Football News

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Mission Impossible? How Chelsea should go about beating Barcelona

It has been a turbulent season but since Roberto Di Matteo steadied the ship, form has never been better and beating Guardiola is not a task beyond the west London outfit

FA Cup -   Chelsea v Leicester City, Fernando Torres and Branislav Ivanovic
Getty Images
By Jay Jaffa

Dani AlvesBarcelona's right-back, right-winger, play-maker – whatever you would like to label him – said in an interview on Monday that the epic semi-final between his team and Chelsea in 2009 was "the hardest game we've played".

That is enormous praise considering the number of high-calibre games Alves has featured in with his all-conquering team-mates.

Chelsea fans continue to point to the injustice of the 'ghost penalties' denied by referee Tom Henning Ovrebo but that is a pity as it masks the many positives from both legs. Guus Hiddink's side thwarted Barcelona's attacking potency for 179 minutes of a 180 minute tie.

The 0-0 in the Camp Nou was a tough, defensively robust performance, whilst the 1-1 proved the Blues were able to penetrate Barcelona at the other end of the field.

But as Alves says, recalling the night at Stamford Bridge: "Chelsea didn't reach the final because of fear." How much have they learnt since then?

Here is what Roberto Di Matteo and the Blues must do to beat the defending European champions ahead of Wednesday night's first leg in west London.


It has been an almighty downturn in fortune for Fernando Torres. He has seen his reputation slip from the golden boy of Spanish football to a £50 million white elephant cluttering Roman Abramovich's office. Is he finding form again? It is hard to tell.

Torres is certainly no longer the forward he was at Liverpool but also not as profligate as the man who endured a full day's worth of football without scoring.

You get the impression with Torres, much like Andy Carroll, that there is a burning desire to prove his critics wrong. He has worked hard to rejuvenate his ailing career and though the goals are yet to flow, there has been a marked improvement in his overall game under Di Matteo, as seen in the 5-2 win over Leicester City.

Regaining his place in the Spain squad may be high on his list of priorities and facing many of his international compatriots from the successful Euro 2008 and World Cup 2010 tournaments should stoke the fires of old.

He may be written off in England, but in Spain he still has a reputation to protect.

If, as expected, Torres starts ahead of Didier Drogba, the Spaniard will need to find the poise that made him once so fearsome and do some damage against his compatriots.


A common criticism of Stamford Bridge, particularly in the Andre Villas-Boas era, was that it was a high-pressured environment. Villas-Boas told how he felt his team coped better on the road, where the unflappable, partisan support of the away following encouraged his side and were more understanding of his initial struggles.

Under Di Matteo, Chelsea are revitalised and the 5-1 humiliation of rivals Tottenham should ensure a buoyant atmosphere from the get-go.

If the Stamford Bridge crowd can recreate the cauldron of noise that dragged the team past Napoli as they recovered from a deficit in the first knockout round, then Chelsea will have a genuine chance of securing a first leg win to put themselves in a strong position.


Grow the grass.

Pep Guardiola said this in early April: "At every field away from home it is always true. In the Bernabeu and also everywhere else they leave it [the grass] high, except at the San Mames."

There are no set Uefa regulations or stipulations to control the state of a pitch, only a directive suggesting pitches are kept in the best possible condition. With that in mind, Jose Mourinho – the pantomime villain – told his ground staff to keep the Bernabeu grass long for last season's El Clasico.

Since then, Barcelona have made formal complaints about the standard of playing surfaces following games at the San Siro, Racing Santander's El Sardinero, Valencia's Mestalla, Osasuna's Reyno de Navarra, Mallorca's Iberostar Stadium and the latest away game at Levante's Ciutat de Valencia.

It is a common problem in Spain and something Chelsea should consider for the Stamford Bridge clash, particularly after watching the 0-0 AC Milan achieved when Barcelona came to San Siro.

Behind a victory, a 0-0 is the next best result you can achieve at home and a slower surface may not hinder their own counterattacking, direct style too heavily.


Ignoring Juan Mata and a couple of others, the Chelsea first XI does not lack presence - something you could not say about the pint-sized party from Spain.

Over the years, the English side have tried to impose this physicality but surprisingly the yellow and red card count is remarkably even when you tally up their six most recent knockout meetings. Just one Chelsea red card separates the totals.

That does not tell the full story though – whilst Barcelona's players are prone to picking up cards for gamesmanship, Chelsea have shown the sort of rough-house tactics usually saved for La Liga games - as shown by Asier Del Horno's clash with Lionel Messi in 2006.

Cole confirms suspicions that Chelsea believe they can bully Barcelona out of the tie.

"We’re a tough team, we never give up. We fight for every ball, we’re strong in tackles and hopefully that will be in the back of their minds and we can take advantage of that," he said.

Be aware though. Samuel Eto'o, who was with the Blaugrana when it all began under Guardiola, fired the warning in October 2008 that “nobody will have it easy against us ever again.”

In the Champions League, Chelsea have only ever lost one game at home to Barcelona. They do have an impressive and relatively closely-matched head-to-head record. Only a touch of bad luck and a wave of fear prevented them overcoming 10-man Barca in 2009, but if they can replicate their dogged performances over both legs this year, there is a very real chance of making the final.

However, what has not been mentioned is the influence of Messi. Whilst it is true that the Argentine has never scored against the Stamford Bridge outfit, that should not act as a comforter going into this game.
"I am not that worried about Xavi or Iniesta ... For me, Busquets and Messi are the guys Chelsea need to stop"

Manchester United were served a masterclass at Wembley from Messi after records suggested a goal drought on English soil would prove otherwise. Simply, he is too good to be curtailed by coincidental omens.

But after the admirable stalemate in the Camp Nou, Petr Cech hailed Jose Bosingwa for sticking to the task of shackling Messi in what was the first competitive home game Guardiola's Barca had failed to score in.

Guardiola spoke in frustrated tones after the 0-0 on that occasion: "We will go to London to score, we will try to win, not draw. They committed so many's clear that if we are to win this competition then the little details clearly aren't on our side."

Roll forward to the fallout from Ovrebo's refereeing scandal and that statement lost its relevance but the feeling of frustration is what Chelsea must look to provoke within the Barcelona ranks.  

With Chelsea hosting the first meeting they must ensure to remain in the tie when the lights go out at Stamford Bridge. And for that to be the case, they must show the concentration and dedication to protecting their goal that they displayed for those agonising and ultimately futile 179 minutes in 2009.

Friday, 13 April 2012

Diego Maradona: Pele was stupid to say that Messi is better than Neymar

Argentina legend says his compatriot is greater than the star of Santos, and stupid label anyone who says otherwise. Among them, of course, Pele

Al Wasl coach and former captain of Argentina, Diego Maradona, has described as "stupid" Pele, after he told you that Neymar is better than the star of Barcelona, ​​Lionel Messi. Pele admitted Tuesday that Messi is a great player, but emphasized that the Blaugrana striker is below the Santos prodigy. Specifically, the triple world champion with the selection Penta Rosario said the only exceeded "in experience" to Neymar .

Al Wasl coach, Diego Maradona has mocked by Brazilian legend that Neymar is better than Barcelona star, Lionel Messi.
Pele admitted Tuesday that Messi is a great player, but stressed that the Blaugrana player is below the Santos prodigy.
"My God, that's stupid," said Maradona."Maybe Neymar is the best player in the world, but only if you say that Messi is from another planet."
Both players were present at the gala FIFA Ballon d'Or, held in January, in which Messi was awarded best player of 2011, while Neymar Puskas received the award for the best goal of the Year.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Leo Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo: Who will win the Pichichi?

The thrilling battle waged every day by being the top scorer in this league, keeps the Portuguese as the favorite ahead of the last six games

Cristiano Ronaldo and Leo Messi are on track to make history, if not already done so. When six games remaining for the completion of this league 2011-2012, Portuguese and Argentinian added 40 and 39 goals. 40 and 39 gentlemen! We have begun to overcome these stratospheric numbers, but should not. These two players aliens have accustomed us to caviar and we do not settle for less.

€ 2.10€ 1.66

For over 80 years in the league, just-in Telmo Zarra and Hugo Sanchez 50/51- in the 89/90- had managed to achieve the 38 goals in a season. But Cristiano Ronaldo dressed as freight train last season to find trample everything in its path. It was. The Luso broke the historical record and reached 40 goals -41 to Marca, that's who-the trophy, setting a new mark in Spanish football. 's rivalry Messi and Cristiano for being top scorer has not granted any truce some along the entire championship.Since the first conference took command and were gradually distancing themselves from their pursuers. After the dispute of the day number 32, the Portuguese tops the scoring charts with 40 goals, one ahead of archrival Argentina.

Face to Face | His numbers for the 'scorer'

Real Madrid

Who will end up being the top scorer?


           Real Madrid                                   ClubBarcelona
                        32                     Matches31
                        40                         Goals scored39

Average 1.25 goals each. And a struggle that continues. Six games left. 540 minutes to pierce the opposite goal. Nine hours of football to continue to break records, to prevail in a battle that will be history of the First Division.

Real MadridBarcelona
Rayo VallecanoSeville
MalagaAthletic Bilbao
Real BetisMajorca

Manchester City 4-0 West Brom

Aguero & Tevez star to move rampant hosts back into Premier League title race

Manchester City ran out comfortable 4-0 winners over West Brom to close the gap to Manchester United at the top of the Premier League to just five points.

The home side took an early 1-0 lead thanks to Sergio Aguero’s sixth-minute strike past Ben Foster, and were dominant in terms of the possession from then on. Second-half goals from Aguero, Carlos Tevez and David Silva then gave the scoreline a deservedly dominant feel.

Mancini made just two changes for the game, giving Tevez his first start for Manchester City since September, while Yaya Toure was replaced by Nigel de Jong after suffering an injury against Arsenal.

Meanwhile, Baggies manager Roy Hodgson made five changes to the side that beat Blackburn 3-0 at the weekend. Nicky Shorey and Simon Cox replaced the injured duo of Liam Ridgewell and Chris Brunt, while Craig Dawson, Paul Scharner and lone striker Shane Long all earned recalls.

Both sides started in a confident fashion, and each had early attempts on goal, with Simon Cox dragging a shot wide for West Brom after a nervy clearance by Citys captain Vincent Kompany, and Sergio Aguero seeing a shot blocked.

However, it was the home side that took an early advantage. After getting the ball and surging forward, Aguero let a shot go from just outside the penalty area, and it flew beyond Foster to give Manchester City a 1-0 lead in only the sixth minute.

It was a superb start for the team in second place in the Premier League, and they began to dominate possession, particularly on the wings, as Micah Richards and Samir Nasri settled well into the game in the opening stages.

It did not take long for Tevez to have his first impact, as after some intricate one-touch passing, he blazed a shot over the bar in the 12th minute.

Meanwhile, the away side were struggling to keep possession for any length of time in the face of some superb defensive pressure from the hosts, with their lone striker Shane Long looking increasingly isolated, even in the opening 20 minutes of the first half.

The home side’s talismanic midfielder David Silva had been relatively quiet from the start, but he sprung to life in the 21st minute with his incisive running creating two half-chances; one of which was dealt with by West Brom’s Billy Jones, and the other clung onto by the Baggies' goalkeeper Foster.

Despite some moments of hope for the away side, Man City had another clear scoring chance in the 30th minute. A superb through ball from Tevez put Micah Richards in on goal and, despite cries for offside, he got his shot away only to see it blocked on the line by Jonas Olsson.

However, neither side could create any more genuine goal-scoring opportunities, and despite the home side largely dominating possession and forcing West Brom to look to play on the counterattack, the first half finished with City up 1-0.

The second half began in slightly cagey fashion, with both sides looking to assert their dominance in a crowded midfield. However, the home side quickly began to take control once again, and saw Nasri flash a first-time volley just wide of the near post after a superb right-footed cross from Silva.

City then doubled their advantage in the 53rd minute, with Nasri involved once again. The Frenchman began an intricate passing move and his through ball found its way to Aguero, who finished calmly, side-footing in to make it 2-0 to the home side.

West Brom looked downcast, with lone striker Long still isolated with no other forward for company, and it was not long before the home side extended their advantage further. After yet more good work from Nasri on the left, Aguero played a square ball into the penalty area which was finished with aplomb by Tevez, the Argentine celebrating his first start since September with a goal.

However, the home side refused to rest on their laurels, and only four minutes later they had another. After Aguero picked the ball up around the centre circle, he played a superb through ball toSilva, who chipped his finish over the onrushing Foster to make it four.

The following half-hour saw both sides go through the motions somewhat and, despite substitute Adam Johnson making some headway on the left-hand side for the hosts, neither team could add create more clear chances.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Player Ratings: Barcelona 4-0 Getafe

Víctor Valdés
Might as well have taken the night off, such was his lack of action throughout the match. A virtual spectator.
Carles Puyol
Probably the only player in the Barcelona XI today that could be termed an out an out defender, yet spent the majority of his game camped on the halfway line as Getafe rarely made it past that. Got forward at times, and a few rugged headers on either end from set pieces were the highlights of an untroubled showing at the back.
Barca’s 3-4-3 formation meant that he often formed passing triangles to good effect with Iniesta and Pedro on the left channel. Provided decent support in the attacking third without ever appearing overly dynamic, but his tracking back not as diligent as it should have been, as his flank was the one most exploited by Getafe.
Was at the heart of the moment of controversy in the match, as his impudent chip over Moya appeared to cross the goal line, despite Diaz’s clearance. However, the referee decided otherwise and waved play on. It did not faze him one bit though, as he settled into his passing carousel with Iniesta to keep Getafe perpetually on the back foot.
Andrés Iniesta Luján
Fired an early warning shot with a low drive that left Moya scrambling, and was always at the thick of things in the attacking third. Was completely in control of the midfield with his partner in crime Xavi, with his close control, movement and short passing a delight. His one-two with Messi for the Argentine’s first-half goal was a thing of beauty.
Javier Mascherano
Often the last man back for Barca, even though that responsibility rarely entailed him to enter his own penalty area. Flattened Castro to halt one Getafe counter attack, and was otherwise rarely taken outside his comfort zone.
Sergio Busquets Burgos
Did exceptionally well to snuff out the danger whenever Getafe gained possession in midfield. Tracked back expertly to deny Miku on a rare counterattack for the visitors. Rarely got forward, but that was never in his plans as he gave a disciplined and positionally sound display in the middle.
Alexis Sánchez
His pace was a thorn in Getafe’s side for the entirety of the contest, and one such display of his blistering speed allowed him to skip past Alexis and bury a great finish into the corner for the opener. Should have had a second not long after, but sliced his shot wide from a Cuenca cross. He did round of his brace in the second half though, with an authoritative header from another Cuenca delivery finding the back of the net.
Lionel Messi
Set up Sanchez for the opener with a clever chested knock down, and scored the second himself after starting and finishing a one-two with Iniesta with a thumping shot into the roof of the net. Was always able to beat his man and hold on to the ball under pressure, but only some last ditch defending from Getafe prevented him from adding to his tally. Rounded off another impressive game as his free-kick was headed home by Pedro for the final goal of the match.
Thought for all the world that he had scored with a low finish that was beaten away by the outstretched hand of Moya. Had his chances to attack from out on the left but far too often, his final ball let him down. He managed to salvage his performance with a lovely looping header from a Messi free-kick later on in the second half.
Joan Isaac Cuenca Lopez
Was able to get on the ball and attack his marker Masilela out on the right, but with mixed results in the first half, as he was not always able to make it past the Getafe man. Still, he managed to get the better of Masilela more and more as the game wore on, and when he did, his deliveries were on point, with the cross that set up Sanchez’s second a prime example.
• Substitutions
Marc Muniesa
Given an uneventful six minute run out.
Martin Montoya Torralbo
A largely quiet appearance for the latter stages of the second half.
Showcased his pace and intelligent running on a few occasions after coming on.
Miguel Moyà
Could not be blamed for any of the Barcelona goals, and kept the score down with a series of fantastic saves on the likes of Iniesta, Pedro and Messi.
Cata Díaz
Did well to sprint back and hack clear a Xavi chip over Moya, even if replays suggested that it may have just sneaked over the line. A determined effort regardless, which typified the rest of his play throughout the match. Even though he was beaten on a handful of occasions, he more than made up for it with some last ditch defending, especially in the latter stages of the game, that halted Barca in their tracks.
Miguel Torres
A great last-ditch challenge on Sanchez was the highlight of a frantic game for him, as he was often left scrambling by the constant wave of Barca attacks. He did do his fair share of defensive work with a few vital interceptions, but he was never going to shut out the Blaugrana in this mood.
Outsprinted by namesake Sanchez with ease for the Chilean’s opener, and struggled at times thereafter. Caught horribly out of position multiple times, especially in the second half, and even though he occasionally recovered to correct his mistake, it did not do enough to erase a nervy defensive performance.
Tsepo Masilela
Looked to be on his game in the first half as he was able to play Cuenca to a draw out wide, giving the Barca youngster a tough time with his diligent marking. However, his legs failed him after the break as Cuenca found more and more opportunities to get in behind him and deliver from out wide, with one such lapse leading to the cross for Sanchez’s second.
Pedro Ríos
Largely a spectator out wide on the right but in the little that he saw of the ball, Rios managed to create a bit of danger as a few of his deliveries into the box were put into threatening areas. He provided fleeting moments of quality in an otherwise meager offensive effort from Getafe.
Diego Castro
Unsurprisingly found things tough out on the left as there was never enough time for him on the ball to make an impact. He was mostly used as cover in his own half, and was taken off just before the hour to end a poor game.
Francisco Casquero
Never looked close to settling in the game as the movement of the Barcelona midfield often left him in the dust. The veteran midfielder simply did not have the legs to keep up.
Juan Rodríguez
Anonymous display as ostensibly the most attack minded midfielder for the visitors. Never remotely close to making a dent on proceedings. He gained possession one or two times, but promptly coughed it back up as there was no viable support around him.
Rubén Pérez
Much like Casquero, his task in midfield was a fruitless one. Spent his time on the pitch chasing shadows as he was overwhelmed by the constant pressure. However, on an extremely rare attack for the visitors, he did manage to send a well-executed volley just wide.
Stretched his legs once or twice on the counterattack to temporarily relieve the pressure on his side, but was never able to cause a real problem for the Barcelona defence. His game, for the most part, consisted of chasing down lost causes and providing a lone outlet up front for Getafe.
• Substitutions
Late cameo
Jaime Gavilán Martínez
Not surprisingly, he never adapted to the pace of the game.
As anonymous as his predecessor Rodriguez