Tag Archives: Champion’s League

How to make the last eight in Champions League into four interesting games

17 Mar

This year’s Champions League has just had its last eight after 16 exciting or boring games.

Barcelona and Real Madrid from Spain, Chelsea, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur from England, Inter Milan from Italy, Shalke 04 from Germany and Shakhtar from Ukraine are technically the this year’s best eight European clubs, who have the chance to finally march to Wembley for the trophy.

Similar scenes are being played in each year’s knockout stage. There are one or two predictable games and some finals being played too early.

Fans of the last eight will of course enjoy it but do not forget those neutral fans, whose population will unsurprisingly be bigger.

The draw is on tomorrow (Fri 18 March). Before that let us put teams together by ourselves and make it interesing. Why not?

Barcelona v.s. Manchester United

A repeat of the Champions 2009 League final? Fergie shall never forget summer night in Rome. Although Barca is now probably the team everyone wants to avoid, for the English club a bit sense of revenge will give players the extra willingness of winning and therefore more juice for the match.

Pep Guardiola has been making extreme success with Barca since he toke over the club in 2008. Six trophies in the 08/09 season has made him in the record book of world football. This season’s 5-0 win against Jose Mourinho’s Real Madrid in the Spanish La Liga also made the testimony of him being the world’s most successful and young football manager.

His clash with Sir Alex Fergusen will therefore be a two-legged match between managers of two generations.

Chelsea v.s. Tottenham Hotspur

This derby will again turn London into a city of blue and white. Fans of both club will not have to travel too much to support their teams.

Carlo Ancelotti’s team lost their ground in the Premier League, currently ranking 4th on the table. Roman Abramovic’s long-waited dream of the Champions League trophy did not come true with Mourinho being the manager. Now with the Italian cup expert, the Russian will certainly hope his team to go further to save this season, after losing the hope for champion on the other three frontlines.

Harry Redknapp’s Tottenham has been delivering absolutely phenomenal performances in the Champions League, with Gareth Bale becoming the superstar and predictably the hot topic in the summer transfer window.

But how far can they go? The Champions League will never refuse some surprise from a dark horse.

Real Madrid v.s. Inter Milan

Even without the attribute of the clash between the most succesful club in the history of Champions league and the defending champion, this will still be two interesting matches – all because of Jose.

“The special one” will become the focus immediately wherever he goes to. A game between his current and former clubs will always welcomed by journalists, as it is almost a guarantee of good quotes.

Still remember last year’s Inter v.s. Chelsea game? Mourinho gave his exemployee almost no chance to qualify. Will this game be another proof of his professionalism and cruelty?

Shalke 04 v.s. Shakhtar

Who will be the better “miner”? The two clubs both with a background of mining industry are two surprises of this year’s Champions League.

Shakhtar topped its group with Arsenal following. In the first round of the knockout they smashed AS Roma with 6-2 on aggregate. Few people will say that this Ukrainian club can go this far.

Surprisingly, Shalke 04 is the only team from Germany in the Champions League as their companion FC Bayern lost to Inter Milan. The German Bundesliga will become the third league in terms of places of the Champions league in two seasons’ time. The last German bleed is necessary to remain this position.

It will also be interesting to see Ralf Rangnick, who has just replaced Felix Magath as the coach, to take the quarter-finalist go any further with probable different tactics.

Of course, the forever Spanish No. 7 Raúl González is another focus. He is currently leading the all-time goals table of UEFA Cup and Champions League. For 69 times he netted the ball into the opponents goals, and there is no sign that the 33-year-old legend is slowering his pace, as he has already nailed three goals in the tournament – the same with his Dutch colleague Klaas-Jan Huntelaar.

In the name of Barcelona, we need Jose

9 Mar

With Jose Mourinho‘s success with Inter Milan last season, criticisms on his “ugly” football start to come under the spotlight as well.

To be “ugly” or not, this is a problem.

But not anymore when last year Spain was crowned in South Africa. Plus they also won the Europe Cup two years earlier, “beautiful” football has reached its heyday with a combination of the way it is played and the result.

Sharing the same football gene with Spain, Barcelona made its way to a top European club.

However, interestingly, they did not even make it to the Champions League Final. They were blocked in the semi-final. By whom? Morinho’s “ugly” Inter.

Is “beautiful” football actually making the game beautiful?

I’m afraid not.

Take Barcelona as an example. They just beat Arsenal in the Champions League knock-out round for last 16. In the second leg they dominated the game by possessing the ball for 76% of the time according to ESPN, leaving their opponent chasing shadows.

An even more embarrassing fact is that Arsenal did not even make one shot – they made the score level for a time by pushing Segio Busquets to commit an own goal.

Such a one-sided game will only be enjoyed by supporters of both teams. For neutral fans it is a rather killing game like this:

A “beautiful” ugly game

For opponents of Barcelona, an open game is almost equivalent to a loss. As strong as a team like Real Madrid (in the sense of the squad) can lost the game to Barca by 0-5, you can really not hope too much but for losing by less goals by Barca.

So the logic makes the opponent tend to stay in a defensive formation. Voila, it is like a training session of Barcelona again.

Too strong to be beautiful

For the sake of football, there is no doubt that Barcelona is on the right track. They have pushed the aesthetics of football to another crest, by involving lots of short and quick passes, and incredible speed and flexibility. Leo Messi is just a definition of the football that Barcelona is playing now. It is beautiful, by itself.

So why is Barcelona actually ruining the game?

Apart from the defensive position that their opponents will choose, another reason is that Barcelona have not find an equivalently strong opponent who also play “beautiful” football.

Arsenal’s games are supposed to be quite enjoyable, as their manager Arsene Wenger has well kept the Latin heritage for the northern London club.

But when they meet Barcelona, they are like pupils playing with professionals. No offence, but the match is still dominated by the Spain club.

Had we have another Barcelona, it must be quite interesting when these two teams meet together. Then it will be the testimony of the true beautiful football.

The match will be quite balanced between two teams having the same philosophy.

Let there be Jose

That’s why we need coaches like Jose Morinho, whose philosophy is rather pragmatic and based on muscles and strict execution of tactics.

Since we cannot see another Barcelona to occur in the near future, we need an “ugly” team who is equally strong as Barcelona (in the sense of both the squad and tactics!).

Then it will be a clash of two completely different types of football philosophy. The game is not necessarily made more beautiful for neutral fans, at least it will be quite interesting to see how these two teams will define the direction of the world football.

The 2010 World Cup semi-final between Spain and Germany, and the final between Spain and Holland almost made it.

This process should probably take five to 10 years, when teams of both types divide champions.

Therefore to make this happen, Jose still have a long way to go.

Why Messi but not Sneijder?

9 Dec

This year’s Ballon D’or candidates are bizarre.

Absolutely no surprise about Xavi and Iniesta, as they both played well in the past year, especially during the FIFA World Cup in South Africa.

But Why Messi, again?

Wesley Sneijder seems to be a more reasonable choice for the final three candidates.

According to the tradition of Ballon D’or, both individual and team performances are two of the most important criteria of deciding who is the winner.

Champion’s League

Sneijder won last season’s Champion’s League with Inter. Being the tactical core of Jose Mourinho, the versatile Dutch is everywhere on the pitch.

Inter’s Argentinian striker Diego Milito should probably thank Sneijer for his assists (6, ESPN). Without Sneijder, maybe he would still be a critical player in Inter, he would never be so phenomenal (6 goals, 2 assists, ESPN) at the attacking line.

Wesley Sneijder 2010

Leo Messi?

Eight (ESPN) goals top the Champion’s League 09/10. Sparkling performance truly if judging as an individual. Assists? Zero.

But his team, Barcelona was blocked exactly by Sneijder’s Inter in the semi-finals.

The FIFA Word Cup

The whole world remembers Spain’s victory, declaring the revival of artistic football against the backdrop that defense wins all.

If Arjen Robben could nail the one on one chance against Iker Casillas in the Final, the candidates for Ballon D’or might have been largely different now. Sadly there is no “if” within football.

But this cannot conceal what Sneijder did in South Africa. Without him being one of the few inspirations of attacking in van Marwijk’s team, the Orange could have been terminated by Brazil in the kick-out.

In terms of Messi, it seems that he left all his lucks of goal at Barcelona. Apparently the winner of last time’s Ballon D’or and FIFA MVP was not born for his country, not like Diego Maradona.

So how come it is Messi again but not Sneijder?

The chosen one

Maybe except for fans of Real Madrid, everyone loves Messi, the one in Barcelona, where he can puts the ball into the net just as normally as walking and eating.

Especially after he “copied” Maladona’s stunning goal on the 1986 World Cup against England, Messi was crowned by the media and fans as the next king of soccer.

  Messi vs Maradona

So under the backdrop that Iniesta and Xavi can almost confirm the first and second places, why not put Messi as another candidate?

A, he seems to be more like a superstar than Sneijder, who looks more like someone from the working class. More fans will be attacted.

B, If put Messi on rather than Sneijder, an astonishingly rare thing will happen: three players from the same club occupy the first three positions of Ballon D’or. Hala La Masia!

C, This year’s Ballon D’or is for the first time combined with the FIFA MVP. FIFA is about football but is never just football. It is politics, it is exchanges of interests. Anything weird can happen with this governing organisation, whose supervising body does not even exist yet.

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