Thirteen and counting

Well that was pretty bonkers.  It was always going to be an entertaining game with goals, but nobody could have quite predicted the events that would lead to Real Madrid’s 13th European Cup, their 7th since the Champions League era began in 1992.  It was also their third consecutive win, a record in the post-1992 period, and their 4th in the last 5 seasons.   For younger readers, Madrid won the first 5 European Cups consecutively between 1956 and 1960, and they will struggle to either equal or supersede that record, but their achievement in the modern era is nothing short of remarkable, especially with the quality of the opposition hanging around the competition these days.  Continue reading “Thirteen and counting”

A matter of focus

Preview of the Champions League final

A couple of days ago, a loyal twitter follower reminded me of the closing tweet in my summary thread after last season’s Champions League final in Cardiff, in which I explained how the gentleman next to me said: “See you in the next Final!” as a manner of farewell. We were simply ecstatic, and indeed overconfident. Continue reading “A matter of focus”

Football, always a priority

Preview of La Liga’s final weekend

Last Sunday, I decided to go out for dinner. The football menu was a meaningless Levante – Barcelona, in which neither team had anything to play for, so it seemed the right Sunday to dine out. Continue reading “Football, always a priority”

Zidane’s dilemma

Another Champions League semifinals, another meeting between Real Madrid and Bayern Munich. Both clubs have already played 24 times in the top continental tournament, but it never gets old. So far, 12 wins for Bayern, 10 for Real Madrid and only two draws. Similarly to any other major derby, the specific circumstances of each team don’t really matter: when they play each other, nothing is off the cards.

There’s plenty of angles to discuss this matchup. An obvious one is James Rodriguez, who went from supersub under Zidane to outstanding starter under Heynckes, who is finally getting the most out of the gifted Colombian. The Germans’ need for revenge must also be part of any preview about this fixture, as Real Madrid have won at the Alliance in their last two visits, one of them in stunning fashion (4-0) back in 2014, when no other than Pep Guardiola occupied Bayern’s bench.

However, the main running subplot in this column’s humble opinion is Zidane’s dilemma regarding his tactical formation / starting xi to face the in-shape Germans. Continue reading “Zidane’s dilemma”

Fallas weekend

Review of La Liga’s 29th week

Every major – and probably minor – city in Spain has its own party week. Based on similar excuses, such as its patron saint or the anniversary of its foundation, mayors spend tons of cash to organise huge celebrations. Working becomes impossible, with the main streets packed with locals and visitors, and the beer flowing like wine. Continue reading “Fallas weekend”

Back to the 4-4-2

Preview of La Liga’s 28th week

Since Neymar left Barcelona, Ernesto Valverde has progressively evolved towards a 4-4-2 formation that now seems untouchable, with Ivan Rakitic and Sergio Busquets in the centre of midfield. Azulgrana purists complain around the world, shaking their heads in disbelief, but the team defends better than many of its previous versions, and its results are impeccable so far.

raki busy
Two DMs playing for Barcelona? Who said Jehovah?

Continue reading “Back to the 4-4-2”

Underdogs at home

Titanic_Orchestra
Gents, let’s play the old “The BBC will start again”

I admit that, in the last few days, I’ve often thought of Zinedine Zidane and the current Real Madrid squad as a footballing version of the Titanic orchestra. When the season is almost lost, the director sticks to the tried and tested, refuses to make any adjustments, and plays the same songs as the ship starts to sink. Continue reading “Underdogs at home”