Sunday, May 1, 2011

El "the hell" Classicos

As fate would have it, the spanish giants, barcelona and real madrid have a chance to meet 5 times this season! The season when mourinho and his "new" madridstas plan to get some silverware to bernabau and they run into barcelona almost in every competition they get into. The first meeting in la liga was a 5-0 rout by Barca and the second one was a goalless boring draw at bernabau. But in the copa del ray final, mourinho's rather physical, negative and must-win game plan worked out and Barca were finally beaten. This made their champions league semi-final games, the last two of this seasons el classicos all the more interesting.

The first of the two at bernabau was one of the most looked forward to matches of this CL season and it lived up to the billing to a certain extent. The net is littered with articles on how mourinho feels cheated and how messi is the rockstar etc etc, but I believe the game went exactly to plan for both the managers till messi turned on the heat to kill the mourinho plan. Real Madrid is a very physical team and mourinho has given them full liberty to play this brand of football. For a game as important as this, mourinho chose to go in with no real forward man, no higuain, no adebayor, no benzema. It was almost a 5 or sometime 6 man midfield meant only to stifle the midfield prowess of barca. What makes the intent of mourinho even more clear is when he plays someone like Pepe who is a central defender in midfield. He already has Diarra to do the dirty work, why get one more? It was almost symbolic that Pepe got his marching orders in the match. The lack of conviction alone makes me think that Real Madrid deserved what they got. Mourinho came in with a "I may not win but I will not lose" attitude. Really a woeful vision for a club that prides on galacticos and what not. That being said barca has been overdoing the acting part. Busquets... oh man! please stop with the face holding already!! It is super embarassing. I mean, I would like the camera to pan onto Messi when busquets or alves does one their usual "face clutching and rolling on grass with pain" moves!

Hence I feel what transpired is quite fair for how the two team managers prepared their teams including the well publicized sparring before the match. It is strange how Mourinho is taking so less fault for what happened on the pitch. There are tactics and then there is faith! Real Madrid should believe in the talent they have on bench. Higuain started the season great, benzema played well in the middle and strangely adebayor has been found useful off late. Play them!! They are not forwards for no reason! The likes of granero and kaka are waiting in the wings to prove their creative side. Trust that a team with so much talent doesnt need to go into a shell everytime they see the diminutive brigade of barca charge at them! And Barca, I am an ardent supporter of your game, but take this piece of free advice... you guys are great in spite of all the play acting. Cut this crap and you will still win handsomly!

... And as fate would have it, both Barca and Real Madrid lose their la liga matches this weekend to lowly relegation bound teams. :-) Wonder if Real Madrid was sad that they wont make it to Wembley or if Barca was sad that they are getting this in this manner. :-)

Saturday, April 30, 2011

The run in...

As strange as it may seem, chelsea is back in contention ever so remotely though for the league this year. As surprising as it is for me, the stats tell the story and they tell it impartially. Chelsea is the best team home and away over the last 2-3 months with Man U coming in second but mainly because of their home form where they have won every game. The always in contention but never good enough gunners are 14th in the league in the same time frame! They are not losing many matches but sure aren't winning much either. When the run in started arsenal started wilting, I am not surprised by this and very much expected it.

Last weekend saw a game most important for Man U and they pulled through at the very end, like they always do! They were playing the mercurial everton and things looked rather ominous for the red devils. A loss would have meant that chelsea could mount a serious challenge if they won all their games. A draw would not have been as disastrous, but a major dent to confidence since they are so strong at home this season. Now the situation is such that chelsea not only need to win every match, they need Man U to lose one. And this basically means that Man U is still the red hot favourites to take the league.

The chelsea form has made the league a bit more interesting considering that arsenal never comes to the party when it matters. But all said and done this is till Man U's league to lose...

Saturday, April 16, 2011

And thus it happened...

I am new to the Reds vs Blues fight over at Manchester, but like every other derby I can understand that these matches would be anxiously followed, watched and supported. While I dont particularly like the money throwing ways of Man C, the fact that Mancini is trying to build a team should be respected. Yes, he is italian and yes he is defensive but then, he is doing what he thinks is best to win. Man U or should I see their supporters on the other hand have been so unclassy to keep reminding their city neighbours of the 35 year drought. No wonder the Manchester Blues wanted to get one past the Reds so very badly.

And today, finally they did just that! I seriously am happy for them!! Reds went about it all wrong. You cant keep a guy in form like berba out of the game for so long and then put him as the lone striker in a big match and expect him to perform. That being said, his misses were really woeful! I think Chica should have played alongside Berba. And while all loyal Man U fans will go gaga over Scholes. The years (last 3) that I have seen him, he has been doing the obvious with passes and usually makes a rash late challenge every now and then. If the Man C press can go mad at balotelli for his red in the europa cup, I think the Man U press must do the same against scholes! That really was a pathetic challenge. Yes, it is a split second call and the replays make it look a lot worse. But with the experience of whatever football I have played, you are exposed to such challenges in almost every other match and you can always pull away. Its just that some players choose to and some don't. Scholes never pulls out...

All in all... my weekend football started with a much hoped result. Now for Barca to show some magic at Bernabau. :-)

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Fearing the likely...

Yesterday was one of those days when I got a clear sense of the worst that is to come for barca. They were playing bottom feeders Almeria whom they had beaten 8-0, a record in la liga, I think. Inspite of handing such an earlier drubbing and inspite of playing at the intimidating Nou Camp and inspite of playing an almost full strength squad, the show was almost unbelievable. Barca could not come to grips till about the 30 minute mark and even then were far from convincing. Remember this is the side which is ranked 20th and yet they didnt look like they were the lowest ranked team in La Liga. Almost every department was weak in the barca game. Xavi was not able to find space like he usually does, Messi was strangely running into defenders, Bojan was too twitchy after getting a rare start and hobbled off in the first half, mascherano picks up an yellow to miss the classico next week (may not be a bad thing though. :-) ), thiago tricks a lot of players and sometimes himself, iniesta could not get the ball even if he paid his weekly wages to someone, militos lack of play time showed and pinto, well he remained the joker tottering with every ball.

The scoreline at the end may read 3-1, but every barca fan knows that it was too hard earned a win to be proud of the scoreline. This result and this game has been in the works for a while. Look at the last few games of barca starting with their draw against Sporting Gijon, the scores read 1-1, 2-1, 3-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-1, 2-1, 1-0. See the trend? Barca have been labouring and it shows. Barca does not have a big squad like the cash rich Man C or Real Madrid or doesnt have an experienced bench like Man U or Spurs. Pep has been blooding some young guns, but it is not working quite to plan. Bojan is there or thereabouts. Pedros injury has had a real effect on his effectiveness. Thiago is promising, but makes mistakes which could cost in the big games. Afellay is a jack of many trades, but masters none. He has not shown me any reason to believe he can be a first team player, not yet. Keita is an also ran and cannot be the game changer.

So, in short, Barca is tiring and they dont have enough reinforcements to spruce them up. The League is theirs, Copa del ray... well, I dont care. But the CL, the big one, that is very much in doubt. The mind games that mourinho will play with 4 matches coming up with Real Madrid will tire Pep too. And even if they get past Real Madrid, Man U and the never say die (pun intended) Fergie will get to Barca.

Life is getting very interesting and very difficult for barca... and very soon. :-)


CL Quarters - Round 1 is done

We are done with the 4 matches last week that comprise the first leg of the CL quarters. To be fair, it was pretty boring. Look at the scores!! If that doesnt tell you a story nothing will. 4-0, 5-2, 1-0 and 5-1. Except for the ManU vs Chelsea match, every other scoreline has killed the interest in the second leg. And even in the Man U one, I cant see them losing to chelsea at home. Man U are nothing if not resilient this season and Chelsea are nothing if not pathetic this season. So, in short, just not gonna happen. While stupid crouch killed spurs chances of coming away with anything from madrid, it was harakiri at san siro! While Shakhtar can boast of a great home record, if they play the way they did against barca, in the  CL world, no home record can save you.

All in all, pretty uninteresting fare and the only thing that we can really look up to is some intersting matchups in the semis. Looks like we gonna have 4 el classicos now. With Real Madrid hosting Barca next week in La Liga, followed by the Copa del ray match and now the CL semi finals(home and away). Man U, who I think will upstage chelsea (again!) will face schalke which is really a no contest. But a final of the best team in EPL playing the best or second best in La Liga is mouth watering to say the least.

Lets wait for the intriguing minutes that await us... :-)

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Another whiner!

As you all must have realized by now, no matter how much I appreciate the vision of wenger to play beautiful football, the constant whining of arsenal and their boss irritates me to no end. And here is the newest rant boy, Van Persie taking a shot at chelsea and barcelona for trying to "bully" referees into giving decisions in their favour. I can see this working, if at all, for fouls committed on them and not for fouls committed by them. And stats never lie and tells a clear story with chelsea on top of the fair play table in EPL and Barcelona on top of La liga fair play stats.

The season has been specially hard on arsenal and its players because of them being in contention in every competition and losing out in the last leg of each one. I have always believed that this Arsenal team will not win anything worthwhile. Beautiful football is one thing, but to win the silverware you need winners in your team. People who have been there and done that are really important when get towards the end games. That is the reason most analysts have Man U as favourite and Chelsea as second favourites for this years EPL title rather than Arsenal which are the nearest to Man U in terms of points.

I hope Wenger goes somewhere other than the barca academy and buys some balls for his team, the current team definitely cannot muster any!


A weekend like no other in a while... no football in any of the leagues that I follow. I am close to having withdrawal symtoms. :-D :-D