Barcelona barking up the wrong tree with Filipe Luis

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It’s been contended for a while now that Barcelona’s transfer policy has become a little ‘scattergun,’ with the right sort of players often not being signed by the club.

A preference for bigger names over what’s truly required.

Antoine Griezmann is a case in point, with the Barca dressing room allegedly split on his arrival.

A move for the Frenchman’s current Atletico Madrid team-mate, Filipe Luis, is another head scratcher. Continue reading

Ballon Bore – How the awards have become a laughing stock

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There once was a time when the Ballon d’Or awards really seemed to mean something.

Being the best in the world in the eyes of your peers was a gong worth winning and most of the time there was no real argument as to who the eventual winner was.

Since Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have monopolised the award, however, we’ve seen ridiculous tactical voting and even an unprecedented extension of the voting period in order to allow the Portuguese to win it during the year in which he was well behind the Argentinian at the original cut off point.

The situation has only been made worse with a splintering of the award in the recent past.

Now we have FIFA’s ‘The Best’ as a rival to France Football’s Ballon d’Or, as well as the UEFA Player of the Year.

We’ve seen people crowned as the best in their respective position who’ve then not made the team of the year (Thibaut Courtois), and Mo Salah winning the best goal of the year in the Puskas Award when it was abundantly clear that his strike was nowhere close to the best effort.

Though it was probably a knee-jerk reaction at the time, Jorge Mendes, Ronaldo’s agent, saying that only Real Madrid players win the award, when FIFA’s The Best was given to Luka Modric rather than his client, was telling.

With the greatest of respect, including Karim Benzema on the list of 30 players for this season’s Ballon d’Or is utterly farcical.

The Frenchman has struggled to put the ball in the back of the net for the best part of a year now, and after an initial burst of goals at the start of this campaign, is back to the poor form of 2017/18.

There is literally no reason for him to be on the list other than the fact that he plays for Real Madrid.

Lionel Messi is unlikely to win it this year, after missing out on both the UEFA Team of the Year and FIFA’s The Best, however, out of every candidate, with the possible exceptions of Ronaldo and Antoine Griezmann, the Argentinian deserves it.

Griezmann has already been vocal in saying that the best player has to come from the best team, insinuating that a French World Cup winner has to win. As he’s also won the Europa League and the UEFA Super Cup, there’s a school of thought that would agree with him.

Equally, a third successive Champions League trophy for Real Madrid gives Ronaldo a shout.

However, the Ballon d’Or is an individual award, and no one player has done more than Messi to rightfully stake a claim.

Goals, assists, key passes, completed passes… the No.10 reigns supreme.

Frankly, if the governing bodies can’t or won’t give the award to the players who deserve it the most, what’s the real point of making such a song and dance about them in the first place?!

All it’s doing is alienating the public further and treating them with contempt.

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Atletico Madrid’s new-found depth provides plenty of possibilities in their draw at Mestalla

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When LaLiga officially announced the fixtures for this upcoming season in late July, many eyes naturally made their way to the opening weekend. While most of the attention is normally reserved for who Real Madrid and Barcelona will play, this time around it was another match-up that had Spanish football fans collectively licking their lips.

Coming off an incredible campaign — in which they finished fourth — under first-year manager Marcelino, hope and optimism had swelled to new heights at Valencia. Key players such as Geoffrey Kondogbia were retained, while the club brought in a slew of promising signings led by Daniel Wass and Mitshi Batshuayi. Dealing with such a squad as an opening fixture would be challenging enough, but couple that with having to play them at Mestalla and on short rest is another proposition entirely.

Indeed, this was precisely the task laying at the boots of Atletico Madrid. Coming off a thrilling, albeit exhausting, 120 minute affair with Real Madrid in the UEFA Super Cup on Wednesday, spectators weren’t quite sure of what to expect from Diego Simeone’s men. Back on the touchline after his suspension midweek, El Cholo deployed his tried and tested 4-4-2 formation.  Contrary to the norm, the Argentine decided to bypass the inclusion of a defensive midfielder by resting Rodri, instead going with a more offensive-minded side; which included Saul and Koke in central midfield and Angel Correa wide with Thomas Lemar.

The gamble initially paid-off, as the visitors dominated the proceedings and were able to strike first in the 27th minute. A sensational ball to Correa from Antoine Griezmann fooled the entire Valencia back-line, leaving the Argentine a simple finish to put past Neto. Without the defensive presence behind them, Koke and Saul at times left too much space in behind. This was noticeable when a rare misjudgment of the ball by Diego Godin allowed Rodrigo to equalize in the 60th minute. Going forward, this shouldn’t be of massive concern as it was the Uruguayans first error that directly lead to an opposition goal since 2012 against Barcelona.

One of Atleti’s most promising signings, Gelson Martins, came on for his Colchonero debut and immediately made an impact. In the 18 minutes he was on the field, he completed a total of three dribbles from six attempted. That was more than Valencia had as an entire team, having registered just two. Vitolo and Thomas Partey would also join the Portuguese as substitutions, hardly signifying a massive drop-off from the players they inevitably replaced.

While Atletico ultimately weren’t able to leave Mestalla with all three points, scratching out a draw was nothing to frown about. If anything, this match only further displayed the tremendous amount of depth and positional flexibility that Simeone now possesses. While clubs such as Real Madrid and Barcelona possess world class starting elevens in their own right, it is the quality of their depth that is often the difference in capturing trophies.

With aspirations of once again becoming Spanish champions, it was imperative that Atletico improve in this area compared to years past. Although the season is still very young, we have already seen glimpses of that dream becoming a reality. A more attacking approach is something that will take time to implement in Atletico’s collective psyche, but the early indications have been promising.

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If only Griezmann’s football was as box office as his ‘decision’

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France kicked off their World Cup campaign with a slender victory over Australia.

For long periods, the French looked lethargic and unable to string a succession of passes together.

Antoine Griezmann was one of the worst offenders and was largely ineffective against supposedly ‘inferior’ opposition.

Take nothing away from Australia, who fought for every ball and toiled for the entire 90 minutes. Continue reading

Is Griezmann showing a lack of ambition if he stays at Atleti?

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This is the week when World Cup 2018 begins and also, we are led to believe, when Antoine Griezmann will definitively announce his future plans.

Barcelona have been courting him for months, have met with him, his family and his representatives, and are willing to pay the €100m buyout clause after June 30. (It remains at €200m up to and including that date).

It’s also known that the Frenchman has been flattered by their interest.

Continue reading

Atletico Madrid aiming for glorious season finale

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Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid face a decisive week in their season, as they chase European glory and domestic ‘almost glory’.

Atletico take on Marseille in Wednesday night’s Europa League final, before a final day clash with Eibar in La Liga.

Simeone’s side will be fully focused ahead of their European clash with the French side, but he will have to balance his squad across the two games.

Los Colchoneros are firm favourites to win against Marseille, and collect the trophy they won twice between 2010 and 2012.

Continue reading

El primer derbi del Wanda

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El Wanda Metropolitano se viste de gala para recibir, por primera vez, al Real Madrid. El último encuentro en el Calderón, la semifinal de la pasada Champions, no le trae buenos recuerdos a los colchoneros, quienes esperan que su nuevo estadio sea un fortín.  Sin embargo, los últimos derbis se han decantado del lado de los de Simeone.

El duelo de la capital llega en un momento en el que Atlético y Real son cuartos y terceros respectivamente. Pero ninguno puede dejar escapar la victoria puesto que ambos están bastantes descolgados de la cabeza de la Liga. Y en este partido hay varios nombres propios a tener en cuenta. Continue reading

Hay que hacer hueco en el Wanda

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Ya está confirmado el nombre de dos futbolistas que pasarán a la disciplina rojiblanca en enero, cuando finalice la sanción al Atlético de Madrid. Y podrían ser más. Para entonces, Vitolo y Diego Costa jugarán a las órdenes de Simeone. Vitolo llega tras acordar una cesión en Las Palmas, para que éste actuase como intermediario hasta el mercado invernal, y Diego Costa tras la manifiesta voluntad mutua de ambas partes y la relación rota del hispano-brasileño con el Chelsea.

Ambos futbolistas tienen un perfil ofensivo, lo que conlleva un superávit en la delantera del Atlético de Madrid. Además de Griezmann, están Correa, Vietto, Gameiro y Fernando Torres. Es decir, que en enero habrá hasta 7 delanteros. Parece obvio que algún futbolista tendrá que hacer las maletas en breve. ¿Pero quién? Los nuevos fichajes son petición expresa del Cholo. Además, con la millonada pagada por cada uno de ellos y los malabares administrativos que ha hecho la directiva por ficharlos, todo apunta a que vendrán para ser titulares. La duda es en detrimento de quién. Continue reading

Del Wanda al cielo

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El Atlético está de estreno; un nuevo estadio no es algo que se haga toda las temporadas. De modo que quiere darle una bienvenida cómo se merece: a base de goles y, sobre todo, con una victoria para su afición. Por ese motivo, el Wanda Metropolitano anhela comenzar con buen pie.

El Atlético no llega en su mejor momento, pero tampoco está en horas bajas. Por ahora, lleva 5 puntos de 9 posibles en el campeonato liguero y ostenta la sexta posición. No está desplegando un mal juego, pero todavía hay muchas cosas que pulir. En otras palabras, aún es muy pronto para hacer balance, aunque cabe destacar que los atléticos llevan 2 empates consecutivos a cero (en Liga frente al Valencia y en Champions frente a la Roma). También es cierto que esta temporada aún no ha jugado en casa y que su estrella, Griezmann, ha estado ausente un par de encuentros por sanción. Las buenas noticias es que los de Simeone recuperan a su jugador emblema, al Principito, y probablemente salga de inicio junto a Correa, que es el delantero que parece estar ganándose el puesto de titular en la dupla ofensiva de los colchoneros. Continue reading