behind leaders Napoli. Inter are seventh on 24 points. …”
Guardian

Barça go knocking on wrong doors after clásico defeat that was too easy

When at last it was all over, Joan Laporta stood up, shook hands with Florentino Pérez and slipped out. For the second time in five days Barcelona’s president had sat front row centre watching things fall apart. He had listened to the Real Madrid supporters he had been so looking forward to seeing again launch into olés, laugh their way through ironic pleas for his coach to stay and invite him to enjoy Thursday nights in the Europa League, and now it was time to leave. He went down the stairs, past the statue of Sotero Aranguren and Alberto Machimbarrena cast in bronze and to the referee’s dressing room. There, according to José María Sánchez Martínez’s report, he ‘repeatedly asked for an explanation’. He had come to the wrong place. …”
Guardian

UEFA Champions League Preview: Big clash in Lisbon, while Juventus need a win

“While Real Madrid president Florentino Pérez claims there are too many inconsequential matches, the Champions League group phase pushes ahead with matchday three. Matches that look quite appetising can be found right across Europe, from London to Leipzig to Lisbon. …”
Game of the People

How the Champions League final descended into chaos – visual investigation

“On 28 May 2022 the Champions League final between Real Madrid and Liverpool took place at the Stade de France in Paris. But the showpiece match between two great clubs was disfigured by chaotic organisation, in which Liverpool supporters suffered a near disaster and riot police teargassed spectators while failing to protect people from violent attacks by local thugs. Yet the French government, police and Uefa united instantly to put the blame on Liverpool supporters, claiming that the chaos was caused by thousands seeking entry with fake tickets. …”
Guardian (Video)
Guardian – ‘I had to leave’: concerns raised over state of Uefa amid cronyism claims
Guardian: Uefa pre-prepared Champions League final statement blaming ‘late’ fans

Williams brothers enjoy stirring send-off at Athletic after international calls

“On Sunday evening Iñaki Williams boarded a plane north to Paris. About the time he set off from there to Le Havre on Monday, Nico Williams was heading in the other direction, south to Barajas and on to Las Rozas, 25km outside Madrid. On Saturday, a night none of them would ever forget – a delirious, joyous celebration of everything they are – they had embraced; then, for the first time, Bilbao’s brothers went separate ways. …”
Guardian

Atlético Madrid fans’ racist abuse of Vinícius Júnior overshadows Real win

“Real Madrid went to the Metropolitano and danced, delivering their response to this derby victory over Atletico Madrid and the racism that overshadowed it. Goals from Rodrygo and Fede Valverde took Carlo Ancelotti’s team to the top of the table and maintained their 100% record this season but this was a night – a week, in fact – that will be recalled more for what happened off the pitch, with Atlético fans chanting abuse at Vinícius Júnior. …”
Guardian

Real Madrid’s finances – a display of resilience?

“Real Madrid are on a bit of a cautious high at the moment; European and Spanish champions, in the middle of a stadium redevelopment programme and seemingly starting to bounce back from a financial perspective. Preliminary figures for 2021-22 issued by the club provided further evidence of the resilience of their finances, despite losing around € 400 million through the pandemic. …”
Game of the People

European roundup: Bayern held by Stuttgart, Napoli and Milan grab wins

“Bayern Munich conceded a stoppage-time equaliser scored by the VfB Stuttgart striker Serhou Guirassy from the penalty spot, as the champions endured a third consecutive Bundesliga draw. The game started well for Bayern, with Mathys Tel scoring their opener in the 36th minute. The France youth international Tel, who at the age of 17 years and 136 days became the youngest player to start a league game for Bayern, had already scored in the German Cup first round. He scored his first league goal by drilling in a low drive from an Alphonso Davies cutback. …”
Guardian

The Champions League Final is Damned and Doomed: Part I, Part II

“Barrie Davies’s journey to the Champions League Final takes a turn when he finds a rundown flat, smelly bar, and ‘Magic Messi Milk’ between himself and Paris. Part one of a two-part series. … Journey to the Liverpool-Real Madrid final reaches its zenith as the crew enters Paris.”
Football Paradise – Part I, Part II

Champions League: Michael Cox’s tactical guide to this season’s leading contenders

“Judging by the bookmakers’ odds, there are eight sides who stand a decent chance of winning this season’s European Cup. Broadly speaking, they look familiar from last season — few clubs have undergone a dramatic overhaul in terms of their starting XI and only one of these eight clubs appointed a new manager in the summer. If you haven’t watched any of the favourites since last season, here’s the lowdown on their approaches for 2022-23. …”
The Athletic

What the Champions League Is Lacking


“PARIS — There will be stories, of course. There are always stories. The Champions League delivers them so frequently and so reliably that it is impossible to dismiss the nagging suspicion that all of this might just be scripted, the product of some complex simulation being run from a secret lair in Nyon. Robert Lewandowski, clad in the blue and red of Barcelona, will return to Bayern Munich, only a few weeks after forcing his exit. Manchester City’s visit to Borussia Dortmund will see Erling Haaland standing once more before its Yellow Wall, that great force of nature no longer at his back but marshaled in his face. …”
NY Times
The Athletic: Champions League draw analysed – The biggest games, the shocks in store, the toughest groups

Rating the best and worst of Europe’s 2022-23 kits: From stunners to zany stripes

“We’ve rated the Premier League home kits. We’ve rated the Premier League away kits. So now it’s time to go Euro. It’s a big ask to review the design choices of an entire continent, but The Athletic has broad shoulders and is very happy to take on the job. Someone has to — you may think that this is not something that is absolutely vital for the smooth continuation of public discourse, but unfortunately, we’ve checked, and actually, it is. …”
The Athletic (Video)

Barcelona’s incompetence should be celebrated in an age of gross inequality


“The winner of the 2022 Football Book of the Year award is Barca by Simon Kuper, which was originally intended to be about how Barcelona became the world’s most revered football club. During Kuper’s research, however, the situation changed. Barcelona were no longer the world’s most revered club. Rather, they were being roundly mocked for their haplessness at board level. The book was published just before the departure of Lionel Messi on a free transfer to Paris Saint-Germain last summer, which occurred because the club were in such a ridiculous state they weren’t able to register him as a player, despite them wanting to keep Messi and Messi wanting to stay. …”
The Athletic (Video)

Why Kylian Mbappe didn’t join Real Madrid


Kylian Mbappe is almost certainly now the highest-paid footballer in the world. In a saga that appeared to show Real Madrid as his favoured destination, Mbappe has recently signed a new deal at PSG, making him perhaps the most expensive player of all time. But why did he decide to stay? And how did this saga unfold? Written by Adam Crafton, illustrated by Henry Cooke.”
YouTube

The Dust Settles: The Biggest Changes in Stats Perform’s Power Rankings Over the Course of this Season


“So that’s that. Another season in the books. Lots happened, but in some ways, lots stayed the same. As tends to happen, European football’s hierarchy tightened their stranglehold on silverware. Real Madrid, the very definition of footballing heritage, won their record 35th La Liga title and a 14th European Cup/Champions League. Bayern Munich, Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain continued their domestic league dominance. Elsewhere, it was a renaissance season for AC Milan, who won their first Scudetto in 11 years and returned to the Champions League for the first time since 2013-14. Forty-two years after winning the UEFA Cup in 1980, Eintracht Frankfurt won the famous trophy again, beating Rangers in the Europa League final. …”
The Analyst

‘They build an image of the enemy’ – France’s struggles to police football fans


“It might be of little consolation to the Liverpool fans, young and old, who were aggressively kettled, callously tear-gassed, arbitrarily struck with batons, cruelly denied entry to the stadium or viciously mugged on the day of the Champions League final, but there has been almost as much outrage in France over what happened at the Stade de France last weekend as there has been in the UK. Within hours of the game, and with the dust having barely begun to settle on Real Madrid’s 1-0 win, journalists and commentators from across the political spectrum were deploring the stark organisational failures that had led to the dangerous bottlenecks that were allowed to build up before the game and angrily denouncing the French government’s attempts to blame the travelling Liverpool supporters. …”
The Athletic

A Very Specific Risk


“It can be hard, at times like these, to know exactly who to believe. On one side, there are the thousands of witness accounts, the contemporaneous reports from much of the world’s news media, the countless videos and an apparently bottomless reserve of high resolution photographs, all telling one story about last Saturday’s Champions League final. And that was all it took. As soon as UEFA decided that the real problem with this sporting event was all the people who wanted to watch it, the — let’s keep the lawyers happy — misinformation spread and disseminated and infected everything it touched. From that point on, Liverpool’s fans were presumed guilty until proven innocent, not least by considerable portions of the people who should, really, have been their allies: other soccer fans. …”
NY Times

Only in an alternate reality should Real Madrid be Champions League winners – that’s the beauty of football


“On another day, in some other timeline, maybe Real Madrid could have won the 2021-22 Champions League final. It would have been improbable in any universe, with the way Carlo Ancelotti’s team played, but you can imagine some alternate reality where the movements of bodies and balls are just a little less orderly, where football is a little less fair — who knows, maybe stranger things have happened in a world like that than a smash-and-grab 1-0 win. But yesterday was not that day, and this is not that timeline. Of course Liverpool are champions. …”
The Athletic
The Athletic – Liverpool 0-1 Real Madrid analysis: Courtois’ saves and Klopp’s goalless finals
Guardian – ‘Don’t be sad’: Liverpool fans pack city streets to welcome heroes home
BBC – Liverpool 0-1 Real Madrid: Champions League defeat caps miserable end to magnificent season amid Paris chaos (Video)
NY Times: UEFA Blames Delay at Champions League Final on ‘Fake Tickets’

At Real Madrid, a President Rides Out the Storm


“MADRID — Florentino Pérez strode onto the television set looking somber. Though he knew his questioner would be a little more informal — open-necked shirt, blazer — the Real Madrid president had chosen a straightforward black suit for the occasion. He even wore a tie. This was business, not pleasure, serious, not trivial, and Pérez wanted to project that. On the screens behind him, a lurid orange logo depicted a cartoon soccer ball with flames jetting out of its rotating crown. …”
NY Times
W – Florentino Pérez

Mohamed Salah, Real Madrid and revenge


“It’s a question — like, ‘You don’t mind, do you?’, or ‘Does size matter?’ — that is very rarely answered honestly. When the BT Sport gang asked Mohamed Salah, in the immediate aftermath of Liverpool’s Champions League semi-final win over Villarreal, which of Manchester City or Real Madrid he would prefer to play in the final, they probably thought he would give the standard, stock answer. ‘I don’t mind, both are great teams, I’m just happy we’re in the final, either will be a tough game,’ blah, blah, blah. …”
The Athletic
The Athletic: Konate or Matip? Liverpool’s big Champions League final decision
SI: Champions League Final Brings Elixir for Liverpool, Real Madrid’s Fresh Setbacks – Jonathan Wilson
The Athletic: Luis Diaz: The remarkable rise of ‘Luchito’, Liverpool’s ‘true miracle’
Guardian: ‘It’s not easy to score against me’: Courtois the key to Madrid’s wild ride (Video)
The Athletic: Carlo Ancelotti — the Galactico whisperer and king of cups
The Athletic: What makes Eduardo Camavinga the perfect super-sub for Real Madrid

Dignity and doom: Levante succumb to inevitable in Bernabéu mauling


Francisco Gomez alias ‘Son’ of Levante is consoled by teammate Ruben Vezo after their team were relegated to the second division.
“Adrián Cordero Vega ended it a second too early and not a moment too soon. The clock said 89.59 when the referee blew but it had been over almost from the start, and not just last night. Levante were a goal down after 12:42 at the Bernabéu; they were down-down as well, no longer able to resist the inevitable, the fate they had fought. …”
Guardian

Liverpool’s Jürgen Klopp Era Is Ascending and Shows No Signs of Slowing Down


“It’s a good time to be a Liverpool fan: They reached their third Champions League final in five years following Tuesday’s win over Villarreal, their 63rd game of 2021-22. They’ve played in every possible fixture available this season, they’re in contention to win a historic four trophies, and Jürgen Klopp recently signed a contract extension committing himself to the club until 2026. …”
The Ringer

Futures bets for EPL, Serie A title chases and other tight European races


“The Champions League final is set between Liverpool and Real Madrid, but there are still two incredibly close title races in two of the biggest leagues in Europe. The Premier League and Serie A titles are coming down to the final few weeks. There are also close battles for European places and relegation battles across the top five European leagues. Here’s a look at what’s on the line, the biggest matches to come and how the betting market views the close races in the final few weeks of league play. …”
The Athletic

Outbreaks of chaos expose fatal flaw that keeps denying Guardiola European glory


“At what point does just one of those things become more than just one of those things? If Manchester City’s defeat to Real Madrid on Wednesday night were a one-off, it could be written off. What can you do about luck like that? If you have nine shots on target to the opposition’s none in the first 90 minutes and still lose 2-1 what, really, have you done wrong? Especially when you’ve dominated the first leg as City had done. But this keeps happening. Season after season, Pep Guardiola finds his teams dominating Champions League ties and losing. …”
Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Cox: Like Ancelotti, Guardiola got his subs right. There’s not much more he could have done


“Even by the standards of Champions League semi-finals, the most action-packed and dramatic stage of any competition in modern football, Real Madrid’s comeback against Manchester City last night was truly extraordinary. For 85 minutes at the Bernabeu, City were largely faultless and seemed set to record a controlled 1-0 victory that would take them into the final against Liverpool on May 28. Then, suddenly, a late blitz saw the Spanish champions score two goals, both through Rodrygo, and at 5-5 on aggregate, the momentum was with Madrid. It wasn’t a surprise they opened the scoring in extra time, and it wasn’t a surprise that they held out. City were shellshocked. Is it possible to make sense of such a chaotic ending? Let’s see. …”
The Athletic: Michael Cox
Guardian: Systemic flaws of Guardiola’s City keep Champions League out of reach (Video)
NY Times: Real Madrid Stuns City, Seizing the Moment as Only It Can
Guardian: Real Madrid’s latest miracle is a tale of 88 seconds and one Ancelotti video (Video)
The Athletic: Camavinga, Rodrygo, Vinicius: Real Madrid’s big bets on rising stars are paying off

A Clash of Civilizations in the Champions League Semifinal


“It is easy to see a clash between Manchester City and Real Madrid in the Champions League semifinal as the ultimate contrast of footballing cultures: If City are the brash young upstart of European football, then Madrid are its landed gentry. The latter have been crowned its kings on 13 occasions, while the former still await their first European title. Historians might see this as a reductive reading of the situation—as a club, City were actually founded several years before Madrid, but in terms of prestige, the Mancunians are still playing catch-up. The pattern of Tuesday’s first leg, which Manchester City won 4-3, perfectly illustrated this dynamic. …”
The Ringer
NY Times: Superclubs and Spring Nights
Tactical Analysis: Manchester City 4-3 Real Madrid

Manchester City 4-3 Real Madrid: Classic Champions League tie a genuine gold standard match


Kevin de Bruyne opened the scoring after only 93 seconds in an incredible Champions League semi-final first-leg tie
“Carlo Ancelotti’s last visit to Manchester City ended in a 5-0 humiliation in what proved to be the final match of his tenure as Everton manager. When the legendary Italian manager, 62, turned to his Real Madrid backroom staff with arms outstretched and gave an anxious glance down at his watch with City 2-0 up after only 11 minutes on his return to Etihad Stadium, he was probably fearing a similar scoreline. City were flying. Real were overwhelmed. This was shaping up as a one-sided mauling for the great old Champions League campaigner chasing the trophy for a historic fourth time….”
BBC
The Athletic: ‘I always have it in my head’ – the mental strength behind Karim Benzema’s outrageous penalty for Real Madrid
NY Times: A Convincing Win That Was Anything but Convincing
The Athletic: Carlo Ancelotti’s quiet path to redemption at Real Madrid
Guardian: Pep Guardiola urges Manchester City to be more ruthless in Real Madrid return

Two nights in Madrid, two wildly contrasting experiences


“Nobody was leaving. Not Atletico Madrid’s players, who it seemed were going to have to be dragged kicking and screaming from the Champions League stage, and not their supporters, who were determined to have the last word. … You wouldn’t have guessed their team had just been beaten to a place in the Champions League semi-finals by Manchester City. What a noise — from the start to the bitter, bitter end. And what an extraordinary occasion it was. Again. … When the dust settled on that angry, bad-tempered quarter-final second leg at the Wanda Metropolitano last night, it was City who had held on to secure a semi-final meeting with Real Madrid, leaving Atletico, like Chelsea the previous evening, to count their regrets. …”
The Athletic

Shakhtar provide supplies to refugees but ‘dreaming of return to normality’


“Normality is another world for Shakhtar Donetsk. When Russia invaded Ukraine, football was stopped and the lives of the players, coaches, staff and fans were turned upside down in an instant. There was no time to waste with lives at stake as the autumn’s Champions League games against Real Madrid and Internazionale quickly became a distant memory. Sergei Palkin, the chief executive, has been at the forefront of the club’s humanitarian efforts and ensuring the safety of players from the academy to the first-team captain. …”
Guardian

Real Madrid vs Barcelona: Aubameyang score twice for El Clasico to give Barcelon 4-0 win over Real Madrid


“Barcelona boss Xavi will not rule out a remarkable late push for the La Liga title after his side’s thrashing of runaway leaders Real Madrid in a statement win at the Bernabeu. Real, who had won the previous five Clasicos, are nine points clear of Sevilla with nine matches to go, with third-placed Barcelona a further three behind with a game in hand. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored twice on his Clasico debut and set up Ferran Torres. Aubameyang and Ronald Araujo headed in crosses from Ousmane Dembele before the break and Aubayemang then flicked the ball into the path of Torres for their third. …”
BBC
Guardian: Aubameyang leads way for Barcelona with two goals in Real Madrid thrashing

Paris Saint-Germain and the wreckage of another Champions League calamity


“On Wednesday evening, moments after the final whistle in Real Madrid’s Bernabeu, the Paris Saint-Germain president Nasser Al-Khelaifi and the club’s sporting director Leonardo descended into the bowels of the stadium. It is now almost 11 years since Al-Khelaifi’s state-backed Qatar Sports Investments (QSI) acquired PSG and, despite spending in excess of £1 billion on incoming transfers, the Champions League trophy remains elusive. This season, a devastating final half-hour from Real’s French striker Karim Benzema turned the round-of-16 tie in favour of the Spanish team, enabling a side led by former PSG coach Carlo Ancelotti to recover from a 2-0 aggregate deficit and eliminate them from the competition. …”
The Athletic (Audio/Video)

New Year, New Me: The Biggest Changes in Stats Perform’s Power Rankings


“The return of European knockout football has us once again watching teams from across the continent go up against one another. But tournament football, clearly, doesn’t see every team play each other, and the beauty of it is that the best team doesn’t always win. And that’s absolutely fine. But what if there was a global league system, rather than one-off knockout ties, that could help us gauge the comparative strength of teams across the world? Well, that’s exactly what Stats Perform’s Power Rankings seek to do. …”
The Analyst

‘What they think is what we think, to go through’ – Ancelotti ready for PSG test


Kylian Mbappe – Paris Saint Germain
“‘What Mbappé thinks is what Benzema thinks, which is what Vinícius thinks, which is what Messi thinks,’ Carlo Ancelotti said, pretty much saying it all, or at least trying to. And he hadn’t named half of them yet, the list lengthening a few minutes later even without citing Neymar when he added Marco Verratti, Ángel Di María and Mauro Icardi. … ”
Guardian

What Happened to Eden Hazard?


“Once again Real Madrid were playing Barcelona, the latest game in this greatest of rivalries; once again, two of their superstars stepped forward to give them the lead. Karim Benzema strode forward and delivered a pass into the path of one of the game’s most gifted wingers, one whose form had long ago made him undroppable, and he duly provided a superb finish, thrashing the ball high into the net. As Vinicius Jr. turned away in triumph, having scored his 15th goal of a thoroughly impressive season, Eden Hazard watched from the bench. …”
The Ringer (Audio)

Manuel Pellegrini’s Real Betis: Evolution, Not Revolution


“Holder of the highest ever win percentage at four different clubs in LaLiga – Villarreal, Real Madrid, Malaga and now Real Betis – Manuel Pellegrini wears his crowns lightly. With the exception of his time in Madrid, where being thrown out is in fact the norm, the Chilean arguably has hero status at all three of the others. For a man who has lived through the heat of Santiago de Chile, Buenos Aires and Madrid, each its own brand of pressure cooker, Pellegrini’s demeanour remains demure, his manner stoic. This latest escapade brings all the baggage of a big club that is often outperformed by both its rivals and its own expectations….”
Breaking the Lines

Milan draw with Juventus as De Jong scores late winner for Barcelona


Frenkie de Jong
“La Liga leaders Real Madrid fought back from two goals down at home to rescue a 2-2 draw against lowly Elche thanks to a last-gasp Éder Militão goal in stoppage time. Real wasted a golden opportunity to widen the gap at the top of the table after second-placed Sevilla stumbled at home with a draw against Celta Vigo on Saturday. …”
Guardian

Players to Watch in 2021-22: The Analyst 50 (Part I)


“After a summer of frantic international football tournaments across the globe, the new domestic league season is now on the horizon. Ninety-eight teams will battle it out across the top five European leagues, with titles to be won, European football to be secured and relegation to be avoided and we wanted to give you a guide on some of the players to watch in 2021-22. We recruited the very best of Stats Perform’s data editors to give us a list of 50 players. These players aren’t who they think are the greatest – you’ve all read that. This is a selection of 50 players that we think will make an impact in 2021-22. Some are obvious, some less so. Let’s dive in to The Analyst 50, with the first 25 players. …”
The Analyst (July 2021) Part I (Video), Part II (Video)

Spain: 2021-22 La Liga – Location-map, with Seasons-in-1st-Division for the current 20 clubs & Spanish titles list.


“The map shows the twenty clubs in the current season of the Spanish La Liga [2021-22]. The map features the locations and crests of the 20 current La Liga clubs. Plus, the recently-promoted and -relegated teams are noted. (Promoted in 2021: Espanyol, Mallorca, Rayo Vallecano; relegated in 2021: Eibar, Valladolid, Huesca). …”
billsportsmaps
Guardian: Sid Lowe

Valverde’s extra-time strike sends Real Madrid into Spanish Super Cup final


“By the time this was over, it was way after midnight in Riyadh, they were barely able to walk any more let alone run, and they were 6,500km from home but Real Madrid had made it. The last ball had been caught by Thibaut Courtois and he lay on the turf, clutching their place in the final of the Spanish Super Cup, Fede Valverde’s extra-time goal having settled a match that ultimately had the winner everyone expected but did not play out as anticipated. A fun night could have gone either way, from 1-0 to 1-1, 2-1 to 2-2 and ultimately 3-2. …”
Guardian
El Clasico score: Real Madrid edge Barcelona in extra time with Fede Valverde’s goal to reach Supercopa final

UEFA Champions League round of 16 classics


“Taking in José Mourinho’s touchline charge, La Remontada and plenty more besides, UEFA.com picks out a classic last-16 tie from each of the last 18 seasons. The 2021/22 UEFA Champions League is the 19th edition since the knockout round of 16 replaced the second group stage. UEFA.com picks out a classic tie from each of the past 18 seasons – all headline scores are aggregate. …”
UEFA (Video)

Getafe roll over Real Madrid in great escape bid inspired by Crystal Palace


“Giovanni Trapattoni carried a bottle of holy water with him, blessed by the sister who actually was his sister. In 2009 the Espanyol manager Mauricio Pochettino hiked to Montserrat to visit the black virgin, enlisting her help in avoiding relegation, salvation delivered soon after. And Raúl Madero, the Argentinian national team doctor, twice visited the wailing wall. The first time, before the 1986 World Cup, he asked for them to be champions; when he went back four years later, he thought that would be pushing it, so requested runners-up. True story, and when it comes to football you’ll try anything. Sometimes it even works. …”
Guardian

Overperforming Real Madrid? Underperforming Barca? Analysing how La Liga season could unfold


“There are many ways to win in football — but scoring more goals than you really should have, while conceding fewer than would have been expected, is a pretty good mix. Real Madrid have definitely been outperforming their numbers over the first half of this La Liga season, both in attack and defence. These are two big reasons why Carlo Ancelotti’s team have been able to open up what already looks a potentially decisive lead over their challengers — eight points over second-placed Sevilla, an astonishing 17 to champions Atletico Madrid in fifth, and 18 to Barcelona in seventh (albeit with Real Madrid having played a game more). …”
The Athletic (Video)

2021 was the year when football’s silent majority finally found its voice


A mural in Rome depicting Juventus president Andrea Agnelli puncturing a football with a knife. Juve backed the doomed European Super League breakaway.
“Remarkably, the website is still live. Eight months after the European Super League disintegrated in an embarrassing fireball, you might think its founders would be minded to erase all trace of their hubris and humiliation. But perhaps that would be to credit them with too much competence. And so there it remains to this day: ‘The Super League is a new European competition between 20 top clubs comprised of 15 founders and five annual qualifiers.’ Well, good luck with that. There is, of course, an alternative theory. After all, the Super League is still not quite dead in a legislative sense; certainly not if you believe the loud and persistent avowals of Andrea Agnelli at Juventus, Joan Laporta at Barcelona and Florentino Pérez at Real Madrid, the three remaining hoarse men of the apocalypse. …”
Guardian

The Premier League Chose Festive Fixtures Over Safe Fixtures


“So, things are a bit of a mess in the Premier League: On Monday, Tottenham were bounced from the Europa Conference League by the governing body itself, UEFA, which awarded a 3-0 win to French side Rennes in the final game of the group phase. The match was supposed to be played on December 9, but a COVID outbreak among Tottenham’s players and coaching staff forced Spurs to postpone—the team’s third such postponement in just over a week. …”
The Ringer

The Data Day No 15: Our Rolling Football Blog


December 9: Villarreal qualified for this season’s Champions League despite not finishing in the top six of La Liga, the cutoff for traditional Europa League qualification. They did so by beating Manchester United in the Europa League final. And although they couldn’t chase down United to win Group F on Thursday, they did more than they needed to in Bergamo to carry on to the Champions League last 16 despite sitting 13th in La Liga. …”
The Analyst
SI: Champions League Group Ouster Is Barcelona’s New Bottom – Jonathan Wilson

Zenit St Petersburg’s Ozdoev strikes late to deprive Chelsea of top spot


“Once again Thomas Tuchel was left to reflect on Chelsea’s inability to take care of the small details. The European champions are not playing with the right attitude at the moment and although they almost got away with it this time it was not a surprise when they ended up relinquishing top spot in Group H to Juventus after this chaotic draw with Zenit St Petersburg. …”
Guardian
Guardian – Champions League roundup: Atalanta v Villarreal snowed off; Juve top Group H
YouTube: Zenit St Petersburg vs. Chelsea: Extended Highlights | Group Stage

History of FC Barcelona


Barcelona’s Copa del Rey-winning squad of 1928.
“The history of Futbol Club Barcelona begins from the football club‘s founding in 1899 up until the present day. FC Barcelona, also known simply as Barcelona and familiarly as Barça, is based in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain. The team was founded in 1899 by a group of Swiss, English, German and Spanish footballers led by Joan Gamper. The club played amateur football until 1910 in various regional competitions. In 1910, the club participated in their first of many European competitions, and has since amassed fourteen UEFA trophies and a sextuple. In 1928, Barcelona co-founded La Liga, the top-tier in Spanish football, along with a string of other clubs. As of 2020, Barcelona has never been relegated from La Liga, a record they share with Athletic Bilbao and arch-rival Real Madrid. The history of Barcelona has often been political. Though it was a club created and run by foreigners, Barcelona gradually became a club associated with Catalan values. In Spain’s transition to autocracy in 1925, Catalonia became increasingly hostile towards the central government in Madrid. The hostility enhanced Barcelona’s image as a focal point for Catalonism, and when Francisco Franco banned the use of the Catalan language, the stadium of Barcelona became one of the few places the people could express their dissatisfaction. The Spanish transition to democracy in 1978 has not dampened the club’s image of Catalan pride. In the 2000s – a period of sporting success in the club and an increased focus on Catalan players – club officials have openly called for Catalonia to become an independent state. …”
W – History of FC Barcelona
W – Joan Gamper
How society and politics gave us Catenaccio and Total Football
A Brief History Of FC Barcelona
Paulino Alcántara: Barcelona’s Filipino icon who blazed a trail for Messi
The importance of Catalonia – past and present – to Spanish football
In the pantheon of modern-day greats, where do Sergio Busquets’ unique talents rank?
YouTube: Barcelona, Johan Cruyff & Catalan Independence, La Masia: The History of Barcelona’s Academy

Barcelona face PSV in the 1977–78 UEFA Cup semi-finals. They also finished the season as Copa del Rey winners.

Champions League roundup: Sheriff Tiraspol shock Real Madrid


Sheriff Tiraspol shock Real Madrid
“The Moldovan side Sheriff Tiraspol pulled off a remarkable 2-1 win away against Real Madrid in the Champions League, snatching a shock victory thanks to a sensational 89th-minute strike from Sebastien Thill. The competition debutants Sheriff went ahead against the 13-time European champions in the 25th minute with a header from the Uzbek midfielder Jasurbek Yakhshiboev, who narrowly missed a chance to double the visitors’ lead later in the first half. …”
Guardian
YouTube: Real Madrid vs. Sheriff: Extended Highlights, AC Milan vs. Atlético Madrid: Extended Highlights, Porto vs. Liverpool: Extended Highlights, RB Leipzig vs. Club Brugge: Extended Highlights, PSG vs. Man. City: Extended Highlights, Dortmund vs. Sporting: Extended Highlights

2021–22 UEFA Champions League


“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


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


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