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Barcelona: The modern greats.

December 1, 2010 2 comments

Jose Mourinho is considered by many to be the best football manager in the world right now. His phenomenal success since guiding FC Porto to Champions League glory in 2004 has sparked almost a decade of non-stop winning. League titles with Chelsea and Inter Milan along with a second Champions League success last year with the Serie A winners, led to the hottest job in football, Real Madrid.

Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo reacts at the end of his Spanish first division soccer match against Barcelona at Nou Camp stadium in Barcelona, November 29, 2010.  REUTERS/Albert Gea

When we say hot, we mean park your arse in that cauldron Jose, hot. Galacticos and sackingos galore in the past decade have left the job as a mouth-wateringly attractive proposition to a consistent winner like Jose, but also a little bonkers. 1-0 wins earlier in the season had the Bernabeu shouting their displeasure.

Then Madrid started hammering their opposition, Cristiano started averaging two goals a game and everything seemed fine. La Liga was looking easier by the day as Madrid’s stars assembled at the top and Jose ‘I’ll take your big club and raise you’ Mourinho was looking like the saviour.

A decade of occasionally interrupted under-achievement set to be banished to history. Until that pesky little thing called Barcelona invited Madrid onto the Nou Camp and then played them off the park.

Monday’s 5-0 drubbing of Madrid was imperious. Magestic. Lots of words that you don’t use in everyday sentences come to mind. The execution of the goals was spectacular, for instance Iniesta’s ball for Xavi to open the scoring. Or Messi’s through ball for Villa’s second. However as this highlights package shows, the overall play was simply irresistible, even when Barcelona failed to turn the magic into a goal.

It’s hard to remember a time when a team of Mourinho’s has seemed so hopelessly out of its depth. A 2-0 defeat to Liverpool that was more routine than Chelsea supporters would have liked led to the end of his Stamford Bridge project. But this was simply something else.

Who would have thought that Madrid with Ronaldo, Casillas, Alonso and all could have been blown away in the manner that they were. The match will surely end the ludicrous notion that Ronaldo is a better player than Messi. While the Portugese complains about his treatment, in some cases fairly, at the feet of defenders, Real resorted to kicking Messi while Barcelona didn’t really need to afford Ronaldo the same treatment. He simply wasn’t in the same league.

Funnily enough Madrid may end up winning the league. Results have been stranger this year than in the past with Barcelona dominating the field. What is amazing though is that defenders still haven’t been able to get to grips with Messi. While many players sparkle and then fade somewhat as their tricks are learned by opposing players, Messi is still able to do the same moves at the same cost for opposition goalkeepers.

His trademark move infield from the right-wing to poke the ball with the outside of his right foot through the defence exposed Madrid again on Monday. How many times is that he’s performed the same trick? The pass infield and mad dash past the defence to retrieve the one-two seems like an old trick. But he’s still getting away with it. And above all he takes pride in his work. Every game is like his last and his desire to win still burns. Plus when he;s booked for diving, as he was on Monday, he invariably isn’t guilty. Wish we could say the same for Mr Ronaldo.

This Barcelona team has established itself as one of the greatest in modern football history. THE team of this decade. Comparable with the AC Milans of the late 80s-early 90s, Liverpool of the 80s and beyond. And long may it continue.

Ozil: El Especial persuaded me

August 18, 2010 Leave a comment

Real Madrid’s latest (and apparently final) signing has revealed why Jose Mourinho (and not the delightful wages and weather) convinced him to join the club.

Ozil praises Mourinho at a press conference to announce his signing

Mesut Ozil has completed his move from Werder Bremen to the Spanish giants for a fee of around €15 million and joins German compatriot Sami Khedira as a new signing at the club after impressing in this year’s World Cup. Ozil has been signed with one eye on the future as he is only 21-years-old with a new and shiny six-year contract in the bag.

Speaking at his unveiling today, Ozil said: “I spoke to my advisers and looked at the options but I always wanted to join the best team in the world, and to play under the best coach in the world, Jose Mourinho. I chatted to him and he convinced me. What we spoke about will remain between him and me but that’s why I am here.”

The move will see Ozil competing against the likes of Kaka to try to replace playmaker Guti who left last month. Kaka is currently injured however meaning Ozil will have a chance to impress sooner rather than later. The playmaker also denied reports he refused to train, like any modern-day mercenary footballer would, with Werder Bremen ahead of their Champions League qualifier with Sampdoria tonight.

Ozil was heavily linked with Manchester United and Chelsea before Real Madrid announced he had signed to play in Spain.

Chelsea clear-out continues

August 10, 2010 Leave a comment

Carvalho rejoins his FC Porto and Chelsea mentor Jose Mourinho

Chelsea have tonight announced that Real Madrid will sign Ricardo Carvalho in a move that reunites the defender with his former Chelsea and FC Porto boss Jose Mourinho.

The clubs have announced a deal is in place, thought to be worth around €8 million, for the Spanish giants to sign Carvalho on a two-year deal. It is the latest big name departure from Stamford Bridge, following the exits of Joe Cole, Michael Ballack, Juliano Belletti and Deco. What it also shows is that Chelsea are fast becoming a team with financial constraints. Not in the same league as Portsmouth, granted, but the clear out of long-term players shows a need to cut the wage bill to afford the incoming players such as Ramires whose signing should be finalised soon, while Carlo Ancelotti will also attempt to bring a new central defender to the club.

The deal is an excellent move for Real Madrid, bringing a classy, composed defender to a club who have traditionally forgone the defensive side of their game in favour of attack. With Ronaldo, Kaka, Higuain and more, Real have more than enough strength at the back, but are in dire need of a strong centre back like Carvalho to command the defence. Carvalho will now join the likes of Mourinho, Pepe and Ronaldo as fellow Portugese at the La Liga club as they look to wrestle the title from Barcelona.

Ancelotti will be looking to replace the Portugese defender

But what about Chelsea? This could be a crucial change in their squad for the upcoming season. Carvalho had his injury problems in recent years but there is no doubting the fact that Terry and Carvalho were always the first choice pairing at centre back. In fact playing alongside Alex, Terry had his worst season for years last year. While Carvalho at 32 may be past his best, Chelsea fans will be praying that Ancelotti is bringing in new blood, which he most likely will.

Terry struggled without Carvalho last year

There is also no saying how losing big personalities who have been at the club a long time will affect the Chelsea team and morale. Cole, Ballack, Carvalho, these were all players who had been at the club a while, won plenty of trophies and were a throwback to the dominant Mourinho era. Tonight, the Chelsea squad is looking fairly old, and dare we say it a little threadbare? When Liverpool lost Sami Hyypia the summer after their best ever Premiership run it hurt them bad. Not only was he a presence as a footballer but also off it, ditto Man Utd losing Neville to injury and failing to wrestle the title from Chelsea since.

What is clear though is that comparing te squads now, the title race is looking more even than it has in history. Man Utd and Man City fans are smiling tonight at the departure of a natural winner for Chelsea. His replacement has big boots to fill.

Raul departs Real Madrid

July 26, 2010 Leave a comment

Raul has bid farewell to Real Madrid following 16 years at the Santiago Bernabeu, but says he will always remain loyal to the club which gave him his chance as a 17-year-old.

The Madrid captain was a key part of one of the club’s most successful sides ever, winning three Champions   League trophies and 16 titles in total, but was only a bit-part player last season and has decided to end his career elsewhere.

It’s a hard day for me,” he said at a press conference on Monday. “I feel like a footballer still and I will keep on playing, but I will always be loyal to Real Madrid. I have tried to give everything in my time here.”

Raul is expected to sign for Bundesliga club Schalke and the striker says the time is right for a new challenge. “A new period starts today,” he said. “I have been happy at Real Madrid and I will always be willing to help the club in whatever it needs.”

Madrid president Florentino Perez also paid tribute to the departing idol. “We will never forget Raul,” he said. “There are many men who form part of the legend of Real Madrid, but few that are chosen to embody the club – Raul is one of those.

Raul scored 323 goals in 741 games for Real Madrid, as well as 44 in 102 appearances for Spain. His departure follows that of midfielder Guti, who had spent just a year less than Raul (15) in the first team.Guti has joined Turkish club Besiktas.

(Article courtesy of http://www.breakingnews.ie)

Mourinho makes his mark on Madrid

July 25, 2010 1 comment

Jose Mourinho has laid dow a marker for his tenure as Real Madrid coach by telling two legends of the club, Raul and Guti, that they have no further part to play with the Spanish giants.

Raul and Guti will depart Madrid together

Guti will bring down the curtain on a 15-year career with Los Blancos when he signs for Turkish side Besiktas who are coached by former Real boss Bernd Schuster. Guti had been slipping down the pecking order for many years at Madrid, restricted to numerous cameos as a substitute, but with no coach prepared to offload him due to his reverential status at the Bernabeu. However the Spaniard, who joined the club as a nine-year-old and made his debut in 1995, will now move on and abroad in a brave move to test himself at a new high level. With the feverish support of the Besiktas fans, Guti will be moving on to be revered by a new set of supporters.

In total, he played 542 matches for Real, scored 77 goals and won an astonishing 15 trophies including five league titles and three Champions League successes. Speaking at a press conference in Madrid on Sunday, Guti said: “Thank you to everyone. I go knowing that Real Madrid will always be my home. I leave knowing that Real Madrid wants me and that is very important.”

German fans are considered slightly less fanatical in theiractions than the Turks, but fans of Schalke 04 can scarcely believe their luck as they prepare to sign Real Madrid’s iconic number nine Raul. The striker, considered the prodigal son of the famous club, scored 323 goals in over 700 appearances in 16 years. Schalke coach Feliz Magath said: “He will be a sensation in the Bundesliga. He will be an important player for us and will give a lot to the team.”

Raul is the all-time top scorer in the UEFA Champions League and can add to his goals tally with Shalke set to compete alongside

Raul set to leave boyhood team

Real Madrid in this years tournament. The Spaniard is also second in La Liga behind Andoni Zubizarreta (622) for league appearances. Despite hitting more than 40 goals for Spain, Raul has not been chosen since September 2006.

A press conference has been called for tomorrow morning where tributes are expected to be paid to both long-time servants of the club as the emotional departure of both Raul and Guti is now inevitable. Jose Mourinho is already making his mark on the Madrid squad as he looks to wrestle the title back from Madrid’s great rivals Pep Guardioa’s Barcelona.

Champions League Update: 20/02/08

February 21, 2008 1 comment

All of the Champions League games are delicately poised going into the second legs in a fortnight’s time.
                 Late show eases Rafa pressure
Liverpool, Manchester United and Barcelona are in strong positions having secured an early advantage in their respective ties.
Liverpool produced a dominant performance to secure a 2-0 win over Inter Milan. Having been held by ten-man Inter for 86 minutes, the Italians were on course to pull off a terrific result having defended doggedly from the outset. However goals from Kuyt and crucially Steven Gerrard in the 90th minute, have given Liverpool a terrific platform from which to secure qualification for the quarter-finals. Gerrard’s goal may well prove to be the difference as Inter would surely have settled for a 1-0 defeat. Materazzi’s suspension and an injury to the superb Ivan Cordoba will also give Liverpool hope that they can grab a vital away goal in the San Siro.
The Inter Milan team may well be a much-changed outfit however, with the likes of Viera, Figo and Hernan Crespo likely to feature prominently in the second leg. While Torres was, for the most part, kept quiet by Inter’s excellent defence, the Spaniard will fancy his chances against a weakened defence in the second leg, especially as Inter will have to push far further upfield than they ever did in the game at Anfield.
               Evra - Benzema will be a star
An 87th minute goal from substitute Carlos Tevez gave Manchester United a vital away goal despite a lacklustre performance. Lyon took the lead early in the second half after United-target Karim Benzema scored a terrific solo effort, with four Red shirts around him the Frenchman somehow shifted the ball from his right foot to his left and belted the ball past Edwin Van der Saar.
In a free-flowing game Wayne Rooney’s 1-on-1 with Coupet was well saved while Juninho went close with a free-kick.
Benzema had a chance to make it 2-0 when he evaded a Rio Ferdinand challenge only for the ever-reliable Vidic to step across and sheperd the forward wide.
Ronaldo had a quiet night but produced a terrific save from Coupet late-on when his free-kick threatened to sneak in at the far post. However when Giggs and Scholes were replaced by Nani and Tevez, United began to look brighter and sure enough when Nani’s cross was deflected by Fred, Tevez pounced on the line to give United a foot in the quarter-finals.

              

Celtic and Barcelona put on a terrific game of football at Celtic Park but with the Catalans running out 3-2 winners, Barcelona will be confident they can secure victory in the Nou Camp, and they are already looking like the team to beat. Despite a disappointing campaign so far in La Liga, Barca have cut the gap on arch-rivals Madrid to just five points and on this display they look like peaking at just the right time.
Celtic took the lead through Venegoor of Hesselink, a terrific header against the run of play. However despite Robson’s goal to make it 2-1, a brace from Messi and a brilliant strike from Thierry Henry leave Barcelona in the driving seat.
Gordan Strachan joked after the game that he wouldn’t put his house on Celtic winning in two weeks time and he’s rarely wrong about these kind of things.

Elsewhere AC Milan and Arsenal played out an entertaining 0-0 draw at the Emirates. AC will be favourites as the old masters denied an exciting Arsenal team. Adebayor’s stoppage time miss will be giving him sleepless nights this week, the Togo striker slamming a header against the bar with the entire goal gaping in front of him…..Chelsea did enough to take a 0-0 game back to London and should progress past Olympiakos. With one eye on Sunday’s Carling Cup Final, Avram Grant rested Terry and Lampard and with one of the strongest squads in Europe, Chelsea should progress to the next phase in two weeks time…… Fenerbache’s 3-2 win over Sevilla makes for a hell of a return leg in Spain. An 87th minute deflected winner means the Turks can progress to the quarter finals for the first time if they avoid defeat in Spain. However, Sevilla will be confident they can turn the game on it’s head at home, and are many peoples’ tips as a dark horse this season…..Roma and Real Madrid served up an entertaining encounter which the Italians shaded 2-1. Despite a strong first-half performance from Real, Roma take the advantage thanks to two Francesco Totti-assisted goals….Shalke 04 lead FC Porto 1-0 thanks to a fourth minute Kevin Kuranyi strike. While the game was always likely to be tight, Shalke are firmly in the driving seat, aware that an away goal will give the Portugese team a mountain to climb. While Shalke’s defence has been their achilles heel so far this season, in Kuranyi they have a top striker and they will look to score and force FC Porto to gamble at the back, having to attack in search of three goals…

WE LOVE CHRISTMAS! (Derbys galore!)

December 22, 2007 5 comments

Don’t you just love Christmas?

 This weekend’s action kicks off at 12.45 with a traditional cracker: Arsenal V Spurs.
Spurs have shown promising signs recently of becoming a football team again, they’ll need to keep their discipline though because as we saw during the week, playing against a ten-man Arsenal team can be tough, playing with ten of your own is just suicide.
Spurs welcome back captain Robbie Keane which means Jermaine Defoe will be back in the familiar surroundings of the dugout. Didier Zakora starts a 3-game ban, Steed Malbranque doesn’t. Where’s the justice in that?

  Cesc Fabregas should have seen red for his nasty foul on Ashley Cole in last week’s game against Chelsea. He didn’t though and unfortunately for Spurs, he’ll take his place in the team. Van Persie is also fit to start and should be amongst the goals as he’s been a bit quiet since his return without looking 100 percent match-fit.

This game is generally very entertaining and with both teams looking to kick-start a successful Christmas campaign, fingers crossed we’ll see a few goals. Prediction: Score Draw.

                                      

 (Cannavaro V Zambrotta. We’re backing the lad with the muscles – Cannavaro)

Sunday sees El Classico: Real Madrid V Barcelona. Messi is out for Barcelona so we won’t be treated to a repeat of his famous hat-trick last year. Speculation is also rife that Ronaldinho won’t start. However, to be honest, he probably will. Giovanni dos Santos has been in top form but ‘Diny has to be included as he has a good record in the Classico encounters in his time there. Thierry Henry, if passed fit, renews rivalry with Ruud Van Nistelrooy. Expect lots of hugs and pats on the ass and both of them to get on the score sheet. Samuel Eto’o may be the preferred choice after the Cameroon hit-man has exploded back onto the scene since recovering from injury, grabbing a brace in last weeks 3-0 win over Valencia.

As with Spurs-Arsenal, this one is always worth a look. Not simply because of the players involved (although it’s a little exciting to see them all on one pitch), also because of the fact that the fans simply hate each other. And the players have been known to get a little testy too. With Real Madrid currently on top, Barca need the win. A win for Madrid would leave Raul and co sitting pretty, seven points clear of their rivals, a far cry from last year when they trailed for most of the early season. Kick-off is at 6p (GMT).

                                                  

(Kaka miserably fails to bring sexy back)

 Onto Serie A now where the Milan derby also takes place this weekend. Possibly not one to stimulate as much in recent years as the players are probably doped up and betting on each other while the referee has presumably got himself a nice brown envelope to spend as he sees fit once everything goes to plan.

Hopefully all that rubbish is a thing of the past though and 83,500 screaming fans will certainly get the pulses racing. Not to mention the volatile characters on both teams. Ok on Inter’s team. Ibrahimovic is expected to return after being rested midweek. Inter are, technically, the home team and they start the game a massive 22 points clear of their fierce rivals. AC Milan’s home form has been particularly bad this season although technically they are the away team so you never know…..

AC need the win despite the fact that Inter are already too far ahead. Defeat and te pressure on Carlo Ancelotti will increase and Jose Mourinho may find himself back in a job. Kick-off there is at 2pm (GMT).

And finally we leave you with a picture or two we just stumbled upon. Happy Christmas.

  

(Francesco Totti’s wife. Yes but is he happy though…….yes, yes I think he is)