Tottenham win emotional last derby at White Hart Lane


White Hart Lane bid farewell to its final north London derby today and did so in style as Tottenham beat their eternal nemesis Arsenal 2-0. Dele Alli and Harry Kane who else, were on hand to get the goals and keep Spurs in the title hunt with just four games to go, and now they are just four points behind Chelsea.

Perhaps because this was the very last derby at this ground the feeling, emotion and play of the game had remnants of football played from yesteryear- the colour clash of shirts, so vivid added to the atmosphere. But also seeing Arsene Wenger still in the dugout, still somehow plying his trade as manager of Arsenal after nearly 21 years was another. Though the Frenchman cut a sombre figure. Arsenal’s season has been so forgettable that the club may well be best remembered this season for Wenger and his right hand man Steve Bould’s constant slouching on seats complete with faces hanging a million miles in tandem.

This was a game that was deservedly won by the home team, a game that summed up both clubs seasons. Tottenham have at least for now stepped out of Arsenal’s shadow, this win confirmed that Tottenham will finish above Arsenal for the first time since Wenger took charge of the Gunners.

Spurs played at a frantic pace, created chances and missed easy ones. Relief threw itself around the ground like a scarf to neck on a cold winters night when Alli, so alert throughout, grabbed his chance to put his side a goal up. A minute later Tottenham were awarded a penalty and Harry Kane kept his cool to leave Petr Cech stranded and with no chance. It felt almost like Cech wasn’t ready. The irony of this was that Cech kept Arsenal in the game and kept the score to a respectable figure. He was nothing short of stunning, with superb saves throughout the game.

And there above the stands stood big brother, the future, a new stadium for Tottenham awaits and it’s construction takes shape. It was at this point very easy to feel cynical about what was happening especially looking around at White Hart Lane and seeing before your eyes a quiet wonderful stadium. Nothing spectacularly wonderful as Camp Nou in Barcelona, but all the same it is a stadium that holds a million memories good and bad. It is a stadium that has hosted legends of yesteryear, a stadium where the press box was directly next to the dugout. It was not unknown for friendly banter between journalists and past coaches. The one tier behind the dugout that gave way to executive boxes- the little things, made and make stadiums like White Hart Lane stand out. A minimal stadium perhaps- the restricted views were never welcome, but still a stadium that will be dearly missed.

However it would be wrong to write off why the club need to move into a larger home. This isn’t by force but by evolution. Sure money is a factor, but like every business you have to evolve or die and keep taking strides forward. It won’t be too long before Spurs fans join Arsenal and West Ham to take two recent moves as example and watch old footage of their club at former homes and have memories whizzing quicker than a Son Heung-min run at the Arsenal back four.

As we go into the final month of the Premier League season, Tottenham will certainly finish no lower that 2nd place. However you get the feeling that the desire and hunger is still there to go on and win the league for the first time since 1961. It was after all hugely telling that at the final whistle the players took this win as any other. There were no title like celebrations like there would have been in seasons past with such victories. This was seen as just another stepping stone to a trophy in a quite remarkable season.

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Jose Mourinho and Manchester United to spend big next season


Life without Sir Alex Ferguson still seems odd, incomplete and the unknown is just too alien for Manchester United fans after nearly 25 years at the top. But since Ferguson’s retirement in 2012, United have not been the same team.

Fellow Scot David Moyes was drafted in by Ferguson, but the ex Everton manager was like a kid at the Ritz, out of his league, even if he had proven himself with the Toffee men by consistently getting the club in the top six. Bottom line and a hint would have been that in his 11 years with the club they didn’t win a single trophy.

United turned their attentions to proven European pedigree and in came Louis van Gaal- who had enjoyed success at Barcelona and Bayern Munich, but was much more successful in the Dutch League. Van Gaal spent big but the return was feeble. True he did get United back to playing Champions League football but he also left them without it. An FA Cup in his second and final season was won but a succession of poor to average results and player turmoil was the memory as van Gaal was finally sacked by the club.

The appointment of Jose Mourinho was seen to be third time lucky and it made sense for United to take on the Portuguese since Mourinho had been vying for a decade for the job. Now he had it and now he had what seemed to be a bottomless pit of money to reinforce the squad.

In his first summer in came Eric Bailley, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Paul Pogba, these players alone cost a reported £140m. Zlatan Ibrahimovic was a shrewd free capture from PSG.

Mourinho’s debut season with the Reds started slow and cautious but the club started to respond to his methods. Winning a league title was never seen at least this season as possible. Stability and at least one trophy were. In that Mourinho has already delivered with the EFL Cup. Victory over Southampton in the final ensured that Mourinho became the first United manager to win a trophy in his debut season.

United have not lost a game since last October stretching to 23 matches and the belief in the team does remind one of Inter Milan when Mourinho delivered the treble including the Champions League. Whilst Europe’s hottest trophy is off limits for this season United are giving it a great go to win the Europa League. Having reached the semi finals the club will be confident in beating Celta Vigo to reach the final.

Is this it then, have United reached a cross roads where they can move on from the Fergie era? The only way of doing that would be to win the Premier League title, a trophy where Ferguson rewrote the rule book with his 13 wins. And this will be Mourinho’s priority for next season.

He is already talking about spalshing some serious money on players with Antoine Griezmann being tipped to join the club from Atletico Madrid in a transfer that could well brake the world record.

For now Mourinho is wiping away the bitter memory with Chelsea last season and regaining his reputation as one of the best managers in the world. That would have been his own personal goal back in August and he is succeeding emphatically.

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North London Derby Preview


The last time Tottenham Hotspur finished above Arsenal in the Premier League, Dele Alli wasn’t even born. The North London rivals line up against each other on Sunday at White hart Lane and a win for the home side would see them move 17 points clear of Arsenal and guaranteed of finishing above them for the first time since season 1994/95.

Spurs hopes of a title win are still alive and with Chelsea facing a tricky trip to Everton at the weekend, they will be fired up for the visit of Arsenal. Their next 3 games are tricky with West Ham United away following the Arsenal game and Manchester United at home after that. Should they come through those games unscathed, the league will go down to the final 2 games.

Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen have been incredible this season and with 44 goals between them, they won’t have a better chance than this season. With Manchester United rumoured to be considering a move for Eriksen in the transfer window, holding on to these 3 will be crucial to their hopes of a sustained challenge.

Arsenal don’t have their troubles to seek at the moment. They got lucky during the week and it took an own goal by Robert Huth in the 88th minute for them to scrape by Leicester City. With both Manchester City and Manchester United facing relatively easy games this weekend, a loss in the North London derby would see them lose further ground on the top 4. They have lost 4 of their last 5 league matches away from the Emirates Stadium, conceding 13 and scoring just 4. Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil scored in their only away win in that run. A 2-1 win over a truly terrible Middlesbrough side.

The last 3 matches between these two have finished with a draw. It was 2-2 in this fixture last season,  although recent form dictates that Arsenal will be doing well to repeat that scoreline. Harry Kane revels in this fixture and has scored in each of his last 3 matches. Harry Kane has scored twice since returning from injury, but with 20 goals so far this season, he will be going all out to add to that total on Sunday.

Will Tottenham take their chance or will Arsenal return to form and put a spanner in the works? One thing is for sure though, with so much at stake for both sides, we should be in for a thrilling match on Sunday.

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¿La BBC es indiscutible?


Bale, Benzema y Cristiano no están en su mejor nivel. El rendimiento de la BBC no es malo (¡qué club no daría lo que fuera por tener ese tridente en su plantilla!), pero está claro que sus números no evidencian su mejor momento.

En estos últimos partidos han jugado menos, bien por lesiones, como la de Bale tras su recaída, o las rotaciones con la vista puesta en las semifinales de la Champions. Además, cuando sus reemplazos juegan, ofrecen un rendimiento espectacular. El Madrid puede poner a otros delanteros o modificar ligeramente su esquema de juego; las estadísticas confirman que pueden ser incluso más letales.

El malagueño está en su mejor momento. Juega poco, pero lo aprovecha bien, por eso extraña que no tenga tantos minutos. En el Molinón le dio una victoria clave a su equipo con un doblete y un partidazo. En Riazor también se salió y fue importante en la goleada blanca. De hecho, es el tercer máximo anotador del equipo con 10 tantos.

Regresó al Bernabéu como un ídolo, pero Benzema le tiene comido el puesto. ¿Por qué? Es el segundo máximo anotador en Liga del Madrid con 13 goles, tan solo por detrás de Ronaldo. Y, en cuanto a efectividad en proporción a sus minutos, deja al francés a la altura del betún.

A Zidane le gusta mucho, pero es cierto que necesita más rodaje dada su juventud. No obstante, el técnico está apostando por él en partidos clave como frente al Bayern o al Barça. Y está respondiendo con un nivel máximo.

Aún se especula mucho sobre su futuro y esta temporada se le ha criticado demasiado por su rendimiento. Pero también es cierto que lleva 3 goles en los 2 últimos partidos. Frente al Barça salió como revulsivo y se llevó un premio en forma del gol. Se está reivindicando.

Un jugador rápido y desequilibrante. Suele ser la primera opción de Zidane cuando no está Bale. Pero claro, cuando está suele esperar en el banquillo. Sus cifras en cuanto a goles y asistencias son increíbles.

La pregunta es: si la BBC no rinde… ¿por qué no se le dan más opciones a los que vienen pisando fuerte por detrás? ¿O acaso es intocable?

Argumentos para ganar una Liga


La Liga está muy igualada, Madrid y Barça están empatados a puntos. ¿Quién ganará? Quedan muy pocos partidos y cada punto será vital para las aspiraciones de unos y otros. He aquí varios argumentos para contrastar las posibilidades de cada uno.

El Madrid ganará la Liga

  • Tiene un partido menos, el aplazado en Balaídos, y eso le concede algo más de margen.
  • Depende de sí mismo y eso es una baza clave a estas alturas de campeonato. Además, es consciente de que en los 5 partidos restantes podría ceder hasta un empate sin preocuparse de lo que haga el Barça.
  • El calendario es, a priori, algo más benévolo. Valencia, Celta y Málaga, en principio no se juegan nada. Aunque también se enfrenta a un Granada que coquetea con el descenso y un Sevilla que quiere la Champions. Por su parte, el Barça tiene su derbi particular en Cornellà y recibirá a un Villareal con ganas de Europa y reforzado tras la victoria en el Calderón (los otros 2 encuentros, frente a Las Palmas y Éibar, serán a priori frente a rivales que ya no se jueguen nada).
  • El plan B de Zidane funciona (Isco, Asensio, Lucas, Morata…), de hecho a veces mejor incluso que el equipo titular.

El Barça ganará la Liga

  • Tras ganar en el Bernabéu, su moral se ha disparado por las nubes. Los azulgranas hicieron un buen partido y la manera in extremis de ganar los ha reforzado.
  • No tiene compromisos europeos, el Madrid sí y se está jugando el pase a la final de Cardiff. De modo que los jugadores clave de Lucho sufrirán y rotarán menos. En otras palabras, el 11 titular llegará muy fresco a cada partido y eso probablemente repercuta en el rendimiento y efectividad. Lo normal sería que el Madrid llegase más cansado a los partidos ligueros.
  • Tras la sanción de 3 partidos a Neymar, el Barça recupera y tiene a punto la MSN. Es decir, que el gol vuelve a llamar y con fuerza.
  • En caso de empate a puntos, los culés ganarían la Liga gracias al golaverage.

¿La cabeza está en la Liga o en Europa?


De los 8 semifinalistas que están en la Champions League o en la Europa League, 3 de ellos son españoles. Las aspiraciones de todos ellos en Europa son las mismas: llegar a la final y ganarla. Pero en Liga son más dispares. Real Madrid, Atlético y Celta se juegan cosas diferentes en el campeonato nacional que, en cierto modo, pueden afectar a sus resultados en la competición continental.

Real Madrid
Se juega la Liga. La derrota en el Clásico con la que ansiaba sellar el campeonato se ha convertido en un problema, porque el Barça le ha igualado en puntos y está por delante. Es cierto que tiene un partido menos, pero también tiene que jugar las semifinales de la Champions frente a su vecino de Madrid. Zidane tendrá que gestionar las rotaciones para cuidar a sus hombres; y Ronaldo apunta a jugar poco antes de enfrentarse a los colchoneros.

Atlético de Madrid
Quiere asegurar la tercera plaza para entrar directo en la próxima edición de la Champions, aunque si el Sevilla se la arrebata todavía le quedaría una vía más triunfal: la clasificación como campeón de la vigente edición. Ganar el campeonato nacional es muy complicado, pero matemáticamente es factible. No obstante, la prioridad es continuar en la máxima competición continental; y en el peor de los casos, tendría la repesca de verano si queda 4º. Griezmann será uno de los hombres a seguir en ambas competiciones.

Hace tiempo que los de Berizzo dejaron de lado la Liga porque pusieron todas sus ambiciones en Europa. De momento, no les ha ido nada mal; han hecho una gesta llegando a las semifinales. Ahora espera el exigente United de Mourinho. Si Aspas y compañía van a sacar todo el arsenal, tendrán que seguir reservando pólvora en Liga. Prácticamente no se juegan nada en el campeonato nacional, con la salvación virtualmente lograda y con opciones nula de alcanzar al sexto clasificado.

Por tanto, en Liga habrá un Madrid que tiene que rendir al máximo nivel, un Atlético que puede permitirse algún tropiezo y un Celta sin presión que se lo jugará todo a Europa.


El Clásico reaviva la Liga


El Clásico de ayer fue una de esos partidos que gusta ver a cualquier aficionado de fútbol. No solo por la rivalidad histórica entre los dos equipos, sino también por la actuación de algunos jugadores. Y, aunque fuera bien para unos pero mal para otros, el resultado final cambió en el descuento e iguala mucho más la Liga. Emoción máxima.

Ambos porteros realizaron un buen partido con paradas espectaculares, lo cual habla del nivel del juego. Aunque también fue un partido tosco, en el que Leo acabó sangrando, Ramos expulsado y en el que pudo haber alguna roja más. Casemiro abrió el marcador, pero Messi y Rakitic se encargaron de darle la vuelta. La BBC no estuvo fina, así que Zidane arriesgó: la entrada de Asensio, que una vez más protagonizó un gran partido, y la de James, con un gol para empatar y reivindicarse, le salió muy bien. Pero aquí no terminó la cosa, porque en el descuento Messi volvió a anotar y a reivindicarse como el mejor del encuentro. 2-3 en el Santiago Bernabéu.

Por ahora, el Barcelona se aúpa como líder de la Primera División, algo difícil de pensar hace unas semanas. Eso sí, igualado a puntos con el Real Madrid y con un partido más que los blancos. El encuentro aplazado contra el Celta va a seguir dando mucho de que hablar, ya que hay que recordar que se disputará entre la penúltima y la última jornada.

El Madrid depende de sí mismo para ganar la Liga, de hecho hasta puede ceder un empate en los 6 partidos que le quedan. Pero es cierto que ha desaprovechado una oportunidad de oro para dejar prácticamente sentenciado el campeonato nacional. Sobre todo teniendo en cuenta que entre medias se juega la Champions, mientras que su rival no tiene esa carga de partidos adicional.

Aún está todo por decidir, pero lo que podría haber sido la puntilla a la Liga, se ha convertido en una igualdad y deja todo por decidir hasta el final. Los blancos no supieron aprovechar su oportunidad, mientras que los de Luis Enrique han sacado su garra y demostrado que quieren y pueden ganar la Liga.

Messi wins Clasico in final minute with 500th goal for Barcelona


It was a night where Lionel Messi who has had an indifferent start to 2017 turned it on at the highest stage as he helped Barcelona to a thrilling 3-2 win over Real Madrid to split open the title race.

Messi had entered the game at Santiago Bernabeu with a black eye, he left it with a few less teeth, cuts and bruises and his 500th goal of his Barcelona career.

Real Madrid knew that with a 3 point advantage over Barcelona and a game in hand that a win here would in theory give them their first Liga title since 2012. At the very least two feet would be sliding through the door. And the European champions started brightly, like a barrage of prisoners let free on Alcatraz, Madrid did everything to rattle Barca’s defence- a deafening Madrid support helped too.

Madrid took the lead after 28 minutes from an unlikely hero in Carlos Casemiro, and the stadium erupted. It lasted for 300 seconds that’s what it took for Messi to swerve his way through to the Madrid area and score a quite spectacular goal that took out three players. By this point Messi was reportedly missing a couple of teeth after he caught Marcelo’s elbow. The challenge looked dubuios from the Real Madrid defender, and the sight of seeing Messi, blood pouring from his mouth as he pay on the pitch, did not look good. But the player dusted himself down to get an equaliser, complete with sponge in soaked in his mouth to relive the cuts.

A breathtaking first half had ended and the second started again with Madrid taking the game by the scruff of the neck and dictating the pace. By now it was a miracle that Madrid were not down to 10 men after Casemiro’s challenges should have seen the goalscorer taking an early shower. Madrid would get that wish so to speak when Sergio Ramos a player that has sadly built his career on red cards was sent off after a terrible challenge on Messi.

And against the play it was the away team that took the lead after a beautiful curving shot from Ivan Rakitic was just too good. The Croatian did not celebrate as one expected, probably knowing that his goal might not be good enough to win the tie. Madrid roared back and so did Barca, as the final quarter of an hour was charged with more electricity than is used to run the city of Madrid. Both goal keepers were kept busy, as both sets of defenders were not up to the job, clearly every chance looked like being a goal. That the game was kept to just 5 was some sort of miracle.

With five minutes to go Madrid seemingly broke Barca hearts after James slotted in for 2-2. A draw at this point felt like victory for Madrid. And what about Cristiano Ronaldo? Apart from a couple of clear cut chances that were uncharacteristically missed from the Portuguese he was fairly quiet on the night that he was obliged to show up.

In the final moments Messi reminded the world of his genius and got his 2nd goal of the night after great team work. Messi celebrated with his shirt off, he knew that he had struck gold at the right moment, on the right day and at the right time. Now La Liga is a title open once again even if Madrid do have the game in hand. Psychologically it is Barcelona’s name they will see top of the standings on goal difference, and right now it seems Barcelona have found a new wind to go on and claim another title. And yet, well, you just never know what’s round the corner in what is Barca coach Luis Enrique’s final season with the club.

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