Barcelona 0 – 0 Chelsea : Anti-football thwarts attack

henry-penalty-claimChelsea came and parked their bus in the Nou Camp.  Barcelona dominated possession and the chances on the night, but were unlucky not to be awarded a penalty.  Chelsea did have the luck however, as they should have probably had Michael Ballack sent off for two yellow cards in the second half.

Barcelona now find themselves with a big problem at the centre of their defence for the second leg. With Carlos Puyol now ruled out after picking up a harsh yellow card and Rafa Marquez now ruled out for the season after picking up a heavy knee injury, Chelsea will surely be rubbing their hands at that.

Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola was frustrated by Chelsea’s tactics in Tuesday’s goalless Champions League draw and believes referees should come down harder on teams who concentrate on breaking up play with tactical fouls.

Like Chelsea, Barcelona finished the semi-final first-leg with two yellow cards – Alex, Michael Ballack, Yaya Toure and Carles Puyol all going into the book – but Chelsea committed more than twice as many fouls and Guardiola believes the visitors should be punished for playing a negative game.

“Chelsea were constantly interrupting play with fouls while we played our normal attacking game,” he said. “One team is playing an attacking game and that should be taken into account.”

“The players complained about the referee, they were upset about that,” he revealed after the match. “I don’t complain about the referees, but I think the referee should see which team is attacking and which team is interrupting the play.

“We play clean; we foul as little as possible. And we have the same amount of cards as them. It’s not normal, it’s not fair.

“We said before the game: ‘no hard tackles, no fouls, it’s not necessary’, but we attacked, attacked and attacked and it’s ridiculous that we should end up with the same amount of cards as them.”

Guardiola believes such decisions could decide games in elite European competition.

“In the Champions League, small details decide games and could be the difference between winning or losing the tournament,” he said.

Nevertheless, Guardiola said he was not unhappy with the result.

“The result is what it is. Chelsea played very defensively, they were very disciplined and very strong with six players defending,” he said. “We will go to London and to the Bernabeu (for Saturday’s Primera Division game against Real Madrid) with the same spirit.”

Although Chelsea will be happy that they did not concede in Barcelona, they will be all too aware that they are more than capable of scoring away goals at Stamford Bridge.  Surely next week Chelsea cannot be so negative?..

It is precisely this negativity that is ruining football, they were scared and afraid of Barca’s attacking superiority…fair play though, their tactics have worked…for now..

As for Messi, he was kept quiet bullishly by the Chelsea back line…but to keep him quiet for a whole 180 minutes of football will be some achievement.. we’ll find out next week!

Ronaldo scores crucial brace in final

Ronaldo vs SantosThe first leg of the Paulista state final against Santos saw Ronaldo net two sublime goals to see Corinthians take a massive stride towards securing a record winning title.

With Pele watching in the stands Corinthians took an early lead courtesy of defender Chicao with a brilliant free kick whispering into the top right hand corner.

Ronie then got into the game after 25 minutes latching onto a Chicao pass from defence with a beautiful first touch with his right foot and cooly slotting the ball home with his left.  Corinthians were 2-0 up away from home despite Santos’ majority of possession.

As the second half  got underway Santos continued to pressure the Corinthians defence.  It finally relented in the 60th minute when  Triguinho burst down the left wing as Felipe deflected a cross into his own net. 2-1

In the 75th minute Ronaldo then netted what is probably his most beautiful goal in a Corinthians shirt.  When released on the right hand side he cut infield with a beautiful piece of skill before lobbing the keeper to guide the ball into the back of the net.

A humble Ronaldo said after the game, “To be king for a day at the home of the king is excellent,”

The king himself commented “The ball landed at the feet of a player who doesn’t miss,” Pele told reporters. “Ronaldo makes the difference. The second goal was worthy of the World Cup.”

Ronaldo now has 8 goals in 10 games.

Barcelona vs Chelsea Preview

Barcelona vs ChelseaThe semi-finals of the Champions league have arrived. For the second year in a row both Chelsea and Barcelona find themselves back where they were at the same time last season. The big difference this time, is that Chelsea have already dispatched their old foes Liverpool, and Manchester United now find themselves facing the English test in a two legged affair.

Oh how a year makes a difference…

This time last year Chelsea were pushing Manchester United to the very end in the Premier League with interim manager Avram Grant… and to be fair were very unlucky not to end up with the Champions League trophy. Now a year on, Chelsea are with another interim manager in the shape of Guus Hiddink. The Dutchman has been drafted in to steady the ship after Felipe Scolari’s mixed start to the season. Hiddink himself has all but ruled Chelsea out of the Premier league this season and now their main hope for silverware is through the champions league.

Last season Barcelona were struggling in La Liga amidst a “crisis”, yet still pushing Manchester United very close for a spot in the final of the Champions League. With the transfers of Ronaldinho, Deco (ironically to Chelsea) Edmilson etc… slight changes were made at the Nou Camp. In came the expensive Dani Alves and Gerard Pique with playing legend Pep Guardiola now in charge of the team. Barcelona’s form could hardly be any different from last season. Under Guardiola they have found their passion for training  and getting results. They find themselves 6 points clear of Real Madrid at the top of the league, in the final of the Copa Del Rey and now once again find themselves in the semi-finals of the Champions league.

The History

Under Rijkaard, Barcelona met Chelsea in 3 consecutive seasons with mixed results. In 2004/05 Barcelona led in the 1st leg at the Camp Nou 2 goals to 1 playing some scintillating football. The second leg saw Mourinho’s men take a 3-0 home lead after just 20 minutes. Ronaldinho then came into the game and managed to get 2 crucial goals (one of which will be etched in our memories forever), only for JT to come in and kill the tie off in the 2nd half with a headed goal.

05/06 and revenge was on Barcelona’s minds as they looked to put Chelsea to the sword once and for all. The first leg at Stamford Bridge ended 1-2 to the visitors giving them the advantage of 2 away goals to take home. The second leg proved to be a cagey affair until Ronaldinho once again managed to magically seal the tie in favour of the Spaniards. Barcelona then went on to beat  Arsenal in the final to become champions.

06/07 and this time the group stages played host to these two yet again. This time Chelsea won 1-0 in the home leg, with Didier Drogba earning them a valuable 2-2 draw at the Nou Camp.

Key battles

Physical strength vs Total football

Barcelona play the kind of football you can’t even play on your Playstation if you tried. With such fluid movement from 5 of the best players in the world, its hard to pinpoint which one is most important to the team.

The front 3 in particular however are proving to have too much for La liga defences to cope with. In all competitions they have netted 88 goals between them, Messi with 33, Eto’o 32 and Henry 23. Lionel Messi is the leading scorer in this season’s competition with 8 goals to his name. Add to that the intelligent play of Xavi Hernandez and Iniesta and the never ending runs from right back from Dani Alves. All bolstered in the midfield by either Yaya Toure or Seiydou Keita.

Chelsea however, are strength, strength and even more strength. Their back 4 will be weakened crucially by the loss of Ashley Cole, but they still have Ivanovic, John Terry, Alex, and Jose Bosingwa to form a formidable back line. The midfield is held up by the solid Essien who has a massive role to play. Frank Lampard and Michael Ballack form a threat from midfield and up top they have one of the best strikers on the planet in Didier Drogba. Their mechanical approach is often sighted due to their conventional wingers that often fulfil purpose rather than add flair.

Midfield

In the quarter final first leg, Essien was outstanding in stopping Steven Gerrard getting the ball and dictating play they way he loves to. He simply went man to man with the captain and choked him of any space to do his damage.

Against Barcelona it’s a completely different situation, with Andres Iniesta and Xavi moving around like ping pong balls its hard to keep track of where play is going next. With so many players to track it’s hard to pinpoint one player to stop. Lampard and Ballack will be looking to be the same threat for Chelsea with Yaya Toure getting the nod to do battle. At the Nou Camp Barcelona will look to keep the ball, and are well capable of frustrating Chelsea when they don’t have it. Essiens role in the middle therefore is massive, he will have to make a nuisance of himself whilst trying not to pick up needless bookings.

Defence

Its fair to say that Chelsea have a defence that is superior to Barcelona’s as a unit. JT and Alex appear to have formed a decent partnership at the back and Ivanovic seems to have settled well as a solid right back. The left back position seems to be the query in the first leg with Cole suspended.

Chelsea have not yet faced an attacking force with the kind of all round goal scoring threat as Barcelona. Likewise, Barcelona would not have come up against a tougher defence than Chelsea’s. Barcelona’s defence are quick and nippy but they do not have the height. Thankfully they are welcoming back Eric Abidal to add balance to the back 4. The ethos for their defence is similar for the whole side, attack! Abidal might not go forward as much as Dani Alves but still offers a strong attacking presence when required. The Chelsea wingers will definitely have to be on guard. Interestingly, Barcelona have not conceded a goal in 6 league games.

Attack

Well what can you say about 88 goals in all competitions from 3 players? If they are all performing to their maximum then alarm bells will be ringing in the Chelsea defence all night long. Messi is clearly the best player in the world and has terrorised defences all year, and this should be a big stage to prove himself again. Henry faces familiar opponents  from his Arsenal days and possesses the ability to create or score out of nothing whilst Eto’o is back to his predatory best this season.

Chelsea’s main threat is through Didier Drogba. When in the mood it’s very difficult to stop the big man, strength, power, pace…he has it all in his locker. Certainly he will be very important as Chelsea look to hold the ball up, his aerial presence will be something that will worry Barca all night long. The width that Chelsea have is normally more mechanical than magical, but they can offer the kind of delivery that Drogba pounces on. In particular, Florent Malouda has given key contributions since Hiddink has taken over.

Prediction:

With Barcelona dominating possession and the front 3 rampant I can’t see them not scoring, and I think they’ll score more than just the 1. However I also think Chelsea have too much of an aerial presence to be denied on a set piece

Barcelona 2 – 1 Chelsea

Pepe rage!!

Pepe Real MadridReal Madrid’s Portuguese centre-half Pepe faces a multiple game ban, which would rule him out of the champions’ clash with bitter rivals Barcelona, following his spectacular meltdown in the 3-2 win over Getafe.

Pepe shoved Francisco Casquero to the floor to concede a late penalty and then brutally stamped on the grounded Getafe midfielder in Tuesday’s stormy Spanish league encounter. The controversy did not end there with Pepe palming the angry Juan Albin in the face. A red card means he misses Real’s match at Sevilla this Sunday and while reports have suggested he could get a six- or seven-match suspension which would rule him out for the rest of the season.

“They should ban him for at least ten games,” fumed Getafe president Angel Torres. Pepe apologised for the incident saying it was out of character. “I have to apologise to the fans and to Casquero. People who know me will tell you I am not like that,” he said.

“This is the first time something like this has happened to me and I am really sorry.” But Real goalkeeper Iker Casillas criticised his centre-back. “What he did is serious and isn’t the conduct of a Real player. However, he has apologised and you have to take that into account,” said Casillas.

Nike’s new ad …the new Brazilian with pace…Neymar da Silva!

Check this video out as the speedy Neymar models nikes new mecurial superfly football boots…and my word does this boy fly!

Neymar has only played one professional game for Santos. However, he has already reportedly attracted substantial interest from European clubs including Manchester City, Manchester United, AC Milan, Real Madrid, Arsenal, Barcelona and Chelsea, all of whom are believed to have sent scouts to watch the player, dubbed “the new Pele” as he competes in the Copinha, a large junior tournament in Sao Paulo, Madrid are believed to have signed a pre-contract agreement with Neymar’s agent, Wagner Ribeiro, lasting until 2011. However Santos, who were not party to that arrangement have secured the players image rights until 2015, securing their ownership of the player and right to a sizeable transfer fee

Ronaldo scores his Sixth to guide Corinthians to final

ronaldo-sprintRonaldo showed a burst of his old pace to score the second goal for Corinthians in a 2-0 win over Sao Paulo on Sunday.

The former AC Milan, Inter Milan, Barcelona and Real Madrid striker outpaced his marker over 30 metres as he chased Cristian’s through ball before clipping his shot past Sao Paulo Bosco in the 58th minute.

It was the sixth goal of the 32-year-old’s comeback following last year’s knee injury, the previous ones all having been scored from inside the penalty area.

Douglas had opened the scoring three minutes earlier following a counter attack from a Sao Paulo corner.

Corinthians completed a 4-1 aggregate win in their Paulista championship semi-final to earn a place against Santos in the two-leg final.

Santos beat Vanderlei Luxemburgo’s Palmeiras 2-1 on Saturday, winning 4-2 on aggregate, in a match marred by an ugly brawl near the end.

The Paulista is the largest of the regional championships which kick off the marathon Brazilian season.

The tournaments, one for each of Brazil’s 27 states, each have their own formats and are completely detached from the Brazilian championship which starts in May.

Dunga gives Maradona some friendly advice

dungaThe coach of the Brazilian national team believes Diego Maradona will have to begin thinking like a coach if he wants to find success with Argentina. Dunga, who also encountered his fair share of problems when he took charge of the Selecao, gave Diego Maradona some advice.

“He can function (Maradona, as a coach), but he has to be careful: it is necessary for him to stop thinking like a player, it is a process that has taken me time,”  said the ex World Cup winner.

Finally, in reference to the possibilities of Pato playing for the national team, Dunga explained that the Milan striker will have his chance in the future, but at the moment Luis Fabiano is playing “very well.”