November 29, 2010
All the players say it won't define the season. They say the winner won't come out the champions of Spain. They're half right. It will define the season, perhaps because it will give one side ammunition until April or perhaps because the winning side's media will continually mention it for the rest of the season. Sure, you're doing quite well in La Liga and Champions League, but don't you remember who won at the Camp Nou?
It will be either a damnification or a justification of Mourinho's time in Madrid. The previous scorelines will either have all be in vain or a build-up to this moment. It will be called defining and it will be called a turning point. It doesn't even matter which way it goes, it will be seen as the center of the season. The fans of both teams--and the fans of plenty of other teams too--circled this weekend as The Big One when the calendars were first released, so, really, it is The Big One, but it's also just 3 points sitting alongside 111 other ones.
November 25, 2010
Because it's Thanksgiving weekend here, I was traveling on Wednesday along with every single other person in the Tri-State area (and, oddly, all of them appeared to be heading north on my particular train). That meant I missed the Panathinaikos match. Somehow spending time with my family jumped above watching a pivotal match in Barcelona's Champions League campaign. Thanks to Rubin Kazan's 1-0 win against Copenhagen, a win in Greece meant we would finish top of the group regardless of the final match day's result.
November 17, 2010
Don't look now, but Spain has become a 2 horse race again. As recently as 2007-08, Villarreal finished 2nd, but it's been since Valencia's triumph in 2003-04 that anyone other than the Big 2 has won the title. Before you harp on that too much, though, remember that it's been since 2003-04 that someone other than Chelsea or Manchester United have won the Premier League. Now that there's a 5-point gap between Barcelona and Villarreal--thanks to a weekend encounter that saw Barça win 3-1 at the Camp Nou--it seems unlikely that the league will re-find the parity that made up the opening 3rd of the season.
November 12, 2010
It’s easy enough to get lost in the rumours. The current one, first reported by Dutch sports magazine Voetbal International, is that Barcelona are negotiating with PSV Eindhoven for the January signing of Ibrahim Afellay. What’s intriguing about this rumour is not the player (a solid, dependable player) or the low price (€2-4m), but rather who is behind the scenes.
November 11, 2010
Guardiola played a game of distraction. He put on Lionel Messi when things were already out of hand; the crowd was pleased, but that wasn't really he point. Sleight of hand, you could call it. Hey, look over here, nothing to see over there, no canterano pulling slick moves, playing well defensively, and providing assists on that side of the field! Just some sparkling Argentine moves on this side.
The star of the show on Wednesday, in a 5-1 drubbing of Ceuta in the Copa del Rey round of 32 that pushed the aggregate to a comfortable 7-1, was Thiago Alcantara. It is probably no surprise to those who regularly watch the Barça youth squads play that Thiago has been able to step up regularly for the first team, but today was different. Yes, it was against a Segunda B team that didn't seem to understand where it was for much of the first half, then got a red card to make sure they were on the back foot all night, but it was also a performance worthy of notice.