3 things to watch in the Barcelona v Bayern game

It’s arguably the tie of the Champions League quarter finals, and Barcelona v Bayern is the only one which features two former winners of the trophy.

All the other six remaining teams have never had their hands on the cup with the big ears, so in some respects the experience of the two FCB’s benefits them enormously.

However, only one can go through and, on current form at least, the Bavarians will be expected to waltz into the final four. Continue reading

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.

Are Bayern Munich focusing more on the Champions League than the Bundesliga?

Bayern Munich and winning the Bundesliga seemingly goes hand in hand but this has been a difficult season for the German champions who have sacked Niko Kovac this season after a slow start.

His replacement has been Hans-Dieter Flick who made an immediate improvement where the club climbed from 4th and are now in 2nd place and from his first 11 games, Flick has won 9 of them. His win rate is an astounding 81%, and that has proven fans and pundits alike in Germany wrong. Indeed when Flick was appointed there was a surprise because he hasn’t managed a club side since Hoffenheim back in 2005.

So what was Flick doing in that 14 year gap? Well he was the assistant for the German national team which of course included winning the World Cup in 2014, so he has hardly been on an extended holiday.

Currently Bayern are four points behind surprise league leaders RB Leipzig and it seems only a matter of time before Bayern eclipse them, or will they?

There have been quite a few stories circulating in the German media that Bayern much like Manchester City in the Premier League want to focus more this season on winning the Champions League. Bayern have not captured Europe’s greatest prize since 2013 and there is a feeling in doing so the club will reestablish themselves as one of Europe’s great teams. That they are is always questionable to an impressionable youth one that now has less and less attention spans. Perhaps they don’t see past Real Madrid and Barcelona and Bayern will want to remind everyone of their status.

The German giants have of course advanced to the knockout stages of the competition and in their two group stage matches put 10 goals past Tottenham who also managed to qualify for the last 16.

Bayern will play Chelsea in the knock out rounds which, of course, will be a repeat of the 2012 final when Chelsea scrapped through on penalties. The league of course will be important for the club but the situation as it stands is that Flick can’t really lose. He has come in to pick up the pieces and a deep run in cups and maintaining 2nd place even if they don’t win the league shouldn’t affect his job this year.

The rallying cry has been led by Philippe Coutinho who said: “We want to do our best, survive the next round and win the Champions League at the end of course. I think we have the quality.”

So if Bayern drop more points in the league which could happen once the Champions League starts up again in a months time, don’t be surprised, there is a focus and it is not on the league title this year.

 

 

How will Barcelona use all its attacking talent this season?

Antoine Griezmann

Lionel Messi, Antoine Griezmann, Luis Suarez, Ousmane Dembele, Malcom and Philippe Coutinho.

Not a bad selection, is it?

They are the attacking players available within Barcelona’s first-team squad at the moment.

If the club had the necessary funds this summer, you could have added Neymar‘s name to that list.

Antoine Griezmann’s signing from LaLiga rivals Atletico Madrid freshens up the frontline with the Frenchman expected to make it into the starting eleven right from the off. Continue reading

Christian Eriksen could become Real Madrid’s Philippe Coutinho

Real Madrid aren’t always the most discreet in their transfer business. When they want a player, the world tends to know about it. Take their pursuit of Eden Hazard over a number of years, for instance. There was no element of surprise left by the time the Belgian actually completed a move to the Spanish capital this summer.

Their pursuit of Paul Pogba is another saga which has played out in front of everyone, with Manchester United still holding firm in their £150 million valuation of the player. Real Madrid, according to reports, are unwilling and unable to pay that amount for the French midfielder and so it’s becoming increasingly likely Pogba will stay where he is for at least another season.

eriksen

For a long time, it has been presumed that Christian Eriksen would be Real Madrid’s alternative to Pogba. The Dane has already confessed his desire to leave Tottenham Hotspur this summer and the Santiago Bernabeu outfit are believed to be long term admirers. Rumours continue to swirl.

But where would Eriksen fit in at Real Madrid? He is a very different type of player to Pogba. It’s easy to see where the Frenchman could be accommodated in Zinedine Zidane’s side – on the left side of a midfield three – but Eriksen isn’t someone who likes to drive forward with the ball. Instead, he is the player who picks the final pass.

He usually does this from a position on the left side. Sure, he drifts into the middle, sometimes dropping back into the centre of midfield, but his position as it reads on the team sheet is on the left wing. He might not be a winger in the traditional sense, but that is his best place.

Real Madrid don’t have room for another left-sided attacker. They were already well-stocked for options (Vinicius Junior, Marco Asensio, Lucas Vazquez) before this summer and now they have added Hazard to their squad. How would Zidane possibly fit Hazard and Eriksen into the same side without moving one of them out of position?

Eriksen would be a signing for the sake of a signing much like Philippe Coutinho was for Barcelona 18 months. The Brazilian arrived at Camp Nou without an obvious role to play, with Coutinho now likely to be sold this summer after failing to make much of an impression. Eriksen could become Real Madrid’s very own Coutinho should he leave Spurs for the Santiago Bernabeu.

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Why Liverpool signing Coutinho is unlikely to happen

 

18 months after leaving for Barcelona and Philippe Coutinho is being linked with a move back to Liverpool.

The Brazilian’s time at the Nou Camp has not been a happy one. Rather than becoming the world-class midfielder and justifying the £130 million price tag, Coutinho has struggled for any kind of form. He’s managed 21 goals and 11 assists in 76 games and barely managed a game that can be described as good enough.

Rather than making the step up as expected, Coutinho has regressed.  At this point, the club wants rid and will move him on if there was a suitor. Indeed, if the rumours are true, they will use him as a makeweight in any to bring Neymar back from Paris Saint Germain this summer. Continue reading

Liverpool should stay clear of Philippe Coutinho

When Jurgen Klopp leaves Liverpool, whenever that may be, his tenure at Anfield will have two classifications – before Philippe Coutinho and after Philippe Coutinho. Indeed, while the German made significant progress in his first two-and-a-half seasons as Reds manager, it was the sale of the Brazilian playmaker that acted as a catalyst for acceleration.

It was after Coutinho’s departure to Barcelona that Liverpool became the team we see in front of us today. While there was no doubting his quality during his time at Anfield, Coutinho wasn’t a Klopp type of player. While the German coach favoured a fast and furious approach, particularly in the attacking third, the Brazilian had a tendency for slowing things down.

Philippe Coutinho

Of course, while Liverpool improved post-Coutinho the playmaker himself struggled to find a place at Barcelona. Signed as the most expensive player in the Catalan club’s history, Coutinho has been a peripheral figure for Ernesto Valverde with reports suggesting he could be sold this summer.

This has led to hints that Coutinho could make a dramatic return to Liverpool just 18 months after he left the club. Financially, any deal could make sense for the Reds such is the discount Barcelona are willing to offer any club willing to take a look at Coutinho. Having been a success at Anfield before, why wouldn’t he a success in a second spell?

It’s true that Liverpool still require a central, attacking midfielder, missing out on Nabil Fekir last summer. But they should avoid the temptation to re-sign Coutinho this summer. The addition of the Brazilian to their squad could risk what the Reds have built and established over the past year-and-a-half.

Liverpool’s greatest strength comes from their reflection of Klopp’s coaching identity. They are so difficult to play against because of the speed and directness they offer. Where would Coutinho fit in, both in terms of Liverpool’s footballing philosophy under Klopp and the starting lineup favoured by the German?

What’s more, Liverpool have other areas that require strengthening before they spend big money on Coutinho. They are light in the centre of defence, for instance, where injuries to Joe Gomez and Dejan Lovren really tested them last season. Wingers and a centre forward would also give them a depth they have lacked at times over the past two years.

Coutinho was a hero at Liverpool. He was their best player for a time and deserves credit for what he did at Anfield. But the Reds have moved on since he left for Barcelona in January 2018. Going back for him could compromise what they have achieved in that time.

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Top LaLiga Midfielders in 2018/19 – Philippe Coutinho

Philippe Coutinho

Despite something of a nightmare season for Barcelona’s Brazilian playmaker, Philippe Coutinho still managed to accumulate the third-highest fantasy football points total for a LaLiga midfielder in 2018/19.

Coutinho was expensive, however, costing 10.5 million for any fantasy LaLiga managers who wanted him in their teams.

He made 22 starts in the Spanish league and another 12 substitute appearances, meaning he played in 34 league games altogether for Barca during the campaign.

Coutinho contributed five goals and only two assists as he underwhelmed the Camp Nou crowd on a regular basis. Continue reading

Has Coutinho played his last game for Barcelona?

Screenshot 2019-06-21 at 21.11.06

In hindsight, the gesture from Philippe Coutinho after scoring against Manchester United in the Champions League was ill-advised.

Putting his fingers in his ears as if to say to the Camp Nou crowd ‘I can’t hear you’ was always likely to rile the supporters further.

They’ve never been backwards in coming forwards to let the Brazilian known what they think, but he should’ve had the maturity to ride out the negativity.

It showed, beyond doubt, that there’s a real disconnect between player and fan base. Continue reading

Philippe Coutinho to end underwhelming Barcelona stay

barcelona-coutinho

Philippe Coutinho is likely to be on the move this summer after a hugely underwhelming 18 months at Barcelona. It would be unfair to call his spell a disaster but considering the financial outlay the club made to secure his signature in January 2018 – his signing can only be described as a miss.

The Brazilian international has made 75 appearances for the Catalan giants, has won two league titles and the Copa del Rey crown. But he has not once appeared to be the side’s star man, even on an individual game basis. For the second most expensive player in transfer history, this just simply is not good enough. Continue reading