Thursday, February 21, 2013

Good Morning Barcelona fans!

Good Morning Barcelona fans! It feels like a bad dream, doesn't it? But I'm glad it's happened to you guys. For all the talking you've been blabbing out over the past few months, it's quite refreshing to see a team shut you up fair and square. This post is only for Barcelona fans (AC Milan - the whole world is praising you and so am I, but let's focus on the Catalans for now...).
Here I'll console all you "cules" with some positive thoughts that will make you feel great:

  • The game isn't over, there are still 90 minutes to go and Barcelona 3 - 0 AC Milan doesn't sound impossible. Everyone knows that. It might probably happen, but for now let the rest of the football world enjoy the fact that Barcelona have just been beaten in the first leg of the last 16 of the Champions League.
  • You were beaten by a team that was disciplined and did their jobs right. Isn't it better than getting beat by a team that has a red card early in the first half and that you are leading 2-0 against in second leg of the semi-finals of the Champions League at home, only to then squander it completely? Just saying...think positive.
  • You're winning the league, which is great guys! Breathe. You are still going to see success this season.
  • You might win the Copa de Rey too - which is great as well!
  • Lionel Messi was awfully quiet last night, which is a good thing because now he can score his usual doubles against a team like Sevilla when it really matters.
  • Your away jersey is like a sunrise, which is great too! But in your case this morning it's more like a tequila sunrise as this must feel like a horrible hangover when you can't remember what happened to you the previous night. Pretty sure you don't need a reminder now.
  • The risk I'm taking in writing this is "big" in the sense that if my team (for those who know who I support) lose in any of their next games then the same Barcelona fans who bash me often will be making even more noise - which will be a great moment of banter between us. But fear not, I have a response to you guys - I, like most other normal football fans, don't gloat about the team I support being the greatest thing in the world since the first ever Pizza in Sardinia. So I accept defeat quite easily. This should be a lesson in humility to all Barcelona fans (especially the ones that started watching only recently).
  • Barcelona fans are eternally positive and confident (to avoid the use of another term that starts with "A" and ends with "rrogant") about their team's abilities...which is, once again, great! I asked for predictions of the game on the blog's Facebook page and the responses were interesting (nobody predicted a Milan win).
  • I've been called so many names by Barcelona fans over the past few months. Receiving hilarious inbox messages asking me to stop "making fun" of Barcelona or else (insert horror movie sound here)...So it's giving me even greater pleasure to write this.
Guys, this is banter. It's part and parcel of being a football fan. Take it, enjoy it, make of it what you will. If your team is hated, they're doing something right. But for now, your team is not hated for doing something right. They're hated for the noise your fans make in attempting to prove to other football fans that you are "mes que un club" and that nothing else matters....which is great, isn't it?


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Champions League round of 16 comments

Let's give this a try. I'll post some short thoughts about the Champions League round of 16 matches and the more games are played, the more I'll update this post and share it on the active social networks. So let's start off with...

Valencia vs PSG
1st leg (February 12th): 1-2

A priceless away victory for Ancelotti's men. This will put them in buoyant mood ahead of the return leg. Two away goals to take back home, they couldn't have asked for more. The Parisian squad had a few experienced heads, but it was their most experienced player in the competition who ended up being the villain. Pastore and Lavezzi put the French side ahead and were looking in cruise control before a lapse of concentration at the back allowed Valencia to pull a goal back late on. But PSG will be furious at the sending off of Zlatan for his moments of madness and they better hope that it doesn't cost them dearly in the second leg. Valencia need to win by 2 clear goals to go through. Can it happen? It's unlikely.

Celtic vs Juventus
1st leg (February 12th): 0-3

I must say I was hoping that Celtic would get a result. Mainly because I have some close friends who are Juventus supporters and have been making a bit too much noise. However, based on their display last night, the noises they've been making have been justified (albeit against Celtic). It was like watching bhoys against men (Yes, the H is put there purposely). It was watching determination against class. Celtic pressured and put in a hard shift, but Juventus showed that efficiency is the name of the game. Celtic had more possession, but had no clue what to do with the ball when they had it. Juventus only had 4 shots on target (out of 5) and scored 3. If that's not being efficient, I don't know what is. Conte's men can rest at ease for the second leg because they're through to the Quarter-finals now. Juventus were simply superior in most departments on the field and made good use of the ball when they had it. There will be no miracle in Turin. Game over.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Weekly round-up - 9/10 February - it's all about gaps

The weekend round-up is going to be shifted to the blog’s site from now on. So unfortunately for you, you will have to make the massive effort of clicking on a link that will lead you here if you want to read them. Here we go:

  • First thing’s first, I think all football fans should spare a thought for Paul Gascoigne who is in intensive care following yet another alcoholic relapse. Hopefully Gazza will make it through.
  • Nigeria are the Champions of Africa for the 3rd time in their history following their 1-0 victory over Burkina Faso! Come on you Super Eagles!
  • Juventus beat Fiorentina 2-0 and steered 5 poins clear of Napoli (2nd) following their 1-1 draw with Lazio (3rd). Alessandro Matri’s goal for Juve was a great finish with his boot flying off in the process to add to Mirko Vucinic’s goal.
  • AC Milan drew 1-1 with Cagliari. Balotelli scored from the penalty spot again to spare Milan’s blushes and he also had an amazing bicycle kick disallowed. I still believe the Rossoneri will finish in 3rd because a Champions League without a club like AC Milan is just a poorer competition. Meanwhile despite my silly predictions about AC Milan, Inter won 3-1 vs Chievo and leapfrogged AC Milan into 4th position and are in with a shout to finish in the top 3 as well.
  • I did not watch it. I do not know how it happened. But Borussia Dortmund lost 4-1 at home to Hamburg and I would love for someone to give me details about that game because the result is probably the most shocking one of the weekend. Probably…:).
  • Bayern Munich strolled to a 4-0 win over Shalke with David Alaba scoring a double. They now lead the Bundesliga by 15 points. The title is all well and wrapped up preparing for its presentation at the Allianz Arena come May. I’m just wondering how much Pep Guardiola can improve an already invincible side in Germany.
  • Real Madrid 4-1 Sevilla. Barcelona 6-1 Getafe. Ronaldo 3 goals. Messi another goal. The history continues. The gap between Atletico Madrid and Barca is now 12 points, thanks to Atletico Madrid losing 2-1 to Rayo Vallecano. It was used as a reminder to everyone that Barca have now got one hand on the title, because I think we all agree that Barcelona just can’t and won’t let go of such a huge lead.
  • In France, Lyon took a huge blow to their title hopes with a 3-1 defeat against against Lille, whereas Zlatan St Germain beat Bastia 3-1 to open up a 6 point lead. Marseille were held to a 1-1 draw against Evian in a match which saw them have 2 players sent off.
  • In the Premier League, Chelsea beat Wigan 4-1 at home and Benitez could finally breathe a sigh of relief following their run of 4 matches without a win. Arsenal beat Sunderland 1-0 away from home, whereas Totten-Bale beat Newcastle 2-1 with a double from you know who.
  • I was kidding about Dortmund being the shock result of the weekend. Manchester City lost 3-1 to Southampton and virtually handed the title to Manchester United who won 2-0 against Everton.
  • A 12 point gap between the 2 Manchester clubs has now been opened, similarly to La Liga (between Barca and Atletico Madrid). The big difference in both leagues is that Barcelona would never let go of such a lead at the top, they don’t make mistakes. Manchester United do and could let go of such a lead. United have been on the other end of the spectrum before; being behind by 12 points to Newcastle United in 1995/96 in March 1996 and then went on to win it, so City won’t have given up yet…particularly with last season in mind. 

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

A sad day for football - who's to blame?

This is one of the biggest and worst scandals to ever hit football. It doesn't matter if you support Manchester United, Liverpool, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Juventus or anyone else, today all football fans must unite in their fury with the announcement that is about to take world sport by a storm.

The European police agency (Europol) yesterday revealed that a wide-ranging investigation into match-fixing has uncovered more than 380 games deemed to be suspicious. 380 matches over the last 3-4 years have been involved in match fixing! To put it in perspective for you…there are 365 days in a year. Just saying.

These games include World Cup and European Championship qualifiers, and two UEFA Champions league matches (one of which was in England). The question is: who’s to blame for all this? Not the Italians this time, so you can all stick the Calciopoli jokes down your (insert body part here). Here are some facts of the investigation:
  • The probe has covered at least 7 million in betting profits
  • 1.27 million in bribes to players and officials
  • 425 corrupt officials, players and serious criminals in 15 countries
  • 50 arrests have been made so far
  • The main culprits are Asian gambling cartels
  • Another 300 matches are being studied in Asia, South America and Africa (so it’s actually a total of 680 matches)

We’ve seen scandals being found out about pretty easily in Italy. But I wouldn’t bet against match fixing taking place in all other leagues in Europe too, but to a certain extent (fouls, throw-ins, free-kicks, cards given…etc). For example, Matthew Le Tissier admitted that he was once involved in sucha bet that ended up not working…for a throw-in! But now, in 2013, we’ve just found out that the sport we love and live for has been plagued with cheats all over the place. It’s sad. Can you imagine that all the matches we’re watching have got an element of cheating behind them? We invest so much time, energy and emotions into football that it feels like we’re the ones being cheating on by these people that are fooling us all by accepting bundles of cash to alter the outcome of matches. So who’s to blame?

Well, obviously all the people involved are complete idiots to start with. But given the fact that football is the most commercial sport in the world, you’ve got to imagine that all the professionals involved in this sport want a bigger piece of the pie as human greed always comes into play. So for example, when you’re aware that the average salary of a referee in Europe is 5000 euros per game, but that the average footballer earns at least 5 times that amount per week, then you’ve got to imagine that the men in black are going to want to look for ways to make more cash. Could you imagine referees earning similar wages to the players? Do you think they would accept bribes? I doubt it.

The referees already spend their time being abused by supporters and players. These guys are also under huge scrutiny by the worldwide media (Thank you internet) who judge and slate them on a weekly basis. So I actually don’t blame them for looking to make the extra cash for it. In fact, I blame UEFA, FIFA or whoever the hell is responsible for their salaries. Pay them handsomely and you’ll get the rewards of professionalism. Pay them badly, well…you know the rest.

To end this, let’s just take a wild guess at the 2 games that took place in the Champions League that were fixed. According to some media, the game that took place in England was Liverpool 1-0 Debrecen in 2009 (click here to read more about it and all its details, it was mainly Debrecen's goalkeeper at fault). However, the other game that took place in the Champions League has not yet been revealed or spoken about. But, and I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking this, but I’m pretty sure someone in Zagreb will have something to say about it. So will the men from Lyon. (Click here)

Who is to blame for this mess?