How Barcelona will beat Man Utd

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They might be favourites to win the tie over two legs, but there’s no way that Barcelona will be taking Manchester United lightly, particularly at Old Trafford.

Playing at the Camp Nou for the second leg may seem to afford the Catalans an advantage of sorts, but Ernesto Valverde and his team will want to make that a formality.

In order to do so, they’ll need to take the game to the Red Devils and quieten the expected 75,000 crowd.

But just how are they going to manage it?

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Is Jordi Alba’s renewal good news for Barcelona?

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Last Thursday Barcelona announced that they would be renewing left-back Jordi Alba for the next five years, and placed a 500 million euro buyout clause on his new deal.

As statements of intent go, and after a period of uncertainty, it was pretty categoric from the Catalans.

Clearly, they rate their left-back highly enough to keep him at the club until the end of his career. Continue reading

Tottenham need more than Kane to beat Barcelona

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Injuries to key players in Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham side couldn’t have come at a worse time for the north Londoners.

If losing Dele Alli wasn’t bad enough, to hear that Christian Eriksen, Serge Aurier, Jan Verthongen and Moussa Dembele were out too would likely have sent even the most optimistic Spurs fan into meltdown.

Hugo Lloris returns in goal in one bit of good news for ‘Poch,’ who will be heavily reliant on the talismanic Harry Kane doing the business. Continue reading

Jordi Alba more than deserving of Spain spot

In international football terms, Spain’s team is one of the most distinctive. A few of their stalwarts have retired in recent years – Andres Iniesta and Gerard Pique just in the last few months – but they still retain a side many can ring off the tongue. Their lineup reads like a world XI.

Jordi Alba is one such player who gives Spain such distinction. He is, after all, arguably the best left back in the game right now, winning title after title over the past six years at Barcelona. And yet Alba has been left out of the Spain squad for the upcoming fixtures against England and Croatia this week and next.

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What is even more baffling is that Luis Enrique, Alba’s former manager at Barca, is the one who has made the decision, naming his first squad as Spain manager. Enrique won the Champions League with Alba at left back and was integral in turning the left back into the player he is today. Alba probably, with some justification, feels a little betrayed by his old coach.

In Alba’s place, Enrique has instead picked Chelsea’s Marcos Alonso and Valencia’s Jose Luis Gaya. Both players are of a high calibre, with Alonso in particular enjoying a strong start to the season, but are they really of the calibre of someone like Alba, who is also in good form at the moment?

It could be argued that Enrique is simply seeking to try out different options, perhaps planning for a future where Alba, now 29 years old, will enter the twilight of his career. But these upcoming games against England and Croatia are technically competitive fixtures for Spain, as part of the inaugural UEFA Nations League. There’s at least something on the line for Spain over the next week.

“We’ve not spoken about it,” Alvaro Morata said when asked for his view on Alba’s omission. “We miss him. He’s a crack, someone who adds to the good atmosphere and a spectacular player. I don’t think I have to offer an opinion on it. I think we were all surprised that he wasn’t called up.”

Morata’s surprise is reflective of the general mood within the Spanish game over Enrique’s refusal to pick Alba for his first squad. “It’s the coach’s decision,” said Sergi Roberto, who incidentally has returned to the national team fold after missing out on a place at the World Cup. “In this case, [Alba] has not been called up. But he’s an important player, he’s calm and he will keep working hard [at Barcelona]. If he gets the call, he will be happy [to come back].”

It’s difficult to envisage that Alba won’t be back at some point. He is one of the very best at what he does and so there’s only so long that Enrique can ignore the Barcelona left back. Alba is deserving of his place in the Spain team. Most can see that.

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Germany and Spain lay out draw in La Liga-studded clash

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With La Liga action being suspended for the international break, we took the opportunity to take a look at how many of the Spanish division’s top stars performed in the clash between Germany and Spain at the ESPRIT Arena – a game that saw Barcelona’s Marc Ter Stegen and Real Madrid’s Toni Kroos play for the hosts, as sixteen leading La Liga players featured in total.

Having come off the back of a successful qualifying group in which they won nine of their ten fixtures, Spain arrived in the game brimming with confidence and a desire to prove themselves against an elite side having whimpered out of the last two tournaments. Continue reading