I think Messi’s face and posture says everything about how Barcelona players feels after their thrashing in the hands of Bayern Munich a couple of nights ago. Losing such a massive champions league game 4-0 is a humongous humiliation for any team even more so for at team not used to it such as Messi’s club. The odds of them making into the final after such a result are practically zero unless the Germans decide to not show up but looking at Messi’s face in these photos, I think their determination to make up for the humiliating result from the other night gives them a fighting chance. Let’s see what happens!
In a match that will live long in memory, Barcelona destroyed Real Madrid 5-0 in arguably football’s greatest derby, El Classico. It was also the biggest defeat in Jose Mourinho’s career, one which shuttered the aura of invisibility Real had been building around them this season, and made Barcelona the kings of Spain again.
Those hoping that this will shut up the Special One will be disappointed, however. Mourinho as admitted the better team won on Monday, but has said that he is not ‘embarrassed” by the result, and that Real certainly have not lost the title yet. Like him or not, he is right on both accounts. Barcelona were so good on that day, that not even Real should feel that badly for losing against such a flawless team. And at the same time, historic win or not, it only puts Barca two points ahead of Real at the top of La Liga, and we have more than half a season to go.
It’s important not to forget that Real will also have a chance to redeem themselves in their own stadium in the spring, where revenge will be the first thing on the minds of every fan and every player in Madrid. Not to mention that the way both teams are playing in the Champions League, they may very well have to face up against one another in that competition too. Barcelona may have won the battle, but the war is still on.
Something tells me the Dutch Football Federation aren’t big fans of vampire movies. This is based on the news that they have decided to ban Ajax striker Luis Suarez for no less than seven league games, putting him out of action until February 4th.
As a reminder, Suarez bit an opponent, Otman Bakkal, in a match vs. PSV last week. Or at least he appeared to try, giving him a quick nip on the neck. As bizarre as that accident was, he didn’t cause Bakkal any real injury, and the game went on without him getting sanctioned. Upon further review, however, the Dutch FA have come down hard on the Uruguayan, and have given him a punishment that is more than double-long for a direct red card. It’s an even longer punishment than if he had elbowed someone in the face, or accidentally broken someone’s foot. I guess the message they are trying to send is to keep the weird stuff off the field.
Suarez has apologized, and claimed that Bakkal had consistently been stepping on his shoes during the match, which caused his retaliation. Still no word on why he chose to bite him – maybe he thought that a shove or a punch would be viewed as more serious? If so, the choice has backfired greatly.
One bonus for Suarez is that he has two months off to watch all the vampire movies he can get his hands on.
You sometimes see managers getting quite frustrated during matches, sometimes they kick a water bottle or curse at the air (or the referee), but what CFR Cluj coach Sorin Cartu did in their 1-0 loss away to Basel was quite remarkable. He lost his cool and kicked the side of the perspex glass shelter, shattering a hole through the dugout. His anger was matched by his team’s inability to rescue their chances of qualifying from the group stages, and they are now rooted at the bottom of the group.
After seeing the damage done by their coach, Cluj were quick to fire him and apologize “sincerely to UEFA, Basel, the fans, and everyone involved in football”. I don’t think anyone would have thought badly of the club as a whole, but the Romanians seemed very quick to separate their image from the uncontrollable Cartu, who had only been at charge of the club since September.
An overreaction from both sides? Possibly. Smashing up the home team’s dugout certainly isn’t becoming of any professional, let alone one that is supposed to represent the club. But getting fired simply for that? One thinks there must have been other incidents or circumstances that played a factor in this decision, and maybe this was simply the last straw. Cluj have had a mixed season in the Romanian league, and after winning the double last time around, maybe the president’s patience was wearing thin in terms of results too.
Here’s something that I really find crazy about UEFA, and the governing body of football in general. They apparently can do nothing about players diving, wasting time in a match, acting unprofessionally; they can do nothing about referees failing to see obvious goals, penalties, or getting offside decisions totally incorrect; but if someone deliberately gets a yellow card, they are up at arms to defend the “fairplay of the game”.
The current incident concerns Real Madrid in their Champions League game against Ajax, where Xabi Alonso and Sergio Ramos seemed to deliberately get themselves booked for time-wasting, so that they could miss Real’s final game in the groups, rather than risk sitting out matches in the knockout stage. UEFA have charged the club for this, and the players are waiting to find out what punishments will be dealt.
Jose Mourinho has defended his players of course, though even he would find it hard to deny this tactic. My question, however, is what is so unfair about getting yourself booked. It is a victimless crime, and the only advantage gained by Real is the ability to rely on their own players rather than see them sit out important games for a meaningless yellow card received long ago. If Alonso and Ramos had really “earned” their bookings, such as if they had gone in for a bad challenge on an opponent, they probably wouldn’t have been charged. So what is UEFA’s message here? Yellow cards are ok, as long as you hurt another player? Whacky stuff.
Perhaps you are wondering if the title means Ajax striker Luis Suarez will be starring in the next Hollywood vampire flick, but no. He openly bit an opponent during a match between his club Ajax and PSV in the Dutch league.
You can see the incident clearly in the video, where after a heated exchange between their teammates, in which an Ajax player was shown the red card, Suarez leans in and takes a quick bite into midfielder Otman Bakkal’s shoulder. The latter was just surprised as everyone else from the incident, but does not get too worked up. He shows the referee the bite marks, but apparently the ref did not have time to deal with this incident. Or maybe he did not know how to – is biting a red card offense in football? Or even a foul? In any case, it’s weird.
The commentaries compare the incident to the famous Tyson-Holyfield boxing example, but in fact, this is not the first time a footballer has bitten an opponent. English striker Jermain Defoe did the same to Argentina midfielder Javier Mascherano back in 2006. One can’t imagine why this is the way some of these players chose to let their frustrations be shown, but I suppose it’s better than punching or elbowing someone in the face.
The incident in the Dutch game was pretty much the highlight of the match, which ended in a 0-0 draw.
It’s not often that a club manager may feel a bit low when his side achieve a historical 8-0 away victory, such as what Barcelona did in their match against Almeria over the weekend, but that was the reality for Pep Guardiola. The reason for this is that Juan Manuel Lillo was fired from his position as Almeria coach, and in the most embarrassing fashion too.
Lillo, often known as the “philosopher” for his broad and contemplative match statements, is a long time friend of Guardiola’s, and the Barca coach considers him his mentor. He had only been in charge of the Spanish club for about a year, but the owners of Almeria fired him pretty much immediately after the game. Some rumors say they even took the decision when the score was 5-0 at half-time.
Guardiola certainly did not celebrate Barca’s historic win, and after the match he described the situation as very “uncomfortable” for both himself and Lillo. Students sometimes surpass their teachers, but beating them by a record result doesn’t happen often. Still, it should be remembered that Guoardiola manages one of the very best teams in the planet, and Messi alone would cost more than the entire Almeria team. Freak results like this happen, but the real test for Barca will be next Monday when El Classico takes center stage. The games between Barca and Real Madrid are always big, but because of the sizzling form of both sides, this one has the makings of an epic.
Tensions in Scotland have reached boiling point after the Dougie McDonald scandal, who admitted to lying about his decision to over-turn a penalty decision in the game between Dundee United and Celtic. Such an admittance was bound to create a lot of controversy for all referees in the league, and since then they have faced constant criticism from the managers and the media.
They have decided to fight back, however, and by all accounts it seems like next weekends fixture of games will not go ahead, because there will be no referees to officiate the games. The protests from the refs is that they can not do their jobs under so much pressure, and have shown that they do indeed still hold a lot of power in football. Like many professional, they are a necessary element for an institution to keep functioning, and everything grinds to a standstill when they refuse to do their jobs.
They have the full right to refuse working, but hopefully the talks that will ensue will yield positive results that will improve the refereeing standards in Scotland, and maybe have an effect on other leagues in Europe. Surely new ideas must be introduced that will help officials make better decisions, which in tern will soften the criticism against them. The worst that can happen is a standstill, where no changes are made, but the referees are simply pleaded into continuing their jobs. Unfortunately, that is also the more likely outcome, but nothing is known for sure yet.
As a Rovers fan, I knew that this was a long time coming, as rumors of a takeover had started as early as August, but now the deal has officially been announced. Indian company Venkys are the new owners of Blackburn Rovers, and are promising to bring the club forward into a new era.
So is this good or bad news? It is exciting times for sure, but only time will tell how good they will be for the club. They most certainly do not have the resources to compete with the top Premiership owners, and have only promised 5 million in transfers for January – which is still 5 million more than Rovers would normally expect. Their major selling point is that they are the first Indian company to have a Premiership club, which would hopefully generate a lot if interest in India, and help the club spread its popularity around Asia. Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester City and United have all used this tactic, and it has indeed brought them some good fortune. The Indian market in particular is growing fast, and if Rovers manage to capture the interest of the public, big positive changes can indeed be on their way.
There has been some debate amongst the fans over the ethics of this company, however. They are involved in the poultry business, which has often been the #1 target of animal-rights groups. There are many things that can be said about this issue, but again, only time will tell who is right and who is wrong.
The good thing is that they are a family-run business who are said to be extremely respectful of the ethics previous club owner and hero Jack Walker championed, and will honor his memory. This is what everyone involved at the club wants to hear, but it us up to Venkys to be true to their word.
While the proposed Serie A strike at the beginning of this season was canceled, Italy’s clubs and the player’s association (AIC) are still at each other’s throats. If a new contract between the two is not reached by November 30th, the players are promising they really will make good on their threats and protest a weekend’s fixture of games.
As a reminder, one of the main issues of this whole standstill is the AIC’s demand to block a cause proposed by the clubs, where a player will be forced to accept a transfer to another club of equal status when he has less than a year on his contract remaining. The AIC see this as an unforgivable breach of their rights, as apparently even one avenue which would allow the club some power over the employees it pays for would be too much. The players feel that they are being treated as “slaves”, though most people with an averages income can appreciate just how insanely ridiculous such a comment really is.
I do believe the clubs will meet their demands, however, as the reality is the players do hold a lot of power. It would be a momentous occasion if they did not back down, and maybe spark a change in the levels of power in football, but with the threat of boycotting and canceling the games, they probably won’t take it that far. Still, we’ll find out the end results soon enough.