Posts Tagged El Clasico

During the Week: 2018 World Cup Boycott Mooted, Fergie Fires Shots from Autobiography and More

Ahead of the men’s season ending ATP Tour Finals serving off next week in London, the women’s curtain call championship served off in Istanbul, Turkey during the week.

And despite stating her tiredness following her straight sets win over third seed Agnieszka Radwanska, women’s world number one player Serena Williams has nonetheless reached the semi-final of the season ending WTA Championships.

Playing in the Red Group, Williams overcame German Angelique Kerber in her opening match before going past Radwanska and, with the ‘tiredness’ on her, managed to beat Petra Kvitova 6-2 6-3 in her final group match.

But indeed, the American great has a case to be tired having played all three roundrobin matches in successive days unlike Kvitova, for instance, who had a day off ahead of her loss to Williams.

Czech fifth seed Kvitova can however join Williams in the semis if she defeats Kerber; also in with a chance of joining Williams with a win, in the group’s final match.

Third seed Radwanska on her part is out of the Championship having lost all her three roundrobin matches, and most disappointingly all in straight sets too.

Over in the White Group, fourth seed Li Na heads the group with two wins from two matches following a 6-3, 2-6, 6-3 win over Jelena Jankovic. All Na needs is to win a set in her final group match against second seed Viktoria Azarenka to seal qualification.

A straight sets loss would however jeopardise her position greatly, see Azarenka go through to the last four and be joined there by Jankovic, who will qualify if she wins her final group match against already eliminated Sara Errani, regardless of the result from the Azarenka-Na match.

From coloured groups in Istanbul to matters of one race abusing people of a different race. Manchester City midfielder Yaya Toure has suggested quite a few actions against racism since accusing fans of CSKA Moscow of aiming monkey chants at him during a UEFA Champions League match on Wednesday.

Toure, who wore the captain’s armband which had ‘No to Racism’ printed on it, suggested after the match in Moscow that a lengthy stadium ban could be given to CSKA for the incident and that players of African descent could boycott the 2018 World Cup in Russia to drive home the ‘No to Racism’ point.

This way, according to Toure, he hoped that Russia would take responsibility and deal with such “unbelievable” behaviour ahead of the 2018 World Cup.

Interestingly, CSKA in a statement denied any racist chants were made by its fans during the match. ”Having carefully studied the video of the game, we found no racist insults from fans of CSKA.”

”In many occasions, especially during attacks on our goal, fans booed and whistled to put pressure on rival players, but regardless of their race (Alvaro Negredo and Edin Dzeko). Why the Ivorian midfielder took it as all being directed at him is not clear.”

The Russian club even went further, and below the belt if you ask me, to release a statement from Toure’s fellow Ivorian Seydou Doumbia, who plays for CSKA.

”Yes, they’re always noisy in supporting the team, and try to put as much pressure as possible on our opponents, but they wouldn’t ever allow themselves to come out with racist chants. So my Ivory Coast colleague is clearly exaggerating.”

UEFA, which had declared this week a Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE) Action Week, will have a disciplinary committee convene next Wednesday on the matter to find if CSKA is guilty of the accusation. A guilty verdict would lead to partial closure of the stadium next Champions League home match.

On the field, CSKA lost 2-1 to City with a Sergio Agüero brace cancelling CSKA’s lead and leaving them third in the group with three points, behind City in second with six points and leaders Bayern Munich with nine maximum points after the Germans eased to a 5-0 win over pointless Victoria Plzen.

Olympique Marseille of France is also pointless after three group matches, losing 2-1 at home to Napoli that joined top placed Arsenal and second placed Borussia Dortmund on six points, with Dortmund getting a 2-1 victory at Arsenal.

Elsewhere, Cristiano Ronaldo scored his sixth and seventh goals of this season’s competition in Real Madrid’s 2-1 win over Juventus, Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored his third to sixth goals in PSG’s 5-0 demolition of Anderlecht in Brussels and Lionel Messi scored his fourth Champions League goal to help Barcelona come away from AC Milan with a 1-1 draw.

And in some other matches, Chelsea got an impressive 3-0 win at Schalke 04, Diego Costa – called up by Brazil for Nobember friendlies, which pretty much ends Spain’s chance of having him with La Roja – scored twice as Atletico Madrid won by the same score while Wayne Rooney’s effort off the post was lapped in by a Real Sociedad defender to give Manchester United a lone goal win.

The win helped to blow some cool wind at David Moyes and indeed all of Old Trafford following the disappointing draw with Southampton last Saturday and the press conference to announce the autobiography of Sir Alex Ferguson, My Autobiography (dead title) on Tuesday.

Revealing ‘excerpts’ from the book, which became available on Thursday, Sir Alex chronicled his sometimes feisty relationship with Rooney whom he says had been told to mind his business after asking for the club to sign Mesut Özil, who then was at Werder Bremen.

The book also chronicles Robin Judas Persie’s move from Arsenal, with Fergie apologising to the Dutch striker for not keeping his word on remaining at the club beyond last season.

Then there’s Pizzagate after United ended Arsenal’s 49 match unbeaten run, stating he didn’t know to this day who threw the pizza at him. Former Arsenal midfielder Cesc Fabregas would then like an instagram picture of a pizza posted by Arseblog soon after the conference. So ‘subliminal’.

Fergie also touched on the boot incident with David Beckham whom he accused of making it ”an ambition to be known outside the game”, expressed his spicy view on former Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez and reiterated that Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard is not a top top player and was perplexed as to why he was chosen ahead of Michael Carrick in the England set-up.

Former Man. United captain Roy Keane and his savage tongue, Rooney and his weight issues, Mark Bosnic’s weight issues too, Ruud van Nistelrooij and Rio Ferdinand were also ‘fondly’ mentioned in the book, while Fergie also suggested Michael Owen would’ve had a better career had he joined United instead of Liverpool.

Whether he would or wouldn’t would matter little to nothing to David Moyes, whose Man. United side will hope to build on the win over Sociedad when Stoke City visit on Saturday in a Premier League match.

Top of the table Arsenal kick the weekend off in their shot trip across town to face second from bottom Crystal Palace that parted ways with manager Ian Holloway.

The big match comes up on Sunday when second placed Chelsea host fourth placed Manchester City in the Premier League’s Clash of the Cash, preceded by the TyneWear derby between Sunderland and Newcastle United.

In Germany, second placed Dortmund visit Schalke in the Ruhr derby while leaders Bayern Munich host capital club Hertha Berlin in another Bundesliga match on Saturday.

The clash of the weekend comes from the Camp Nou where Barcelona host Real Madrid in this season’s first El Clasico. Messi will start, CR7 definitely will. Neymar is set for his first Clasico for Barça while Gareth Bale could feature as well having overcome injury problems.

Real Madrid head into that in confident mood, having cut the gap behind Barça to three points last weekend. One loss in the e
last eight Clasicos further boosts La Decima’s confidence ahead of the encounter.

Anticipation of that clash brings this post to a close. On this day, The Alchemist turns 36 today, The Forty Martyrs of England and Wales are remembered at the latter nation, Shaun Wright Phillips turns 32 and musicians Katy Perry, Ciara and Gyptian celebrate their birthdays as well.

Many happy returns to them and all else celebrating. And a pleasant weekend to the rest of us alive by the grace of God. Cheers!

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During the Week: Sorry Rafa, Storm at Barça, Being CapaBale & More

Chelsea’s interim manager Rafael Benitez unexpectedly went uber-emotional on us with his outburst aimed at fans of the Blues who simply will not roll the welcome carpet out for him at Stamford Bridge, and this is months after his appointment by Roman Abramovich.

Initially via an interview with BBC Radio’s 5 Live before butressing his weary feelings at the post match conference of the club’s FA Cup win over Middlesbrough, Benitez blasted the fans for their misguided priorities and/yet inadvertently made their day by stating he would be gone at the end of the season.

The Spanish tactician did make reasonable points about the fans wasting their time and energy on banners and angst against him when they should be supporting the club as well as being appointed ‘interim manager’, a tag that implied he wouldn’t last on the job.

That said, Benitez couldn’t have been expecting to be treated at the Bridge like he was a business class passenger on a long-haul Emirates flight as his appointment by Roman Abramovic was more of putting him on an interstate economy class ride on an Eurostar coach.

Besides those comments made about Chelsea while he was in his prime at Liverpool; a period in which both sides met more often in all competitions than any other two teams in all of Europe, made him a persona non grata at the Bridge. His appointment thus only made it easier to have him suffer for those comments.

But would Benitez have succeeded as Blues boss? Having won the UEFA Cup at Valencia and the Champions League twice at Liverpool? I honestly believe he would have failed as he currently is and I’ve elaborated on why I feel so in this post.

Simply putting it, Benitez failed because of Fernando Torres, Roman Abramovic and most of all, because of his eagerness to return to activd management. And that’s putting aside the tense reception from the stands from the onset.

Ironically, a former Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas took his Tottenham Hotspur side past the Blues into third place on the league table following a 3-2 win at West Ham United on Monday night.

That win was secured by a 90th minute strike from Gareth Bale, bringing the Portuguese manager to name his left wing ace as the Premier League’s likely Player of the Year winner just as football fans argued on Bale being on the level of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Bale being in exceptional form is much different from him being exceptional and comparison’s with Messi and Ronaldo seem a tad premature for me. He does take his freekicks a bit like CR7 but that’s about it for me. Even comparing him to the Ronaldo we saw in his final season at Manchester United seems a bit out of place.

But to take nothing from Bale, he is in fearsome form much to the delight of folks at White Hart Lane and one can say he is incomparable at the moment since he is two or three notches below The Two just as he is alone at a level just above the rest.

Barcelona on its part have been brought down from its exalted exclusive zone of being incapable of playing fluid football or even being outplayed following a humbling 3-1 defeat to archrivals Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey.

That defeat saw Real qualify for the final of the Spanish Cup while also inflicting a first home loss on the Catalans in 22 matches, prompting more theories about Barcelona’s recent poor form.

One theory believes the club’s form comes just after the Fuentes doping saga, which named the club among its beneficiaries, broke. Another believes it is Tito Vilanova’s absence that is to blame. I like the idea of the former more, just for the drama inherent.

And oh what drama would break out if all the milk from the boiling Metodo 3 cow is spilled just as the club is enduring a low.

Seriously, if Gerard Pique was spied on by the club because of fears that his relationship with Shakira would lead to a dip in form, only for the club to then deny being responsible (or in the club’s words, not having “documentary evidence”) for him being followed when he realised so, that action would put a cloud over Barça’s painfully sustained public integrity.

If the club could treat Pique, who seems a model player of the Barça way, this way, potentially losing to Real twice in four days will only be a small cause of a migraine the hierarchy must deal with. Winning at Real this weekend will be a very welcome distraction for Barça but for once, the odds are not (ever) in their favour.

The coming El Clasico is one of the highlights of what will be a super weekend of football, kicking off tonight in Italy where second placed Napoli hopes to end a run of five winless matches at home to Serie A leaders Juventus.

That is followed by third placed Lazio travelling to AC Milan on Saturday (and here’s hoping Lazio gets a big win there), there is the El Clasico, then the north London derby between Tottenham and Arsenal on Sunday at White Hart Lane.

All that after a week that saw Angel di Maria and Ronaldo wreck havoc on Barça before di Maria got himself sent off in bizarre manner, followed by Zlatan Ibrahimovic scoring twice to get Paris Saint Germain a second win over Olympique Marseille in three days.

There was also Bayern Munich’s lone goal win over Borussia Dortmund in the DFB Pokal, a scoreline that lies about Dortmund matching Bayern in the contest… Bayern displayed its superiority and it really is a mystery how they didn’t win by more goals.

Finally, a story that really amused me and no, not John Pantsil being found unconscious on Tuesday morning after reportedly attempting suicide, a report that has been bluntly denied. Pantsil needs to get his business together though.

The story that amused me came from Switzerland where former AC Milan gladiator Gennaro Gattuso has been appointed player-manager at Swiss club Sion after former manager Victor Munoz was not fired but demoted to the position of club scout after a heavy defeat by FC Thun. That is just all sorts of awkward.

With that, it’s a wrap here. I’ll watch the north London derby with bottles of Lucozade by me. Arsenal tends to do that to one and being in recovery, watching the derby… I’ll need the boost, something to Bale me out, if it all goes wrong for Arsenal on the day.

Have a great weekend then, and a great month of March too.

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