Tag: Barcelona

A Homage To A Catalonian Evening

I will get to actual football in a minute. Please bear with me. In a week when former Tory minister David Mellor bleated on TV about dishonesty in public life, it came as less of a shock to see Henry Winter making a good point in the Telegraph this weekend and Martin Samuel writing sensibly in the Daily Mail on Monday. Samuel left the Mail’s bleating at the BBC about Panorama to Charles Sale, who did his usual incisive and relevant job. Samuel instead concentrated on the valid economic fault lines in the Spain/Portugal bid which don’t (yet) afflict England’s bid. Winter’s piece descended into the general BBC-bashing which appears to be a contractual obligation for most football journalists in what used to be classed the “Tory” press. But not before noting the boost that the Spain/Portugal bid might get from Monday night’s telly. The schedule included Andrew Jennings’ latest FIFA Executive corruption revelations and live from Spain, el grand clasico, Barcelona v Real Madrid. Ideal viewing, Winter mused, to help a FIFA man choose Spain over England as a 2018 World Cup venue. Of course, you have to leave aside the fact the two programmes were scheduled against each other (and leave well aside any debates about whether or not Barcelona and Catalonia are in Spain). But, as regular readers will know, I’m not one to let facts...

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Match Of The Midweek: Barcelona 4-1 Arsenal

How, then, do Arsenal solve a problem like Lionel Messi? If he isn’t unquestionably the best player in the world at the moment then he is in the top two or three, and if this evening’s Champions League quarter-final proves anything, it proves that one player, in irresistable form, can win a match. Lionel Messi has been in sensational form all season but this evening, with an individual performance so sublime that it feels at times as if he is the only player on the pitch, there is simply no stopping him. Arsenal supporters may wonder aloud what difference the injured Cesc Fabregas, William Gallas and Robin Van Persie might have made to their team, but it is difficult to imagine that anything barring a full, career-threatening assort upon Messi would have made any difference to what happens this evening. Arsenal’s comeback from two goals down against Barcelona last week was treated in some parts of the British press as being something akin to the rebirth of Lazarus. This, however, rather seemed to overlook the extent to thich they were utterly, hopelessly outplayed for much of the first leg. Barcelona were so far ahead of Arsenal in the first half of the first leg that watching it felt akin to watching a full first team playing a good, well organised youth team. Still, find their way back into the...

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Sir Bobby Robson – 1933-2009

It has been a very sad day for football on the eve of the new season. We have lost one of us. It is, perhaps, a reflection of the hole in the heart of English football that we should mourn a football man whose greatest single attribute was nothing more or less than a sense of common decency. It is football’s loss and our loss that we may never in a quite literal sense see his like again. Rob Freeman, who supports Ipswich Town, takes a moment to remember Sir Bobby Robson. Sir Bobby – it’s always seemed a little churlish to refer to him by just his surname – was simply put, one of the greatest men to ever contribute to the game. He made an impact as a player, a manager and as a man. His playing career often gets overshadowed as a result of the achievements he had as a manager, but as an inside forward and wing-half for Fulham and West Bromwich Albion, Sir Bobby scored over a hundred goals in over five hundred games in a domestic career that spanned 18 years. He made his international debut for England against in 1957, scoring two goals in a 4-0 victory over France at Wembley. It would be the first of 20 caps that would also take in three appearances at the 1958 World Cup, and...

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Match Of The Week: FC Barcelona 2-0 Manchester United

Sometimes, you have to wonder. Levels of fitness and skill have no doubt improved in football over the last couple of decades, but perhaps today was the day during which we started to lose grip with reality. Every British newspaper had a pull-out section, many choosing to lavish extravagant praise on a match that hadn’t even been played yet. But anyone that knows anything about football knows that the sums on the pitch don’t necessarily equal the parts. You can, on any weekend, turn up at a park pitch and there is a chance that you will see a more entertaining match played out between two sweaty teams of forty year-olds with beer guts than you might see on a Saturday afternoon in the Premier League. It’s part of the intrinsic beauty of football. For all of that, I can understand why the press got so excited. For all of the cynicism brought about by three decades of watching the game, Manchester United against Barcelona in the Champions League final was always going to release our inner eight year old and make most of us go, “Squeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! Foooootball!”. I suspect that it’s part of the reason why we still watch it when we’re old enough to know better. Tonight, though, Alex Ferguson – who has ridden his luck in all three of his previous European Cup finals – finally...

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Three Times Lucky For Manchester United?

How often, then, do cup winners get lucky? Ahead of tomorrow night’s European Cup final in Rome it’s a question worth asking ourselves, because there is a tendency, in cup finals, for those moments of good fortune to be critically important. In this respect, cup competitions are very different to league seasons. A league season consists of a large number of matches. Teams may occasionally stutter at the top or pull off surprise wins at the bottom (see Hull City beating Arsenal at The Emirates for proof of this) but, generally speaking, things level themselves out by the end of the season. The cups, though, are a different beast altogether. One slice of luck or one brilliant piece of skill by a player that one might have thought singularly incapable of such genius can win a cup in a way that it can’t win a league competition. If a league season is a marathon and not a sprint, then a cup competition is a sprint and not a marathon, to an extent. I say “to an extent”, of course, because the indignity of losing to lower placed opposition isn’t something that the biggest clubs like very much. They very much understand that league seasons level themselves out. This was a very welcome side effect of the conversion of the European Cup into a mini-league format (along with the extra...

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