Sunday, April 26, 2009

Málaga 1 Deportivo 1

The beers went down well. Four cañas each to wash down the anchovies and the Russian Salad. Twenty minutes to kick-off, time for a rum and coke. This is the ritual now. Before it was the kiosco right behind the stadium where you had to jostle and shout to get an order in. I'm getting too old for that shite to be honest. Anyway, there's no draught beer at the kiosco, only cans. I'm not a big fan of beer out of cans and the spirits they have are the mini-bar bottles. Just not the same.

The game? Typical end-of-season stuff. I can't see Málaga qualifying for Europe at this rate.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Barca and Madrid win

Things remain the same at the top with Barca beating Getafe away and Madrid winning at Recreativo. The Madrid comic, Marca, said last week that Barcelona will win the league because the referees are on their side. Some decisions went Barca's way in their last home match and this lead to the Marca headline: "Champions by Decree?". Poor Real Madrid, they never get the decisions, especially at the Bernabéu.

It's still six points between them after the weekend matches. Well, it's really seven if you take goal difference into account. The game at the Bernabéu is going to be absolutely sensational. I don't really like that word it's Andy Gray territory, but what else can I say? Sensational, Richard.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Cartel

The knockout stage of the Champions League makes up for the turgid borefest of the group stages before Christmas. Don't get me wrong, I watch the group stages like everyone else, but due to the seeding involved it's not really geared towards any kind of upset. The only blip, to use Govan Toolmaker terminology, was when Manchester United failed to qualify a few seasons ago. Since then, and before, it has been a case of the big fish "easing" their way into the knockout stage. Perhaps groups of three, with the winner qualifying would make things more interesting. I'm not so sure the big clubs would go for that though.

In saying that, the quarter-finals also unfolded according to the script. Porto played better than Manchester United in the first leg, especially in the first half and were favourites to progess after drawing 2-2 at Old Trafford. In the return leg we saw the functional "Euro-United" kill the game after Ronaldo scored from about forty yards out. Ho-hum.
Villarreal, without Marcos Senna and Santi Cazorla, didn't really have a chance against Arsenal at The Emirates and were dispatched with ease.
The Barcelona/Bayern tie was settled in the first leg and the match in Germany was an exercise in damage limitation from Jurgen Klinsmann's side.

The match of the round was at Stamford Bridge. Crash! Bang! Wallop! as Alan Partridge might say. It wasn't really exciting because at no stage did Liverpool lead on aggregate. I've heard a lot of Liverpool fans speak of their pride in the team, but the reality is that they blew a two goal lead. Their second two goals were scored when even their manager had given up the ghost, having earlier substituted Torres and Mascherano.

So with Liverpool out, this year's "Big Four" is Arsenal, Barcelona, Chelsea and Manchester United. That's about right, I think. It's really any three of the Premiership four and Barcelona. So really it's a European "Big Five."

I don't think the Premiership itself is miles ahead of the rest of Europe, because the teams outside the top four are unremarkable. The top four is like a cartel. They also dominate the F.A Cup and the League Cup. Spurs fans and Portsmouth fans should consider themselves lucky that they have had the opportunity in the last couple of years to have snatched some crumbs from the cartel table. So, no Premiership teams outside the cartel are qualifying for the CL. The same four teams qualify each year and know Europe inside out. They dominate the competition because they qualify year after year. If say Aston Villa qualify next year they could possibly struggle with the extra demands. When Everton managed to break in, they were eliminated before the group stages. The cartel can ease their way past the group stages, and due to their annual experience, the knock-out stages aren't a great unknown. This domination reflects the cartel's hegemony within the Premier League, rather than the overall strength of the league.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


Today's the anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster. Anyone over the age of thirty with an interest in football will vividly remember that awful day. 96 people died because they went to a football match. Absolutely scandalous. Justice for the 96.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Villarreal 0 Malaga 2 Champions? Lets not run before we can walk

I had a hunch Malaga would get something from this one. People, well idiots in the press, are talking about Malaga qualifying for a Champions League place next season. Well I hope they don't because it would be a recipe for disaster. They don't have the resources to fight on two fronts and even a place in the UEFA cup, or Europa League (what a load of shite) as it's now called, would be an incredible strain on resources. Villarreal, who have a far bigger budget than Malaga, have struggled recently for that very reason. Before their 1-1 draw at home to Arsenal they lost 3-0 away to Almería. Malaga were decent, but this was a Villarreal side mentally and physically exhausted after an intense match against an in-form Arsenal.

Here's a nice highlights package. Duda got the first with a nice cut-back after a good ball from Apoño, and Eliseu finished off a breakaway by Albert Luque to make it 0-2. Marcos Senna will miss Wednesday's match with Arsenal. That's a pity. Santi Cazorla will also miss that game and it's difficult to see Villarreal getting a result in London.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Malaga 0 Real Madrid 1

This was painful. I watched the first half and thought: this is one of the poorest visiting sides I've seen this year. I really couldn't see a goal coming: from either side. Duda got into some decent positions for Malaga in the first half but his delivery wasn't up to snuff, while Real Madrid huffed and puffed. Higuain broke the deadlock with a very good run five minutes into the second half, but he really shouldn't have been allowed to progress so far: smarter defenders would've got a "professional foul" in at the start of the run. To add insult to injury, Eliseu was fouled at the start of the move. Ah well. The goal changed the game and Madrid had more room to attack a Malaga side obliged to open-up and could have scored a couple more. They are, however, a terrible team to watch and it's amazing they are within six points of Barcelona. It would be a sad day for football if they somehow manage to win this league.

Friday, April 3, 2009

The FIFA "Virus."

I love this expression. It's the name given by the Spanish media to the problem of La Liga's big stars going away on International duty and coming back injured, or tired, or in Lionel Messi's case, utterly demoralised. Oddly, the expression is hardly ever used with respect to Spanish players on international duty...

Real Madrid's Marcelo will miss the Malaga game. 1-0 to the virus. Hurray!
Arjen "Man of Steel" Robben is doubtful, but whether this is due to the "virus" is a moot point. Maybe he got a paper cut or something.

Barcelona are away, too, against Valladolid. I would be surprised if Messi starts and Guardiola will probably rest players with the Champions League match against Bayern Munich in mind. At least Real Madrid only have to worry about the "virus" as they are allergic to the Champions League. Did you see what I did there?

So, two potential away day banana skins for the top two and a virus to contend with.
I'll be at the Malaga game, let's hope we can at least take a point from it.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Bolivia 6 Argentina 1

I don't know how it finished, I didn't see the second set.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Spain still unbeaten: "Bravehearts" smited

Fatih Terim maintains that his side didn't deserve to come away with nothing to show for their efforts in both games against Spain. He's probably right, but the great sides have a knack of winning when not playing particularly well. Winning is a habit, and for Spain it is proving a hard one to break. It's 31 games now without defeat for Vicente Del Bosque's side.

Turkey, for all the "Braveheart" bluster before the match looked like a team in awe of the European Champions. Even the crowd was subdued. They had chances though, but snatched at them. Spain lacked the fluency in midfield that was the hallmark of their triumph in the summer and played in fits and starts. Torres didn't play well, the Alonso/Senna partnership in midfield doesn't work: they're too similar in style and Xavi looked a little lost playing "in the hole." They're the European Champions though, and you get the feeling that teams are beaten before the game starts: Turkey certainly were and I was surprised by their attitude. So who will beat Spain? Answers on a postcard please.

Fatih Terim: "I'm going to put 11 Bravehearts on the field."

Turkey showed some bottle in the European Championships last summer. After losing their first match against Portugal they were immediately on the back foot. In the second group game they trailed Switzerland at half-time 1-0, but scored in injury time to win 1-2. In the final group match they were 0-2 down after sixty minutes but scored three times in the last fifteen minutes to win. In the quarter final they went a goal down in the last minute of injury time against Croatia but equalized a minute later. A devastated Croatia side lost the resulting penalty shoot-out.
In the semi-final against Germany they were severely handicapped by injury and suspension, but it took a goal at the death by Lahm to finally beat them. This is a team with serious balls.

They deserved a point against Spain on Saturday. Yes, Spain were better after the goal, but who wouldn't be? Goals change games, innit?

Turkey manager, Fatih Terim, says he is going to field "11 Bravehearts" tonight. I'd fancy this Turkey side against the English AND William Wallace.

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