May 29, 2012
Story of Real Madrid's Champions League Win In 2000

Story I wrote for laliga-news.com about Real Madrid’s Champions League win in 2000. There are some parallels with Chelsea’s win this season.

May 19, 2012
Chelsea FC. Champions League winners for the 2011/12 season.

Chelsea FC. Champions League winners for the 2011/12 season.

April 27, 2012
Guardiola. The end on an era.

"We have called you today to announce that Pep Guardiola will not continue in charge of the team next season" -Barcelona club president Sandro Rosell. Friday saw the end of an era with Pep Guardiola stepping down as manager of Barcelona FC. He will continue until the end of the current season, after which assistant manager Tito Vilanova will take over for next season. Inedibly the speculation will start as to what the future holds for Guardiola. Will he take the Chelsea job? Will he take the England job or any other vacant position available this summer? But this is really a time to reflect on the success that he has brought to his boy-hood club. Success that has seen him become "the best manager in the history of the club."

The loss to Real Madrid in La Liga and a failure to over come Chelsea in the Champions League appear to have over shadowed, or slightly tainted what has been an phenomenal period of joy for Guardiola. While these two results may not be favorable it shouldn’t distract from that fact that he has won 13 trophies in four seasons (there is still this seasons Copa del Rey to play for). Two Champions League crowns, three consecutive La Liga titles, one Copa del Rey, two FIFA Club World Cups, two UEFA Super Cups and three Spanish Supercups have all been won under his guidance. Something that surly even Guardiola couldn’t imagine when he took over from Frank Rijkaard in 2008. Prior to that, Guardiola had only managed the Barcelona ‘B’ side the year before.

As a player Pep made his debut for Barca in 1990 when Johan Cruyff managed the Catalans. He would go on to captain the side and was part of the ‘Dream Team’ that won four league titles in a row. He would remain club captain until he left the club for Italian side Brescia in 2001. He ended his Barca career with six league titles, two Copa del Rey’s and one Champions League title. He appeared for the club 370 times, scoring 11 goals. In the process he became a club icon for the Barca fans. His post-Barca career was not as fortuitous, he was banned from playing for four months in Nov ‘01 for testing positive for nandrolone (twice). He was later cleared of any drug charges after appeal six years later. Pep signed for Roma in ‘02 but did not settle there and after a brief return to Brescia was off to Qatar to join Al-Ahly in ‘03 for two seasons. He returned to Spain in ‘05 to under take his coaching courses which he completed the next year. In ‘06 he announced his retirement from playing and it was in July ‘07 that be became Barcelona B coach.

In 2008 when he took over the senior side, Barca had just finished the season empty handed and in third spot 18 points behind Real Madrid who finished first. Pep’s first act was to rid the side of the players who he felts ego were disrupting the side. Stars Ronaldinho and Deco were jettison while Eto’o stayed but would leave the following season. Pep went about changing the tactics of the side, he deployed three players in the middle of the park (Xavi, Iniesta, Busqets) who all played the game in a similar style to himself. He also went about installing a work ethic that would see his side pressure the opposition into submission as well as enforcing the ‘tiki-taka’ style that would serve the club so well. In his first season the club would win a treble of the Li Liga, Copa del Rey and Champions League titles. The season also featured a 6-2 El Clasico victory at the Bernabeu.

The next two seasons would see the club retain the league title. It also saw the continued rise of star playmaker Lionel Messi- who embraced the move from the wing to the ‘false nine’ position- where he scored freely. Barcelona also continuied to play in a style that would see sections of the media hailing them as one the greatest ever football sides. There were the occasional hiccups- the failure to over come Inter Milan in the 2010 Champions League semi-final, the failed experiment of striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic and losing the Copa del Reye final in 2011 to Real Madrid. Those aside the club’s peak performances were the 3-1 victory over Manchester United in the 2011 Champions League final and the 5-0 victory over Jose Mourinho’s Real Madrid in November 2010.

Through out his time at Barcelona Guardiola has chosen to only sign short term deals with the club. Partially as an incentive to achieve success and also because of his belief that a coach can not stay at a club like Barcelona without the squad and even the coach becoming stale. “Players get tired of coaches and vice versa” he said “The same thing happened to me when I was a player. At a certain point I understood I had to leave.”

This season appears to have taken it’s toll on him. As he said in his recent press conference “Four years is an eternity as Barca coach. With time everyone runs out of steam. I am drained and I need to take a step back and replenish.” He went on. “Every day during four years, the demands are very high, the pressure, the necessary energy to push the players and enjoy it. I need to rest and move away.”  This season the club at times has appeared complacent, drawing games they should have won and having to rely on a squad that isn’t the strongest in depth. Barcelona finds itself in second spot, eight points behind Real Madrid and seemly out of the title race. Pep also seems to be tired of the mind games and bickering of Real manager Jose Mourinho.

Most of the Barca squad were present during his announcement. Some were in tears and there was also an applause from those present at the end of the conference. It is a show of respect that a man can command such a response from players and media pundits alike. He leaves the club after managing them for 242 matches (to date) winning 175 games, drawing 46 and losing 21. Thats a winning percentage of 72% for all the statistic junkies out there. Guardiola will leave the club with his head held high and his legacy intact. He has promoted (successfully) a number of players from the B team and installed a style of football has been praised world wide and entertained millions. We can all thank Guardiola for that.  

April 27, 2012
Didier Drogba scores Chelsea’s second goal in their 3-2 loss to Bayern Munich in 2005. Even though they lost this match, Chelsea had beaten Bayern 4-2 in the previous match at Stamford Bridge. They won the tie 6-5 on aggregate to progress to the semi-final of that seasons Champions League. The two sides are now reunited in this years final. Can Drogba score again for his side? Of the players that lined up for each side that night only Bastain Schweinsteiger remains for Bayern while Chelsea still have Didier Drogba, Petr Cech, John Terry (who will be suspended for the final) and Frank Lampard.

Didier Drogba scores Chelsea’s second goal in their 3-2 loss to Bayern Munich in 2005. Even though they lost this match, Chelsea had beaten Bayern 4-2 in the previous match at Stamford Bridge. They won the tie 6-5 on aggregate to progress to the semi-final of that seasons Champions League. The two sides are now reunited in this years final. Can Drogba score again for his side? Of the players that lined up for each side that night only Bastain Schweinsteiger remains for Bayern while Chelsea still have Didier Drogba, Petr Cech, John Terry (who will be suspended for the final) and Frank Lampard.

April 27, 2012
Home advantage?

Bayern Munich will take on Chelsea FC in this years Champions League final. The match itself will be played Bayern’s home stadium the Allianz Stadium. So far, through out the history of the Champions League (or European Cup) there has only ever been three years where the host venue has had it’s home team make the final. Real Madrid in 1957, Inter Milan in 1965 and Roma in 1984.

Real Madrid played in the Bernabeu against Italian side Fiorentina in ‘57. Real won the game 2-0 thanks to a penalty from Alfredo Di Stefano in the 69th min and a 75th min winner from forward Francisco Gento. The win saw Madrid successfully defend their European Cup title and would be the second of five consecutive Cups they would win. A feat that will surly never be repeated.

Internazionale in 1965 after beating Benfica 1-0 in the San Siro. The victory saw Inter win their second European Cup as well as (just like Real in ‘57) defend the title they had won the previous season. The match was won thanks to a 42nd min strike by Brazilian winger Jair da Costa. It would be the last time the club would win the Cup until Jose Mourinho’s Inter side of 2010.

Roma lining up before the 1984 European Cup final in the Stadio Olimpico. Liverpool FC lined up against the Giallorossi that night, where the matched ended 1-1. To date this was the only time Roma have managed to make the final of the European Cup. Roma went on to lose the match on penalties. The shoot out has become legend thanks to the antics of Liverpool keeper Bruce Grobbelaar. Grobbelaar employed the strange tactic of wobbling his legs while lining up to stop Roma’s penalties. The tactic seemed to work as Francesco Graziani blased his penalty over the bar, leaving Alan Kennedy to score the winning penalty. It was Liverpool’s forth European Cup. 


April 24, 2012
Chelsea into the Champions League final!

Just watched the Barcelona v Chelsea match where a dramatic Fernando Torres goal sealed the Londoners place in the final. With John Terry sent off, Braislav Ivanovic, Raul Meireles and Ramires all yellow carded (they will all miss the next match) it will be interesting to see what team they put out against either Real Madrid or Bayern Munich in the final. What a dramatic and fantastic turn around in fortune it has been for Chelsea football club. Caretaker manager Roberto Di Matteo must take all the praise for his ability to pull this squad together to achieve this amazing feat.

Yet again (as against Inter in 2010) Barcelona showed they have no plan B when a team ‘parks the bus’ in front of their goal. Always trying to play short passes near the Chelsea goal with no real danger of threatening Cech. They pushed everyone but the keeper forward and in the end left their goal exposed for Torres to effectively walk the ball in.

What a night of drama. First an injury to Gary Cahill- a sending off for Captain John Terry- then to concede two goals- Ramires to reply with a cheeky chip- a missed penalty from Messi and then a goal of redemption for miss-firing £50m man Torres. Chelsea will now have the chance to put to bed the nightmare of that night in Moscow in 2009. Whoever faces them in the final can not underestimate this side. They have been written off so many times only to defy the odds. Well done to Chelsea and all their staff. They are now 90 mins away from becoming the first London club to win the Champions League.

April 24, 2012
My preview of Barcelona v Chelsea

April 24, 2012
My preview of Real Madrid v Bayern Munich

April 18, 2012

Ronaldinho’s goal for Barcelona against Chelsea during the knockout stages of the 2005 Champions League. I love this goal! The shear brilliance of him to try something like that. To take the ball on the edge of the penalty area and find himself surrounded by five to six Chelsea players AND THEN to just toe poke it?! Unbelievable. In terms of imagination and ingenuity, this goal ranks very highly in my list of favourite goals. The reaction of goalkeeper Petr Cech says it all really. Hopefully we’ll see some more great goals in tonights game against the two sides.