Posted by hiphopmama on May 10, 2009
Valencia 3-0 Real Madrid
1-0 Mata, 28′
2-0 Silva, 32′
3-0 Baraja, 68′
Barcelona 3-3 Villarreal
1-0 Keita, 11′
1-1 Llorente, 22′
2-1 Eto’o, 36′
3-1 Alves, 45′
3-2 Fernandez (pen), 78′
3-3 Llorente, 90′
Let’s be clear. The La Liga title is still a foregone conclusion. With three games to go, Barcelona has to face Mallorca, Osasuna, and Deportivo, not exactly the Spanish Armada. Real Madrid awaits the challenges of Villarreal, Mallorca, and Osasuna, a slightly more formidable list. Real do have the advantage of playing those teams after they have been run through the ringer by Barcelona, but given the miraculous occurrences that would have to happen for Madrid to catch Barça, I don’t see anything changing in the current position of the top two. However, with the treble still on the table and two other competitions demanding their attention, it does make it interesting that Barça is forced to keep working toward complete supremacy in La Liga.
They couldn’t have known, but if Real could have put up a better effort against Valencia, they might have made up two of the three points they lost in last week’s Clasico blow-out. Instead, they barely even showed up and let Los Che run all over them in a similar fashion to what Barça did to them the previous week. To be fair, Real looked the likelier of the two teams to score in the opening minutes, but Mata was the one to break the deadlock on 28 minutes with a beautiful team goal. Just minutes later, David Silva doubled Valencia’s advantage by doing the unthinkable and catching out Casillas. It wasn’t quite as dramatic as all that, and it does little to hurt his claims on sainthood, but Iker dove and made it to the ball but still allowed it to trickle through. Instead of fighting back with any of the pride we thought they had, Real rolled over and died, letting Valencia pour forward and create opportunity after opportunity. Iker kept the score at least respectable, but even he could do nothing about the incredible goal Baraja put in on 68 minutes. He hit it off a volley at the edge of the box, a once in a lifetime strike, just absurd. I won’t even try to describe it because I couldn’t do it justice. Just watch the goals below:
And here’s the full highlights package:
Barcelona’s fortunes looked to be much brighter when they scored an early goal against Villarreal, as the Real Madrid loss gave them a chance to clinch the title with a win. Keita’s deflected shot put the blaugrana in front, but Llorente benefited from a rare Yaya Toure mistake to even the match. Barça triumphantly reclaimed the lead when Eto’o finished off a ping-pong session through the box, and they must have been prepping the champagne in the locker room after Alves drilled a free kick. But Villarreal wasn’t finished and spent the entirety of the second half, all the way into extra time, chipping away at that Barcelona lead, and you couldn’t feel particularly bad for them losing late in injury time after what happened at Stamford Bridge last week. The worst part of the whole deal for Barça was the damage done to their squad list in pursuit of this draw. Abidal earned himself a red card and a suspension for the Copa Del Rey final this week against Catalan rivals Athletic Bilbao, making it the second cup final he will miss. Worse, Iniesta picked up a knock that may put him out of the Champions League final and definitely rules him out of the Copa Del Rey final. The word is that he has a torn muscle in his right thigh, and it seems as if their fast and furious schedule of games is finally starting to catch up with them.
They’re not my team, but to be honest they deserve to win the treble this year and I hope they do. It was difficult to type that, but it’s true, even more so because it’s nice to see someone win while playing such beautiful football. They withstood all the negative tactics (read: Chelsea) and futile pursuits (ahem, Real Madrid), and still no one could catch them. The only team that can stand in their way at this point is Manchester United, and I hope to god Sir Alex and his minions get put in their place by the best team in world football. For once, in three weeks’ time I will be wearing the blaugrana colors. Vamos Barça.
Posted in soccer | Tagged: abidal, barcelona, dani alves, david silva, eto'o, highlights, iniesta, juan mata, keita, llorente, primera liga, real madrid, ruben baraja, valencia, villarreal, yaya toure | Leave a Comment »
Posted by hiphopmama on December 12, 2008
Real Madrid makes the daunting trip to the Camp Nou tomorrow struggling to impart some semblance of order to their season against a Barcelona side displaying utter dominance in La Liga. Against any normal team experiencing Real’s current run of form and injury list, Barça would be virtually assured of a comfortable victory. However, with the contentious rivalry at stake and the symbolic importance of this match-up, you have to figure Real will be playing like their season depends on it and will have a decent shot at a good result because of it.
That said, Barça are still odds-on favorites to win the game, especially in front of their home fans, and any tactical analysis points to an easy victory for the Catalans. With the ridiculous number of Real Madrid players struggling with injuries and suspensions to be served by Robben and Marcelo, the Merengues are really up against it even in terms of fielding a squad of their usual caliber. Based on their play midweek against Zenit in the Champions League and available players, it seems likely that Michel Salgado will have the unenviable task of tracking Lionel Messi around on the right flank. While Salgado has a great tactical sense and plenty of experience in big games, there is no way he has the pace to keep up with Messi and will need every bit of help he can get to keep him under wraps. The rest of the back line is likely to be filled out by Cannavaro, Sergio Ramos, and Metzelder in some formation with Gago, Guti, Van der Vaart, and Drenthe in midfield. And of course Raul and Higuain up front.
For their part, Barça’s lineup is likely to look something like this: Valdes; Alves, Marquez, Puyol, Abidal; Xavi, Yaya, Hleb; Messi, Eto’o, Henry. There’s not much to say about this group – it pretty much speaks for itself. This general assortment of guys has been kicking ass with no need to even take names all season long, and I expect nothing less this weekend. Xavi will, as always, be central (no pun intended) to the Barcelona attack, and Messi will probably be free to run wild all over the pitch, although with Salgado at left back he might be content to stay on the right. Henry is coming off an incredible hat trick – three goals all taken on one touch – in Barça’s 4-0 romp over Valencia last weekend. Gago will have a lot of work to do to protect a Real back line that has looked as porous as SpongeBob this year, and Hleb (or possibly Keita or Gudjohnsen) will surely look to stretch the Madrid defense and create space for the three forwards.
In particular, Gago will have to keep Xavi off the ball as much as possible to limit his ability to initiate the attack. Gago is a capable player, but I doubt he has the wherewithal to snuff out Xavi or the help from his team to effectively patrol the midfield. Yaya will have a similar role to play in stopping Guti from engineering Madrid’s offense, but I foresee more success for the younger Toure. I don’t think Guti has the ingenuity of Xavi, but more importantly, Guti has fewer real threats around him that Barça has to watch out for, which will allow them to zero in on him.
In the end, I think Messi will run rampant and Alves will be a constant thorn in Real’s side, while Raul will continue his good form and Higuain will have another solid game, but all three Barça strikers will hurt Madrid and get the win for the cules. Prediction: Barcelona wins fairly easily, 3-1, and earns further breathing room at the top of the table.
Posted in soccer | Tagged: abidal, barcelona, cannavaro, dani alves, drenthe, el clasico, eto'o, gago, guti, henry, higuain, hleb, messi, metzelder, michel salgado, primera liga, puyol, rafael marquez, raul, real madrid, sergio ramos, van der vaart, victor valdes, xavi, yaya toure | 1 Comment »
Posted by hiphopmama on December 7, 2008
Barcelona 4-0 Valencia
- 1-0 Thierry Henry, 20′
- 2-0 Thierry Henry, 28′
- 3-0 Dani Alves, 46′
- 4-0 Thierry Henry, 79′
The title of this post doesn’t just refer to their place in La Liga, which is nothing new; it’s about Barcelona’s utter superiority to every other team in Europe at the moment. I suppose there is a case to be made for Inter and even Chelsea until a few weeks ago, but I don’t think either of those teams or any other can hold a candle to what Barcelona is doing. They haven’t lost a game since August, and since then they have 17 wins and just 3 draws, including some mind-blowingly good showings against a range of opposition. There was the 6-1 pounding of Sporting Gijon, 6-1 over Atletico Madrid, 5-0 over Almeria, 4-1 over Malaga, and 6-0 over Valladolid. Their most impressive victories, however, have been the last two, when they absolutely dismantled a pair of top five teams in Primera Liga play. Last week, they demoralized a surging Sevilla side 4-0 on the road, and just this weekend they spanked Valencia 4-0 at home. While the goal totals have been impressive, even more notable is the number of clean sheets the team has kept. Sevilla isn’t exactly an offensive powerhouse but they do have some serious attacking threats, including Kanoute and Luis Fabiano, who had just netted a hat trick for Brazil in international play. They got under Fabiano’s skin so much – not a difficult task – that he earned himself a red card and an early exit. The Valencia scoreline was even more surprising for the way they kept one of the hottest strikers on the planet, David Villa, off the score sheet. Villa undoubtedly misses his attacking partner David Silva who has been out injured for a while, but that hadn’t prevented him from scoring 12 goals in 13 league games coming into the Barcelona match-up. Yet the Barcelona defense held firm and stubbornly denied Villa and his teammates so much as a consolation goal.
The element that makes Barça stand out from the pack the most is their complete play as a team. In top flight European football, everyone has a stacked line-up. Barcelona’s is no different, with Eto’o, Henry, Messi, and Bojan up front; Xavi, Iniesta (currently injured), Hleb, Yaya, and Keita fortifying the midfield; and Puyol, Marquez, Alves, Abidal, Pique, and Milito (also injured) manning the back line; plus Valdes between the sticks, just to name a few. The all-star squad doesn’t capture or explain their dominance, though. The complete cohesion does, and new coach Pep Guardiola has to be credited for that. With such an array of talent at his disposal, it’s quite a feat to successfully manage the egos involved and know how and when to shuffle the deck to get the best performance out of your team. Guardiola has done that almost to perfection this year, involving everyone to an extent and picking the right squads to get the job done week in and week out. His substitutions have been equally flawless, although the number of blowouts Barça has inflicted has made it unnecessary for him to perform much magic from the sidelines.
For all their attacking prowess, the strength of the midfield and back line has been their anchor this year, allowing the wing players to storm forward and facilitate the offense. Xavi has once again been masterful in his role as the team’s ultimate orchestrator, pulling every string at precisely the right moment. And I would be remiss if I didn’t give a nod to Yaya, who has been a rock in midfield, winning a gazillion tackles and completing damn near every pass he attempts. His immaculate play has been absolutely central to the team’s success, and they would be foolish to leave him out of their plans, either by allowing him to languish on the bench amidst so much talent or by letting him make his way out of Barcelona. He has been repeatedly linked to his brother’s team of Arsenal – a scenario I thoroughly endorse as a Gunners fan – but I don’t see that coming to fruition. He fits with the Blaugrana and deserves to have his place with them cemented, at least for the rest of this season.
If it sounds like I’m gushing, I am. When I first started paying attention to the Primera Liga, I was a Real Madrid fan, largely because Barcelona’s performances were generally uninspiring with an uncommitted Ronaldinho leading the way and a failure to achieve what they could have. With all the typical strong-arm wrangling going on in Madrid and the ever obnoxious Ramon Calderon making his team difficult to like (to put it mildly), I have seen my allegiances shift somewhat. I’m not an out and out Barcelona fan – in fact, I’m not a committed ANYBODY fan really, since I have only been seriously watching for a few years. Instead, I just enjoy watching great football and I appreciate the teams whose style and ethic fit in with my own. Arsenal has emerged as my favorite side in English football, but I have been more equivocal in rooting for teams from Spain and Italy. This season has made my allegiances even more tenuous, and Barcelona’s team mentality and outstanding play make it difficult not to pull for them. If they keep up with this pace, I might be the latest in what is assuredly a large group of converts.
Posted in general, soccer | Tagged: abidal, arsenal, barcelona, bojan, dani alves, eto'o, gabi milito, hleb, iniesta, keita, messi, pep guardiola, pique, primera liga, puyol, rafael marquez, real madrid, ronaldinho, thierry henry, xavi, yaya toure | Leave a Comment »