Tuesday 30 November 2010

Barca Better Team in Camp Nou

In a matter of minutes Barcelona had unravelled an unbeaten Real Madrid on Monday night in the first of the two El Clasico encounters with Mourinho returning after his last visit in the Spring when he ended the club’s Champions League dreams - leaving local fans ecstatic. The Champions League dream being - not only winning the trophy for a second consecutive time but also receiving the trophy at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, home of Real Madrid. 

In the end it was Inter Milan who collected the trophy with Jose Mourinho then committing further treachery – in the eyes of Barca fans - by joining the Madrid Club. 

As El Clasico’s tend go this match was an exciting one - if you were a partisan Barca fan – as only one team really showed up on the night despite all the pre-match hype about Real whoa were seeking their chance to widen the gap at the top of La Liga to four points. As always "The Special One" was enjoying being the centre of attention as he tends to on these big occasions. 

For his counterpart, Pep Guardiola, it was grist to the mill and he quietly went about his business all week hardly raising a wave in media circles in the build up to the match. In fact the exact opposite, going on to deliver the largest defeat to the Portuguese man - still known at the Catalan club as the “Translator”. 

On the night Barcelona’s fluid and flexible formation of Pedro, Xavi, Iniesta and Messi ran the Real Madrid back four ragged with Ricardo Carvalho, Sergio Ramos, Pepe and Marcelo struggling to protect their goalkeeping captain, Iker Casillas. The ineffective use of the offside trap proved a limitation and unable to deal with diagonal balls that each time caught the Madrid back four flat footed. 

At the other end Ronald and Di Maria became less effective as the clock ticked and when Barcelona added to their two goal tally after half time – it was game over. 

Surprisingly Mourinho found no way to change the momentum and Barcelona continued to close down Ronaldo – using three men most times – cluttering the midfield leaving Alonso, Oezil and di Maria with little time on the ball to stamp control. 

Coming into the game Real Madrid led Barcelona one point in La Liga with Real looking four their eighth straight win after the 4-0 rout of Ajax in the Champions League last week. Similarly Barcelona had six straight wins including a record 8-0 thrashing of Almeria last weekend, and were undoubtedly confident they could secure a win at home. 

For the managers it was Pep Guardiola who added to his record which includes 2 La Liga Championships; 1 Copa del Rey; 1 Spanish Super Cup; 1 UEFA Super Cup; 1 FIFA Club World Cup and 1 Champions League. More importantly, he now holds a record of five El Clasico wins - out of five meetings - on his cv. 

For Mourinho the night was only a set back and not a humiliation with the better team winning on the night.

"One team played to their potential and one didn't," said Mourinho. "Loss, yes - humiliation, no. It was a defeat we deserved, we just weren't good enough.

"I have spoken to my players and I told them the season has not ended. Who knows what can still happen this year?"

"I don't think you can say it reflected the difference between the two sides," added the  Portuguese coach after his side suffered their first competitive defeat of the season. "Also, the championship isn't over today. We are two points behind the leaders but there are lots of games left to play. We have to show character, train hard and get back to winning. I wish we were playing tomorrow.

"You have to have character - when you lose by five goals you can't leave crying, you have to go and work harder. You never want to lose by these numbers."

Xabi Alonso echoed his manager's belief that the defeat would not have a decisive impact on the destination of the title.

"We didn't expect a game like this but there's a lot of the season left and this isn't over," said the former Liverpool midfielder. "Barcelona made things a lot easier for themselves by scoring the first so early and then getting the second quickly.

"It's been very difficult. We have to learn from the mistakes we've made."

Pep Guardiola said he was delighted to see his team play at their best in front of a global television audience thought to be about 400 million.

"We are proud because the world has seen us play the way we like to play," said Guardiola.

"I would like to take more points from Madrid but it's not possible. That team, with all that power, are just two points behind, but we are satisfied."

Striker Villa, playing in his first Clasico since signing for Barca from Valencia in the summer, scored two second-half goals.

"It's been a very important win," said the Spanish international. "We looked for the victory and we got it. And the result and the manner in which we achieved it, you cannot ask for more.

"We are two points clear but we need to continue working hard, we are only in November. Just as before the game nothing was lost, now neither have we won anything. We have an advantage but we need to continue working."

Real boss denies humiliation by Barca

Thursday 25 November 2010

No sentiment for Henry

Only one English batsman shone today

The Ashes 2010: Only one English batsman really shone today – David Gower – Telegraph Blogs

The Ashes 2010: Only one English batsman really shone today – David Gower – Telegraph Blogs

José Mourinho charged by Uefa

José Mourinho charged by Uefa over Real Madrid's red card 'order' | Football | The Guardian

José Mourinho charged by Uefa over Real Madrid's red card 'order' | Football | The Guardian

Siddle hat-trick rips out England

Redknapp eyes summit finish

McCaw a saint next to McBride '99'

Tuesday 23 November 2010

Zinedine Zidane Returns to Arena

Zinedine Zidane returns to the Amsterdam Arena on Tuesday night to the venue where he lost the Champions League final in 1998, as a Juventus player, to his current employers – Real Madrid – on a night when Marcello Lippi’s side were beaten by a Pedrag Mijatović's second-half strike. 

That night was to prove the start of a successful five year stint in the Champions League for the Madrid club as they went on to win the title two years later in Paris against Valencia, and again in 2001 at Hampden Park against Bayer Leverkusen – with Zidane scoring the most perfect of volleys just before half-time to virtually seal the match. 

For the match against Ajax this week Zidane returns to the Arena in an official capacity having just been appointed Presidential Adviser to Football by Real Madrid President, Florentino Perez. 

Only a handful of the finalists are still active in the game with Real Madrid's Clarence Seedorf at AC Milan; Edgar Davids just recently departed from Crystal Palace, after years at a variety of clubs in Europe; Raul now plays at Schalke 04 in the Bundes Liga; Roberto Carlos has returned to Brazil and plays for Corinthians after years at Fenerbahce; Alessandro del Piero still runs out for Juventus and Filippo "Pippo" Inzaghi is at Milan and still scoring goals – two of which came against Real Madrid only two weeks ago in this season’s Champions League. 

Most of the others have retired and some are not involved in the game any longer. 

The goal scorer that May night in Amsterdam in 1998 became Director of Football at Real Madrid for three years leaving in 2009 but when the Club President Ramon Calderon lost office. During his tenure the Montenegrin made a few key signings during a spell of two La Liga titles with Arjen Robben, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Mahamadou Diarra, Gonzalo Higuain, Marcelo Vieira, Wesley Sneijder and Rafael van der Vaart joining the club. 

But mostly Mijatović's will be remembered for the superstars that were promised to the fans in the election campaign that weren't signed - such as Cesc Fàbregas, Kaká, and Cristiano Ronaldo. 

Frenchman Didier Deschamps is manager at Marseilles, Fernando Hierro is sporting director at the Royal Spanish Football Federation since September 2007; Christian Karembou is a current scout for Arsenal FC and non-executive director of Grandtop International Holdings Limited, which recently took over Birmingham City and Manolo Sanchis works as a radio and TV pundit in Spain. 

The managers are also still in work with Jupp Heycknes at Bayern Leverkusen and Marcello Lippi into his second year of his second spell managing Italy. 

So for Zinedine Zidane it is probably a logical progression to join the first team set up in his new role as presidential adviser and learn from one the most successful men off the field in European football in recent years, Jose Mourinho. 

Mourinho said of the appointment: "We all wanted this moment to come. Zidane will only contribute good things. He is very knowledgeable about football and we are very empathetic. 

"Bringing him on was a club decision that we all agreed upon. The club, the president and I all wanted him here. We cannot ask the fans, but I doubt anyone would have any objections. 

"The players are aware of his talent as a player and a person. He will have a close relationship with them and it will serve them well. 

"Zidane is Zidane, and that says it all. He is a football and Real Madrid icon. Although he played for other teams, I think this is the club that most defined his career and where he created the strongest bond with the fans. 

"He is a club and football man. He played in France, Italy and Spain. He knows about football on a global scale. We all believed he had to work here." 

Enhanced by Zemanta

Busy Seven Days For Mourinho

Jose Mourinho travels to Barcelona next week for the next round of La Liga – which Real Madrid currently leading by one point - to play the second team in the league at the Camp Nou on Monday night on the foot of a 5 - 0 victory at the weekend over Athletic Bilbao. Mourinho arrives once again season to the club where he once worked with the late Sir Bobby Robson which will guarantee him the fiercest of Catalan welcomes – as is customary for all encounters with Real Madrid matches. 

The home side have lost only one match in 12 outings and at the weekend Pep Guardiola’s team dispatched Almeria by eight goals to nil with the visitors also undefeated in the same number of outings. 

The added background of the last meeting of the two managers in April in the Champions League semi-final, when Barça’s travel plans were affected by the volcanic ash over Europe's airways, and played after a 14-hour coach journey – adds to the intensity. On that night Pep’s side lost 3-1 in the San Siro and then were unable to reverse the setback in the home leg a week later. 

So the clash promises to be everything that gives these encounters the name - El Clasico. 

The seven days started well with Mourinho joined the League Managers Association's Hall of Fame this week - and declared himself "proud" of the achievement. 

The former Chelsea manager, now in charge of Real Madrid, was speaking as a guest of honour at the League Manager Association’s annual Hall of Fame dinner at London's Park Lane hotel and joins Sir Alex Ferguson, Sir Matt Busby, Bob Paisley and Arsene Wenger in the Hall of Fame. 

Mourinho said: "I am very proud of this because I am not British and I spent just over three years in the Premier League - which is not a significant time to create a big history. 

"But the time I spent here was the best time of my career so far - and that's despite winning the Champions League in Portugal and Italy. 

"This is special for me as I get to see people I like very much and respect. I still have a home here and me and my family are still in love and will always be in love with this country. So to be back is almost to be at home. 

"The atmosphere, the intensity and the emotion in England is something you cannot compare with other countries and for somebody who is really in love with the game, as I am, this is the place where you enjoy it the most." 

But first there is Champions League action on Tuesday night for Real Madrid, who will be looking for one point in Amsterdam to secure the top spot in their group – having qualified after the 2- 2 draw with AC Milan in Italy two weeks ago. 

AFC Ajax will be hoping to avenge their September defeat by the Madrid club in order to have a chance of progressing from Group G with the Dutch team holding the better record having recorded four wins and two losses in seven encounters between the two clubs. 

Barcelona play on Wednesday night in Athens in their Group D match with Panathinaikos and hope to maintain their unbeaten record. The Catalan club make the trip without Gabriel Milito after the 30-year-old tore a muscle in his right thigh last week. 

Panathinaikos have other headaches as they have just appointed Jesualdo Ferreira as their new coach, with the 64-year-old arriving five days after Nikos Nioplias left the club. The Portuguese coach has signed a contract until June 2012. 

Ferreira has managed several sides in his homeland but made his name at the helm of SC Braga (2003-06) then FC Porto (2006-09), where he won three consecutive league titles and two Portuguese Cups. He departed after the Porto missed out on a UEFA Champions League spot last season before a short spell with Málaga CF this term. 

Panathinaikos are bottom of Group D with only two points from four matches.

Monday 22 November 2010

Tough Time for Italian managers

It has been a tough ten days for Italian football managers with Fabio Cappello supervising another defeat of England at the hands of France at Wembley, Giovanni Trapattoni fielding an un-imaginative side in the friendly against Norway - also losing – and Roberto Mancini facing criticism as he headed into the encounter with Fulham at Craven cottage – under pressure to deliver. Not least from his predecessor at the City of Machester Stadium, Mark Hughes – the current manager at Fulham 

At Stamford Bridge there is an ominous sense that Carlo Ancelotti may be teetering in his commitment to the club in the wake of the departure of Ray Wilkins and a third consecutive defeat on Saturday. The loss at Birmingham City has added to the sense of drama with the background noise that Wilkins’ departure was outside his control - according to reports. 

Only a few weeks ago Chelsea looked favourites to take the Premier League title this season with the Champions League campaign also moving along well. All of a sudden the landscape looks different. 

For Capello the ongoing fallout from the summer’s World Cup still hangs over his on-field tactics that saw his team beaten by Germany in Bloemfontein last June. The collapse of what was regarded as England’s best group of players for a generation under the Italian manager has eroded his once unquestioned infallibility. As the media discussions move into another phase the names of possible replacements indicate that the fans are despairing with the Italian at the helm and so he will head into the New Year looking for a win to silence them. 

Why exactly there is a sense of surprise is not clear as Capello is one of a group of Italian managers that believe in the defensive formula as the means of dealing with all opponents and live on the counterattack as the method of choice for chasing goals. Perhaps with more technical players in leagues that are played at a slower pace scooping balls over the top for strikers to control on the run – and score - is bread and butter for continental players. However in the speed and haste of the Premier League that efficacy can be lost and England don’t seem to have the players to deliver on the Fabio formula. 

Nor are the strictures of the 4-4-2 set up which Capello seems to favour - working. 

In the modern game with roving midfielders in the vein of Wesley Sneijder, Mesut Oezil, Rafael Van der Vaart and Gareth Bale the roles are more complex than the aged format of the game that the Italian favours. 

At Real Madrid on his two occasions Capello was no different and found that even the creativity of David Beckham on the right side – during his second tenure - was not an option he could live with and refused to play him for a major part of the season. In the end Capello caved in as every time Becks came on as a sub he scored and proved a vital part of the run in 2006/7 season that saw Capello win his second La Liga title at the club. 

In the stands however the fans were bored silly with the Capello style - regardless of the new title - as it choked the creative life of the players on the field. So his services were dispensed with and Bernd Schuster replaced him. 

For Trapattoni the story is of the same vintage although in fairness he has done what he came to do when selected as the messiah of Irish football following the Steve Staunton era at the helm of the Republic of Ireland. Indeed the Italian narrowly missed out on a place in the 2010 World Cup campaign – which would have vindicated his style of play. 

Why people expect him now to become what he never has been – creative and experimental - is of concern as that has never part of his footballing DNA. As good as his record of achievement across Europe is “Il Trap” has never been lauded for promoting the beautiful game. Managers of the Capello and Trapattoni generation only knew the Catenaccio way in the playing days and early coaching career – so end of story. 

As late adapters changing their ethos now in the chase for success is wasted time. 

The story of Ancelotti though is different and maximising the flow of talent seemed to be his unique strength at AC Milan leading them to winning the Champions League in 2003 and 2007 – even losing a few finals as well along the way. In those teams the names of Paulo Maldini, Kalahdze, Andrea Pirlo, Clarence Seedorf, Rui Costa, Andriy Shevchenko, Kaka and Pippo Inzaghi come to mind. 

But even in Italy he was not above criticism with that success with the club’s owner, Silvio Berlusconi, at times calling Ancelotti too defensive. 

In England at Chelsea he has also shown he is able to manage talent and has already the FA Cup and Premier League title under his belt. 

Roberto Mancini is younger again and has moved around as a manager with less emphasis on the defensive formula and more on fitness regimes – for which he is know to be tough – and looking for a certain flair. In the build up to the match against Fulham last weekend Mancini was again facing criticism that he was doing enough at any level. 

Now as his team now sit three points off the Premier League summit after their 4- 1 win at Fulham Mancini knows at Manchester City the win is still not enough and so the ride is bound to be a lot bumpier before it gets better. 

“Last week I was a stupid manager who was six points behind. Now, I am the ’best manager’ because I am only three points off the top of the league,” shrugged Mancini. 

“This is not important. We must continue to work and improve every game, every day. Only that way can we win. 

“But if we have a big problem and a big crisis and we are only three points behind United and Chelsea, then we are doing well. 

“But, in our minds, we must only think about working.” 

“For the game, we played fantastic football. I must thank my players for that.” 

Whatever about the Italian managers in the Premier League spare a thought for a Spanish manager in Serie A – where the equivalent of Italian tabloids claim that Rafael Benitez – of Liverpool fame – is one or two games from losing his job following a disappointing run of results. 

But then again it was always going to be tough following Jose Mourinho at the club – especially after the club won the treble last season.

G-Mac hot on Kaymer’s heels

Anton Oliver's old world views.....

Ancelotti contacts LMA about quitting

Tuesday 2 November 2010

It's No Way Jose!

The former Inter Milan manager, Jose Mourinho, returns to the Giuseppe Meazza stadium in Milan this week for the return leg of the Champions League group match with an unbeaten Real Madrid – who are also undefeated in La Liga and currently top the table. On this visit to the stadium Mourinho will sit in the Visitors’ dugout – a place he has only sat twice for the Milan derby – and will once again get some close attention from the AC Milan fans on Wednesday night 

When the self-proclaimed “Special One" left Inter Milan last season their trophy room was more cluttered than it was upon his arrival after winning the Italian Cup, the Scudetto – Serie A Title and then the Champions League against German footballing aristocrats, Bayern Munich, at the Santiago Bernabeu - where he now makes his living. That number of trophies had not been seen in one season at Inter for many decades and delighted fans as well as the Moratti Family – doyens of the Internazionale for many generations. 

On the other side of the city, AC Milan, saw it all with much less affection. 

So Wednesday night will serve as a reminder of Mourinho’s achievements with Inter and the club will not be in the mood to lose again, especially given their easy dismissal in Madrid by 3 -0 a few weeks ago. But no one is better equipped in the modern management game for such turbulence than Jose Mourinho, who has already survived life at Porto FC; Chelsea Football Club and two seasons at Inter Milan. 

As if to prove it was not all just good luck he took on the task at Real Madrid – a place that has seem many great named managers fall asunder - in the fuzzy footballing haze that has been known it’s time as the “Land of Galacticos”. Thus far Mourinho has outwitted even the toughest critics of Real Madrid Football Club reversing every statistic at the club with the team unbeaten in three preliminary rounds of the Champions League for the first time in a while. 

However he arrives at the San Siro knowing that Real Madrid have a poor record with both Milan teams having recorded ten defeats and three draws against the two teams in recent meetings. Even last season the Spanish team only avoided away defeat against Milan after drawing 1-1 when Ronaldinho's penalty cancelled out Karim Benzema's early goal. In fact, Real Madrid have failed to win on their last five visits to Italy with their last success being a 3-0 win at AS Roma in the 2004/05 season in Champions’ League group stage. 

In Serie A Mourinho at Inter he played Milan four times winning on three occasions with only one loss. The last win perhaps is the freshest on the Milan fans mind and it was a 4-0 loss to Internazionale in August 2009. 

On the field there is overlap too with Dutchman Clarence Seedorf a former Real player having made 121 La Liga appearances from 1996 to 1999 - also winning the Champions League in 1998 at the Amsterdam Arena. Not unlike Kaká, who made the switch the other way after six seasons at the Italian, Seedorf has also won the Champions League with Milan in 2003 and 2007. The Brazilian moved to Real Madrid in 2009. 

Robinho is another who played for Madrid between 2005 and 2008, scoring 25 goals in 101 Liga appearances but has arrived in Milan after a turbulent time at Manchester City and with his promising talent less than fulfilled – so far. 

In la Liga Real Madrid are unbeaten since April 10th -when they lost 2-0 to Barcelona - and have scored 19 goals in their last four Liga outings - with Ronaldo scoring four alone against Real Racing Club 6-1 last month. Although José Mourinho's side were held to a 0-0 draw at Real Murcia in the first leg of the Copa del Rey they plan to amend that in the second leg next week. 

The horror of last year's defeat to lowly Alcorcón still haunts the players at the Santiago Bernabeu and started the demise of the previous manager, Manuel Pellegrini. 

In terms of injuries the news is that Raúl Albiol made his first appearance of the season at Murcia with Sergio Ramos returning to action following a knee ligament problem that had kept him out for a fortnight. On the negative side Lassana Diarra has not played since the first leg with Ezequiel Garay and Fernando Gago yet to play for Madrid this season. 

As for Kaká he will probably miss the group stage having undergone surgery on his left knee in early August. 

But the overall story is that José Mourinho returns to San Siro to face AC Milan aiming to end Real Madrid CF's jinx at his old stamping ground hoping to book a place in the last 16 - after already beating Milan 2-0 in Madrid. A win would ensure Real Madrid's progress from Group G and a draw would suffice - should AJ Auxerre beat AFC Ajax.