Time for Barcelona’s kids in the Copa del Rey

Screenshot 2019-01-18 at 18.43.14

The draw for the Copa del Rey quarter finals has thrown up an interesting conundrum for Barcelona.

The Catalans have been paired with Sevilla for the two-legged tie, the Andalusians being one of, if not the toughest opponent they could’ve faced.

It will see a quick return to the Camp Nou for Munir El Haddadi, recently signed by Pablo Machin, and how he would love to put a spoke in the aspirations of his former side. Continue reading

Barcelona chase experienced attacking trio

giroud

Barcelona have been linked with an eclectic mix of strikers in the January transfer window, as Ernesto Valverde looks to bolster their La Liga challenge.

The Catalan side are in pole position to retain their title, with a five point lead at the top of the table, however they have been linked with moves to add experience to their attack.

La Blaugrana are reportedly interested in a deal for Uruguay international Cristhian Stuani from local rivals Girona, Premier League duo Olivier Giroud and Fernando Llorente.

Continue reading

How can Barcelona’s Lionel Messi only be the 5th best player in the world?

Messi-PSV-vs-Barcelona(1)

The awards season can usually give us surprise leanings and results, although at least for the past decade the winner’s have usually been right. But 2018 can be seen as an exception. Lucas Modric swept all before him in 2018, not trophy wise with his club and country but on a personal level trophy wise, but did he truly deserve accolade after accolade? Then there was the quite bizarre announcement at the Ballon d’Or awards that Lionel Messi wouldn’t win, ok this was half expected given that Messi had not won other awards, but then they went one step further and gave him 5th place, really, 5th place.

First let’s analyse why Modric should never have won the trophy. To do this we first must point out that Modric is a superb player who had a great year. This included being a part of the Real Madrid team that won the Champions League for a 3rd time in a row. And then being a part of the Croatia team that got to a World Cup final. Those are fantastic achievements. But at the same time it also disregards Real Madrid’s domestic season, fought over 38 hard games and 9 months, where they lost the title once again to Barcelona. Indeed Madrid didn’t even finish 2nd and trailed Barcelona by a whopping 17 points. But in a World Cup year- why should that matter?

If the awards were to be influenced by a World Cup why didn’t Antoine Griezmann win the trophy? A player who was influential in the World Cup knock out goals, dominant and confident in midfield and scoring important goals and winning the World Cup. Was Europe on the awards minds? Well be mindful that Griezmann won the Europa League and then when his side Atletico met Real in the Super Cup clash, Atletico won that too.

It may sound controversial but Modric sweeping the awards was set in stone after the World Cup final where FIFA gave the sympathy award of best player at the tournament to Modric, who had just lost the World Cup. Had Croatia won it, Griezmann would have won best player- do we need evidence? Go back to 2014 when Lionel Messi won the best player award when his Argentina side had lost the final to Germany. The look on Messi’s face said it all.

Now to Messi himself and how could he have come 5th in the world? On his day he is a better player than the four that finished above him. But what else could have been the reason? Over Modric there might be a case given that Modric won the Champions League and got to a World Cup final. Although Messi can claim to have won the league and cup, so a domestic double and let’s not forget at his age of 31 he just averaged his best ever games to goals ratio.

Next up is Cristiano Ronaldo, again a Champions League winner. But Messi has that double and a personal better season over him and both did not do well at the World Cup. Griezmann and Mbappe follow next and they did have a better season than Messi trophy wise with World Cup, Europa League, French League and domestic cups between them and yet they only finished 3rd and 4th.

The awards season used to give the best out to the best players. This year that trend has shifted mostly because new blood was wanted after Messi and Ronaldo dominated for a decade, but although Modric is a very special player, Griezmann or Mbappe should have won the award and Messi certainly shouldn’t have been out of the top 3.

Barcelona looking for Coutinho improvement in 2019

Philippe-Coutinho-682140

Barcelona head into 2019 as La Liga leaders, with Ernesto Valverde chasing a second successive league title since taking over.

They lead rivals Atletico Madrid by three points, but the former Athletic Bilbao boss knows his players will have to go up a gear if they are to compete domestically and in Europe in the second half of the season.

Many of the squad are having solid, but unspectacular seasons, with the individual brilliance of Lionel Messi and Ousmane Dembele often making the key differences in recent weeks.

Continue reading

Awards forgotten man Lionel Messi receives Europe’s golden boot

MESSSSSS(1)

It has been a rather odd year for Barcelona’s Lionel Messi. Despite winning another Spanish league, scoring fantastic goals and winning the domestic double, Messi surely still the worlds best football player was overlooked for all the major awards this year. This culminated in the Ballon d’Or award where he placed only 5th, in what had to be seen as quite laughable.

Still some things were put right for the Argentinian play maker who picked up his 5th golden shoe this week, in celebration for his 34 goals in La Liga last season. He fended off Liverpool’s Mohamad Salah who scored just 2 less last season in the Premier League.

In winning the award Messi had this to say: “I love football, but when I started I didn’t expect all this. My dream was to be a professional player. This is thanks to the hard work and effort I have put in, and above all to my teammates. I have the best players in the world at their positions playing beside me.” Messi again was evidently very humble in receiving the award and of course it didn’t go unnoticed that he has now pulled one clear of golden boots from Cristiano Ronaldo who is now plying his trade at Juventus.

This award would have been a satisfying conclusion to 2018 where Messi was disregarded for awards over other players such as Luka Modric who won every gong going. It is true that Modric won the Champions League and reached the World Cup final with Croatia where Messi failed in both competitions. And whilst nobody is saying that Messi should have been accepted as the world’s best player it still felt odd not even recognising his greatness with a top 3 spot.

It should be noted that after yet another hattrick at the weekend Messi now has 14 goals in 14 games and in all competitions he has already scored 20 goals. It seems that Messi wants the very best awards in 2019 and he is certainly going about it the right way. Barcelona look on course to win the league where they have sprinted 5 points clear of great rival Real Madrid, as Messi looks to win his 10th Spanish title. He has also voiced his opinion over the Champions League and will be looking to win that competition for the 5th time in his career after wins in 2006, 2009, 2011 and 2015.

What should be for sure is that if Messi continues at this rate no awards will be able to shun his greatness next year.

 

From Real Madrid to Manchester City who will win the Champions League?

Report-Champions-League-draw-LIVE-Man-Utd-Man-City-Liverpool-and-Tottenham-learn-last-16-fate-Football-Sport(1)

The draw for the last 16 of the Champions League, Europe’s premier competition has been made this week and this has given us a clearer view of the teams who should be advancing further into the competition and aiming to be crowned the first champions not to be Real Madrid since 2015. Below we will take a look at the match ups.

Schalke v Manchester City

Let’s be honest Schalke will be the clear underdogs to advance to the last 8 in this match up. They finished 2nd to Porto in their group and were beating by them 3-1 in their only defeat of the group stages. They will need a positive result at home with the 2nd leg being away. Manchester City started slow in the groups and couldn’t beat Lyon in two attempts but everything is clicking for the Premier League champions who finished 1st in their group.

Prediction: Manchester City to win.

Atletico Madrid v Juventus

Juventus one of the early Champions League favourites have been handed a very difficult tie in the last 16. Atletico will be a very tough opponent and Juventus will have to have the luck not to have key players out. Expect a low scoring and physical game. Winning the Champions League has become the old lady’s priority though and they should just have enough to get through this huge test.

Prediction: Juventus to win.

Manchester United v PSG

Everyone has been quick to write off Manchester United but that was when Jose Mourinho was in charge. Since his sacking the team will have a fresh perspective and will be relaxed for this game. At their best United can give PSG a good game. Still if Neymar and Kylian Mbappe can keep up their good form, PSG will be expected to get through these games which could see many goals scored, in two exciting matches.

Prediction: PSG to win.

Tottenham Hotspur v Borussia Dortmund

Tottenham have not performed as well as they would like in the Champions League compared to the Premier League. These games will be of two different stories, where Spurs can win their home game. But the atmosphere in Germany is set to be too much and too rich for this team, and Dortmund who have been brilliant, resilient and strong this season will be very difficult to beat.

Prediction: Borussia Dortmund to win

Lyon v Barcelona

You never quite know what to expect from Lyon and if they were to win this first leg nobody should be too surprised. But Barcelona have too much quality for the French team, who are not even at their best like a decade ago. Barcelona can score many goals in these two matches which will be open and attacking, and Barca will use their home advantage in the 2nd leg to drive their point home.

Prediction: Barcelona to win

Roma v Porto

This is a really even tie where both teams will fancy their chances of progression. Porto will remain the favourites as they have become very difficult to beat at home, but do not look the best on the road. In a very close game we expect Porto to just make it through.

Prediction: Porto to win

Ajax v Real Madrid

Could there be a shock on the cards? Will Real Madrid exit the Champions League for the first time in 3 years without winning it. We think there could be a shock here. Ajax have their best team since they last won the competition in 1995 and it should be noted that they didn’t lose a game in their group, even though they had to play Bayern Munich. We usually get some shocks in the competition and this could be one. Real Madrid have been very average since the departures of both Zinedine Zidane as coach and the great Cristiano Ronaldo to Juventus.

Prediction: Ajax to win

Liverpool v Bayern Munich

Had this game taken place two years ago we could say Bayern Munich all the way, but Liverpool have the tools to win this game. They are incredibly difficult to beat at home and this side can also score goals away in the very big games when it really matters. Plus they have a German Jurgen Klopp as manager who knows Bayern inside out. Bayern have been poor for their standards in the Bundesliga this season, and this will be a very difficult game for them.

Prediction: Liverpool to win

 

 

 

Barca need to up the ante in the Champions League

Screenshot 2018-11-29 at 21.24.07

When your captain and talisman is steadfast in his resolve that this will be the year that the team is going to win the Champions League, the least that’s expected from every player is 100 percent concentration, commitment and effort in every game in the competition.

It’s a given at the top level, but since Lionel Messi uttered those words at the start of the campaign, the Argentinian has been the only one following his own advice in each European match that he’s been involved in. Continue reading

Lionel Messi’s season so far for Barcelona has been very impressive

Messi-Ballon-or-cinq-2016-trophee (1)

Some may believe that Lionel Messi arguably the greatest player of his generation if not all time is having  a quiet season so far with Barcelona. It has been a testing summer of course after Argentina were knocked out of the World Cup by eventual winners France in the last 16, and failure seemed to follow Messi around in Russia.

The transfer window saw the departure of Andres Iniesta from Barca, a player that Messi has relied on for the past decade for his sublime touches and passing of the ball. Now Messi has had to link up better with the likes of Ivan Rakitic and his trustworthy lieutenant Sergio Busquets. Is Messi also a little in mourning of Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure to Juventus- that rivalry seems to have calmed now that the players are plying their trade in different leagues. Perhaps there isn’t that push to do well anymore against one another. Something that could be reignited if the two teams meet in the Champions League.

The league could well be Barcelona’s most difficult challenge in a while. Whilst Real Madrid have significantly dropped off other rivals have taken their place and Barcelona find themselves in 2nd place but all around them are the likes of Sevilla, Atletico Madrid and let’s face it Real still remain a danger.

Still if some think that Messi is going quiet then they haven’t been watching much of La Liga this season. He has 9 goals in the league and has scored 14 goals this season in 14 games, even at 31 he is not slowing down. He is sure to break his 600 club goals this season too. Currently he is in 2nd place in the top goalscorers chart and with 6 assists he is top of the pile in Spain.

Messi is also playing well for the team, dropping back when he needs to, scoring great goals and assisting well. Truth is nothing much has changed at the Nou Camp even if it has at the clubs direct rivals Real Madrid. Next month will be about pushing on for the club who apart from having to play Espanyol in the derby away from home they seem to have a good fixture list.

There is still a recklessness about the team in part, due to their attacking mode but they still look like the best team in Spain. Messi won’t win the Ballon d’Or this year after missing out on all of the top prizes in a season where his club won the domestic double. But he will be thinking about next year and capturing that title once more along with a few others too.

Just 6 points separate Sevilla in 1st place from Girona in 7th in exciting season for La Liga

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz (1) (1) (1)

What a season it has been so far in the Spanish La Liga title race. Instead of, as in recent seasons Barcelona or Real Madrid taking off and not being seen for dust, both teams have had their struggles in recent weeks and the league remains wide open as we approach December- when is the last time we could say that?

Indeed take away Atletico Madrid’s superb title win in 2014 and there hasn’t been a different winner of the league apart from Barca and Real since the 2003-04 season when Valencia won it. What is also interesting is since then Barcelona has only failed to finish in the top 2 places in one season. In the last 14 years, 11 have finished with either Barca or Real Madrid taking the first two spots.

Of course the quality of football has been superb- even spellbinding at times and no one can argue against that. But for competitive games the Spanish league sure has come up short and we have been left with the same old song and dance of the majority of teams not just being able to challenge for the league but being so far from the top and the league title having that sinking feeling that it is virtually over by Christmas. Not so this season.

The first surprise is seeing Sevilla top of the league, not because they are a poor team but just the fact that it isn’t either Barca or Real sitting there. It is to put it mildly a revelation. Of course Barcelona are right there in 2nd place just a point behind but then again they have Atletico Madrid and Alaves breathing down their necks. And then there is the curious case of Real Madrid, Ronaldo less and showing it in 6th place. The team that have won an incredible 3 Champions League’s in a row won’t be in next seasons competition if the league was to end now.

It’s incredible to think how the league has simply opened up but then again some of the other teams namely Sevilla and Atletico Madrid have plugged away, bought well in the summer and made their threat real. But there has also been change at the super clubs. Andres Iniesta leaving Barcelona was certainly a big deal. Cristiano Ronaldo leaving for Juventus was a big change for Madrid who had become so reliant on him for the past decade. But also Real have suffered the departure of Zinedine Zidane, brought in Julen Lopetegui, sacked him and replaced him with Santiago Solari- for them it is the mid 2000′s all over again.

Realistically some of the teams will fall away and both Barcelona and Real Madrid should be able to find the form to mount a reasonable title challenge. But the likes of Atletico and Sevilla look like they will be sticking around for a while yet and could cause between them a major shock this season in Spain which nobody would have saw coming before the beginning of the season.

Time to stop talk of a Neymar return to Barca

Screenshot 2018-11-22 at 19.13.59

Not too long ago, Barcelona’s Pep Segura made a simple statement that could be easily understood and with no room for misinterpretation.

Any player that leaves the club is not welcome back.

It was almost as if he was saying ‘if we weren’t good enough for you then, you’re not good enough for us now.’

An understandable point of view, particularly when it relates to one of the biggest names in world football. Continue reading