Archive for August, 2012

European Super Cup Result

 

 

Chelsea 1-4 Atletico MAdrid… Falcao 3, Miranda

Stunning Falcao hat-trick wins European Super Cup

 

 

Radamel Falcao scored a sensational first-half hat-trick as Atletico Madrid put European champions Chelsea to the sword to lift the European Super Cup with a 4-1 win in Monaco.

The Colombian scored took his tally to six goals in two games as Los Rojiblancos won the trophy for the second time in three years, with Miranda adding a fourth in the second half before Gary Cahill hit a late consolation.

Chelsea named their strongest possible XI for the showpiece final, recalling Frank Lampard to the midfield in place of Raul Meireles as Fernando Torres started against his boyhood club.

On-loan keeper Thibault Courtois started for Atletico against his parent club, while Falcao led the attacking line on the back of his hat-trick in his side’s last outing against Athletic Bilbao.

Munich may have felt like a distant memory for Chelsea fans but they did have something to cheer when one of the heroes of that night, Cahill, rifled in low from close-range after Atletico failed to clear their lines from a corner.

Chelsea fans suddenly had something to celebrate but they were almost further embarrassed in the closing stages, as Cech saved smartly from Felipe Luis before Luiz turned a Turan cross towards his own goal but got fortunate as it rebounded against the post and bounced to safety.

The Blues pressed late on to try and restore a smattering of pride to proceedings, but in truth, the match – and the trophy – had been won at half-time by the blistering pace of Atletico’s play and the brilliance of Falcao, who received a rapturous reception from all sides of Stade Louis II as he was replaced in the dying minutes.

Why Javi Martinez Is Worth Biggest Fee in Bundesliga

 

Javi Martinez has just signed with Bayern Munich in the biggest transfer since Mario Gomez joined the Bundesliga club.

The transfer of Gomez from VfB Stuttgart to Munich four years ago was within the price range of $37.5 million to $43.8 million. While it would have been preferable that Martinez would have resolved his differences with Athletic Club Bilbao, it is understandable that the midfielder wants to have more opportunities.

Bayern Munich must have been willing to pay a lot for Martinez, and he is worth the fee. The reason lies in his record with Athletic Club Bilbao and the Spanish National Football Team. Martinez started his career with Athletic Club Bilbao as a transfer from Osasuna in the year 2006. The first season for Martinez with Athletic Club Bilbao resulted in a 2-0 victory for the club over Real Club Deportivo La Coruna in December 16, 2006. It was Martinez who was responsible for the winning goals of that match. Athletic Club Bilbao was able to advance to the Copa Del Rey final in 2009 and 2012 because of Martinez.

In the year 2010, Martinez played a major role for Spain in the FIFA World Cup held in South Africa. During the same year, he was awarded the Don Balon Award for being the La Liga Breakthrough Player. Martinez participated in the UEFA Euro 2012 for Spain and 2011-2012 UEFA Europa League for Athletic Club Bilbao tournaments. He appeared in the UEFA Euro 2012 tournament between Spain and the Republic of Ireland for 25 minutes.  He also managed 1170 appearances within 13 matches in the 2011-2012 UEFA Europa League for Athletic Club Bilbao. During the 2011-2012 La Liga season (according to ESPN Soccernet), Martinez had four goals, one assist, and 25 shots within 31 matches.

Martinez is able (according to ESPN Soccernet) to start attacks as well as block the ones formed by the opposing team making him a threat. He is also a tackler who is tough on the field.

Martinez is known as a midfield leader with a commanding, powerful, and strong presence, as reported by ESPN Soccernet. The 2012-2013 Bundesliga season for Bayern Munich will be closely monitored by football supporters to see what transpires from this historical transfer. While Martinez is worth the money spent by Bayern Munich, it is hoped that the decision made by the parties will generate positive results for the involved parties.

Talent Watch: Andy Carroll – West Ham United Signs Ex-Liverpool Forward

 

West Ham United has taken a big step towards securing their place in the Premier League next year and years to come with the signing of Liverpool forward on a season-long loan. According to West Ham’s official website, WHUFC.com, Carroll will spend the remainder of this season at Boleyn Ground with the option to make the move permanent next summer.

I guess three seasons of the last decade in the second-tier of English football will make a club pull the trigger on expensive players faster than most. The 23-year-old Carroll expressed excitement about the chance to play for the upstart Hammers: “It’s great to be here at West Ham and all signed up,” Carroll said hours after joining the club. “I just can’t wait to get started now. I want to be playing games and obviously hoping to score some goals. I know the manager well and some of the lads, so it is nice for me to come to a place where I know people. I’m hoping to add a lot of goals and create a few chances.”

Caroll indeed knows West Ham manager Sam Allardyce very well. A former Newcastle man, Caroll played under Allardyce during the 2007-2008 season. He earned his first Premier League start that year and scored his first goals that season as he began to bloom into the tough, physical player that earned him an unprecedented £35 million transfer to Liverpool in 2011. “I think for all parties this is a great signing,” said Allardyce. “Andy is an all-round footballer, but because he is 6’3″ and one of his strengths is his aerial power, everybody dismisses the ability he possesses on the floor.”

It’ll be interesting to see how Carroll fits in with a West Ham club that is—to put it mildly—impotent on offense. In two league matches so far this year, the Hammers have scored just one goal. Can Carroll improve that number himself? Will he create chances and allow fellow attackers Kevin Nolan, Ricardo Vaz Te and Carlton Cole to score goals? Or will he flop, creating more distractions in the locker room than scoring opportunities on the pitch?

 

 

Real Madrid vs. Barcelona: 4 Things We Learned from the Spanish Super Cup

 

 

Real Madrid Can Better Barcelona When at Their Very Best

Real Madrid really stormed out of the gates at the Bernabeu in the second leg, and it was imperative they did so. Their pace of play and decisiveness in the Barcelona penalty area was much better than what we’ve seen in La Liga competition. It was Madrid’s ability to use their lightning quick counter attacks that really caught Barcelona short.

Most importantly, the work ethic from all the Madrid players was there. Jose Mourinho really managed to get the best out of his side for this important clash, and Madrid really left nothing to chance. Both legs proved that Madrid can get goals and even wins from games against Barcelona. Mourinho’s team frustrated Barcelona in the Camp Nou and forced two goals into Victor Valdes’ net. While at the Bernabeu, Madrid really looked to use the home advantage to win the tie.

Pepe Is Very Important to the Real Madrid Defence

Real Madrid were without first choice centre-back Pepe last week through injury. Raul Albiol played well, but you can really notice the gulf in quality and influence. Pepe’s return gave Madrid a little more bite to their game, as the Portuguese defender snapped into a number of very good tackles and interceptions.

His reading of the game is very good, whereby he and Sergio Ramos know when to step up and intercept advancing Barcelona attackers. Pepe announced himself in the game, and to the fans, with a wonderfully-timed tackle on Lionel Messi very early on in the game.

Jose Mourinho Is Still a Great Tactician

Over both Super Cup legs, Jose Mourinho got his tactics absolutely spot on. In the first leg at the Camp Nou, he instructed his team to remain composed, disciplined and narrow. The Real Madrid defence frustrated Barcelona above all else. The channels into the penalty area were being blocked off and certain Barcelona players resorted to diving in the box (notably, not Andres Iniesta).

On attack in the first leg, Madrid were decisive and knew what they wanted. Their attackers are better in the air than Barcelona’s defenders, and Cristiano Ronaldo took advantage by climbing highest against Sergio Busquets. But in the second leg at the Bernabeu, Mourinho’s team quickened the pace. They suffocated Barcelona’s breaks out of defence and they found the weaknesses in their opposition.

The game at the Camp Nou saw Barcelona pick up the win, but it was Mourinho who won this two-legged war. The tactics were excellent and hard to fault, and he really managed to bring the best out of a flat and seemingly lifeless team.

Lionel Messi Can Still Be Counted on for Goals

Lionel Messi followed on from his showing in last year’s Super Cup by grabbing goals in both legs in this year’s tie. Barcelona’s attacking magician looked dangerous on the occasions he was offered to advance. He did look lively in his game, but Barcelona really did struggle to control the game early on.

Again, it’s worth noting just how impressive the Madrid defence and midfield were in shutting out Messi’s attacks. But both of his goals came via set pieces, with the penalty at the Camp Nou and a sensational free kick at the Bernabeu.

His performances in front of goal in these Clasico games were clearly carrying over from his La Liga form. And while he and Barcelona were far, far from their best, he was still able to find his way onto the score sheet.

Champions League Group Stage Draw: Analyzing the Matchups

The Champions League is one of, if not the most idolized of club competitions in the world, and while the qualifying phases are as much a part of the cup as anything else, it’s when our groups are decided that the tournament really begins. 104 days after Chelsea beat Bayern Munich to claim the 2011-12 Champions League title, we start the process of the European tournament all over again after witnessing the group stage draw in Monaco.

As always, the stages are now set and it’s already possible to see just which fixtures will prove particularly tantalising, who is likely to advance and whose chances aren’t so strong. Although the first group games won’t kick off until mid-September, we can now begin to formulate our opinions and the annual ritual of predicting what course the competition will take.
Group A

 FC Porto

 Dynamo Kiev

 Paris Saint-Germain

 Dinamo Zagreb

In the words of our Champions League presenter in Monaco, Group A is nothing if not a “dynamic group.” From Portugal to Croatia, France to Ukraine, participants will get used to the idea of jet-lag in what is, in essence, a very balanced crop of teams. After acquiring a number of superstar signings over the summer, Paris Saint Germain would have to be looked upon as favourites to top Group A.

If AC Milan summer departures, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva, can groove into their new French surroundings, they can be of massive help to PSG with their wealth of European experience. However, Porto will also have something to say after holding onto a number of their biggest players over the summer months, and after a couple of seasons doing so well in the Europa League, the Portuguese club will strive to prove their worth on the biggest of stages.

Group B

 Arsenal

 Schalke 04

 Olympiacos

 Montpellier

After losing Robin van Persie just over two weeks ago, Arsene Wenger needed to draw as easy a group as possible in his search to score goals. The Premier League side are yet to net in their 2012-13 league campaign, and they’ll need to find a new hitman soon if they are to beat the likes of Schalke and Montpellier. Olivier Giroud will undoubtedly feature against the Ligue 1 champions, whom he moved to Arsenal from for a fee of £16 million over the summer.

Meanwhile, Olympiacos will be seen as Group B’s underdogs, especially after selling last season’s top scorer, Kevin Mirallas, to Everton last week. The 2011-12 Bundesliga season showed us that the Veltins Arena can be a very difficult ground to play in at times, and Schalke are not to be underestimated after a strong transfer window that has so far seen them hold onto prolific talent, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar.

Group C

 AC Milan

 Zenit St. Petersburg

 Anderlecht

 Málaga

In Málaga’s first experience of Champions League football, the Spaniards will go up against seasoned opposition in the form of AC Milan, Zenit and Anderlecht. Pundits are tipping Milan to have a weak season after losing both their top scorer and best defender from 2011-2012, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva, respectively.

Málaga have had a difficult transfer window burdened by their financial problems, and Zenit St. Petersburg may feel as if their home matches in Russia will be a particular chance to grab points. With Milan and Malaga both experiencing their share of problems in recent times, expect to see all four sides challenge for progress from what may be a very entertaining group to keep your eye on.

While it may not seem like it on paper, Anderlecht couldn’t have hoped for a much better draw and are facing several sides at the lowest of lows.

Group D

 Real Madrid

 Manchester City

 Ajax

 Borussia Dortmund

Group D is potentially the most exciting of all eight pools, playing host to no less than four league champions. In a battle of the big bucks, Real Madrid facing off against Manchester City is evidently the most enticing encounter amongst the lot. A fixture that will see the Premier League champions facing off against last season’s La Liga victors will hopefully show us a true test as to whether either of these sides can perform on the big stage.

Add to that more than a small say from the Bundesliga champions, Borussia Dortmund, and you have a very possible trifecta of challengers for the group’s top spot on your hands. Ajax are certainly the underdogs of the four and will face Real Madrid in this competition for the third year running. Roberto Mancini is making his second foray into the Champions League as manager of Manchester City, and a two-legged fixture against Real Madrid is the ultimate test of his club’s mettle.

If there was any pick for this year’s “Group of Death”, it has to be Group D.

Group E

 Chelsea

  Shakhtar Donetsk

 Juventus

 Nordsjælland

The current holders of Europe’s most prestigious club trophy may have avoided some big guns of the continent, but Juventus and Shakhtar Donetsk will be no pushovers for Chelsea in this competition. The Old Lady won the Scudetto title in an unbeaten 2011-12 campaign and have already added some silverware to their cabinet this season by beating Napoli earlier this month in the Supercoppa Italiana. Not to mention the Italians will be without manager Antonio Conte, who is serving a 10-month ban for alleged match-fixing.

Shakhtar were taken to the wire by Dynamo Kiev last season, but eventually emerged as their nation’s best side; a trip to their cold climates is something most sides will have liked to avoid. In Nordsjælland’s first attempt at competing in the Champions League, don’t expect to see them earning too many points this time around.

That said, underdogs are there for a reason.

Group F

 Bayern Munich

 Valencia

 LOSC Lille

 BATE Borisov

A contender for this season’s Champions League “Group of Death,” Group F is one filled with clubs ready to take full advantage of their forays into the European challenge. Bayern Munich, Valencia and Lille have all fallen to superior competition in recent seasons, but can feel confident in advancing from this stage of the competition.

After making last year’s final, Bayern Munich would certainly see themselves as favourites to make it through to the knockout phase, while BATE Borisov are just happy to have qualified for their second consecutive group stage. Valencia have failed to make it past the group stage of the tournament for six years, but after last season’s Europa League run, will be confident of breaking that duct this season.

Group G

 Barcelona

 Benfica

 Spartak Moscow

 Celtic

So, Benfica will be tasked with overcoming a football giant for two seasons in a row after being drawn in the same group as Barcelona. Last season, the Portuguese giants showed that they were up for the challenge of beating Manchester United, but will Jorge Jesus be able to pull off the impossible once more? It will be interesting to see how these sides deal with a trip to the freezing colds of Moscow, although Celtic may be alright after becoming used to the Scottish weather.

Neil Lennon’s side will be overjoyed to see the Rangers relegated to the Scottish Football League, so don’t be surprised to see the Bhoys devote more of their squad efforts to the Champions League. Aiden McGeady will make his return to Celtic Park after leaving for the Russian capital several years ago.

Will the winger have a hand in eliminating his former side from the competition?

Group H

 Manchester United

 SC Braga

 Galatasaray

 Cluj

Does anyone else feel a sense of déjà vu coming on here? Last season saw Manchester United luck out with what many would have described as near enough a dream group, but we all know how that turned out. In all seriousness, the stuttering campaign of 2011-12 will have taught Sir Alex Ferguson a lesson or two, and the Scotsman won’t take Galatasaray, Braga or Cluj for granted.

This will be Gala’s first run at the Champions League title in six years while Braga will be playing amongst the European elite for just the second time. At the risk of slipping up as me and many others did last year, Manchester United should breeze through this group.

Real Madrid vs. Barcelona: 3 Key Battles to Watch in Spanish Super Cup 2nd Leg

We are still in August, but we are already nearing our second Clasico of the 2012-2013 season.

Barcelona bested Real Madrid in the first leg of the Spanish Supercopa, but an error from Victor Valdes made the match a lot closer than it really should have been. Now Los Blancos are in great position to turn things around and overcome a one-goal deficit. To do that, Jose Mourinho will need much stronger performances from Mezut Ozil, Cristiano Ronaldo and the rest of his squad.

Going into the second leg at the Santiago Bernabeu, there are a few key matchups that will decide the tie and the trophy winners.

Ozil vs Busquets

Mezut Ozil is only 23 years old and is already recognized as one of the top midfielders in football. As great as the German is, he almost always underperforms against his team’s biggest rival. One of the main reasons for his poor performances is Barcelona’s sweeper and ball-winner—Sergio Busquets. The Catalan midfielder is tasked with breaking up the attacking play of opposing midfielders and has long been a pain in Ozil’s side.

Busquets does a fabulous job of filling any gaps in the defense and positioning himself to shift play the other way as soon as possession is gained. The defensive mid directs players like Ozil toward defensive zones that are not being overworked by the wingers, which shows his incredible understanding and awareness of the game. While he is not responsible for shutting the German down, he does greatly influence the areas Ozil targets in attack as well as the direction of play.

If Busquets can force Real Madrid’s No. 10 to have yet another poor outing, Real Madrid will have little chance of winning the match.

Messi vs. Real Madrid’s Central Defense

In the first leg, Andres Iniesta outshone everyone on the pitch and walked away with Man of the Match honors. Lionel Messi went his fifth straight Clasico without a goal from open play and failed to add an assist to his name. Make no mistake, though—Real Madrid’s entire defensive strategy is planned around the reigning FIFA World Player of the Year. As the center forward and focus of Barça’s attack, Messi draws attention from three defenders almost as soon as he receives the ball anywhere in the final third.

Even in matches where he fails to score, the Argentinian takes pressure off of his fellow attackers and weakens Real’s counterattack by overloading the center of the pitch when—or if—he loses the ball. The results speak for themselves. When Madrid’s central defense is able to limit Messi’s shots and time on the ball, they find it much easier to stay in the match and minimize damage. When Barça’s No. 10 finds enough space to run, he abuses every defender—and group of defenders—his rivals send at him.

Shutting him down will again be key to Los Merengues’ success.

Real Madrid’s Counter vs. Barcelona Back Three

Barcelona’s biggest weakness over the last few seasons has been defending the counterattack. The center backs play very high up the pitch, and while Sergio Busquets is a phenomenal player, he lacks the pace to make up for the poor positioning of his teammates, especially on counters that get directed out wide. Unfortunately for La Blaugrana, there is not a better counterattacking team in football than their rivals.

Real Madrid are perfectly built to exploit Barcelona. Xabi Alonso has great awareness, always knowing where to place his first ball when he cleans up Barcelona’s attack. Once Alonso sees that lane, he has at least one man at midfield—usually Ozil—ready to send the key pass to his wingers or striker. For Barcelona, that often means leaving Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and/or Angel di Maria racing full-speed toward a single defender.

Barça do a fine job of protecting the ball and quickly closing down passing lanes when possession is lost, but as Real showed in the final Clasico of last season, just one mistake or slight misstep is enough for Madrid to capitalize.