Man Utd v Barcelona final at Rome

Horrible Refereeing helped Barca to beat Chelsea to the finals at Rome on the away goals rule.

Chelsea got the lead in the 10th minute from a sublime left footed volley by Michael Essien. Barcelona did not have a shot on target for 90 minutes. It took them the injury time to score against a Chelsea side which was tactically superior.

Barca defense was running ragged on many a occasions by some good runs from Drogba, Malouda and Anelka. The referee denied Chelsea a penalty on more than 2 occasions both in replay appeared to be quite obvious.

All in all i feel sad for Chelsea. In spite of being a Arsenal fan, i feel bad for Terrry and Lampard who once again have come so close and are yet so far.

People might debate that Barca was the better side over the 2 legs. But i categorically deny that. Chelsea did a perfect European job away at Nou Camp. At Stamford bridge again they kept things tight at the back and counter attacked effectively.

Barca might have had the larger share of possession, but that counts for nothing unless you have something at the end of it. Messi and Eto were anonymous for most portions of the game. Barca sincerely did not deserve to go through as per me, but well, the Norwegian referee has broken Chelsea hearts.

We might be in for a great final all the same where we can see Messi v Ronaldo again. But Barca will be without both Full Backs Alves and Abidal who will miss the final through suspensions…
See you guys at Rome…

Advantage: – Chelsea!!!

Chelsea have achieved what no other team has been able to achieve this season : A clean sheet at Nou Camp.

That tells the story. And believe me there really isnt much else to say.

It was a really disciplined effort from Gus Hiddinks men who knew the task at hand unlike Bayern Munich who were caught sleeping in 1 half of a football game and paid a heavy price. Gus Hiddink got it spot on tactically as his back four were able to control the famous Barca trinity with great ease and panache at times…

Messi was more mediocre than Emmanuel Eboue…Henry caused a few problems for Ivanovic on the left but the end product was missing. Eto looked like a sulking baby who knows his days are numbered at a team that is playing at its peak.

Petr Cech was indeed the man of the match. It was no even contest by any means thou the score line seems to suggest that. Overall Barca had around 20 shots at goal compared to Chelsea’s 3. So you can imagine that Cech had his hands full. And he was looking a lot different and more confident Cech compared to the one we saw against Liverpool.

Drogba had the best chance of the game but was denied from a decent save by Valdes. Eto was similarly denied in an almost one on one by a superb Cech save.

Guardiola’s side looked a distant shadow of the Barca we hear about in newspapers. Same goes for most of its players. Messi gave away more balls than Denilson does for Arsenal in a game. Xavi and Toure wer checked by Ballack and Mikel regularly.

Barca morale would sure be depleted after this draw and i wonder how it would go for them if Real Madrid pull one over on the Guardiola men in the El Classico at the weekend. Another major concern for the Catalan side will be that Puyol misses the next match following a suspension and Marquez limped off injured after the hour mark. So Barca are sure to lack experience in the centre of defense and Drogba and company will surely look to exploit that area…

I had told you guys earlier that Chelsea in Europe are a very difficult proposition for any sides especially over the two legs. The game isn’t over yet, but all in all it was a great draw for Chelsea though a not so great game for us viewers.

Lets see how it goes in the second leg. I will be here to keep you posted next week. But before that we will know for sure who Chelsea or Barcelona will face in the final of the Champions league.

See you tomorrow with the results of the match between the 2 English giants!!!

Barcelona v Chelsea Semi Final!!!

Another Splendid night of European Football…

Barcelona – Bayern Munich:  4-0

Barcelona thrashed Bayern for 4-0 at home..That went right with my prediction… The tie is all done now and beyond Bayern’s reach.

Bayern were caught napping in the first half as Barca started scoring for fun.  It was as if Bayern defense did not do any homework for the Barca Trinity. They looked dazed at the ease at which Barca started scoring.

Messi & co. lead Barca closer to the Semi Final

Messi & co. lead Barca closer to the Semi Final

Messi led the Barca attack scoring 2 of the 4 goals and Eto and Henry shared 1 each.

Liverpool v Chelsea:  1-3

Look at Xabi alonso, he typifes Liverpools performance: Caught Sleeping

Look at Xabi alonso, he typifes Liverpools performance: Caught Sleeping

In Liverpool the story was much different.. Where inspite of the early Lead Benitez’s men could not keep their nerve’s and Branislav Ivanovic was the unlikely hero as he slid 2 from 2 corners past Pepe Reina in the Liverpool Goal. Drogba , the big match player that he is, scored the third for Chelsea from a delightful team effort to make it 1-3 for Chelsea. This tie too is almost beyond Liverpool now as they cannot be expected to go to Chelsea and win 3-0.

Ivanovic: Unlikely Hero for the Night...

Ivanovic: Unlikely Hero for the Night...

Chelsea showed great character to comeback so strongly from being 1 down. They were helped strongly by the unlikely hero of the night Branislav Ivanovic who put two delightful headers past Reina.

So what have we got at the end of the first leg of the Quarter finals. 2 teams that are more or less through , 1 team which has all the chance of making it there and 1 which has a tough task ahead to make it to the next stage.

I feel Arsenal will sail through and Man U might struggle. But this is Champions league my friend, the tournament where you can seldom predict the outcome, the tournament of tactics, the tournament of away goal rules and where away goals rule…

So lets just wait for a week and know for sure…

Champions League Quarter finals Preview

Yesterday’s matches both ended in a draw. Will tonight be any different?

Lets take a look at the would be squads and the history to see if it actually might be any different.

Liverpool v Chelsea: –

The drawback of playing in one of the most competitive leagues in the world is that sometimes you have to face one of your local adversaries in Europe much earlier than you would like. And this precisely is no new thing to Chelsea and Liverpool.

Chelsea will travel to Liverpool in a bid to advance further in the Knock out stages of the championship. But the impetus will surely be with the home team who are currently on a roll of good form and have already beaten Chelsea in their own backyard earlier in this season.

Mentally it would be tough for the blues to forget how Liverpool broke one of the longest standing records in Premiership history when they defeated Chelsea at home, who had been undefeated for years…

Here are the team details as per The Telegraph:

Team details

Liverpool (4-2-3-1, r-l): Reina; Arbeloa, Skrtel, Carragher, Aurelio; Alonso, Lucas; Kuyt, Gerrard, Riera; Torres.
Chelsea (4-3-3, r-l): Cech; Ivanovic, Alex, Terry, A Cole; Mikel, Essien, Lampard; Kalou, Drogba, Malouda.
Referee: Claus Bo Larsen (Denmark)

Gerrard- Torres combo is sure on fire for Liverpool off late and I am sure they will be key if Liverpool is to take any advantage to Stamford Bridge in the second Leg.

Dangerous Duo, Beware Europe

Dangerous Duo, Beware Europe

For Chelsea it would be the midfield which will be very crucial. Lampard, Essien and Mikel will have to dictate the tempo of the game and control it to Chelsea’s favor. Would be interesting to see how Drogba performs tonight. He is the type of player who usually performs in big matches, and does it get bigger than this?

Lampard and Essien will have to dominate the midfield

Lampard and Essien will have to dominate the midfield

I feel Liverpool will have an edge, more due to the tremendous recent form they have had both in the European competition and the Barclays Premier League.

 Barcelona v Bayern Munich: –

Even before i start discussing the two teams its better we take a look at the teams first. So here ar ethe team details once again thanks to The Telegraph:

Team details

Barcelona (probable, 4-1-2-3): Valdes; Alves, Marquez, Pique, Puyol; Xavi; Keita, Iniesta; Messi, Eto’o, Henry.
Bayern Munich (probable, 4-3-3): Rensing; Oddo, Demichelis, Van Buyten, Lahm; Schweinsteiger, Ze Roberto, Van Bommel; Ribery, Toni, Podolski.
Referee: H Webb (England).

Well both sides here are extremely good on paper stuffed with world class players and its difficult to choose one. Then again its difficult to choose on paper. Anyone following the La liga will know of the sheer domination Pep Guardiola’s team has had on the Spanish league this season.

So my pick would be Barcelona. They would be playing at home and if all goes will the tie would be decided in the first leg itself (assuming they score 4/5 goals). But underestimating Bayern would be a mistake as Guardiola would know that Jorgen Klinsmann’s men could well dent the Barcelona defense and get the crucial away goals so coveted in this stage of the tournament.

Messi holds the key for Barca going forward and he has been in the form of his life. Luckily he hasn’t had any major injuries this season and so he has been able to reach the high expectations people have set for him. Lot would be expected from him again this time as he would be up against the wily & crafty Phillip Lahm who is no stranger to the tricks of the trade.

Messi, the man in form

Messi, the man in form

For Bayern Ribery would be the man to be watched for. He is on the target-list of all the top clubs of Europe with Manchester United, Real Madrid and Barcelona themselves interested in signing the player. He would definitely like to impress one of his prospective suitors with a dazzling performance.

Ribery, the man to watch out for

Ribery, the man to watch out for

All in all, I think Barca would have just a little too much going for them to be able to be stopped by Bayern.

Will update final score after the match… Till then Adieus!!! 

 

 

 

 

Football Manager 09: – Second Coming

Since my earlier post on FM 09 received such positive response, I have decided to write more Football Manager 2009 related posts on my blog…

So here’s an update on the game I have been playing. I had chosen to Manage Manchester United at the start of the 2008-09 season. Been two seasons at the club now. I had purchased Messi (82 Mil) and Andres Guardado (19mil) in the second season itself…I have sold Berbatov and bought Bojan for more or less same amount this season…Also Real Madrid wanted Guardado bad this season coz of his excellent performance for my team in my second season in charge. So I decided to Cash in on him by selling him for 50 milJ. I bought Stevan Jovetic for around 15 odd millions as Guardado’s replacement. I have also bought Johnny Heitinga as the replacement to the tired legs of Ferdinand. To replace Gary Neville, I trained Johnny Evans to play as right defender and he has become a really good right back for me now.

 Also I am training Mamadou Sakho to be the long term replacement for Evra, I dunno why I usually feel the charm of a player ends when he reaches 29/30. So I prefer buying young players to replace the old ones once the senior players start nearing 30.

 I am trying to sell Evra now but there seem to be no takers already for the 29 year old. Also i wanted to buy Fabregas as the centre midfield man for my team, but could not as Arsenal are unwilling to sell him even for 85 Mil. Will try and buy him again for 90/95 mil.

 Also I bought this really promising  young South American AM/FC from Villareal for 10/12 Mil called Roquero. He is good at free kicks and has already scored some really good goals for my team. Also had bought Bojan at the beginning of the season. So now I have got some really good forwards, like Rooney, Bojan, Alex Texieria, Roquero and Tevez. So I am trying to sell Tevez for around 60 mil. So that I have sufficient funds to buy both Fabregas and Pato (remember that I already have around 75 mil as of now). 

 I have already reached the January transfer window and am re-inforcing players for next season. I have already signed the brazilian attacking midfielder from Bremen, Ribas Diego on a free transfer. Also trying to rake in Rosina from Italy on a free transfer, but AC milan, Inter, Roma and Chelsea are interested in the player and have bid for a transfer in January window itself. So I also have bid 20 mil for the player and offered him a great 135,000 pounds a week salary so that he cannot reject joining my team. Then when the transfer is supposed to go through, I will keep delaying it again and again till the end of the transfer window. And when the window closes I will offer him a much lower salary and effectively sign him on a free transfer for the next season. This is a very effective strategy i have been using and works like a charm… 🙂

 Also better way is to keep delaying the transfer till end of season and once the player is out of contract he will join for a much lesser amount. Had once used this technique to sign Robinho when managing Barcelona. When I wanted to offer him a contract in the January transfer window, he wanted a very high salary, somewhere in the range of 125,000 pounds etc. So i kept delaying the transfer and once cancelled, used to offer him a new contract again only to delay it further. This way I pushed the transfer till the end of the season. Then when he was out of contract from Manchester City, I offered him a contract and guess how much he wanted to join my team? Just 55,000 pounds a week compared to almost 2 and half times he demanded earlier 🙂

 I am also on the look out to sign the young Russian Goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev on a free transfer at the end of the season so that he joins me in the January of next season. Lot of good English players will also be out of contract and I plan to snap them up on free.

 Another great way to build up a great youth team without spending much money is to search at the end of each season for youngsters who are out of contract. For e.g. I search for players who are 16 yrs old and sort them by clubs. Then i see players from large clubs like Barcelona, Athletic Madrid, AC Milan, and Real Madrid etc… All clubs from top European leagues are worth a try. Offer contract to each of these top club players and your assistant manager will let you know if the player would be a quality/good/Decent/last resort signing. When starting a new youth club, I always sign all that are decent and above. Once I have a established youth system in place, i offer contracts to only players who would turn out to be good/quality players. This wont cost you a single penny and you can build up a great youth squads. Based on training and potential some of these youngsters can eventually turn into good first team players and if nothing will definitely rake in good transfer revenue for your team.

 I have won the super cup and the club world championship this season already and am well on track to win the championship, Champions League, League cup and FA cup tooJ

 I recently bought a Bosnian player, a defender for around 2.5 mil. He didn’t get a work permit, but has still been added to my club. I don’t know how I can re-apply work permit for him and I cannot even play him in competitive matches. Don’t know what to do. If anyone has faced such a situation and knows how to get rid of such a player or how to get a work permit for the same, let me know.

 I will soon post more about the tactics I use and the details about my team and how to optimize the tactics for effective match play once I’ve figured out how to upload the prt screens from the game here on wordpress.comJ

 

Till then keep looking at the space for more FM 2009 updatesJ

 

Champions League Quarter Final draws are out!!!

Arsenal and Manchester United were handed relatively easy ties against Villareal and Porto while Liverpool face off Chelsea and Barcelona go against German giants Bayern Munich.

Below is a table depicting the dates and the home and away teams from the UEFA website:

UEFA Champions League quarter-finals
1st leg: 07/08 April; 2nd leg: 14/15 April 
1 Villarreal CF (ESP) v Arsenal FC (ENG)
2 Manchester United FC (ENG, holders) v FC Porto (POR)
3 Liverpool FC (ENG) v Chelsea FC (ENG)
4 FC Barcelona (ESP) v FC Bayern München (GER)

One sad news for the English teams is that either Chelseas or Liverpool will not reach the Semi’s yet again. Last time Chelsea pipped Liverpool out in the Semi’s, but on the current form doesnt look like that would be easy this time. Man United in my view have got the easiest opponents of the lot. They really should not face much difficulty going through to the Semi finals.

Also Arsenal seem to have got another of the easy opponents. I would expect them too to go through to the Semi’s. The sad thing for Arsenal is that even though they get through to the Semi’s they might end up facing current Champions Manchester United and ther challenge might be put to an end at the hands of their English rivals.

In form Barcelona will face another in form team in Bayern Munich. The winner of this fixture will either meet Liverpool or Chelsea in the other Semi Final as depicted in the table below.

UEFA Champions League semi-finals
1st leg: 28/29 April; 2nd leg: 5/6 May 
1 Winner quarter-final 2 v Winner quarter-final 1
2 Winner quarter-final 4 v Winner quarter-final 3

Great fixtures over all. Should be interesting to see some great football…

The Phenomenon that is BARCELONA

The team that Europe is scared of at the moment!!!

The team that Europe is scared of at the moment!!!

Barcelona sit 6 points clear at the top of the spanish league table and are comfortably through to the quarter finals of the Champions league. They are hot favourites to win this seasons European tournament.

The team has thrived under the leadership of Pep Guardiola. Guardiola took over the reins from Rijkaard in the summer and re-organised the squad to create one of the most beautiful attacking team in Europe. Only Manchester United might come close to Barcelona in the amount of Matches won and goals scored and conceded and more prolifically for the amount of dominance in the league.

Guardiola spent around 90 Million to rebuild the squads buying the likes of Daniel Alves, Seydou Keita, Caceres, Pique, Hleb etc…

Barca play the 4-3-3 formation and they play it without any disguise as done by the likes of Chelsea who indeed play 4-3-2-1. the front 3 of Barca are out and out forwards and can in no way be classified as wingers. Eto leads the front 3 through the centre. Bojan is used in rotation or as a substitute and is definitely capable of reaching the high standards as set by the front 3 playing for Barca.

The Barca trinity: - Attack any defense would be terrorised of

The Barca trinity: - Attack any defense would be terrorised of

In the midfield Barca either play the young but highly promising Sergio Busquets, or Yaya Toure or Seydou Keita in the holding Midfield position. Then they have the ever dependable Xavi and highly creative Iniesta leading the midfield in attacking positions. Hleb and Gudjohnson are also available as options to the coach.

Iniesta & Xavi: - The creativity behind the team

Iniesta & Xavi: - The creativity behind the team

2 dependable centre backs

2 dependable centre backs

 Puyol and Marquez are the centre halfs where Pique or Caceres or Gabriel Milito also play under rotation. Daniel Alves has been a revelation and he and Messi create a hovoc down the right hand side. On the left the french duo of Abidal and Henry are no less and Henry especially seems to be finding his form and is as lethal as Eto or Messi if not more.
2 explosive full backs

2 explosive full backs

The defense has seen many a rotations and thats the only thing where Pep Guardiola havent been able to find his best 4 which has led to a lot of goals being conceded by Barcelona.

Going forward the team has scored a phenomenal 76 goals in 26 matches averaging almost 3 goals a game. they have conceded 24 in the league too, which at 1 goal a match for a team like Barcelona is a bit of a worry. The fact that they score so many up front almost always overshadows the fact that they leak quite a few at the back.

the front 3 alone have scored almost 55 goals in the league alone this season and there are still 12 matches to go. which goes to show the sheer terror they might be causing to the opposition defenders. Henry as i mentioned earlier is finding his groove as at Arsenal and Messi is turning into the Best player in the world that everyone debates he is. And although Eto is scoring goals for fun in the Spanish league, question remains open about his future at the camp nou.

The success should also be attributed to the abundance of talented home grown players Barca has been able to produce. With the likes of Puyol, Xavi, Victor Valdes, Iniesta, Messi, Bojan all coming through the ranks from the Barcelona youth setup one can just imagine how much talent the youth setup at Barca has been able to produce over the years. 

The academy at Barcelona has been able to produce stars over the years

The academy at Barcelona has been able to produce stars over the years

There is also the right mix of youth and old at the club. The clubs have experienced players like Puyol, Henry, Marquez, Xavi, Abidal, Valdes and Sylvinho and at the same time budding stars in the form of Messi, Bojan, Pique, Caceres, Busquets.

young players en route to develop into stars at Barca

Young players en route to develop into stars at Barca

With the guidance of Puyol and Xavi, surely we can imagine Pique & Busquets to be the next big names at Barca.

Surely a superstar in the making!!Another Raul Gonzalez for Spain?

Surely a superstar in the making!!Another Raul Gonzalez for Spain?

And Bojan has been a revelation since a very young age. He has been a breeze of fresh air when the old legs look tired. He has lot to learn and I am sure with the right guidance from Henry and Eto he will be one of the best players in the world in the years to come. Then there are other youngsters like Caceres and Sanchez who have shown potential and with time will surely earn a place in the starting 11. Messi though young is a star as it is now and could only bring more fame and awards to the club.

With the current future in the hands of dependable stars like Puyol, Valdes, Henry, Eto, Xavi , Iniesta and of course Messi and the future in the hands of promising youngsters like Pique, Busquets and Bojan it is all but certain that the club is in the right hands and going in the right direction.
All that remains to be seen is how well the team fares this season and how they take it from there. As of now the treble is on for Barca and my money is for them to at leats win 2 of the 3 competions they are competing in. Who knows they may win all 3 too. Real Madrid sure has some catching up to do. If i was the president of Madrid, I’d be lining up bids for the likes of Vidic, Villa, Ronaldo and the likes to be anywhere close to where Barca are right now.
Watch out Madrid and Europe the Barca juggernaut is not to be stopped anytime soon…