Barcelona vs Chelsea : A victory for Barcelona or for football as a whole?

Iniesta HeroIn 1894 Charles Miller arrived in Brazil with a ball and a set of rules for a game, the intention being to score a goal. Barcelona on Wednesday night demonstrated their intent to play the way that the beautiful game was intended to be played, and to set about a task as only they knew how. Miller took to the streets of Brazil where they now commonly state “the English created it, we perfected it.

It is with this sentiment in mind we can look at the Champions League tie midweek. FC Barcelona, the fruition of Catalonia and their philosophy of being separate from the rest. With significant Catalan nationalist sentiment present in a part of the population of Catalonia, a sense of independence is massively important. This is something that is expressed in their football team…to be independent, to be ‘different’ from the rest. Barcelona are ‘Mes Que Un Club’ – More than a club.

You only have to look at the Primera Division this season to see the stark difference in Barcelona to the rest of the teams in the league. Their front 3 alone have scored over 100 goals in all competitions, playing to entertain and mesmerise their Camp Nou faithful… and with some success with their bitter rivals humbled 6-2 in a demolition job. They have used a philosophy to play with purpose and creativity to achieve the goal that Miller intended; to get the ball in the back of the net. Now, just as the Brazilians claim to have perfected it, at club level, Barcelona is looking to do that same thing with a side made up from talent (that they themselves have seeded and watered). They had no fewer than 7 products of their famous ‘La Masia’ (the cottage) youth development program in their squad on Wednesday night. In the first leg they came out with the intent to get a goal, to WIN the game. Only to be stopped by means they were unfamiliar with, a 10 man wall that never relented.

Their opponents, West London side Chelsea FC, could not have proved to have been a bigger contrast to their own style. The side was bought and is looked after by their super rich owner Roman Abramovic, who dreams of the kind of history their Spanish rivals have had. Chelsea, are the club with a foreign owner, a foreign manager and only 3 of their squad members of the England national team. Their approach to the game was not to win, but to simply stop the most potent strike force in world football, a complete difference in philosophy to that of their rivals.

Maybe that’s Chelsea’s problem, a lack of a philosophy or image? Owner Abramovic wants to play beautiful football, but he doesn’t have the necessary players to do it.

The second leg continued much like the first, although Chelsea did at least make an attempt to come forward a little. Their early wonder goal from Michael Essien proved to be the catalyst to send them back to what they knew best, defending. The game was ending with Barcelona having above 70% possession of the ball, passing and probing. Lionel Messi, the best player in the world, was bullied off the ball (legally mind!) and countered by no less than 3 players assigned to stop him. However, he gave the most vital contribution, a simple square ball to the legend in the making… Andres Iniesta. The epitome of professionalism, the “choir boy” took one swing of his gifted right foot and guided the ball into the top corner of the net, Barcelona got what they needed, that away goal! As he almost cried in celebration his team mobbed their new hero!

Chelsea’s naivety in not going for the away goal when in Barcelona is what has ultimately cost them. Barcelona came to play and score, only for Chelsea to “park their bus”…AGAIN, but this time releasing the odd ball forward when allowed to. To their credit, tactically it was almost perfect; it got them so close to Rome… the ugly way. Yet through their brilliance and determination, the Barcelona team managed to carve out ‘that’ chance with all the attacking verve and desire that they have been ordered to demonstrate since their youth team days.

Drogba madmanFootball is about getting a goal, not stopping it. It depends on your own views on how the game should be played, but over the two legs, the more professional, game playing team went through. The “Dream team II” managed to keep their cool after their own first leg frustrations with the ref. Chelsea, without philosophy, a confused club not sure of their identity, erupted. The words “disgrace” and “shame” have been used to describe the teams’ actions after the game. Such a lack of professionalism should not be rewarded.

Iniesta, Messi and Co. deserve their place in the final…they along with Manchester United will go with the intention to play the game, to score goals…at least we hope! Either way it should be a great final.

Is football the winner? You decide.


Ronaldo watch: Dunga starting to believe?

Ronaldo Atletico ParanaenseEvery time he scores, Ronaldo changes Brazil coach Dunga’s mind.

Whether Ronaldo’s comeback is successful enough yet to land him back in the national team, Dunga is keeping that to himself. “Every player who is active and dreams of playing in the national team is being observed,” Dunga said Thursday. “We have to wait until May 21.”

That’s when he’ll announce the roster for Brazil’s upcoming World Cup qualifiers and the Confederations Cup.

Ronaldo is thriving in his return from the third serious knee injury of his career sustained with AC Milan in February 2008. He has scored 10 goals in 13 matches since resuming his stellar career in March.

“Ronaldo never stopped scoring goals, and I believe Ronaldo can improve even more,” Dunga said. “Since 2006, this is the first time he has a sequence of matches like this, so the tendency is to get even better.

“In 2006 I had an opinion of him, two months ago I had another, and now I have a different one. But there is still a year to go until the World Cup, so lets see.”

Brazil will face Uruguay on June 6 and Paraguay on June 10 in qualifiers. The Confederations Cup is from June 14-28.

Ronaldo’s latest goals were in Corinthians’ 2-0 win Wednesday over Atletico Paranaense to reach the quarter-finals of the Brazilian Cup.

He found the net with a shot from outside the area in the 55th minute, then converted a penalty in the 68th after being fouled inside the area. The goals were his third and fourth in the past three matches with Corinthians, which clinched the Sao Paulo state title on Sunday.

Since Ronaldo’s return, local media and fans have been pressuring Dunga to call up the striker, who led Brazil to the World Cup title in 2002 in South Korea and Japan. He also was a member of the 1994 World Cup team, which had Dunga – a former defensive midfielder – as its captain.

Ronaldo has been saying all along that one of his main objectives is to return to the national team.

“I’m a Brazilian soldier ready to serve if they feel I deserve a spot,” Ronaldo said recently.

The 32-year-old striker has not been summoned since Brazil’s elimination in the 2006 World Cup.

Corinthians crowned state champions!

corinthians-championsCorinthians drew 1-1 with Santos at the Pacaembu stadium on Sunday to become the first unbeaten Paulista State Champions in almost 40 years.

The “Timao” had won the first leg of the decider 3-1 last weekend, with two spectacular goals from Ronaldo, and only needed a point or a narrow defeat to clinch the title.

But Corinthians went behind to a Kleber Pereira penalty kick in the 28th minute, after the veteran was impeded in the area by Corinthians goalkeeper Felipe.

However, Andre Santos levelled the scores five minutes later with a quick snap-shot inside of the area.

Ronaldo may not have made as much of an impact as in the first leg of the final, but the three-time FIFA World Player of the Year was very lively during the encounter.

Corinthians, who only last year competed in the Brazilian Second Division, are one of the main contenders to fight for the 2009 Serie A title.

With the draw, Corinthians extended their unbeaten streak at the Pacaembu stadium to 25 matches.

How Thierry Henry loves the Bernabeu!

In 3 appearances at the Bernabeu, Thierry has netted 4 times.  A stat that is enviable to even some of the greatest cules!  In the 05/06 season Arsenal went to the Galactico’s when an in form Henry ripped Real Madrids defence to pieces scoring from a driving run and a cool finish.

Last season he netted in a humiliating 4-1 loss with a vintage curler from the edge of the box.  The Barcelona team had to give the “pasilo” to their arch rivals, that being a guard of honour for the then liga champions…a sad day in Barcelona’s history.

and last night he scored a superb brace as the Catalans battered their rivals 6-2!  I believe they call this…revenge?!

Bernabeu Massacre as Barca batter Real Madrid!

messi-real-madridBarcelona humiliated Real Madrid at the Bernabeu this evening to move seven points at the top of La Liga with four games to play.

In a frenetic encounter, featuring eight goals, the Catalans outclassed their opponents in a terrific display of attacking football and could easily have had more goals than the six they scored.

After going behind early to a Gonzalo Higuain header they responded well and within seven minutes found themselves in front.

First Thierry Henry passed the ball around Iker Casillas and then with twenty minutes on the clock, Carles Puyol found himself unmarked from a free-kick to head into the net.

The Catalans were not about to stop at 2-1 either and they continued to push forward, forcing Casillas to make a few more saves before a Lassana Diarra mistake saw Lionel Messi add a third.

Madrid hit back soon after the break as yet another free-kick resulted in a goal, this time with Sergio Ramos heading home at the back post.

Henry scored his second nearly immediately after though to secure the win and then Messi added another with a superb goal later, before Gerard Pique got on the scoresheet after tapping from close range.

The win puts Barcelona within touching distance of the Primera title and means that Madrid’s season is all but over with four games left.

With both coaches deciding to go for their strongest teams from the start, it was little surprise that the match started at a frantic pace. Within the first minute Sergio Ramos had clumsily passed straight to Messi, who found Xavi, only for Iker Casillas to save his shot from outside the box. That chance set the tone for the early stages though as Arjen Robben darted through the Barcelona defence a couple of times and Messi set up Eto’o for the striker to disappointingly shoot straight at the ‘keeper.

The visitors looked the more likely to score but it was Madrid who sent the Bernabeu wild by taking the lead, as Ramos shook off Eric Abidal to cross straight to Higuain who, completley unmarked, headed past Victor Valdes. It was the perfect start for the home team but, within seven minutes of the goal, they found themselves behind.

First, Messi chipped a delightful ball over the top of Ramos to Henry, who slotted past Casillas with his right foot, and then, with on the 20 minute mark, Fabio Cannavaro conceded a needless free-kick on the left flank, which was subsequently whipped in for Puyol to head home.

It was a frantic start to the match and the pace was unrelenting as Robben’s shot was saved by Valdes and then Daniel Alves forced his ‘keeper to make another block as he nearly scored an own goal. It was Barcelona who looked the more dangerous though as Casillas had to save from Messi from close range and then watch as the Argentine struck a shot just wide of the post.

The space allowed to Barcelona had to tell soon and just after the half hour mark it did, as Xavi stole the ball from Lassana Diarra and passed in Messi, who finished past the ‘keeper to make it three. Even Alves nearly got in on the act as he hit a free-kick on target for once and forced Casillas to palm away, just before the interval.

After the break it was the same story too, as Barcelona continued to look threatening; Henry beating Ramos with ease on the left before winning a corner that was eventually cleared. Only Robben looked dangerous for the home side but he resorted to going to ground easily rather than try to beat Puyol on the flank.

Yet again though, Madrid scored against the run of play and, yet again, it was thanks to some poor marking from Barcelona. A free-kick on the right was whipped in by Robben and at the back post Ramos headed home past Valdes, to give the Bernabeu some hope with 35 minutes to go.

henry-etoo-real-madridNot long after Madrid thought they were back in the match though, Barcelona responded to score their fourth of the game. A delightful chip over the top from Xavi found Henry, who beat the on-rushing Casillas to the ball and tapped around him from the edge of the box to spark wild celebrations from the Catalans.

With a two goal lead, Barcelona began to slow the pace down, sending on Seydou Keita to replace Henry, but even without the Frenchman they grabbed a fifth. Some superb link-up play between Xavi and Messi resulted in the Spaniard fooling three defenders on the edge of the box and playing in his team-mate, who dummied before tapping past Casillas’ near post.

The humiliation didn’t stop there either, as Pique started a move on the half-way line by playing in Eto’o, and then was found in the box by the striker to tap home at the second attempt. The goal sparked a mass exodus in the Camp Nou and even the referee took pity on Madrid as he called full-time on the game with nearly no injury-time.

Ribery deal almost done?

ribery barcelonaThe European tug-of-war surrounding the transfer of French winger Franck Ribery has been battle between the continent’s hot shots, with clubs such as Manchester United, Real Madrid, Juventus, and Barcelona topping the list of potential suitors.

According to a report published by El Mundo Deportivo, Barcelona have struck a deal with the player’s agent and the only matter left is the consent of Bayern Munich’s officials. Representatives of the Catalan outfit were at a top ‘secret meeting’ with Ribery’s agent Alain Migliaccio in Ibiza, an exotic island off the coast of Spain where Migilaccio resides.

The report suggests that Barcelona offered Bayern €25 million for Ribery, plus the option of either Eidur Gudjohnsen or Aliaksandr Hleb, each of whom are rated at around €8 million. Both players have not featured regularly for Barca this season and are likely to consider a switch in search for more playing time.

These reports are yet to be confirmed or denied by either club.