Have Barcelona just conceded the La Liga title to Real Madrid?

Real Madrid are now the odds on favourites to win La Liga after Barcelona drew 2-2 at home against Atletico Madrid in an entertaining match.

Barcelona are looking at a hat trick of titles but their fierce rivals Real look like they will stop them. Barca have dominated in Spain of late winning 4 of the last five, in the last decade they have won 7 titles alone.

Whilst Real Madrid have dominated on the European scene in the last decade winning 4 Champions Leagues, including three in a row they have failed mostly on the domestic front. Though in 2017 they broke the Barca stranglehold by winning the title which is, up to this point, coach Zinedine Zidane’s only managerial league title.

At the beginning of the season with Zidane coming back and the soap opera of Gareth Bale will he won’t he leave it was thought that Real were going to experience a season of transition, however they look stun to set everyone if they can wrap up the title this season. It could well go amongst Zidane’s very best achievements of his glittering career given that many thought Madrid could be playing second fiddle to not only Barcelona but Atletico Madrid also.

As it stands Real are top by just one point but they have a game extra to play which takes place on Thursday, July 2nd. It is a home game against Getafe which they will be expected to win with ease.

Win that and they will go 4 points clear with just five games left to play. Barca have been a mess lately where they have drawn 3 of their last four games and dropped vital points. In the game against Atletico there was 3 penalties, one for Lionel Messi but Saul converted 2 goals from the spot for Atletico and that was enough to take 2 points from Barcelona. Indeed Atletico then had a chance to win the game and put even more misery on Barca.

If another clasico remained between the two clubs then the league would not feel as over as it does now. At least then Barca could stake their claim and give it one last try. But the two teams have already met each other. Real’s remaining games all look winnable and yet of course you never quite know what will happen. Lose to Getafe tomorrow and everything changes again. But for now it looks like Real are in the driving seat to win their 34th Spanish title.

 

 

What now for PSG star Neymar after the fall out of Covid-19 has hit football?

Neymar has returned to Paris for training and played on a football pitch for the first time in 3 months. And seeing images of him brings up the story of what exactly will happen to Neymar post Covid-19?

Had the pandemic never happened many people believe that this was going to be Neymar’s last season with PSG. It was inevitable that after he would rejoin Barcelona. There have been many rumours that the Brazilian is craving to go back to his former job and hook up with the likes of Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann.

Whilst Neymar has been a success at PSG he has also missed some key games due to injury and there is a feeling of unfinished business in Paris. After all PSG didn’t make Neymar the world’s most expensive player at over 200 million euros just to win a series of Ligue 1 titles? they were doing that well before he joined.

For PSG recruiting Neymar, much like what Juventus have done with Cristiano Ronaldo was supposed to be the key, the final puzzle and the missing link in winning the Champions League. In that PSG have been unlucky given Neymar’s usual injury flare ups have come at a time when they have been playing in the quarter finals of the competition only to be missing him and getting dumped out of it.

This year seems very different. Many expected Borussia Dortmund to get the better of PSG, not so and PSG were able to knock the German team out and reach the last 8 of the competition. Now all eyes are on PSG, and yet that is when the Covid-19 really struck.

The good news is that football is back and the Champions League will resume in Lisbon, with all games played there in August. And what about PSG and Neymar, they have had lots of time off, can Neymar provide PSG with what they really want and need? What a send off it would be, if Neymar is to leave the club. But no win and he might find himself playing another season in Paris. Win and it is possible to think that PSG and Barcelona could come to an arrangement.

Forget about Barcelona breaking the bank to get him, that won’t happen. And football will be financially affected for years. True big money purchases are still going to be made between the big clubs, but we can and should expect transfers to drop significantly.

Right now Neymar seems a happy person and in a happy frame of mind, that couldn’t be said at the beginning of the season. What we do know is that the next two months will be dedicated to PSG. He has two cup finals to play and then the return of the Champions League- will the fire still be in his eyes?

Prove you have what it takes to challenge the best French Fantasy Football managers here www.fantasyligue1.com 

Quique Setien isn’t passing his Barcelona audition

There can’t be too many coaches that are given the sack when their team is top of the league, but that’s precisely what happened to Ernesto Valverde earlier this season.

Barcelona’s demanding fan base had been calling for his head for at least 12 months, and the board finally caved into the pressure – at the worst possible moment.

Their choice to replace Valverde was Quique Setien. Continue reading

Mallorca v Barcelona: 3 things to watch

La Liga kicked off again on Thursday evening with the Sevilla derby, followed by two games on Friday, all of which were notable for the armchair viewer having computerised graphics in place of supporters in the stands as well as piped in noise for a more realistic effect.

It certainly makes the action eminently more watchable, and on Saturday night Mallorca and Barcelona will be the next to get the ‘virtual’ treatment. Continue reading

Why Barcelona’s Lionel Messi remains motivated for La Liga’s final sprint

Just like that the La Liga season is ready to return, and with the resumption of the Spanish top flight, the rest of the league should be wary that Barcelona’s Lionel Messi has a triple motivation for success in 2019/20.

The Blaugranes captain often carries the weight of the team on his shoulders, but one shouldn’t forget the weight of history also follows him around. Continue reading

Will Lautaro Martinez be a success at the Camp Nou?

Lionel Messi has labelled Lautaro Martinez a ‘complete’ forward, and the Barcelona icon has spoken of his desire to link up with his fellow Argentine at the Camp Nou next season. Martinez’s agent has added further fuel to the fire by claiming that there is a ‘very big possibility’ of the 22-year old completing his move to Catalonia this summer.

Although the young striker has enjoyed a fruitful campaign in Serie A, big things are expected of the Bahia Blanca-born star. Can he live up to the hype?

Inter are desperate to keep hold of the forward who has plundered 19 goals in all competitions this season, yet his desire to link up with the six-time Ballon d’Or winner could prove to be decisive. Although a number of top clubs including Manchester United are believed to be circling this summer, Barca are thought to be in pole position, and with the La Liga giants renowned for their possession-based style of football, this is highly likely to play to his strengths.

The Blaugrana have tended to interchange between 4-4-2 and 4-3-3 in recent years, and the former Racing Club striker should relish the chance to integrate himself as part of one of Europe’s most potent strike-forces. Martinez was used sporadically under former Inter boss Luciano Spalletti, who used to prefer Mauro Icardi in the lone striker role. When given the chance to impress, the forward often found himself isolated due to opponents sitting deep. With the wingers tracking back, the front-man was unable to make space for himself, and was often seen drifting in and out of play.

While lower-ranked teams may occasionally deploy similar tactics against Barcelona, it often tends to be a fruitless task with the 26-time Spanish champions usually finding a way to break the tightest of defensive lines.

Lautaro is able to create space for himself, and is extremely comfortable with the ball at his feet, something that is a prerequisite for any potential Barca recruit. Under Antonio Conte, he has been part of a front two alongside Romelu Lukaku in a 3-5-2 formation. This has suited him well due to defenders having to share their attention between Lautaro and his strike partner Lukaku. Arguably, the weakest aspect of his game is his aerial ability, but that is unlikely to be a major concern if he gets his move to the Catalan giants.

He is one of a number of Barcelona transfer targets this summer as Quique Setien aims to bolster his side in preparation for the 2020/21 campaign. Martinez is among the most high profile of the potential recruits due to his efficiency at Inter. Strikers are often considered to be more valuable by fans, due to their match-winning ability and the recognition they receive in the media, and the position has been immortalized by a plethora of mid-90s computer games and more recently, online slots. The latter includes Super Striker, a popular NetEnt release which is currently available at all of the best betting and casino sites including 22Bet and Royal Panda.

Known as ‘El Toro’, the front man has a terrific strike-rate and he is likely to get plenty of chances in the Spanish top flight. He’s been compared to Sergio Aguero by former striker Hernan Crespo, and has also enjoyed success on the international stage. He also appears to be improving season-upon-season, and his numbers have increased exponentially since the arrival of Conte. 

Inter are understandably keen to keep hold of their emerging star striker, but the financial return from selling him and the likelihood they receive at least one Barcelona player as part of the deal may change all that leading to the young man’s exit. Martinez is surely looking to capitalize on a super season in Serie A, and the recent evidence suggests that he would be the perfect fit for Setien’s attack-minded side.

Fan Zone: Jason returns with focus on Messi, Maradona, Ronaldinho & more

Jason Pettigrove- a sports Journalist and broadcaster- is back to discuss more topics involving Barcelona with emphasis on current hero Lionel Messi as well as former football stars such as Ronaldinho and Diego Maradona.

In the previous Q&A, Jason focused on former Barca star Neymar as well as wily veteran Luis Suarez and last summer’s marquee signing Antoine Griezmann. This time around, Jason talks in details about Barca’s success and the factors behind it. Feel free to leave a comment below, or contact either of Rami Soufi and Jason on social media to further explore related topics and to provide any additional feedback.

Without further delay, the third segment of the Q&A is below:

1) Is Barca’s success the last 12 years down to a system (possession etc), La Masia Academy, coaching philosophy, the players or simply Messi? 

I think you answered it yourself. It is all of that. Take away one element and I’d argue that the club wouldn’t have been as successful as they have since 2008. When we look back in a few years, Messi will be the dominant name of course, but he’s the first to admit that without the likes of Pep Guardiola, Andres Iniesta, Xavi, Dani Alves, David Villa etc, he wouldn’t have been as lethal or productive.

Let’s not forget how many La Masia graduates have played in the first team since 2008. Yes, there have been a lot lately that haven’t made the grade and that’s something that the club must address, but you could probably make two Starting XI’s composed of players that have come up through the academy and that would hold their own in most leagues.

2) Messi’s Barca has been dominant in La Liga despite constant change in coaching on top of Messi having to adapt to new partners in attack. The point is Barca kept winning. Where does Messi rank among Barca’s all-time greats?

I think what Johan Cruyff did off the pitch helped define the Barça that we see today, not to mention how brilliant he was on the field. Ronaldinho brought some Joga Bonito to the club and definitely did his utmost to put a smile on everyone’s face. Perhaps his signing more than any other is responsible for the worldwide interest in the club- and that interest has kept growing since his spell due to the club’s success on the pitch.

Ronaldinho also took Messi under his wing. Just discussing Leo brings up the ultimate candidate who has become Barca’s greatest. It has to be Messi. Messi is like a chameleon. He is whatever Barça need him to be, and to have done what he has for so long is beyond words. For those reasons, I put Leo at the top.

3) Some keep comparing Messi & Cristiano Ronaldo, but what about the Maradona vs Messi comparison? Interestingly, Maradona played for Barca too but just 2 seasons.

As far as time at Barcelona is concerned, there is no comparison. Perhaps a better one would be Maradona’s time at Napoli versus Messi’s time at Barça, but I think that even then Leo would come out on top.

4) How do you explain Maradona’s success with Argentina as opposed to Messi’s inability to win that elusive trophy with his country? Messi came close twice in Copa America and once in the World Cup final vs Germany.

Maradona is certainly a unique talent who achieved incredible things when at his peak.  If we are to properly assess him, then it is fair to say that over the course of those matches in 1986, Maradona was simply unstoppable. He left many in his wake.

Let’s be clear here though, Messi has been unstoppable for around 15 years, not just a tournament like the 1986 World Cup in Mexico.

5) What do you make of Coutinho? Do you think he can fit in with this Barca and with Messi? Should Barca keep him or sell him?

I’m torn with Coutinho. He showed at Liverpool as well as in a number of games at Barça what a great talent he is. He just wasn’t consistent enough in Spain, though a lot of that has been put down to him not being played in his natural position under Ernesto Valverde. Unless the club get a big fee in return for selling him, I’d probably be prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt and bring him back. Still, the club should also be willing to lose money on him if he doesn’t hit the ground running next season.

Fan Zone: Jason’s back to discuss Suarez, Griezmann, Neymar and more

Jason Pettigrove- a journalist who has covered football for decades and who is the content editor at FC Barcelona- is back for the second segment of the Q&A.

Jason discusses Barca’s possession game as well as some of the big names such as Luis Suarez, Antoine Griezmann and others. In addition, Jason touches upon the frequently mentioned topic of PSG star Neymar who is often linked with a return to the Catalan club. Remember to leave your feedback and feel free to discuss any of the points with both Jason and Rami Soufi by connecting with them on social media.

1) Barca built a reputation playing a heavy possession game. Has the focus on possession at the expense of being more pragmatic hurt Barca’s quest to lift more Champions League trophies? Contrast that with the direct and ruthless approach of Liverpool at Anfield (to overturn 1st leg deficit)

I don’t think there’s any doubt that your suggestion has merit, but what I would say to counter that is Barça’s style is ingrained in the players from the moment they set foot in La Masia academy. Just the thought of leaving behind the possession game or playing any other way, as we saw with Valverde’s 4-4-2, would cause concern and would lead to the rise of discontent among the fans. Simply put, the fans have long bought into that philosophy and would most likely make their displeasure clear.

2) What do you make of Luis Suarez? His stats are decent despite being sidelined due to injury. Would you keep Suarez for one more season, or would you sign Gabriel Jesus or Harry Kane?

I’d keep Suarez for one more season without doubt. Not just because he and Messi are such good pals off of the pitch but because there’s a great understanding on the field- a telepathy which would be near impossible to recreate with any future signing or incoming elite player. He has to leave sometime soon of course, but I think 12 months from now is a better bet.

3) Were you for signing Griezmann, or did you prefer bringing back Neymar setting aside the financial factor involved in Neymar’s return?

I didn’t like the whole ‘Decision’ video fiasco- to me that was entirely unnecessary. I’ll always support whoever wears the shirt, but I did think Griezmann’s purchase was another ‘statement’ signing without looking at whether he’d fit in well with the team. So far, the season has proved difficult for him further highlighting that not every big signing will automatically succeed.

4) Should Barca bring back Neymar for the 2020/21 season? And why?

No, I definitely would not welcome it. There are just too many concerns and negatives when it comes to bringing back Neymar. Too much money. Too much baggage. Too many injuries. Too many absences. It is just a long laundry list.

5) Moving on from Neymar, what do you make of BVB’s Erling Haaland? Should Barca invest in signing him?

Haaland has shown an incredible appetite for scoring goals, and his movement is beyond his years. Barça should be in the queue to sign the best players if and when they become available, but they shouldn’t sign him just for the sake of piling up talent.

If the technical department believe he’s a good fit and that he can improve, then he’s worth spending money on. Otherwise, let someone else take him. Don’t get me wrong, he’d be a great potential signing for almost all big clubs but Barca have had their share of big name signings who haven’t worked out exactly- Coutinho from Liverpool, Griezmann so far as discussed earlier and Ousmane Dembele due to injuries.

6) Are you for resuming La Liga this season or for voiding it, and why?

Not even a question for me. People are losing their lives. Football isn’t that important when considering the bigger picture. Just void this season and reassess in the upcoming few months.

7) If the league is voided, does Barca get the title despite being only 2 points ahead with over 10 Rounds remaining on schedule?

Nope. You can’t realistically argue that Barça would have gone on and won it at this point. Anything could happen over the course of 10 Rounds let alone a single match when you consider the gap between first and second is only two points.

Fan Zone: Jason on Barcelona legends Cruyff & Messi, El Clasico and more!

Jason Pettigrove is a well established author and sports journalist as well as a content editor at FC Barcelona. Jason’s love affair with Barcelona goes back several decades and covers the tough, the good and the great eras of the Catalan club.

In the first part of the Q&A which is published below, Jason touches upon the connection he built with the club as well as his favorite Barca players and matches. Feel free to discuss the main points from the Q&A and to connect with Jason and Rami Soufi via their Twitter profiles.

1) You’ve been a Barcelona fan for quite some time. What made you support Barca?

I’ll try and shorten a long story! I went on holiday to Lloret de Mar in the mid 1970s with my parents, and the Barça shirt was the first one I bought. I saw the Camp Nou and also brought home some posters of Johan Cruyff, Johan Neeskens and Sotil to put up on my wall, as well as a Barça pennant.

When I was old enough to go to watch football, West Ham were my local team so I followed them for many years. My eldest son, who is now 25, played at the West Ham academy from the ages of 8-12, but he was bullied incessantly by his coach. It got to the point where I had to complain to the Premier League, and was astounded by the club’s attitude.

The week after he walked off of the pitch in disgust at his treatment, leaving football behind in the process, I was in Barcelona to see my first match at the Camp Nou – the 2007 El Clásico where Lionel Messi scored his first hat-trick. Barça were always my first love, but that was the point when I began to properly support them.

2) Who are your 3 all-time favorite Barca players and why? 

Lionel Messi – A player who can do it all and still be better than anyone else while do it all on the attacking front. Goals, assists, dribbling, passing, etc you name it and Messi can do it! Biggest point is we should remember that to be at the very top for as long as he has is astonishing as well.

Johan Cruyff – The Dutchman was perhaps the master. As a player he took the Blaugranes on a long journey which he would later complete as a coach when he guided them to their first European Cup while creating what was referred to as the Dream Team.

Pep Guardiola – From ball-boy to record breaking coach is probably the best way to describe Guardiola’s incredible journey with Barca. An imperious captain and a member of the Cruyff teams in the 1990s. Pep would later prove to be a managerial genius as shown by the titles won under his guidance between 2008 and 2012.

3) Name your favorite Barca player by position. One each from DEF/MID/ATT.

DEF – Gerard Pique – Once regarded as a bit of an afterthought next to club skipper Carles Puyol, Pique has matured into the consummate central defender. As big a part of the success over the last decade, his absence often corresponded with a drop in form defensively and exposed Barca’s back four.

MID – Arthur Melo – Although I don’t think we’ve seen the best of Arthur yet, he gives the team balance and purpose. The ‘new Xavi’ moniker is probably a little unfair, but the team looks so much more in control in the middle of the park with Arthur on the pitch.

Attack – Messi – The phrase ‘Messi-dependence’ is a little overused in my opinion, but
there’s little doubt he is the conduit through which all good things come. He is not just the team’s attacking spark and a football genius, but he is also the glue that holds the team together.

4) Most important Barca victory in your lifetime? Why?

That’s a very tough one as there have been a few important wins and for a number of different reasons. I think I will go with the 1992 Champions League win at Wembley. Simply put, for a world class club with world class players, it had taken them until then to reach the pinnacle in Europe.

Winning the cup got a huge monkey off of the club’s back, and though they probably
should’ve won more than they have since, that victory was a huge turning point.

5) Your all-time favorite Barca match? Why?

I’ll give you two. First, the 3-3 draw in El Clásico that I mentioned earlier. It happens to be my first live Barça match and also Messi’s first hat-trick not to mention the atmosphere that was as good as I’ve ever known.

Second, the 2011 Champions League final. I was lucky enough to be there, and it remains the best 90 minutes of football I think I’ve seen, or will ever see. Pep’s Barça at their absolute peak, and there was nothing Sir Alex Ferguson’s Man United could do about it.

6) Pick two from Luis Suarez, Ousmane Dembele, and Antoine Griezmann for your team, and why?

For the short term, it would have to be Suarez and Dembele. Although El Pistolero is getting on a bit, he still knows where the goal is, and a lack of pace hasn’t dimmed his excellence in sticking the ball in the back of the net.

Dembele has had his critics, and I’ve been one of them, but there’s little doubt that he is a top player when he’s free of injury. I’m looking forward to seeing how he gets on
when he returns.

7) Pick two from Arthur, Frankie de Jong, Busquets, Rakitic and Arturo Vidal, and why?

Easy one here- Arthur and Frenkie de Jong. The future of Barça’s midfield. Rakitic has been a fine servant and doesn’t deserve the heat he’s getting at the moment, but the time has come for him to move. Vidal is a breath of fresh air, but if the club can get some decent money for him, his sale is a no brainer. Busi only doesn’t get in because he’s coming to the end of his career and, sadly, isn’t quite the player he once was.

8) What are Barca’s weaknesses? Some single out the full-back positions while many point to the central defensive pair being shaky with Pique slowing down. Some mention Neymar’s departure. Others refer to over dependence on Messi. Thoughts?

I think what makes Barça great is also their weakness. Full-backs pushing too far up and being susceptible and getting caught on the break, a willingness to always look for Messi when often there will be better options available, possession for possession’s sake which, though incredibly pleasing on the eye, needs to have more of a purpose sometimes.

9) Who is in your opinion the best player to ever wear the Barca shirt?

As with other questions here, it has to be Messi for me. Whatever he is asked to do, he does it better than all others. His goal-scoring exploits and his magical assists will stand the test of time, and his passing ability is beyond comparison. There hasn’t been another player in the history of football that ‘had it all.’

The effect of the Quarantine on football & eSports

Prior to the spread of the Coronavirus, the eyes of fans were turned towards the Champions League, the top European competitions such as the Spanish Liga, Italian Serie A and the English Premier League. Stars such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Kevin de Bruyne, Mohamed Salah, Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe were occupying center stage.

Fast forward to the past few weeks, the Champions League and the Europa League have been put on hold while the European leagues have been suspended. Fans can no longer enjoy the likes of Messi and Mbappe while emerging players such as Erling Haaland can no longer showcase their skills and qualities. Football, and sports in general, have come to a complete stop.

What can the fans do during this difficult time to keep distracted from much of the negative news? One option is to look towards eSports.

How eSports and eSports Betting can “Explode” during the Quarantine

With the COVID-19 pandemic ravaging the world and the economy of the world taking a nosedive, the world of sports betting is not left out. Most major sporting events, including football, have been postponed or cancelled as the world tries to deal with the virus. With sporting events calendar suspended due to the pandemic, there has been a significant reduction in betting opportunities.

Interestingly, all hope is not lost for sports bettors. The eSports betting option appear to be filling a void as sportsbook customers look for exhilarating action during the lockdown caused by the Coronavirus pandemic.

Bookmakers are getting more creative and more eSports events are coming up, giving sportsbook punters the opportunity to satisfy their betting needs. If you are ready to join the action, try searching for the best
eSports betting sites to get started.

Impact of COVID-19 on eSports Events

It’s important to mention that the Coronavirus pandemic has also affected the eSports calendar, just like other sporting events. The only difference is that eSports is much more resilient because the matches can actually be played online. Players do not need to leave their homes or converge in the same place. Of course, having live fans in the gaming arena has its attractions and unique atmosphere but it doesn’t have a significant difference for hundreds of thousands of viewers and fans that are watching through live stream.

Based on this understanding, industry stakeholders are doing all they can to find a replacement for standard sports betting in order to keep their customers entertained and engaged during this dire period. So far, there have been indications that eSports betting value and volume is on the increase. According to the CEO of an eSports betting site, Quentin Martin, there has been about a 54% increase in registration of new players, over a course of a week when it was announced that the English Premier League would have to be postponed due to the pandemic.

Reasons for the Explosion of eSports betting during the Quarantine

Basically, players that are involved in sports betting would likely want to give eSports betting a try since there is practically nothing else to bet on. Many sports fans are either in lockdown or self-isolating and this makes access to a source of entertainment a major need. Interestingly, the only show that seems to be available to sports bettors is eSports. Therefore, it practically makes sense that this is the game that everyone in this category would turn to.

Additionally, eSports betting sites offer an easy way in which competitive tournaments can be accessed without the physical presence of both the players and the fans. Of course, any tournament would preferably be played at a physical venue but this is not required for eSports. By the way, this is the major reason for the continuation of eSports tournaments.

Conclusion

Without a doubt, these are challenging times for the world. For some, the Gaming world and eSports are a welcome distraction. eSports is bound to experience a huge explosion as many fans of traditional sports are exploring eSports for a much-needed escape and entertainment.