Tag Archives: Barcelona

Premier League Week 36 Game of the Week

4 May

Recap: Sunderland took a major step towards avoiding relegation with their 2-1 home win against the Southampton Saints. While it does look like Burnley and QPR will be dropping, with 4 matches left to play, Sunderland must fend off the likes of Hull City, Leicester City, Newcastle and Aston Villa.

This Week: 

Chelsea FC vs Liverpool FC

Chelsea FC vs Liverpool FC

Sunday, 10am CDT, Stamford Bridge

Why This Game is Intriguing: Because the Champions of the Premier League, Chelsea FC, will be deservedly honored and celebrated in this home match against Liverpool FC. Last season, these two clubs finished in the top 4, with Liverpool coming within a Steven Gerrard slip of winning the league against this same Chelsea team. Now, in this match this Sunday, the Liverpool players will be standing lined up outside of the tunnel to give Chelsea a guard of honor as they come onto the pitch. Say what you want about Chelsea’s style- and I have often been critical of it many times on this site- they won the league not just fair and square, but in a prolonged, dominating fashion. 13 points ahead of 2nd place Manchester City is a sign of the clinic these Chelsea players put on all season long, from start to finish.

Other Reasons to Watch: There is still much to play for if you are a Liverpool player and/or fan. Just 4 points behind arch rival Manchester United for 4th place- Liverpool will do everything they can to get a string of wins and earn a Champions League bid. They will need some help from the Red Devils, who have 3 very tricky games remaining: at Crystal Palace, vs Arsenal, and then at relegation fighters Hull City. If Liverpool can qualify for the Champions League over Manchester United, that would be considered a huge victory, and to some extent, a successful season for Brendan Rodgers’ club. Liverpool has had an up and down season, in large part due to the departing player of the year Luis Suarez who bolted to Barcelona after the World Cup. Liverpool can salvage a lot, in particular the likelihood of retaining Brendan Rodgers, if they can finish 4th in this year’s Barclays Premier League table.

Prediction: 1-1 draw

 

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English Premier League, Week 10 Game of the Week

3 Nov

Recap: The Manchester Derby was not nearly as high scoring as I had predicted, rendering just 1 goal from Kun Aguero in the 2nd half. United were forced to play a man down for the entire 2nd half after Chris Smalling earned 2 yellow cards for overaggressive challenges. United played extremely well given the circumstances, but it was not enough to overcome their hated rivals.

This Week: 

Liverpool FC vs Chelsea FC

Liverpool FC vs Chelsea FC

Saturday, November 8th, 6:45pm CST Anfield

Why This Game is Intriguing: Chelsea is flying high and leading the league as they continue to win under skipper Jose Mourinho. Despite their undefeated record, Chelsea’s last 3 matches have not come easy: A close 2-1 win over QPR at home, a draw at Old Trafford against Manchester United, and a 2-1 victory at Selhurst Park against London rivals Crystal Palace. Combine that with their Champions League campaign- the Blues must continue to withstand injuries and a loaded schedule in order to win the Premier League. They have the talent, depth, and motivation to achieve these goals (because they went trophyless last season)- so it will be interesting to see how they hold up come spring time.

Other Reasons to Watch This Game: Liverpool Football Club is struggling mightily, and their last 7 games have produced just 2 wins, including an ugly, thrilling win over QPR. Last week produced a heartbreaking loss at Newcastle United, where a defensive blip by Alberto Moreno in the box led to the only goal of the game for the Magpies. Italian striker Mario Balotelli has received a lot of criticism for Liverpool’s rough start- and even though he hasn’t performed well, the defense and weak midfield isn’t up to par. Missing Daniel Sturridge definitely hurts, and losing striker Luis Suarez to Barcelona, the Premier Leagues best player last season, clearly has a negative impact on the club as well. All that said, Anfield is a home ground that often inspires Liverp’ool to achieve the unexpected. A victory here, or a well fought draw is not out of the question given the fact that Liverpool are at home.

Soccahaus Prediction: Chelsea 2, Liverpool 1

La Liga, Week 7 Game of the Week

29 Sep

Recap: Real Madrid looked very good at El Madrigal, particularly on the defensive end, as they shutout the Yellow Submarine 2-0. Iker Casillas had some nice saves in goal, while Luka Modric and Cristiano Ronaldo each scored for Los Blancos. Cristiano Ronaldo now has 10 goals in 5 league games.

This Week: 

Rayo Vallecano vs FC Barcelona

Rayo Vallecano vs FC Barcelona

Saturday, October 4th, 11am (CST) Campo de Futbol de Vallecas

Why This Game is Intriguing: This is my third year of writing for Soccahaus, and this marks the first time I have included Rayo Vallecano in one of my previews. Barcelona has appeared several times because of their talent, success, and involvement in huge fixtures that ultimately determine the La Liga title- but Rayo Vallecano, just 6 games in, has shown that they are a club worth watching and following, irregardless of who they play. The Madrid-based club has beaten Levante and Athletic Bilbao, while their best result was drawing city rivals and defending La Liga champions Atletico Madrid at home. Vallecas, the neighborhood of Madrid that is home to Rayo, historically is known as the city of rebellion- one which defied the centrist, brutal regime of Francoist Spain.

Other Reason to Watch This Game: FC Barcelona is the best team in La Liga at this time, and they are dominating opponents with style, and shockingly- with defense. Through 6 La Liga games, the Catalans have yet to concede a goal, in large part due to an improved defense, and a great goal keeper newly aquired in the offseason, Claudio Bravo. The Barca defense will need to come through in this tough road match, because Rayo Vallecano players Leo Baptistao and Alberto Bueno (formerly of Real Madrid’s youth academy) have 4 goals a piece already in this early season. It will be interesting to see how Rayo approaches this game: whether they continue their free flowing attack and run at Barca, or if they park the bus- a defensive strategy employed by Malaga last week, which proved to be successful in a 0-0 draw in that game. Barcelona won’t have as much time to prepare for this game, because they play Paris St. Germain in the French capital on Tuesday in the Champions League.

Soccahaus Prediction: Rayo 2, Barca 2

English Premier League, Week 6 Game of the Week

29 Sep

Recap: Chelsea rocked 3rd place Aston Villa 3-0 thanks to goals from Oscar, Diego Costa, and Willian. Chelsea continues to look the part, as they are the class of the English Premier League. Their depth and goal-keeping continue to be points of consistency.

This Week:

Chelsea FC vs Arsenal FC

Chelsea FC vs Arsenal FC

Sunday, October 5th, 8:05am (CST) Stamford Bridge

Why This Game is Intriguing: A London derby featuring 2 of England’s best clubs. Chelsea comes off a 3-0 drubbing at Villa Park- while not unexpected, the result seems to have catapulted Chelsea into what we already knew they were- the best Premier League team at present time. Arsenal on the other hand comes into this game after a less than stellar result, a 1-1 draw to North London arch rivals Tottenham Hotspur. Arsenal scored the game tying goal late, as young English star Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain found the back of the net in the ’74. The Gunners were playing without injured captain Mikel Arteta, and Welsh star Aaron Ramsey had to be substituted at half due to a hamstring issue. It is also important to note that both of these clubs have Champions League matches earlier in the week: Chelsea travels to Portugal to face Sporting Club Lisbon on Tuesday, while the Gunners host Turkish Champions Galatasaray at the Emirates on Wednesday.

Other Reason to Watch this Game: Cesc Fabregas of Chelsea. The Catalan midfielder will play his old club, the club he played at for 9 years, for the first time as a Chelsea player. Cesc was the captain at Arsenal for many years, and was without a doubt, along with Robin van Persie, their best player. Now, Cesc is the focus of the Chelsea attack, leading the league in assists with 6. Cesc was an important player for Barcelona too in between his spells at the two London-based clubs, but opted to return to England to receive more playing and in the hopes of winning his first Premier League title- something he was unable to achieve at Arsenal.

Soccahaus Prediction: Chelsea 2, Arsenal 1

English Premier League, Week 4 Game of the Week

15 Sep

Recap: In what was by far the most exciting game of the season, Manchester City and Arsenal drew 2-2 at the Emirates. Jack Wilshire and Alexis Sanchez scored for the Gunners, while Kun Aguero, and Martin deMichelis (who scored the game winner) were the goal scorers for the Citizens. These 2 clubs look to be true contenders, along with Chelsea, for the Premier League title. Both Arsenal and Man City open their Champions league campaigns this week against against Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich, respectively.

This Week: 

Manchester City FC vs Chelsea FC

Manchester City FC vs Chelsea FC

Sunday, September 21st, 10pm (CST) Etihad Stadium

Why This Game is Intriguing: Because Chelsea takes their league leading perfect record: 4 wins, 0 draws, and 0 losses to the Etihad to take on Manchester City, the defending Premier League Champions. Manchester City comes off a 2-2 draw at Arsenal, and currently finds themselves in 5th place with 2 wins, 1 draw, and 1 loss. This match against Manchester City will be, by far, the best opponent Chelsea has faced up until this point- of their 4 matches played, only 1 team finished in the top 6 last season (Everton), and 2 of the opponents (Burnley and Leicester City) weren’t even in the Premier League last season. This is a tough, early regular season matchup for the Blues, and it will be interesting to see the chess match between skippers Manuel Pellegrini and Jose Mourinho.

Other Reasons to Watch this Game: There will be a lot of talent on the field considering both of these clubs are two of the richest in world football, but if there’s one player to watch, it is Diego Costa of Chelsea and formerly of Atletico Madrid. For those who follow La Liga, it’s not a total shock to see Costa perform this well this early, considering the player scored 27 league goals (in 35 appearances) for league winners Atletico. In just 4 games, Costa has a league leading 7 goals- more than twice as many as any other player in the Premier League (several have scored 3 goals). Fellow Spanish newcomer Cesc Fabregas leads the Premier League in assists with 6, and Cesc has transitioned seamlessly back to the Premier League after a spell at Barcelona . Chelsea takes this potent attack to Manchester to face one of the most formidable defenses in world football- a group that includes captain Vincent Kompany and Argentine Pablo Zabaleta.

Predictions: Manchester City 3, Chelsea 1

The Lineup Spain Should Start in Brazil at the World Cup

10 Jun

Premise: As defending World Cup champions Spain enter this 2014 tournament in Brazil as one of the favorites (along with host nation Brazil, Germany, and Argentina among others), Spanish Manager Vicente del Bosque has a difficult decision when it comes to picking his initial starting xi. Below is the team I would select as the one that gives La Roja the best chance of defending their title.

Here is a 4-2-3-1, the formation Del Bosque has used most often both in the previous World Cup, as well as in the European Championship in 2012.

 

Goal Keeper: Iker Casillas (Real Madrid)- Spain’s captain has 154 caps heading into this world cup. Pepe Reina and David de Gea are serviceable backups and definitely capable of performing well in a starting role, but until Iker retires- this spot belongs to him and him alone.

Right Back: Cesar Azpilacueta (Chelsea)- Azpilacueta is a hard nosed, intelligent defender capable of playing on either side of the field. Despite only having 6 caps, the 24-year old player is strong and quick enough to guard even the world’s best wingers. He had an exceptional season at Chelsea in the Premier League, and is well suited to defend an opposing side at any pace.

Center Back: Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid)- In his prime at the age of 28, Ramos already has 117 caps for the national team and has started some of the biggest games La Roja has ever been apart of, including the World Cup 2010 Final, and the Euro 2012 Final as well. The best Spanish defender, and one of the best defenders in the world, Ramos is one of the most important players on this team.

Center Back: Gerard Pique (Barcelona)- The man married to Shakira is, like Ramos, one of the best defenders in Spain. Similar to his counterpart, he has started in Spain’s 2010 World Cup and 2012 Euro Finals. The Barcelona defender has great passing ability, and has great chemistry with the rest of the squad.

Left Back: Jordi Alba (Barcelona)- Alba burst onto the scene and really made a name for himself in Euro 2012, where he received most of the starting minutes at the left back position. With an incredible burst of speed, and lightning quick passing ability, Alba’s greatest strengths are his abilities to blend in and be part of the attack going forward. With a lack of natural wing players on this team, Alba will be counted on to push the ball down the flank, looking to cross the ball into Diego Costa.

Holding Mid: Sergio Busquets (Barcelona)- Barcelona’s defensive midfielder is one of the best players in the world at his position. While he often gets a bad rep for flopping and being overly dramatic, his work rate at getting the ball back, and his initial pressure is often what leads Spain to hold onto the ball as much as they do. He is considered this team’s (and his club Barcelona) first defender, and will lay it all on the line to make sure Spain has the ball.

Holding Mid: Xabi Alonso (Real Madrid)- With 111 caps, Xabi Alonso is one the staples of Del Bosque’s first team selection. While his responsibilities are similar to Busquets’, Alonso’s greatest strength is his long range passing. Patient with the ball, what he lacks in overall athleticism is made up for in his ability to pick out a pass from anywhere on the pitch. His soccer IQ is second to none both on this team, and arguably in this entire tournament.

Right Wing: David Silva (Manchester City)- David Silva is an elite player, and one of the best in the Premier League. With 80 caps, Silva can play in the midfield or on either wing, and is often relied upon to score goals in the midst of a possession, tiki-taka based strategy. Silva has an exceptional, lungeing 2,3 steps heading into the box, where he will often look to shoot, or cross the ball inside. A fantastic team player who’s willing to play anywhere and do what it takes to make sure his team is successful.

Center Attacking Mid: Andres Iniesta (Barcelona)- There is not a better player on the planet than Andres Iniesta. I know, Messi and Ronaldo fans would strongly disagree with that statement, but as far as an overall, team oriented brand of soccer, Iniesta is as good as there is. The hero of the 2010 World Cup Final, the most important goal in the history of the Spanish National team, Iniesta is as consistently brilliant as anyone i’ve ever watched play the game. I chose him for this role because he is the engine that will get this team going- he is the decision maker, and the ball should be at his feet more than any other player on this team.

Left Wing: Pedro Rodriguez (Barcelona)- Pedro is the only true, natural wing player on this entire Spanish side (after Jesus Navas was left off the team), making his role extremely important. Arguably the fastest player on the team, Pedro will be relied upon to feed striker Diego Costa, as well as to mesh well and seamlessly the rest of the midfield. Pedro is a hard worker and has experience playing in big games, having started in the 2010 World Cup Final, having come on as a substitute in the Euro 2012 Final as well.

Striker: Diego Costa (Atletico Madrid, for now)- Costa is a major wild card for this Spanish national team. With only 2 appearances (in friendlies) with this team, Costa is brand new to La Roja after spurning Brazil in order to play for Del Bosque. Costa had an incredible season with La Liga Champions Atletico Madrid, scoring 27 leauge goals. 6’2 and strong enough to body up on most center backs, Costa will be counted on to score goals and make plays in front of net.

Key Substitutions: Xavi (Barcelona), Santi Cazorla (Arsenal), Cesc Fabregas (Barcelona), Javi Martinez (Bayern Munich), Juanfran (Atletico Madrid)

 

La Liga, Week 28 of 2014, Game of the Week

11 Mar

Recap: After a 10 month hiatus, we are back, previewing the final 11 best games of the week down the stretch of this season.

This Week: 

Atletico Madrid vs RCD Espanyol

Atletico Madrid vs RCD Espanyol

Saturday, March 15th, 4pm (CDT), Vicente Calderon

Why This Game is Intriguing: Despite Atletico Madrid’s Champions League match at home to AC Milan earlier this week on Tuesday, this league match holds special meaning to Atletico in their quest to ultimately win, and yes, I meant that- WIN the La Liga crown. Back on October 19th- it was Espanyol that handed Atletico its first loss of the season, and their first hiccup in what was a perfect season heading into that match. Atletico had 8 wins, 0 draws, and 0 losses before that game in Barcelona- and Thibault Courtois was the blemish as he allowed an own goal- the only goal in that game.

Other Reasons to Watch This Game: The La Liga race is on. Real Madrid currently sits atop the table with 67 points, Atletico is in 2nd with 64 points, and FC Barcelona is in 3rd with 63 points. Barcelona comes off an ugly, disappointing loss at Valladolid, while Real Madrid is flying high after easily defeating Levante 3-0. Atletico Madrid has one of the top goal scorers in Europe in Diego Costa, and one of top attacking midfields in world football in Arda Turan, Gabi, and Koke. Espanyol’s best player has been Sergio Garcia, who has amassed 10 goals and 6 assists for the 11th place Catalan club.

Soccahaus Prediction: Atletico 2, Espanyol 0

Other Games this week worth Watching: Malaga vs Real Madrid, FC Barcelona vs Osasuna, Real Sociedad vs Valencia, Villareal vs Athletic Bilbao