Posts Tagged ‘Barcelona’

Weekly Photoshop – Zlatan Ibrahimovic

06/08/2009

The summer’s most ridiculous transfer is the theme this week. Barcelona in all their wisdom decided to part with Samuel Eto’o AND 49 million in exchange for one of the most overrated players in football – Zlatan Ibrahimovic. I wrote at the time about how poor value this is and I can only think that Barcelona felt a statement had to be made following Real Madrid’s £200 million shopping trip this summer. He will score plenty of worthless goals but even I could score goals playing up front for Barcelona…

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"Of course you can rely on me in the big games Pep." Zlatan's already epic nose suddenly seems to increase in size...

"Of course you can rely on me in the big games Pep." Zlatan's already epic nose suddenly seems to increase in size...

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More to be found here.

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T.

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Old ones.

The Curious Transfer of Zlatan Ibrahimovic

18/07/2009

Here’s a transfer that’s got me a bit confused. Barcelona are set to give Inter Samuel Eto’o, Alex Hleb on loan for a year AND a fee in the region of £35 million in exchange for the services of Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Now I don’t really understand the thinking behind this for many reasons. Not least the valuation. This sees Inter getting around €60 million worth for Zlatan putting him on a par with Kaka in terms of fee.

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Now I know Eto’o is seen as a bit of a disruptive influence and shows no signs of extending the one year remaining on his contract but surely Barca could do better than giving both him and €40m for Zlatan. Famously called “the most overrated player in world football” by Martin O’Neill during the last World Cup, I’ve never understood why he is valued so highly. Yes he makes for a great Youtube compilation (see below) due to his capability for the ridiculous and admittedly he scored 29 goals last year (25 in Serie A), but he has always struck me as something of a flat-track bully who doesn’t do it in the big Champions League games or international tournaments.

Barcelona’s attack hardly needs strengthening after last seasons 158 goals in all comps though I imagine Zlatan (or indeed the rumoured David Villa) would give them more of a hold up option for Henry and Messi to play off. They would be better off getting a new goalkeeper and perhaps some defensive help. I can’t help thinking that having seen Real Madrid break two world records in buying Kaka and Ronaldo, Barcelona feel they have to make a similar statement. The reason that Real had to buy so much was that they were crap last season and even with this new forward line I reckon they’re still a top deep lying midfielder away from being a side that can win things (explains the Alonso interest then).

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It will be quite amusing to see how Eto’o and Mourinho work together too, given the latter’s numerous run ins with Zlatan. Eto’o is not afraid of throwing his toys out of the pram and I can imagine more than one confrontation this coming season. That said he will no doubt still score plenty of goals but it will be an entertaining 09/10 at the San Siro. Hleb as well (funny how quickly he’s become irrelevant) doesn’t strike me a Mourinho player and given that Guardiola didn’t trust him by the season’s end I can’t think Jose will either.

crazy-eto'o

Crazy Eto'o

All in all Inter will be laughing all the way to the bank, while Barcelona will wonder at some point next April why they are on the wrong end of a Champions League exit thanks to an overrated striker who couldn’t score in a big game.

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T.

Weekly Photoshop – Champions League Final

04/06/2009

The theme this week is the Champions League final. Another chance to look back at a brilliant Barcelona team beating Man Utd but more specifically an opportunity to focus on the prima donna that is Cristiano Ronaldo. Well an opportunity for me at least:

 

"This will never work Cristiano" "Just shut up Titi and smuggle me to Spain before Fergie sees me,"

"This will never work C-Ron." "Just shut up Titi, and smuggle me to Spain before Fergie sees me."

 

Oh and as a bonus, have some playground humour too…

Admit it, you think the same.

Admit it, you think the same.

 

 

The rest of this week’s gallery can be found here.

 

T.

 

Past entries.

Weekly Photoshop – Lionel Messi

30/04/2009

Some non Premier League action this week, as the theme is Barcelona star Lionel Messi. Another case of not really having the time to do an idea justice (I wanted to play around with the John Terry stopping Messi thought which was in the Barca v Chelsea preview) so for the second week running we didn’t get into the gallery. Here’s the attempt nonetheless…

 

Messi previews the latest skill he will have perfected come the Champions League semi...

Messi previews the latest skill he will have perfected come the Champions League semi...

 

Here are the entries that did get in.

 

T.

 

Previous entries: VidicCahillShearer and the rest.

Champions League Quarter Final Preview – Barcelona vs Bayern Munich

08/04/2009

In the last of our rather late Champions League previews we focus on the tie between Barcelona and Bayern Munich. This is the only game without English interest but it could well be the most explosive quarter final given it features the two top scoring teams this year. Both have 24 from eight games, though half of Bayern’s total came against sorry Sporting Lisbon in the last round. Managers Guardiola and Klinsmann met as players for Barca and Bayern in the Uefa Cup semi finals back in 1995/96 (back when it was worth winning) and the Champions League group stages in 1998/99 – Bayern won both the Uefa semi and both CL group games but I think it may be a different story this time.

Pep and Papin

Pep and Papin

 

Super Barca

Under new manager Pep Guardiola, Barcelona have been transformed this season. Key signings like Daniel Alves were made in the summer and star strikers Eto’o and Henry decided to stay and decided to get fit respectively. The result has been dominance at home and abroad with a frankly ridiculous 122 goals in all competitions this season. They are averaging a shade under three goals a game in the league while building up a six point lead at the top with a +61 goal difference. +61! In Europe they strolled through the group stages before dispatching Lyon with a 5-2 destruction  in the second leg at the Camp Nou. They have failed to score just twice in the league and have scored six goals in a game four times. Their defence isn’t bad (24 conceded in 29 league games, but 11 in 8 in Europe) so it’s not a case of we’ll just score one more than you, but the focus as always with a Barcelona team is to keep attacking so if anything the strikers have compensated for any defensive frailties.

If he can do that with his lips, think what his feet are capable of...

If he can do that with his lips, think what his feet are capable of...

 

Not so super Bayern

In contrast to Barcelona’s dominating ways, Bayern have struggled in the Bundesliga currently lying fourth, though just three points behind the leaders Wolfsburg. Those leaders handed them a 5-1 spanking on Saturday so Bayern don’t come into this game in the best of form. Grafite scored a lovely backheel that made their defence look silly. Their attack is pretty good and led by Ribery. Bayern have scored more than two a game domestically with 54 but their defence can be leaky with 36 conceded. Just seven clean sheets have been kept while three or more have been let in five times. Europe has provided relative comfort away from their domestic issues. They went unbeaten in the group stages (which included Lyon) and we’ve mentioned the record win over Sporting. 

How to wrongfoot three players...

How to wrongfoot three players...

 

Key men

Eto’o and Henry have scored over between them but Barca’s key man these days is Leo Messi. Arguably the best player in the world right now, he has scored 30 times for Barca this year. He will look to attack the Bayern defence from the right wing but has to ability to be effective anywhere in the front third. He’ll be ably supported by Dani Alves who will run up and down the right touchline all night long and Xavi who will look to control things from the centre of midfield.

Bayern meanwhile have their own genius winger in Franck Ribery. Him playing well is the key to Bayern getting anything from this game and the Frenchman will look to continue his good recent form in which he scored both times in France’s pair of 1-0 wins over Lithuania. Up front Podolski and Toni will look to aerially attack the Barca defence and test Victor Valdes, who let’s be honest is a bit rubbish.

King of the Bavarian castle.

King of the Bavarian castle.

 

Prediction

I simply can’t see anything other than a Barcelona win tonight. Going forward I think they’ll have too much for Bayern’s defence and it woudn’t surprise me to see them score three or even four goals. I think Bayern have enough going forward to score themselves and Toni and Podolski can certainly cause Marquez and Pique some problems. Ribery may well be better off starting on the right wing so he can attack Sylvinho rather than Daniel Alves but I imagine he will have licence to do as he pleases. If Bayern are still in it for the return leg at the Allianz Arena then it will be a job well done but I fear Barcelona could somewhat humiliate them this evening. I agree with the Football Guy, 4-1.

 

T.

Heard The One About…

31/03/2009

Victor Valdes?

Now I know it’s an agent’s job to get the best deal possible for his client but to claim that Valdes is as good as Casillas is just taking the biscuit.

I just love the quote he gave: 

“Victor Valdes is the goalkeeper of Barcelona football club – one of the best clubs in the world. He’s been showing that for a couple of years and he is at the same level as Iker Casillas, Buffon or anyone else. I have no doubt about that.” 

I think everyone else in Europe sees Valdes as the weak link at Barcelona. A goalkeeper who is a good shot stopper, but not particularly brave or commanding. If they actually had someone at the level of Casillas they would be perhaps the complete team.

Apropos of nothing, I present a couple of recent mistakes from Mr Valdes, here and below.

 

T.

Champions League Quarter Final Draw

22/03/2009

A slightly delayed reaction but some thoughts on Friday’s Champions League quarter final draw which came out like this:

Villarreal vs Arsenal
Man Utd
vs Porto
———-
Liverpool
vs Chelsea
Barcelona
vs Bayern Munich

From this

From this...

I think of the English sides, Arsenal and Man Utd will both be confident of reaching the final. Both will feel they can overcome their quarter final opponents and each has good reason to feel they can beat the other were they to face in a semi final. United because they have been the best team in England this season but also Arsenal as they are one of the few teams to have beaten the men from Old Trafford this year. I don’t think either side will underestimate Porto or Villarreal but ultimately both teams should win through.

Villarreal aren’t as good as the semi final side from 2006 (neither are Arsenal though come to think of it) and with Fabregas, Walcott, Eduardo and Adebayor all back by the first leg, there should be too much Arsenal firepower for the Spanish team. Man Utd will face a slightly trickier proposition against Porto (they always seem to find technical opponents more difficult) but they could quite easily wrap it up in the first leg at Old Trafford. Porto are notoriously bad travellers and got soundly beaten 4-0 at the Emirates in September.

The target.

The target.

Liverpool play Chelsea for the fifth season running, and both must be sick to death of each other. I think that counting other cup and league games, this will be the 23rd and 24th match between them in five years. Liverpool have had Benitez throughout while the Blues are on their fourth manager. It should hopefully be a more entertaining affair than some of the goalless dirge will have had in the past and I wouldn’t like to predict a winner at this stage. I guess on recent form Liverpool might be slight favourites but with the second leg at Stamford Bridge it could well go all the way to penalties.

The winners of the above tie will play Barcelona. I say this with some confidence. I think this will be the most entertaining quarter final and should more than likely result in victory for Barcelona over Bayern. Even though Bayern won 12-1 against Sporting, they aren’t a very good side (when compared to Europe’s best) and if the Catalans can stop Ribery and Klose than they should have more than enough firepower to proceed. I don’t want to speculate what Messi, Eto’o and Henry might do to Bayern’s defence when on top form.

There’ll be plenty more analysis closer to the time with a full preview of each game. For now though my fearless semi final prediction is much like the Football Guy’s:

 

Arsenal vs Manchester United
and
Liverpool
vs Barcelona.

to this.

to this.

 

We’ll see if I am right.

 

T.

Champions League Quarter Final Draw Preview

18/03/2009

So, following last week’s games we are down to eight teams left in Europe’s premier club competition:

Arsenal, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Chelsea, Liverpool, Man Utd, Porto and Villarreal.

The draw on Friday essentially plots the route to the final for each team as the semi final draw will be made at the same time. There’s no country protection anymore so we get to potential rematches from last season between the likes of Liverpool and Chelsea. Let’s have a look at each team’s options.

Money, money, money.

Money, money, money.

 

Arsenal

How they qualified: Beat Roma 7-6 on penalties after drawing 1-1 on aggregate. Both sides won their home leg 1-0 but Arsenal held on despite going behind in the shootout. Convincing in the first leg, they rode their luck in the second but were missing key men like Fabregas and Adebayor.

Who they would like: Porto were beaten 4-0 at home in this season’s group stage and while the reserves played in the meaningless 2-0 away fixture. Villarreal were defeated in the 2006 semi finals while both Chelsea and Man Utd have been beaten in the league this year. Bayern Munich are much weaker than when the Gunners last faced them in 2005.

Who ITV/Sky would like them to get: Liverpool would provide the revenge angle following last season’s somewhat controversial defeat at the quarter final stage. Alex Hleb was denied a penalty in both legs and Arsenal were just six minutes away from going through before a softish penalty was given against Toure. Ex-captain and record goal scorer Thierry Henry has yet to face Arsenal since leaving for Barcelona (neither has Hleb but who cares) and he would certainly get an incredible reception at the Emirates. It could be argued Chelsea are still owed for the Wayne Bridge winner at Highbury in 2005. Bobby Pires is still plying his trade at Villarreal.

Ok deal, I'll join you next year.

Ok deal, I'll join you next year.

 

Chelsea

How they qualified: Edged out Juventus in a tight two legged affair. A 1-0 win at Stamford Bridge was taken to Turin and despite an early Juve goal, Essien’s away goal meant Chelsea were never in too much doubt. The Ghanaian’s return to fitness is incredibly important.  

Who they would like: Any English team would probably be welcomed just from the point of view that they don’t have an away Champions League win since 4-0 Rosenborg in the group stage last season. Their record against the Big Four is not great this season but that was before Hiddink came in. I’m sure he would relish a tactical battle with Rafa. Beyond that, the usual suspects of Bayern and Porto would hold no fears. I would include Villarreal in that list but strangley I think they’re the kind of side that would cause Chelsea real problems.   

Who ITV/Sky would like them to get: Barcelona have played them several times in past few years and there have always been lots of goals and lots of talking points. A lot had to do with The Special One but since Hiddink is a former Real Madrid manager I’m sure it would be quite tasty. They knocked out Liverpool in the semi’s last season so Benitez’s side will be out to avenge that one. 

I never tire of using this.

I never tire of using this.

 

Liverpool

How they qualified: Smashed Real Madrid 5-0 on aggregate inluding a 4-0 win at fortress Anfield. Real were shocking but once again Rafa got it tactically spot on.

Who they would like: Anyone except Barcelona I would say but even then he could probably find a way to negate their three goal a game attack.  At this stage no one holds any fear and Benitez can out-think most of the other managers remaining in the competition. After ties against Chelsea and Arsenal, only Man Utd have yet to be faced in Europe. Having crushed them 4-1 at Old Trafford last week, Liverpool would love to knock them out of Europe is they can’t prevent the record equalling 18th title. 

Who ITV/Sky would like them to get: Last season’s Arsenal factor has already been discussed above while another match against Chelsea would provide the fourth time they’ve faced each other in the knockout stages in the last five seasons, the other three all being semi finals. I’m sure Sky could make some kind of Rocky style montage previewing it. I wouldn’t like it if I were Abramovich though, I believe the Russian lost in Rocky IV.

 

Man Utd:

How they qualified: The red nosed one beat the Special One. Man Utd dominated Inter at the San Siro but came back with a 0-0 draw. Despite being talked up by Jose, his Inter team were relatively comfortably beaten 2-0 in the return leg despite having some good chances. 

Who they would like: Despite losing to Arsenal this year, Fergie would probably fancy beating them over two legs. He might want to put Rafa back in his place after the drubbing last week but I think United would be quite happy to avoid Liverpool for now. Bayern Munich would get soundly beaten I think and it would provide a chance for Ferguson to have a quiet word with Ribery about how great life at Old Trafford is. Porto would not provide too much of a test either. 

Who ITV/Sky would like them to get: Barcelona would be the glamour tie but TV bosses would rather have that as the final I suspect. Barca will want to score against them this time round after being held twice in the semi’s last year. Bayern Munich would be out to avenge the defeat in 1999 while Villarreal drew 0-0 with them twice in the group stage. Hmm, that would probably indicate the TV guys would like them to avoid each other. Man Utd vs Liverpool would provide the short term stories in terms of the 4-1 defeat but also the long term with the quarter finals scheduled around the 20th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster. It would make for an interesting scenario if UEFA didn’t keep their promise and forced Liverpool to play on the day at Old Trafford say. Fingers crossed it won’t come to that, I’m sure United would do the right thing anyway.

Defending champs no less.

Defending champs no less.

 

T.

The Six Pointer – Champions League Second Round Edition

12/03/2009

Midweek European action satisfaction.

 

1. Alex Ferguson will be pleased with his side’s victory last night, given the chances Inter created. A lot of pre-game talk was about the Mourinho factor but for all his ability, he needs to have the right players as well. At Chelsea he had people like Lampard and Drogba, who you know will always produce on the big stage. Zlatan may be a wonderful player on Youtube clips who’s capable of great goals and flicks, but at the very highest level I think he falls slightly short. He had several excellent chances over the two legs and failed to take any of them. It may be a season or two before Mourinho has made the squad completely his own. United took advantage of some sloppy defending to score two headed goals and rode their luck to see out the game. They are currently favourites with the bookies but that may all change once the draw for the quarters and semis are made. 

Vieira does a great job of 'marking' Vidic...

Vieira does a great job of 'marking' Vidic...

 

2. Liverpool got lucky with refereeing decisions for the first two goals in my opinion but used it to full advantage and certainly played well enough to warrant victory. Real were shockingly bad and lack both pace and power, something Liverpool (and all the English sides for that matter) have in abundance. Ramos has done very well since coming in but he has a squad of mainly one paced players and the only one who is quick (Robben) was anonymous on Tuesday. Rafa has had a bit of a moan about his European record isn’t respected. I think it is, everyone knows that tactically he’s one of the best in Europe and in Gerrard and Torres he has two gladiators who keep going and going. Once more their title challenge has faded but I imagine they’ll come close in Europe again.

 

3. Arsenal were pretty poor against Roma, who themselves weren’t great. Juan’s early goal made for a very tense night but neither side had the quality to take the game by the scruff of the neck. Roma had a very good shout for a penalty when Clichy fouled Motta at the end of the first half, and Julio Baptista missed an absolute sitter late in the second. It soon became clear that the match was destined for penalties and the shootout was quite strange. For the first time in a long time there wasn’t a single player I was fully confident of scoring, not even RVP. Thankfully only Eduardo missed for Arsenal and series of average penalties (interspersed with quality ones from Totti and the Beast) were taken before Tonetto blasted the deciding one over the bar. Wenger will be thankful that Fabregas and Adebayor will be back for the quarter finals, providing much needed guile in midfield and presence up front. They’ll want to take more of their chances at home too, as the next opponents are unlikely to be as forgiving as Roma.

We have lift off...

We have lift off...

 

4. Barcelona were efficient in taking apart a Lyon side who have never managed to turn French dominance into European success. Seven successive league titles have yet to produce a Champions League campaign that went beyond the quarter finals and you wonder if they can even manage that in coming seasons with Juninho getting older and Benzema likely to leave in the next year or two. Barca meanwhile seem to have rediscovered their form following a little domestic blip. Their defence is a lot better this season and they have the firepower to score against anyone, Henry in particular showing he still has it with his 50th Champions League goal. The one question mark that remains is goalkeeper Victor Valdes, a player I’m amazed is first choice for them. He’s the kind of player that is never far away from a mistake and I suspect if Barcelona get knocked out, he will have something to do with it. Just imagine if someone of the caliber of Casillas played for them instead… 

 

5. Despite Bayern racking up a record 12-1 aggregate victory over Sporting, I don’t think they’re a team to be feared in the quarter finals. They’ve been inconsistent all season and rely too much on star player Franck Ribery. I’m not convinced Klinsmann has the tactical nous to take on the wiser heads remaining in the quarter finals, let alone the players.

 

6. Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini have both been going on record about how it’s bad that English clubs are dominating at the moment. That is true to an extent but it’s no different to when Italian and Spanish teams both had periods of dominance and English clubs failed each year. Let’s not forget that even with Man United and Liverpool’s recent victories, English clubs have only won the tournament three times since the Champions League format was introduced in 1992/3. That’s one behind Spanish and Italian teams. Bearing in mind no one has retained the trophy since the new format came in, I think that as long as you’re getting different winners every year then there isn’t too much of an issue. I’m sure next week’s draw will see at least one all English pairing in the quarter finals anyway.

Remember these guys?

Remember these guys?

 

There’s more analysis to follow from P.

 

T.

Champions League Preview – Sporting Lisbon vs Bayern Munich

25/02/2009

A few years ago Bayern Munich were one of the most feared teams in Europe but more recently have struggled to convert their dominance in Germany into Champions League success. Since a run of finalists/semi-finalists/winners from 1999-2001, they have yet to go past the quarter finals since. Their decline has been so significant that last season they weren’t even in Europe’s premier competition at all, having finished 4th in the Bundesliga in 2006-07. Since then though they have spent big money on players like Franck Ribery and installed everyone’s favourite diver from the 1990’s Jurgen Klinsmann as manager in an attempt to get back to the glory days.

Yes! We've got a consolation.

Yes! We've got a consolation.

Sporting meanwhile haven’t won the Primeira Liga for eight years but have been runners up for the past three seasons thus comfortably qualifying for the Champions League. Such is the dominance of the big three clubs in Portugal, only two titles have ever been won by someone not named Porto, Benfica or Sporting. They have a talented young squad and players like Miguel Veloso and captain Joao Moutinho are coveted by many big clubs.

I think that's him celebrating

I think that's him celebrating

 

Form

Following a disastrous fourth place finish in 2007 (their lowest since 6th in 1994-95) Bayern set about rebuilding with a massive spending spree. Amongst the new signings were Miroslav Klose, Luca Toni and record buy Franck Ribery. They duly delivered the title last season but following the instalment of Klinsmann as manager in the summer they have once again struggled this year and currently find themselves in 4th place. Though they are only four points off the pace being set by Hamburg, they made their worst start in 30 years and have lost three of the last four. In contrast though the Champions League group stages saw them comfortably top Group F ahead of Lyon and go unbeaten in their six games. Either way it’s clear Klinsmann has yet to fully put his stamp on Bayern.

Sporting were in the same group as Barcelona and whilst they lost twice to the Catalans they comfortably won their other four games against Shakhtar and Basel. They lie in third place domestically and go into the match with average form despite having won their last two games. I think that having a big game against Benfica at the weekend will actually have helped them as they will have had the chance to adjust to a higher quality of opposition rather than going in cold against Bayern.

 

Key players

Bayern will look to star player Ribery to create openings for Toni and Klose upfront. Though he only has three assists in the league the league this season he has been fouled 66 times, by the far the most of any Bayern player. This would indicate the opposition try to take him out before he’s in a position to do any damage. This is perhaps only moderately successful as he has scored six times too. The two strikers have quite a formidable partnership, so much so that Lukas Podolski is leaving Bayern for Cologne this summer in order to get some first team football. In addition to both having nine league goals, Polish born Klose already has five Champions League goals to his name too. Sporting will have to be wary of his aerial presence as well as Toni’s physical style and come hither eyes.

He'll get booked for that...

He'll get booked for that...

Sporting will look to try and control central midfield through the aforementioned Veleso and Moutinho and then hope that Liedson can feed on the service provided by former Barcelona player Fabio Rochemback and Russian Marat Izmailov. If he can’t then they will be relying on Spurs flop Helder Postiga. The less said about that the better.

 

The call                                                                                        

I think this tie could be quite entertaining with a few goals in it. Sporting will look to try and get a lead at home to then defend at the Allianz Arena, and will be confident of scoring past a Bayern defence which has conceded 30 times in just 21 league games. Bayern’s saving grace is that they have several players capable of getting a goal out of nothing, none more so than Ribery.

Though Sporting have conceded only 14 in 19 games domestically, I suspect that is more a reflection on the weakness of the Portuguese league than the strength of their defence. Barcelona put five past them in Portugal and though Bayern are not on the same level they should provide a sterner test than most teams Sporting have faced so far this season. The Germans seem to play with more freedom in Europe as there isn’t the weight of expectation to win every game that comes in the Bundesliga. They only let in four goals in the group stage and beat Lyon away which is something Barcelona couldn’t manage last night. They may well lose 2-1 tonight but I back them to overturn any deficit in the second leg.

I hope they use energy saving lightbulbs...

I hope they use energy saving lightbulbs...

 

 

T.


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