Sunday, 31 May 2009
But the result perhaps tells us more about the state Premier League and the inpenetrable glass ceiling that now exists betweent the Sky four and the rest.
However that debate is for another day, the disspaintment is to raw for me to say anything logical, plus the effect of a whole day (and I mean a whole day) on the beers is taking its toll.
I'll be back later in the week to disect the match further.
Unlucky Blues, we'll be back.
Friday, 29 May 2009
Blue certainly will be the colour at Wembley on Saturday as Chelsea take on Everton. The bookies are favouring a Chelsea win, after all the club finished the season in third place and only narrowly missed out on a spot in the Champions League final. The club also have a remarkable record against Everton. The Londoners haven’t lost to the Toffees since November 2000, with John Terry the only player still at either club since that game. The last time the clubs met in the Cup was in 2006 when Chelsea came away with a 4-1 victory at Stamford Bridge in a 4th Round replay.
Read the rest of Blue is the colour at Wembley.
I say wore, but in fact they actually played in their away kit against Italian side Sampdoria at Wembley Stadium. But upon victory they swapped shirts and donned their more traditional home kit to lift the famous trophy and parade round the pitch in front of their fans.
The class of ‘92 became known as the ‘dream team’ because of the sheer number of world class players in the side, all under the careful stewardship of Dutch legend Johan Cruyff.
Read the rest of European Champions - Barcelona kit 1992
Thursday, 28 May 2009
A few weeks ago I wrote about how Barca were stumbling towards the end of the season. While I doubt my words found their way over to Catalonia something must have jolted Barca back into life in recent weeks as they came good again and secured La Liga, the Copa Del Rey and the Champions League in fine style.
It is a fine achievement for young coach Pep Guardiola who, in his first ever season as a coach, has moulded a team which plays beautiful yet ruthlessly efficient football. He is only the third ever person to win the Champions League as a player and manager with the same club while his Barca side are the first Spanish team ever to win the treble.
Tuesday, 26 May 2009
The sites author will be also guest blogging here i return next week, hopefully celebrating and basking in the glory our sixth FA Cup win.
But for now you can read my rather excitable ramblings about what it means for the Blues to be in the final by clicking here.
Well Survival Sunday, as Sky have so loved to label it this week, turned into a bit of a damp squib as all four teams involved showed little desire to stay in the top division.
Much of the tabloid hype pre-match surrounded Sir Alex Ferguson’s team selection, with the Sun claiming the three North-East clubs would be so furious if a weakened team was put out they would start legal action (though rather unsurprisingly when questioned on the issue the three respective managers didn’t seem that fussed).
Well when they caught wind of Fergie’s starting XI, six members of which had played in the Manchester Senior Cup the previous week, they must have started to feel a little nervous.
But while everyone was making a fuss about United they neglected the fact that Hull are so dreadful Fergie could have played himself up front with Mike Phelan on the wing and they could have brushed past Phil Brown’s outfit.
Read the rest of Phil Brown sings live.
Manchester United claimed the 18th League title last weekend and many of the pictures passing through Football Filter featured the Red Devils. TOM BEWELYS FLICKR PAGE in particular featured the Manchester United fans celebrating that record-equaling achievement.
With the title wrapped up the focus is squarely on the relegation battle this weekend as Hull, Sunderland, Newcastle and Middlesbrough all battle to stay in the Premier League. THE INDEPENDENT looks at ten of the best final day moments and also warns any of the clubs who think they are TOO GOOD TO GO DOWN.
Read the rest of Football Filtered #9
Champions and Copa Del Rey winners, his side have dominated the Primera Division this year and are worthy winners. They can, of course, claim a treble with a win over Manchester United in the Champions League final in Rome next Wednesday.
Read the rest of Congratulations Barca
Saturday, 23 May 2009
For Hull and Sunderland the outlook is simple; win your game and you’re safe. For Newcastle and ‘Boro, they are in that uncomfortable position whereby by their fate is not in their own hands.
But they should be thankful they have a chance of staying up on the last day, their recent form doesn’t suggest they deserve it.
It seems to me that none of the four teams are showing the battling qualities required to stay up. They have a combined total of just three wins between them in their last eight games and a total of 16 points gathered - hardly the sort of form that will drag you out of trouble.
Hull’s downturn is perhaps the most spectacular. Sixth at Christmas and a chairman talking of European competition, just one win since the turn of the year has seen them nosedive. Sunderland had a brief flurry of form when Ricky Sbragia took charge but once the honeymoon period came to an end they limped towards the finish line. They have had numerous chances to grab the one win they need to secure survival but have failed to take it - they may have just sleepwalked into the relegation trapdoor.
Read the rest of Does anyone want Premier League safety?
It is this growth of online streaming that could see the Premier League bubble finally burst. This is because the one thing that caused the explosion in popularity in the game and sustained it over the past 17 years has been TV money. Each TV deal runs into billions of pounds and has allowed clubs to spend lavishly and push the league to the top of the tree in terms of entertainment.
Read the rest of The Premier League – A ticking financial time bomb?
Thursday, 21 May 2009
Burnley v Sheffield Utd
Mon 25th May KO 15.00 LIVE ON SKY SPORTS
It's a war of the roses in this year’s instalment of the play-off final. The multi-million pound goldmine of the Premier League awaits the winners, and for the losers - all their hard work over the past season will amount to nothing!
Expect tears, drama, shredded nerves and no shortage of excitement. They are horrible matches to be involved in, but are exciting to watch – and great to have a flutter on!
Burnley:Owen Coyle’s 'Clarets' have certainly served up a rich vintage this season. With a small squad and despite playing 60 games already this season, they are showing no sign of letting up - their convincing 3-0 aggregate win over Reading in the semi-final is proof to that.Can he guide the Lancashire club to the top division for the first time in 33 years?
Sheffield United:United go into this game fuelled with a sense of injustice. The fall-out from the Carlos Tevez affair still wrangles within the Yorkshire club. They still feel in part a sense of injustice in their relegation from the Premier League in 2007, revolving around the 'illegal' third-party ownership of Tevez, then a West Ham player.I feel they will never be satisfied until they feel they are back where they belong.
Kevin Blackwell has some bad memories of his own to banish. The last time he was involved in a Championship play-off final it cost his job as boss of Leeds, as they were hammered 3-0 by Watford in the 2006 final.
Read the rest of my 'best-bet' football betting preview.
Read the rest of Pienaar And Saha Step Up Their Game.
Tuesday, 19 May 2009
The 4th annual end of season awards dinner took place on Monday, no doubt with added excitement given the looming date at Wembley. After all the speeched backslapping and a three course meal the awards were finally dished out, here they are:
Everton Player of the Year - Phil Jagielka
Young Player of the Year - Maraoune Fellaini
Goal of the Year - Dan Gosling v Liverpool
Players Player of the Year - Phil Jagielka
Howard Kendall Award - 1984 FA Cup Final Team
Reserve Player of the Year - Kieran Agard
Academy Player of the Year - James McCarten
Everton Ladies Player of the Year - Fara Williams
Shareholders Young Player of the Year - Jack Rodwell
Female Disability Player of the Year - Chelsea McGlory
Male Disability Player of the Year - Steve Midgehall
Congrats to all the players coaches and staff for all their hard work this season, now lets finish the job off on the 30th!!!
Monday, 18 May 2009
As the end of the season approaches you best make the most of what little football you have left before three months of pretending to like Wimbledon and counting the days ’til the fixtures come out.
But before then there is still some action to look back on and tales of managerial emotions as the ‘business’ end of the season is upon us. Some are happy, some are sad, and others are just plain annoyed…
Read the rest of Managerial emotional merry-go-round
David Beckham will front the bid, rather unsurprisingly. Well-known throughout the world Becks is the obvious choice even though he will be well into his 40s by the time the tournament starts!
Bidding is also taking place simultaneously for the 2022 competition. Given the high level of politics involved in the bidding process I suspect that deals will be made between countries in order to back each other for the respective tournaments.
Already, it is rumoured that the USA’s 2022 bid, fronted by President Barack Obama, will be supported by England in return for their support for 2018 to be held across the Atlantic.
So who are the other contenders bidding for both tournaments?
Well in Europe we have Belgium-Netherlands (joint bid) Portugal-Spain (joint bid) and Russia. Given by 2018 the previous two tournaments won’t have been held in Europe (for the first time ever) it is expected that a European country will get the nod now FIFA’s rotation policy has been scrapped.
England must then be fairly confident of heading the European vote - particularly as FIFA boss Sepp Blatter has said he prefers bids from a single country rather than joint bids, especially when both countries have the ability to host a tournament on their own (Spain and Portugal have both hosted tournaments in the recent past).
With Russia there would be questions about its infrastructure and stadia, though both have made great strides in recent years and would no doubt be improved by 2018.
Outside of Europe we have...
Read the rest of World Cup 2018 – England’s turn?
Read the rest of To drink or not to drink.
Friday, 15 May 2009
The kit will be again made by Le Coq Sportif and just like the 1983-85 shirt will feature a distinctive white V-neck. The main difference in the shirt will be the modern badge, which was last updated in 2000 with the introduction of the year 1878 – the year the club was founded – either side of the crest. It will also feature the name of current club sponsor Chang Beer.
In those incredibly successful seasons for Everton the club won the FA Cup in 1983-84 beating Watford 2-0 in the Wembley final. The following season they won the English First Division title and beat Rapid Vienna to lift the European Cup Winners Cup trophy. The Toffees also reached the FA Cup final that year but their treble hopes were dashed thanks to an extra time strike by Norman Whiteside of Manchester United.
Notable players who wore the shirt included England stars Peter Reid and Trevor Steven. While the Scottish double act of Graeme Sharp and Andy Gray formed a formidable partnership upfront. Other players included captain Kevin Ratcliffe, Gary Stevens Pat Van Den Hauwe and Adrian Heath.
For Everton fans the most famous game in which the players wore the shirt was the Cup Winners Cup semi-final against Bayern Munich in April 1985. After a 0-0 draw in Germany Bayern took a first half lead in the return game at Goodison Park. But Howard Kendall’s side stormed back in the second half with goals from Gray Sharp and Steven sealing the victory and a place in the final.
Toffee fans will hope the new kit can inspire the modern day side to the heights achieved in the mid-eighties. The club has made a steady improvement under boss David Moyes and are set for a.....
Read the rest of my guest blog over at Oldfootball shirts.
Nine years ago this month Wimbledon lost to Southampton at the Dell, a result which saw them relegated from the Premier League after 13 years. It was a sad end to what really was the last great footballing fairy tale (or so we thought). The club was only promoted to the football league in 1977 and a rapid rise up the footballing ladder culminated in an FA Cup win in 1988 and a sustained spell in the Premier League.
But the club, with small support and without their own ground after it was condemned following the Taylor report, couldn’t recover from the financial hit that came with relegation. In order to survive the board felt there was only one option and made the highly controversial move to re-locate the club to Milton Keynes
This American franchise system goes totally against what British football was used to, with the local club inextricably linked to its community. For Wimbledon fans, or at least those who didn’t follow the club to Milton Keynes, their club had literally been ripped away from them.
It was no surprise then that after a year in their new home the club re-branded itself as Milton Keynes Dons, and has since severed all ties with the old club. Wimbledon as we knew it was at an end.
Or was it?
Out of the ashes came a new club set up by the displaced Wimbledon fans. A new club that had open trials on the local Wimbledon common, a club that would embody the spirit that brought the old Wimbledon from Division four to the FA Cup final in the 1970s and 1980s – AFC Wimbledon was born.
The club officially started in......
Read the rest of my guest blog over at SoccerCityFC.
"So close we can taste it"
That was the thought of one Inter fan before their match with Chievo last Sunday. An Inter victory coupled with a draw between Milan and Juventus would have sealed the Nerazzurri’s fourth consecutive Scudetto. Prior to the game Inter received the blessing of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who said that Inter are "the best team in Serie A and deserve to win the Scudetto."
Rather unsurprisingly Inter boss Jose Mourinho refused to get carried away with Berlusconi’s comments saying: "but if tomorrow evening the difference between Inter and Milan is 4 points, I think he'll see things differently come Monday. Politicians are good at changing the subject."
Wise words indeed. And Mourinho was right to be wary as his side could only draw in Verona, with Luciano’s 73rd minute strike upsetting the Serie A odds and securing a point for Chievo - again leaving the door ajar for City rivals Milan. A door that looked a few weeks ago to be closed, locked and bolted.
With only one win in five Inter are failing to seal the deal as far as the title is concerned. Milan, conversely, are hitting form at the right time. Although their draw with Juventus at the weekend halted a five match winning streak, they remain unbeaten in nine matches. But it would still take a remarkable set of results to overhaul the seven point gap at the top.
Another side failing to secure the title is Barca. Fresh from the demolition of Real Madrid in El Clasico and the drama of Stamford Bridge things got even better for Guardiola’s men when Madrid were hammered 3-0 at the Mestalla against Valencia. Nine goals conceded in their last two suggests Real’s brave effort to claw back Barca’s lead at top is at an end.It all meant that Barca fans were ready for a party when they gathered at the Nou Camp on Sunday evening. A victory over Villarreal would have been enough and they led 3-1 deep into the 2nd half. But late goals from Matias Fernández and Joseba Llorente prevented the Blaugrana from...
Read the rest of my guest blog voer at Extra-football.
With only a handful of games left in the Premier League this season the title, relegation and European spots have yet to be decided. Here is my look at where I think the silverware is going:
The Premier League title
Liverpool have put up a brave fight this year but I can only see one winner in the title race. Four points in United’s next two games will seal the championship and I thoroughly expect them to get them.
The season’s turning point? Well I have to say Federcio Macheda’s last minute winner against Aston Villa last month which kept United’s noses in front and blunted Liverpool’s title challenge.
In what has been one of the tightest relegation battles in Premier League history it is now a case of three out of five. West Brom look favourites for the drop, given they face Liverpool next week and probably need at least four points. The loser of the Tyne-Tees derby between Newcastle and Middlesbrough at St James’ Park also looks doomed. The winner (if there is one) could overtake Hull, who are in freefall and can’t seem to buy a win at the moment. Sunderland’s valuable point at Bolton should see them safe, barring a remarkable set of results.
My Premier League relegation prediction? I think West Brom, Hull and Middlesbrough will be playing Championship football next season with Newcastle making the great escape.
FA Cup final
They may have narrowly missed out on a Champions League final place but Guus Hiddink’s Chelsea have the consolation of a Wembley appearance in the FA Cup final. Their opponents Everton have had to beat three of the top five to reach their first final in 14 years and will be out to cause an upset.
My prediction? Given the teams they have already knocked out I think Everton’s name may be on the Cup. I predict a narrow win for Moyes’ boys.
The four Champions League places are confirmed (no prizes for guessing who took them) with two Europa League spots going to Villa and Everton. However, given Everton’s involvement in the FA Cup final an extra European spot will go to the seventh placed team. It appears to be a four way battle between Man City, Fulham, Spurs and West Ham. My prediction is for............
Read the rest of my guest blog over at Intersportswire.
Tuesday, 12 May 2009
Here is some of the latest new kits for next season:
Everton have once again been linked with Cardiff midfielder Joe Ledley. It doesn't really come as a surprise as he is David Moyes player all over.
Young, talented and British I think he could be another inspired Championship signing by Moyes, just like Lescott, Jags and Cahill have been. Plus with just a year left on his contract and Bluebirds boss Dave Jones beng a Blue, I think Moyes should be able to negotiate a good deal.
The story has been given more legs because it was in today's Echo, who don't usually print transfer rumours unless they have some information that is is credible - though admittedly they don't name the source.
A signing in May? That would make a refreshing change after last year's mess of a summer.
You can read the Echo article here.
What better way to celebrate PMP's 100th post than to give you a chance to win tickets for the FA Cup Final on May 30th at 3pm from Wembley.
All you need to do is click on the Setanta sports link on the left hand side and they will tell you how to enter.
I have already spoken about the ridiculously low ticket allocation given to both sets of fans but at least some of the tickets will find themselves in the hands of real fans via competitions like this rather than by paying a tout some ludicrous price.
Monday, 11 May 2009
Just another average week in the life of a Premier League footballer…
It started with Chelsea in the Champions League last Wednesday. Michael Ballack did nothing all game until the 92nd minute when he decided to hug referee Tom Overbo following his non-penalty award, presumably thinking a bit of German love would cause him to change his mind.Then it was the amazing case of Didier Drogba, whose injuries can heal in a matter of minutes!
The Ivory Coast international, limped off the field with a few minutes left, like a brave wounded soldier in the heat of battle. Fast forward to the final whistle and Drogba, complete with flip-flops, storms across the field apparently unharmed to remonstrate with the referee.
This made Drogba look stupid on so many levels. A cheat and a bad loser - the defeat was perhaps just desserts for a player who has won so many free-kicks and penalties through diving in the past - his reputation has gone before him on this occasion.
Next in the hall of shame is Tottenham skipper Ledley King who, despite having dodgy knees meaning he can’t play two games in a week, was still able to get in trouble with the law after a night out, just hours after playing a game for Spurs at Everton.
King was arrested in the early hours of Sunday for an alleged assault outside a nightclub in Soho. A ‘celebrity haunt’ of a nightclub with a minimum spend of £500 pound apparently, which will hardly endear King to the ordinary fan.
But who else to complete the hat-trick of petulance and bad behaviour? It’s a safe football bet that it’ll be our Cristiano.
With the game won against Man City on Sunday Ronaldo was substituted, much to his disgust, and the toys were thrown out of his pram in a big way.Firstly there was much procrastination on the touchline, with arms a waving and heads a shaking. He then slammed his jacket to the floor, leaving the kit-man who handed it to him looking a little..........
Read the rest of my guest blog over at Dangerhere.
Hello and welcome to my latest look at what has been passing through Football Filter this week.
After another spectacular 40 yard strike on Tuesday THE TELEGRAPH have listed Ronaldo’s greatest ever goals in pictures - well worth checking out.
The reaction of the Chelsea players after the final whistle grabbed most of the headlines. The likes of Terry, Drogba and Ballack all furiously surrounded the referee after four penalty shouts were turned down. Drogba later apologised for his outburst, which included swearing on live TV, but that didn’t stop THE INDEPENDENT listing the worst ever losers in sport as a tribute to their childish behaviour.
At the other end of the table Newcastle’s slow death continues to make headlines with the TIMES PODCAST debating, among other things, whether Michael Owen is Newcastle’s worst ever signing.Joey Barton’s latest indiscretion is just the tip of the iceberg in.......
Read the rest of my guest blog voer at Football Filter.
You can read it by clicking here.
Drama, nerves and excitement are guaranteed, but hopefully I can also try and win you some cash with my best bet tips.
I told you last Wednesday predicting the play-off was hard, and as if to prove the point a narrow victory for Burnley was the only game I got right! Here’s hoping for better luck this week:
Sheff United v Preston - 2nd leg
Mon 11th May KO 19.45 LIVE ON SKY SPORTS
It is still all to play for at Bramall Lane after the two sides couldn’t be separated in the first game at Deepdale. Sean St Ledger gave Preston the lead only to be pegged by back Brian Howard minutes into the second half. With no away goals rule this one could go all the way to penalty kicks.
Current Match odds:
Sheff U 11/10 Preston 3/1 Draw 12/5
Sheff U 1-0 7/1 2-0 17/2 2-1 8/1 3-0 17/1
Preston 0-1 17/2 0-2 20/1 1-2 13/1 0-3 69/1
Draw 0-0 17/2 1-1 6/1 2-2 15/1
My 'best bet' prediction:
It is almost too close to call but I am going to stick my neck out and
Read the rest of my guest blog over at Beerfootyandbirds.
Thursday, 7 May 2009
Friday 8th May KO 19.45 LIVE ON SKY SPORTS
Going into the final 45 minutes of the season Alan Irvine’s Preston were still outside the play-off places. But a Sean St-Ledger header against QPR coupled with Sheffield Wednesday’s defeat of Cardiff saw the Lilywhites sneak through in dramatic style, at the expense of The Bluebirds. Kevin Blackwell’s Blades still held hopes of automatic promotion on the last day, but with Birmingham ending the campaign with a win they had to be content with a play-off spot.
Current Match odds:
Preston 13/8 Sheff Utd 2/1 Draw 12/5
Preston 1-0 15/2 2-0 13/1 2-1 11/1 3-0 37/1
Sheff U 0-1 8/1 0-2 16/1 1-2 12/1 0-3 47/1
Draw 0-0 9/1 1-1 6/1 2-2 18/1
My ‘best bet’ prediction:
Read the rest of my guest blog over at Beerfootyandbirds
Tuesday, 5 May 2009
Well, for the two Champion’s League nights only, the lovely people at Domino’s Pizza are offering ‘Buy One Get One Free’ on any Medium or Large Pizza.
Offer available online only – for collection or delivery – T&Cs apply.
Visit Domino's Pizza Football Special and select Meal Deals.
Monday, 4 May 2009
After each and every defeat Tony Mowbray, West Brom’s beleaguered manager, has been forced to batter away suggestions from the baying press that his side should change their style of play in order to compete in the division.
You can see where the journos are coming from. Every week the Baggies are praised for their pretty passing but with no end product they have nearly always ended up on the losing side.
Read the rest of my guest blog over at EPL Talk.
Just when you thought things couldn’t get worse for Newcastle, Boro and Sunderland, they did – and it looks like there is worse still to come.
Thumped a collective 7-0 over the weekend, only the ineptness of West Brom and Hull can stop all three clubs tumbling down to the Championship next season.
So, where has it all gone wrong?Well, Sunderland seemed to have upset the football odds and pulled off a unique trick of spending millions and millions of pounds yet still have a dreadful team. Roy Keane was responsible for much of that over-spending. The moody Irishman’s aggressive forthright style worked for a period, but when things went wrong he didn’t have a plan B other than to shout at the players even more - something that doesn’t sit well with modern-day players’ over-inflated egos. No wonder there was a mini-celebration (allegedly) when he left.
His replacement, Ricky Sbragia, is the polar opposite. Nice and friendly, but certainly not ruthless enough to manage a football club. After an initial flurry of results (possibly still in celebration of Keane’s departure) the Black Cats have plummeted. A run of one win in ten and with trips to Bolton and Pompey and a home clash with Chelsea to come, things look bleak.Another one too nice for his own good appears to be Boro boss Gareth Southgate. Well-respected in the game and always polite and well-spoken on camera, you get the impression he doesn’t....
Read the rest of my guest blog over at Dangerhere.
But a shining light amongst the South Coast gloom has been full-back Glenn Johnson, who finally looks to be realising his enormous potential.
It’s surprising to consider Johnson made his Premier League debut six years ago, though even then it took him no time to adapt to the rigours of top flight football.
But unfortunately for Johnson he came into a West Ham side struggling against relegation - a battle which they would ultimately lose.
But despite the Hammers' relegation Johnson’s performances were good enough to attract the attention of Claudio Ranieri at a newly cash-rich Chelsea, and he became an early piece in Roman’s revolutionary jigsaw.
With Gary Neville’s injury troubles increasing with age, a right-back slot in the England side also emerged and Johnson proved an early contender to replace him.
The move perhaps came too soon for Johnson as a loss of form eventually saw him lose his England place and the Chelsea right-back berth to Paulo Ferreira as the Blues, under Jose Mourinho, swept past all before them.
But Pompey boss Harry Redknapp, always with a keen eye for a bargain, took Johnson to Fratton on a season-long loan in 2007. It proved an inspired move as Johnson, benefiting from regular first-team football, regained his early West Ham form. An FA Cup winner’s medal and a permanent move to Pompey showed that he had finally settled and was beginning to realise his potential.
Despite the upheaval at Fratton Park this season Johnson has.......
Read he rest of my guest blog over at Theengland.blogspot.
Friday, 1 May 2009
Coventry City, who wear a Sky Blue home kit, made the now infamous choice of chocolate brown as the colour of their away strip in the 1970s.
The kit was made in 1978 by Admiral, who also made the England kit at the time, and featured three white curved stripes than ran from the side of the shirts and right down to the shorts. It was quickly panned and regularly features near the top of ‘top ten worst ever kit’ lists.A key player who sported the kit was Scotsman Ian Wallace, who ended the 1978/79 as top scorer with 15 goals. Defender and fellow Scotsman Bobby McDonald won the club’s player of the year award as the side finished 10th. The year before the team scored a club record 73 goals, with Wallace bagging 23, en route to an impressive 7th place finish, playing arguably the finest football in the division that year under boss Gordon Milne.
But despite the relative success of that year the club suffered...
Read the rest if my guest blog (and see a picture of that hideous shirt) at Old Football Shirts.com
Spain’s two biggest clubs, Barcelona and Real Madrid, lock horns again this weekend in a clash commonly known as El Clasico.
There is much more than just points at stake though as history, politics and football all entwine both clubs. For the Catalan people, Barca symbolises their resistance against the repression imposed on them by General Franco - who was closely liked with Real Madrid - after the civil war.
Though the days of government repression may have passed the memories have not faded in the eyes of the fans and Barca supporters still fiercely defend their Catalan independence. These political, social and cultural aspects make for fantastic football full of passion, commitment and no little skill.
But this encounter will be even more passionate than usual given the state of the La Liga title race. Real lie just four points off leaders Barca and a win will blow the title race right open. A win for Barca though should seal the title for the Catalan club with only four more fixtures to come.
Pep Guardiola’s side seemed nailed on for the league a few months ago but slowly but surely Real, resurgent under former Spurs boss Juande Ramos, have chipped away at Barca’s lead. Since the last meeting between the two sides they have collected 52 points from a possible 54 and won a record eight away games in a row.
The effects of a long season meanwhile look to be......
Read the rest of my guest blog over at Soccer City FC.
They may have breezed past all before them at the Nou Camp this season, but the first team to stop Barcelona scoring at their famous home, Chelsea, have come in for some criticism from both the Barca players and the Catalan press.
Xavi in particular complained about the London club’s apparent ‘strong arm tactics’ after team-mate Andreas Iniesta took a Michael Ballack elbow in the face.
"In England they talk about fair play so much. It's a shame that they don't put that into practice out on the pitch," he moaned.
Well, I don’t think you can blame Chelsea for not opening themselves up against a side that has scored in every home game this season. It will be a case of job well done for Hiddink’s men.
Read the rest of my new guest blog over at extra-football.