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Archive for the ‘Spanish Football’ Category

Crisis Liga

Posted by Sports Snob on February 1, 2007

Not so Fabio Capello

What’s the deal with La Liga? Its not uncommon to have teams do badly at some stage of the season, but to have the top four play the most inconsistent football is something new. Barcelona on any other year wouldn’t have had the luxury of a lead. Their football has been devoid of the usual flair and most of their wins have been by the odd goal. More a demonstration of workmanship than skill. But to their advantage the rest of the league has been equally bad. At the moment, Real cant buy a win and have internal strife to boot. The only news emanating from the Bernabeu has been either about Fat Ron or Beckham’s Millions. Fabio Capello seems to have lost the plot and his football gives new meaning to the word Siesta .

Valencia, who until this week were the ‘form’ team lost away to Betis and fell further back from the leaders. But they look the most composed among the teams in the top half of La liga.

Juande Ramos

Sevilla, this season’s revelation finally put an end to a disappointing start to 2007 with a win against Levante. They seem to have a lot of momentum but will their bubble burst? Juande Ramos has been a contender for the coach of the year. To take a selling club like Seville to the top of the totem pole takes some doing. They have not made heavy weather of their high profile departures- Ramos, Baptista and Reyes to name a few and have dismantled some big clubs in the league with some fantastic football.

All this means that even Atletico Madrid have a good chance of sneaking in and winning the league come this June. All depends on how the clubs play in what will be the Business end of the season!

V

Posted in Football, Spanish Football | 4 Comments »

Showtime for European Giants

Posted by Sports Snob on December 5, 2006

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Wednesday may well be the end of the road of several European giants in this year’s Champions League. The usually drab group stage has given way for some exciting KO football with some of Europe’s finest, including participants of last year’s dream final, having a lot of work to do.

Barcelona have the hardest proposition- A must win game with an injury ravaged side against one of the best teams in Europe, at-least this season. . Werder have been spectacular this season, both in the Champions League and on their domestic front, with Brazilian Playmaker Diego pulling the strings and finally living up to his billing after his unhappy time at Porto. He has been sensational this year and he will go against a Barcelona team who know they cant sit back, but that has never been their wont. Ronaldinho has had a coming again party and would want to celebrate his nomination for FIFA World Player of the Year in style.

Manchester United on the other hand were looking pretty a few weeks ago until they, presumably in a fit of idiocy, decided not to turn up for the next two games. And they paid the price. In an identical situation to last year, they are to face a Benfica team with a winner take all clause. This time however it will be in the comfort of their backyard.

Arsenal have fewer excuses this time for struggling in a group of mediocre difficulty but that wont stop Arsene Whinger from dishing out the usual tripe about refs and the fixture list. Henry’s bust up with Wenger has been rebuffed as sheer hyperbole by the die-hard gooners but Wenger’s equivocal post match interview may suggest otherwise. They are lucky in that a poor performance need not send them out of the Champions league.

All in all fantastic matches for fans. Here’s hoping that Barca dont play in the Uefa Cup….

V

Posted in Champions League, Football, Spanish Football | 4 Comments »

El Classico : Preview

Posted by Sports Snob on October 22, 2006

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Its that time of the year again, when media outlets and journos forget about the whole of Europe and focus on two teams in Spain. A country which is no stranger to schisms of a political hue in its checkered history, and this discord in beliefs brings about a footballing rivalry which has no equals. Barcelona Real Madrid or Real Barca(to all the madridistas) represents the pinnacle of soccer both in terms of quality and passion.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Football, Spanish Football | 21 Comments »

La Liga: A review

Posted by Sports Snob on September 19, 2006

La liga had a full round of matches over the weekend and there were not many interesting results. The favorites prevailed on all occasions and it looks like Sevilla are posing a great threat to the crown after a well deserved 3-2 victory in their derby against Betis. Sevilla had Kanoute to thank for his brace and it puts them on top of a liga still very much in its infancy. Surely, the bubble will burst someday for Sevilla? Won’t it?

Barca, Madrid, Valencia and Deportivo all chalked up fine victories. Villareal on the other hand seem to be struggling. After the over achievement of last season, this one seems like a reality check for the tiny club.
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Here are the other results from an action packed weekend:

Zaragoza 2-0 Mallorca
Deportivo 2-0 Villarreal
Recreativo 0-1 Levante
R Madrid 2-0 R Sociedad
Sevilla 3-2 Betis
Athletic 1-4 Atlético
Valencia 2-0 Getafe
Racing 0-3 Barcelona
Osasuna 2-0 Nàstic
Espanyol 2-1 Celt

Result of the weekend:

The pick of the weekend results would be the coming of age of Javier Aguirre’s Atletico Madrid. Can’t deduce much from one showing but the team looked solid and seem ready for tougher challenges in the league.

Performer of the weekend: Freddie Kanoute(Sevilla)

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He doesn’t look like the player who was third choice at Spurs. Kanoute has had a fantastic start to the season and looks an early season candidate for the Pichichi along with perennial favorite Samuel Eto’o and a rejuvenated Fernando Morientes.

Goal of the week: Joan Capdevilla(Deportivo La caruna vs Villareal)

Click to see the goal.


Verdict:

The challengers didn’t stutter this weekend. But somethings gotta give next week when Barca play Valencia at the Nou Camp. Good Stuff in store!

Posted in Football, Spanish Football | 4 Comments »

Spanish La liga- Week in review

Posted by Sports Snob on September 13, 2006

It was a weekend where the contenders got off to good starts. Barcelona, aided by a virtouso performance by Samuel Eto’o, won their match against a beleaguered Osasuna team. Osasuna look very frail this time around, they do miss the presence of ex-coach Javier Aguirre who defected to Atletico Madrid, a club with loftier ambitions. The 3-0 scoreline was well deserved and seeing Leo Messi run circles around defenders is an ominous sign for all the other challengers. Speaking of whom, Real Madrid finally turned on the style with a thumping 4-1 win and I must say, it bodes well for the league. Last year was a bit farcical. Even when Barcelona showed weakness, no other team looked like taking up the gauntlet. This season looks different already. Elsewhere, Aimar scored his first goal for Zaragoza in a three nil victory for his side against struggling Espanyol.

Result of the weekend:

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Atletico Madrid 0- 1 Valencia. It was the biggest game in spain in the weekend and Valencia cemented their desire to challenge for the crown with this well worked win at the Calderon. Torres was sent off in the match but Valencia did enough to earn this win. Although Jaqouin sat this one out, You can expect him to play a big role next week.

Performer of the weekend:Ruud Van Nistelrooy (Madrid)

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Van the Man was on song for Madrid with a wonderful hattrick. Although his old club doesn’t seem to be missing him, Madrid fans have taken a liking to him already. Doesn’t look like a false dawn for Madrid, but bigger tests ensue in the league season.

Verdict:

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Early days yet. But Sevilla look very strong and may make me regret not tipping them as serious contenders. They beat Sociedad away with a 3-1 scoreline. That puts them top of liga. Solid team, despite so many high profile departures in the last few years. Madrid’s revival is on the cards and Becks and Ruud connecting to good effect was a pleasant sight for forlorn Madrid fans, who have been starved of good football for the last three years.

-V 

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Posted in Football, Spanish Football | 40 Comments »

Spanish La Liga Predictions

Posted by Sports Snob on August 26, 2006

The season starts now:

With the curtain raiser to the Spanish La liga season now behind us, We can look forward to the new season in Spain with a few new contenders and changes from the previous season. Barcelona strolled to their second straight championship last time, also accumulating a horde of trophies and individual awards. But this time around liga has undergone a makeover and mostly in the Castillon region of Spain. Their two clubs- Real and Atletico- have invested heavily in players but their biggest signings have been that of their coaches. Having said that few would bet against a Barcelona especially after a particularly productive offseason, during which they had taken advantage of the bargain sale at Juventus. The new season has a familiar feeling but the fresh talent makes it very interesting for me, making it easily the best league in the world.

Now for at closer look at the la liga season:

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4) Valencia: Valencia have spent big in the summer, welcoming Tavano and Morientes in what will be a talented frontline. They have recently snapped up the talented winger Joaquin from Betis. The problem remains in defence where they have lost Carboni and Aerelio and also have a very disgruntled Ayala to start with. Valencia have added Asier Del horno to make up for the losses but Pablo Aimar has jumped ship to Zaragoza in a total surprise.
Positives: Joaquin, Morientes, Manager Quique Flores and Tavano
Negatives: Defence and an aging goal keeper.
Star player for the season: David Villa

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3) Atletico Madrid: I’m expecting big things from Atletico Madrid, mainly because they have signed La Liga’s most underrated coach in Javier Aguirre. He will be the one to watch along with latest Argentine import Sergio Aguero. And although I’m not a big fan of his, Fernando Torres could bag atleast 20 goals this year. What many dont know is that Atletico have the most solid defence in la liga. They have a player who could well be the best defender in the world in Luis Perea. They have added Pernea (scored 10 goals last year for Getafe) as a left back and collectively it is the best defence in la liga.

Positives: Sergio Aguero, Maxi Rodriguez, Luis Perea
Negatives: Midfield not the most creative
Star Player for the season: Sergio Aguero

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2)Real Madrid: No club has undergone as big a transition as has Real Madrid. There has been a change in President, coaches and in half the starting lineup. New players in include Emerson and Cannavaro from Juventus and Diarra from Lyon. Also, they have got Van Nistelrooy from United. As we speak, Madrid are still trying to get Kaka to the Bernabeu. The galactico ethos has been abandoned for a more pragmatic approach and that is Capello’s USP. Dont expect the most fluent football, but expect better results from this new outfit.

Positives: Capello
Negatives: Fans(impatient), Raul(the powers that be wont wont him out though his performances merit that)
Star Player for the season: Ruud Van Nistelrooy

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1) Barcelona: In the offseason, The best got better. The Catalans have added Lillian Thuram and Gianluca Zambrotta- both steeled in the rigors of Italian football. The catalans may miss the finishing of Larsson, but the silky skills of Eidur Gudjohnsen may more than compensate. Pre-season form has been ominous, including the most attractive display of attacking football in years in the first half of the Gamper trophy against Bayern Munich (whom they thrashed 4-0). The sky is the limit for this team and at present no team in Europe can match them for flamboyance and productivity.

Positives: Rijkaard, Messi and Ronaldinho
Negatives: Eto’o (his outbursts would annoy even the most passionate cule)
Star Player for the season: Messi

V

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Posted in Football, Spanish Football | 8 Comments »

New kids on the block

Posted by Sports Snob on August 19, 2006

The next Maradona, is probably the most bandied about tag in world football. Identifying the ‘Next Diego Maradona’ has become a pastime among commentators and armchair critics alike, but with each passing year, the latest incumbent succumbs to the expectation and a new pretender is thrust forward. The same goes for the ‘Next Pele or the ‘Next Zidane’. Marketing stooges and agents are on the prowl lapping up any young soccer star with just a modicum of talent, with the hope that their gamble will pay off in a few years’ time. There is only a 0.001% chance that this may happen but that is enough for these perpetually hovering vultures. Only a few of these ‘starlets’ survive, others quit by the time they reach 15. Those that remain may never reach the heights they were expected to, but ever so often a few filter through the hype. Here is the list of players who are most likely to cause a sensation in the coming years. Don’t call me if they dont become the next Maradona 😀

1. Bojan Krkic: Barcelona

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Another product from La Masia , Krkic is just 16 years old and his development at Barca is meteoric. He is rising at a faster rate than his predecessor Messi. He was top scorer in the junior leagues for 3 years and has been earmarked to be a first team player in a season. During most of his years, Bojan has been assisted by the skills of Mexican Giovanni Dos Santos, another hopeful and now member of the first team at Barcelona. Bojan will someday step into the big shoes of Samuel Eto’o and his coaches are confident that he will be upto it.

http://youtube.com/watch?v=DCYzRuOXcuY


2. Sergio Aguero: Athletico Madrid

Another whizkid from the famous Argentine stables. Athletico Madrid have put a lot of faith in him by signing him for 23 Million euros. At 17, with Fernando Torres, Aguero carries the hope of this underachieving Madrid club. Expect a lot from this livewire in the coming season.

3. Kerlon Moura Souza: Cruzeiro

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Kerlon is attracting interest from a host of European clubs but for now seems settled at Cruzeiro. He is an exponent of the seal dribble, a move which he is renowned for. Only time will tell if Kerlon is just a one trick pony.

4. John Obi Mikel: Chelsea

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He is known as much for his skill as for the interminably long transfer saga he was involved in. It looked like he was heading to Man Utd but he quickly reneged on his deal and joined Chelsea (Stupid Question of the day: Did money play a role?!), who ended up paying 12 million pounds in compensation.

(Surprisingly, we don’t have too many clips of him on YouTube. LOT expected out of him)

5. Freddy Adu: DC United

The great American Hope. He has been the touted as the saviour to American soccer but hasnt been able to live up the hype just yet. But having said that, he is only 17 years old and has a long way ahead of him. Missed the World cup bus this time around but few would bet against him being a part of WC 2010.

http://youtube.com/watch?v=DVM6mGaiSXg

V

PS: Messi and Fabregas would be shoo-ins for this list. But they are relatively well established and so I didn’t want to include them.

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Rijkaard- Ice man cometh

Posted by Sports Snob on August 12, 2006

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The Ice man is a moniker that Frank Rijkaard wouldn’t have gained on the back of his playing career. As a high profile player for clubs like Ajax and AC Milan, Rijkaard earned a reputation for being hotheaded and impulsive. He had frequent run-ins with his manager and rival players, including a very nasty tiff with Rudi Voeller in Italia 90 where cameras caught him spitting at the German Forward. This incident also spawned his nickname – The lama. He once had a public falling out with Dutch legend Johann Cruyff, an act considered as sacrilege in a country that reveres the inimitable Dutchman. On the pitch however, none could match him for elegance especially in a position that demanded more steel than flair. He formed a formidable combination with his countrymen Gullit and Van Basten both for club and country. They won the European Championship in 1988 and also added the European Cup in 89 and 90 for AC Milan. In 93 he moved to Ajax to playout his remaining years. He won the Champions League again at 1995 beating his old club Milan in the finals, in what was his last game.

Move into management:

Then came the transition to Management, a road less taken by colored folk. Not many black managers existed in Europe at that time- the proverbial glass ceiling existed. But Rijkaard didn’t spend too long in the unemployment office, his fame as a footballer came with post retirement incentives. He took up the opportunity to be assistant to Guus Hiddink for the Dutch National team. Soon, he was nominated to head the Dutch team at Euro 2000. A step which surprised many since he didn’t have the requisite experience to take the role, for which there were more qualified people. It was a bold move and it looked like it was going to be a successful one, But it didn’t have the fairy tale ending that many Oranje followers had hoped for. Despite playing the most exciting football, they stumbled against the Italians in a classic semifinal. Rijkaard promptly resigned despite calls from his federation to stay on. And He was soon speculating his options in the world of management. The next job would make or break his career, at least so he thought. Dutch Club, Sparta Rotterdam came with up an interesting offer to have him in charge of the first team. The move backfired, and Rotterdam was relegated. At this point i had thought that it was the final nail in the coaching career of Frank Rijkaard. Who would appoint an inexperienced manager with an unimpressive resume?! Not many would have predicted his next destination. FC Barcelona, under its new regime, came calling. Joan Laporta, President of FC Barcelona, was the man who earmarked Rijkaard to lead his revolution. Ironically, it was Johan Cruyff who recommended his name to Laporta. Rijkaard duly accepted and amidst many raised eyebrows was introduced as the new Manager of FC Barcelona.

Barcelona:

His first six months were the most tumultuous. Every move in the Catalan capital was scrutinized and dissected by the demanding Catalan Press. And for most parts it looked like Rijkaard was exhausting under the pressure to perform. His new signing, Ronaldinho was injured and Barcelona slumped to 8th position in the league, some 18 pts behind Real Madrid. Fortunately, for Rijkaard, Laporta had more confidence in him. He was given more time and he quickly turned things around, thanks in large to the astute signing of Edgar Davids in the winter market. Barcelona finished 2nd in La liga and more importantly higher than their rivals Madrid. The pendulum seemed to have swung the Catalan way. Rijkaard was very busy that year in the Transfer Market; he finally had the choice to sign the players he deemed perfect to play in the system. Deco, Eto’o and Giuly entered. Out went the residue from the previous administration. Kluivert, Enrique and Garcia were shown the door. And Barcelona coasted to a first La liga title in 5 years. They played the most attractive football in Europe and it was Rijkaard who was behind it. His temperament had to be lauded. He was always calm, composed and almost never flustered. However he was outsmarted in the Champions League KO tie with Chelsea. He was gracious in defeat but those close to him knew that the wound was far deeper than what appeared.

The historic double

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In the off-season, he made just two signings- Van Bommel and Santi Esquerro. But he was delighted with the emergence of Lionel Messi from La masia- The Barcelona Youth academy. Rjkaard always had a lot of faith in his youth players, especially in Leo Messi and Andres Iniesta. With them, he sought to conquer Europe and win his second la Liga.
The la liga was easier. The competition was faltering and so they raced to a healthy lead by the time it came to the business end of the Champions League, which was Rijkaard’s main focus. He had learnt a lot from his defeat to Chelsea last year. He was more cautious this time around and with the help of Young sensation Leo Messi, they sailed past Chelsea in the second round. Rijkaard was now the epitome of composure and temperament. He would never use a bad word against an opponent or slate any of his players in public. In return his players had a lot of respect for him. Barcelona went on to reach the Champions League final against Arsenal at Paris. Rijkaard played a crucial role, yet again. It were his substitutions – Larsson, Iniesta and Belleti- that saw them through their bitter opposition and also brought to Catalunya its shining moment since Wembley 92. When the team celebrated in the awards ceremony, Rijkaard declined to join the party. The ICE man was happy to stay in the shadows, content with the job well done.

V

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Posted in Football, Spanish Football | 2 Comments »