Posts Tagged ‘Barcelona’

This entry will be sprinkled with bias in favour of Manchester United. Therefore at the outset, if you have any problem with this, stop reading now.

It’s a classic Champions League final and arguably the two most deserving teams are contesting. Barcelona versus Manchester United. Luckily, this time it is not Messi v Ronaldo (although the English press is trying really hard to make it look like Rooney v Messi).

Lets be frank, it isn’t going to be an individual player who stops Barcelona. As Inter Milan under Mourinho demonstrated last season, it takes a collective effort to stop the Catalan juggernaut. Say what you want about Barcelona, about them being diving cheats; yes, its true. But sadly, its also true that they are the best team in the world, and if someone claims otherwise, they certainly are the most difficult team in the world to stop.

Its going to take a focused performance from United to win the game. Nobody can afford to go into a risky tackle because of the nature of Barca players to fall down when someone so much as calls their name. Incidentally, a friend of mine told me a joke –

“Dani Alves goes down like a ton of bricks after a Scholes tackle. The ref comes to Scholes and sends him off but also books Alves for simulation. Alves gets pissed off and asks the ref, ‘How can you send him off AND book me for simulation?’

The ref replies, ‘Well, because the tackle was on Iniesta..’”

*this is the point where you laugh*

Lets be realistic, Scholes is not going to start the game. I hate to say it, but he’s past the stage where he can play in a Champions League final and expect to positively impact the game. Giggs, however is set to start the game and will no doubt be the creative element in the team. I would make a strong case for Park to start the game as well after his impressive performances when its mattered this season. He had a really good game against Chelsea and his energy levels will certainly be required to close down the Barcelona midfield.

So here’s the line up I want to see – VDS, Evra, Vidic, Ferdinand, Fabio, Park, Anderson, Fletcher, Rooney, Hernandez and Valencia.

Yes, our season’s top scorer is going to be on the bench for obvious reasons. Berbatov doesn’t have the pace to trouble the Barcelona back four and will most likely be left on the bench (and I have a feeling he won’t even come on). So the reasoning behind my formation is that United will have to hit Barca on the counter. Their full backs pushing up leaves space out wide for the Red Devils to exploit. Particularly, Valencia and Fabio on the right can cause some trouble for Eric Abidal. Iniesta plays along Abidal’s side and he doesn’t track back at all. I pick Fabio over Rafael because I worry for Rafael’s temperament. His twin brother is a capable defender and has the pace to push up as well and hence he gets the nod from me.

I know most of you would have noticed that I left Giggs out of the line up, and this wasn’t a mistake. I think we’d be much better with three runners in Park, Fletcher and Anderson. Most of you are horrified by the thought of Giggs being left out, no doubt, but the fact of the matter is (as Nishanth pointed out) is that there’s no point in having a creative midfielder when you’re not going to see so much of the ball. It isn’t like Giggs will be spraying passes across the pitch (although I would love it if that happens, but lets be realistic).

I read in today’s paper that Chris Smalling might be in the midfield (in the role Pepe played against Barca). I don’t think this’ll be a good idea, Smalling’s a good reader of the game, but I’m not sure if he has the experience to match players of this quality (prove me wrong, Chris!)

The front three are quick and players who have the pace and the skill to trouble the Barcelona back four. Rooney down the left to exploit the space left by the marauding (diving) Dani Alves. Valencia’s pace and no nonsense crossing will trouble any full back and to be fair Barca don’t have great headers of the ball. The key player for United will be Javier Hernandez. Who would have thought that this guy who was a virtual unknown would be playing the Champions League final? (I assume he will start of course).

Hernandez is the key because it is very important to put away the ball with any half chance. Any miniscule sight at goal and it should be in the back of the net. Hernandez is also a good header of the ball. His movement will give problems to Pique and Puyol. Rooney dropping deep occasionally might also give Busquets a problem since he isn’t as mobile a defence midfielder as required. I would make a case for Mascherano to start for Barca but that’s not my headache.

We all know Barca’s strongest line up but just to refresh your memories – Valdez, Dani Alves, Pique, Puyol, Abidal, Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta, Pedro, Villa, Messi. Although it would make a lot of sense for Guardiola to play Mascherano instead of Pedro and push Iniesta into Pedro’s position. My gut feeling says that that’s what’s going to happen although my gut feeling has been wrong in the past.

My line up won’t be the one Ferguson plays either, because obviously Giggs will start and I have a bad feeling that Carrick will as well. Carrick’s had a few good games (especially the games against Chelsea in the Champions League and more recently in the league at OT), but I’m not so sure about him.

Bottomline is United can’t score one and hope to defend. They have to score atleast 3, in my opinion because Barcelona will definitely score. And they’ll score more than 1. A new octopus has come out and said that United will win. I hope he’s a descendant of Paul.

Glory Glory Man United. For Number 4. For Edwin Van Der Sar. For Fergie’s third. For the fans! To ensure cheating cunts don’t win it. Come on United! Come on United!

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1) Congratulations to Arsenal for a fantastic performance and a brilliant comeback. They players played really well and they deserved their victory.

2) Jack Wilshere – 19 years old and playing some of the best football I’ve seen. He was absolutely fantastic last night. He was composed, calm, showed quick feet and good movement, released the ball at all the right times. Ran with the ball when required and generally held things together in midfield. Song was doing the dirty work, but his yellow card early on meant he was treading a really fine line. Wilshere was picking pass after pass. He was instrumental in controlling the speed of the game during times when Arsenal had large spells of possession.

3) Its funny how the English press went on about Theo Walcott and how the entire Barcelona defence was pissing their pants because they had to face him. He was largely ineffective. He had some good moments early on, particularly when he danced around the Barca defenders just outside the box (atleast, that’s what I think he was doing), then squaring the ball for Fabregas who looped it to Van Persie. This was Arsenal’s first chance of the night and RVP was on target, but Valdez made a save.

But coming back to Walcott, he was quiet throughout most of the game otherwise. One other moment comes to mind was when he played in Fabregas who then crossed to RVP but Abidal managed to head out. I can’t remember him doing too much. He wasn’t using the full space of the pitch. He needed to go out wide, but he was coming in. He was eventually substituted by Wenger for Bendtner, which was surprising at the time, but in retrospect it looks like a really good change.

4) Laurent Koscielny had a cracker of a game yesterday. His reading of the game last night was top class and he spotted some of Messi’s runs before Messi himself perhaps. This is a really good signing by Arsene Wenger and it’ll be interesting to see who his Center Back pairing will be when Vermaelen is back from injury. One thing is for sure though, it won’t be Squillaci. Back to Koscielny, I thought he was really in command of the defence yesterday. I actually thought the entire Arsenal defence looked at ease for large parts of the game. For some time between 20-40 minutes, Barca were playing some really good football, keeping the ball, making the English team run around. But they were able to soak up most of the pressure and defended like a unit.

Perhaps its because they had Szczesny in goal who according the Djourou is always shouting instructions and takes charge of his defence really well.

5) Lionel Messi had a shocking game last night, by his own ridiculously high standards of course. He was wasteful in front of goal and seemed to be lacking drive and desire in the second half of the game. Andres Iniesta didn’t stamp his authority on the game either. Nor did Pedro really, who spent most of his time falling over. David Villa looked good and Barcelona’s best chances came when he was on the field, I felt. Perhaps it was a night of substitutes, because David Villa was taken off for Keita, a defensive move, whereas Arsene Wenger made two very astute changes – Arshavin for Song and Bendtner for Walcott.

6) Andrei Arshavin is having a poor season. Despite this, he has the most number of assists for Arsenal this season according to ESPN Soccernet, with 11 assists. He’s also scored 5 goals for Arsenal, including the decisive strike against Barcelona last night, I believe.  Another decisive strike earlier on in the season at Blackburn. A goal and an assist in a 2-2 draw against Wigan and recently pulled Arsenal level against Everton in a game Arsenal went on to win 2-1. What a horrible season he’s having.

Didn't really silence the crowd last night, made them erupt more like

7) Robin Van Persie was a little off form last night I though. He had everything yesterday, except end product. Of course, he did eventually go on to score, but the point is against Barcelona, you have to take all your chances and make the most of every half chance. His link up play was good, he held up the ball really well, but it was just end product that was missing. A vital requirement when playing as a lone striker. He did eventually score of course. Valdez really has to be questioned though for that goal, it was really dodgy keeping. How on earth can you get beaten at the near post from that angle? Well, ask Valdez. I don’t know if RVP meant to hit there though, it looked like he did, and Arsenal fans will swear on their mothers that he meant it.

8) It was a fantastic victory for Arsenal last night without a doubt, but I still feel that Barcelona are favourites. You’ve got to fancy them having a go at the Camp Nou. Of course, they can’t put out a much stronger side than they did at the Emirates. In fact, Pique is suspended for that game, so its definitely not their strongest side. Regardless, certain things will be different, for example -David Villa won’t be substituted after 60 odd minutes. The crowd at the Camp Nou will also be tremendously important not to mention the referee. Barcelona aren’t out of this tie by any stretch of the imagination, they have an away goal as well, which may prove vital later on. However, Arsenal now have the belief that they can beat Barcelona if they stick to their own tactics and gameplan. There’s no reason they can’t do it again.

 

Here are the line ups folks –

Line ups

Arsenal – Szczesny, Djourou, Koscielny, Clichy, Eboue, Walcott, Wilshere, Song, Fabregas, Nasri, Van Persie. Subs – Rosicky, Almunia, Denilson, Squillaci, Arshavin, Bendtner, Gibbs

Barcelona – Valdes, Dani Alves, Abidal, Pique, Maxwell, Busquets, Xavi, Pedro, Iniesta, Villa, Messi. Subs – Keita, Correia, Pinto, Mascherano, Affelay, Bojan, Milito

 

Both managers playing their most attacking first XI’s possible. Its definitely going to be a cracker. Both teams follow an attacking philosophy. There are going to be some cracking battles, and there’s going to be one man who has got to be stopped – Lionel Messi.

The Independent apparently said that Messi hasn’t ever scored on English soil. Maybe, but that doesn’t prove a thing. He’s still a class act, if he doesn’t score, he’ll create, he’ll make space for others, and he’ll just frighten the shit out of the defence for good measure.

Djourou and Koscielny are a decent center back pairing. Whether they’ll be able to cope with the threat of Villa, Messi, Pedro, Iniesta and Xavi is what we’ll find out soon. I’m sure they’re going to have their hands full, but they need help from their central midfield trio of Song, Fabregas and Wilshere who need to keep hold of the ball. They need to get the ball wide to Walcott and Nasri who can attack the full backs.Van Persie needs to have a good game, hold up the ball and link well with his midfield. Considering the form he’s in, he’ll have a good game. The plan seems pretty simple of course, but the execution will be fucking difficult, I assure you.

So earlier on, I was in conversation with our newest contributor and fanatical Arsenal fan (he’s shaved the Arsenal logo off his great big bushy beard).  And here’s what he had to say

“The trump cards are Nasri and Theo if they fire today we can hurt the cunts. Especially that muppet maxwell…

Abidal in central defence isnt particularly impressive either….”

Enjoy a killer game, folks!

Transfer records went tumbling on deadline day yesterday. I expected a lot of activity but the amount of money that was thrown around really surprised me. January transfer window is usually full of speculation but very little transfer activity takes place. Mid-Season transfer are considered to be risky and unless there is an emergency clubs usually stay away from buying. Even players like Nemanja Vidic have struggled to make an impact immediately after coming in during the January transfer window.

The most high profile transfer was that Fernando Torres to Chelsea.The Blues also signed David Luiz from Benfica. The Luiz transfer had been going on and off the entire window, but I think it was a necessity for the Londoners to sign a Center Back given their lack of cover in the area. Chelsea fans would now love to see the back of Paulo Ferreira.

Once auditioned for a role as Side Show Bob.

Considering Liverpool’s position at the moment, I expected Torres to leave Liverpool soon. But I never expected him to hand in a transfer request 3 days before the window shuts. Torres has not been great this season but then again their whole team is struggling badly. The arrival of Dalglish has made a difference but it seems it wasn’t enough for Torres. One can’t blame Torres for wanting to leave but the manner in which he has left would have certainly angered the Liverpool supporters. A £50million offer was too good to refuse as far as Liverpool were concerned (and we privately agree, £50million for a player who is crocked so often?).

LFC fans surely feel let down by a man they called a Club Legend

Let us get down to the most mind boggling transfer in the history of transfers – Andy Carroll. I think he has been excellent this season. But £35millon?? £35millon for a player who has only 41 appearances in the league has 14 goals! This is the 8TH most expensive transfer in football – more expensive than World Cup winning David Villa. Andy Carroll (and every other English player still active in the world) has no idea what a World Cup medal looks like. Andy Carroll – much like his most expensive English brethren also suffers from disciplinary issues off the pitch. We clearly see him following in the path of Rooney, Ferdinand and Gerrard in that sense.

If he's worth 35 million, how much is Ronaldo or Messi worth?

This clearly is a panic buy from Liverpool. The Merseysiders are seventh in the league. Regardless of who they sign (barring maybe Messi) they are not going to get into the Champions League. Why spend so heavily in the January window when you have to pay twice the price?  Also Dalglish doesn’t seem like the kind of manager who would approve this kind of transfer which makes you wonder how much say he has over transfers.

Final Verdict regarding these two transfers- I have a feeling Torres won’t make that big an impact at Chelsea like many think he will. I think Chelsea needed a creative midfielder more than a striker. It will be interesting to see where he plays, probably Anelka will be dropped. He will score goals but I doubt he will be able to justify the £50million Chelsea has paid for him. He will not be available for the Sunderland game which means he could make his debut against Liverpool! It will be a real heated game.

Darrent Bent went to Aston Villa for £24million.So Carroll who is younger should fetch more than that. Only if you apply that kind of logic will this transfer make sense. This is a lot of pressure on a young player. After all he is only 22.He could crumble under the weight of expectation. But if keeps his head Liverpool have a good player in hand. But like Torres, I think he will struggle to justify the £35millon transfer fee.

In one corner of Manchester, some people are really happy that some other club is paying ridiculous prices for players who aren’t quite up there. City have been surprisingly pretty quiet throughout this transfer window, splashing £27 million pounds in the direction of Edin Dzeko, which looking at all the other transfers in this window seems like a well thought out, measured and financially prudent move.

 

Transfer Round-up

Tottenham went on a rampage in the last 3 days bidding over 30 million for nearly  every single striker playing in La Liga and got rejected by all.Harry Redknapp is not too happy about it. Peter Crouch was video taped doing The Robot outside White Hart Lane.

Denilson last night shocked the football world and Arsenal supporters by demanding a move away from Arsenal.He later on changed his mind after the best bid he received was  £5.99 from Crawley town! Crawley then withdrew the bid thinking it was over priced.

Rangers have signed Kyles Bartley and El-Hadji Diouf on loan. Glad to see Diouf leave the premier league. Fulham have signed Eidur Gudjohnsen on loan and Aston Villa have secured Michael Bradley on loan till the end of the season. Paul Konchesky joined Nottingham Forrest on loan. Daniel Sturridge moved to Bolton on loan.

Seria A

Lot of transfer has taken place in Seria A.The best signing has to be that of Antonio Cassano by AC Milan. Milan have also signed Emanuelson from Ajax, Van bommel and Nicola Legrottaglie from Juventus.

Inter Milan made 2 excellent signings in the January window.They have signed Pazzini from Sampdoria and Andrea Ranocchia from Genoa.This will certainly help their squad.

La Liga

No major news in La Liga. Adebayor of course moved to Real Madrid on loan. Also don’t forget that Ibrahim Affelay’s transfer from PSV to Barcelona went through during this transfer window.

 

http://video.rutube.ru/de5a69559e5df227d6c6c0e669d3b102

Nothing if you ask me. Just check out how they absolutely demolished Espanyol 5-1 in this game. Even if you hate Barcelona, you cannot deny the fact that they play some of the most attractive football on show. Messi and Xavi are capable of passing a ball through the eye of a needle.

Pedro is a player who can play wide or can even lead the line and do so effectively. Check out Messi’s pass to Pedro for the first goal, by the way. With Xavi pulling the strings in the midfield, David Villa, Messi and Pedro pop up from the wings and make some fantastic runs through the center sometimes (1st goal, for example) and if your defence even switches off for a second, then you’re screwed.

The draws are out and Arsene Wenger will probably be wishing he kept his mouth shut.

Roma v Shakhtar Donetsk

AC Milan v Tottenham

Valencia v Schalke

Inter Milan v Bayern Munich

Lyon v Real Madrid

Arsenal v Barcelona

Marseille v Manchester United

Copenhagen v Chelsea
We’ve watched most of these ties last season. Last seasons two finalists get it on and Munich have a shot at revenge which they’ll most likely get. Tottenham get to face the other team from Milan and they’ll find themselves at familiar ground when they go back to the San Siro.

Arsenal draw Barcelona. Nuff said.

 

 

Before I start of my weekly entry, I have to apologise to Dimitar Berbatov for not putting one up last week. I’m sure he’ll feel really bad that his 5 goal haul against Blackburn wasn’t mentioned on the illustrious blog that is Fever Pitch.

I’m sorry, Dimi.

The reason I didn’t update last week was because I thought I would do it after the Carling Cup ties and after the mauling United took at West Ham, I think I was just too depressed. Arsenal are now clear favourites to go on and win the Carling Cup and just as I predicted are on course to win a trophy, unless they really screw up like United did.

On to this week’s action though..

Manchester United’s tough game at Blackpool

I am, of course, joking. There was no game at Blackpool because their ground was frozen and they do not have under soil heating. I had read reports about this early in the week, last week and I was hoping they’d thaw it out in time. I think its ridiculous that Blackpool do not have under soil heating and and since they don’t, United should be given 3 points and consider the game a walkover. This is just my two cents of course, Ian Holloway will tell you something else.

Super Samir

Arsenal were playing at a place they’re not very comfortable playing at against Fulham this weekend. Most Arsenal fans were worried since the game was at the Emirates. Eventually the match was settled by two super strikers by Samir Nasri who showed such fantastic composure that you would be forgiven for thinking that he was an out and out striker.

Superman

Arsenal started off really well and created chance after chance after chance but failed to put them away until Samir Nasri’s strike gave them the lead. Fulham shockingly equalized very quickly after Kamara found himself onside and one on one with the keeper. It was quite amazing, both center backs just switched off and the score was 1-1. Arsenal looked like they might throw away a lead at home again.

Arsenal, however, managed to grind out a win, something they haven’t been able to do in previous seasons. Winning matches like this keep you in contention for the title. Van Persie played a gentle ball to an oncoming Samir Nasri who danced past the defence and maybe should have taken a shot, but then he made space for himself after luring out Mark Schwarzer but kept his cool and finished from a really tight angle. Any football fan should definitely watch the two goals.

That win propelled Arsenal to the top of the table since United didn’t play this weekend and now next weekend when Arsenal take on Man United at Old Trafford its a 1st versus 2nd clash like back in the good old days.

Champions still struggling

Another title contender and current Premier League champions only managed to pull of a draw at home against Everton. The last ten minutes or so of that game felt like they were playing at Goodison. Its rare that you see Chelsea on the back foot at Stamford Bridge, unless you saw the Sunderland game, that is, but here they were getting pushed back and back by Everton’s attack. Drogba put Chelsea in front through a penalty after Howard brought down Anelka in the box. Jermaine Beckford equalized for the Toffees and Everton earned a very good point at Stamford Bridge, but that makes it their 6th game without a win.

Serie Ahhh

In Italy, current European champions and league holders Inter Milan slipped to 6th place after losing to Lazio. Lazio are now in second place and AC Milan are top courtesy of a crushing victory over Brescia. Rafael Benitez has managed to screw things up at Inter Milan so lets all give him a big round of applause and a pat on his back. All I hope now is that he becomes the next Barcelona manager.

The one man who can screw up any utopia

Speaking of Barcelona..

What about the Clasico piece you ask? Well, what’s there to write about? Madrid got hammered and humiliated and Jose Mourinho claimed otherwise. Who is he kidding? It definitely was a humiliating event. If that isn’t humiliating, I don’t know what is.

But they managed to brush off their defeat to the Catalans and overcame Valencia thanks to a brace from Cristiano Ronaldo. However, Barcelona too won their match against Osasuna 3-0 courtesy of a brace from Lionel Messi and one from Pedro.

And to finally round off things..

Reigning Champions aren’t doing too well anywhere except in Spain. In Germany, Bayern Munich suffered another defeat and are in 7th place with 23 points. Leaders Borussia Dortmund are on 40 points, a good 17 points clear. So one good season and thats it?