Barcelona has a chance to strike a potentially decisive blow in the title race when they travel to face bitter rivals Real Madrid in the first LaLiga El- Clasico of the season on Saturday.
Ernesto Valverde’s men have established a six-point lead over Atletico Madrid at the top of the table and are 11 better off than Madrid having played a game more. The champions will see this is a great opportunity to turn the tables.
Zinedine Zidane led Madrid to LaLiga and Champions League titles last season and he will not want to give up either of those crowns without a massive fight. But how will Saturday’s Clasico play out? We debate some of the key issues going into this titanic tussle
JS: The league table suggests not, although Barca’s strong position is probably more down to Madrid’s struggles and the excellence of Messi. Valverde has also been robbed of the services of Barca’s record signing, Dembele, who has played only two league games due to a hamstring injury. Dembele was supposed to provide the star power in Neymar’s absence but perhaps the team simply functions better without the Brazilian. Neymar’s individual brilliance was never in question, but he made no secret of his desire to win the Ballon d’Or. There may have been some occasional selfishness in his game as a result of that – as his penalty rows with Edinson Cavani demonstrate – although he fitted in as the perfect third member of the strikeforce alongside Messi and Suarez. Without Neymar, Barca have resorted to an over-reliance on Messi but when you have the best player in football history in your team, why wouldn’t you? Barca are just fine without Neymar for now, although when he goes to Madrid in a couple of years the question might have a different answer…
— Neymar Jr (@neymarjr) August 6, 2017
Is Sergio Ramos an inspiration or a liability?
RB: How someone who routinely scores vital goals and puts his body on the line for the cause can be regarded as a liability is a mystery. Yes, in the heat of the moment that passion can occasionally get the better of him, as his history of red cards suggests. But that’s just one element of his game and part of the wider package which makes him such an important player. On his day, there’s arguably no finer centre-back in world football and he’s one who fights to the last minute. His habit of scoring late goals is no fluke, merely a reflection of his determination to succeed. He may be flawed, but a liability? No chance.
JS: Liability is perhaps too strong a word, but there is no doubt Ramos puts his team in trouble more often than he should as he simply cannot control his temper. There have been far too many silly red cards in Ramos’ career for it to be accidental and the argument that aggression is needed in his game for him to defend so well and be a threat from set-pieces simply does not wash. Barcelona will be fully aware that Ramos can be riled and it would be no surprise whatsoever to see him sent off on Saturday – he must be due one since he hasn’t been dismissed since… oh yes, at the start of the month.
Is the BBC over as a collective?
RB: The BBC will rise again and defy the doubters, mark these words. It’s so easy to write them off when things aren’t going so well, but given their collective quality, claiming that they’re done or finished is foolish. Although Cristiano Ronaldo hasn’t perhaps hit his usual heights in terms of goals in LaLiga this season, his performances have remained at a high level and he continues to shine in the Champions League. Karim Benzema is also still having a decent impact on Real’s all-round play, even if he’s not scoring much, but there’s no reason to think he can’t recover his goal-scoring touch. The biggest question mark probably hangs over Gareth Bale after a torrid time with injuries over the last year or so, but when he has been fit this season, he’s shown plenty to suggest that he’s far from done. Five assists and four goals in 12 appearances isn’t a bad record for someone enduring as difficult a season as Bale.
JS: It was intriguing that Ronaldo himself said recently that he hopes the BBC can play together on a regular basis. Despite rumors of a rift between himself and Bale, it is clear even an ego as large as Ronaldo’s can recognize the importance of the work done by his attacking colleagues. But while Ronaldo will almost certainly see out the rest of his career in the Spanish capital, the same cannot be said for Bale and Benzema. Stories linking Bale with a move away come up just as often as speculation Madrid will sign a new superstar striker. After missing out on Kylian Mbappe to Paris Saint-Germain, Inter captain and talisman Mauro Icardi is the new name in the frame. Bale will surely go back to the Premier League sooner rather than later and if Icardi arrives either in January or at the end of the season – as is strongly suggested – Benzema will be shunted down the pecking order. This looks set to be BBC’s last season together, but they could well go out on a high with a third straight Champions League title.
Is title race over if Barca win?
RB: Real slipped 10 points behind Barca in November, a gap from which no club has ever recovered from and gone on to win LaLiga in the competition’s history. However, no club had retained their Champions League crown before last season. Records are simply things Madrid haven’t done yet. There’s no escaping the fact that Barca’s lead looks pretty emphatic ahead of El Clasico, but who’s to say they won’t endure an injury crisis, or that the BBC won’t rediscover their best and outdo Barca. You never know, Barca could simply suffer a loss of form like Real’s earlier in the season. It’s not over until the fat lady sings, and she’s not even been cast yet.
JS : Some would argue it is already over! Madrid’s weirdly flat start to the season has handed Barcelona an advantage that is likely to be unassailable. But stranger things have certainly happened – and not just in Hawkins, Indiana. Madrid’s issues in the first half of the season are unlikely to be repeated and victory over Barca in El Clasico could be a pivotal moment in the campaign. That said, if Barca can win at the Bernabeu it would be a gigantic ask for Madrid to come back. Barcelona would have the title in their hands and would have to suffer a catastrophic loss of form in order for Madrid to catch them. But the top of LaLiga is more competitive than it has been for a few years, with Atletico Madrid still unbeaten and Valencia finally returning to the big-time. Even if Barca walk away with the title, there will be plenty of stories to watch in Spain for the rest of the season.
🏆 2014 Real Madrid
🏆 2015 FC Barcelona
🏆 2016 Real Madrid
🏆 2017 Real Madrid
🏆 2018 ❓@realmadriden, @FCBarcelona and @SevillaFC_ENG now know who they'll face in the #UCL round of 16. #UCLDraw 👇 pic.twitter.com/rzkVfXRbny
— LaLiga (@LaLigaEN) December 11, 2017
Super League: Respect & Dialogue Needed To Restore Normality
The FIFA President emphasized his full support to the European sports model, a successful model of openness and inclusivity, promotion and relegation, disapproving the concept of Super League
President Gianni Infantino has called for respect and dialogue as he expressed FIFA’s strong disapproval of the proposed European Superleague project, and has requested that the concerned parties consider their position in line with respecting the institutions that exist to protect the interest of national, European, and global football.
“FIFA is an organization which is built on values, the true values of sport,” said the FIFA President in his address to the 45th Ordinary UEFA Congress in Montreux, Switzerland.
“It is an organization that is built on our statutes, the statutes that define the institutional framework, with the pyramid, with FIFA, the confederations, the associations, the leagues, the clubs, the players. And at FIFA, we can only strongly disapprove of the creation of a super league which is a closed shop, which is a breakaway from the current institutions, from the leagues, from the associations, from UEFA, and from FIFA, which is outside of the system. There is no doubt whatsoever of FIFA’s disapproval for this.”
The FIFA President emphasized his full support to the European sports model, a successful model of openness and inclusivity, promotion and relegation, and a model that he promoted in his 16 years at UEFA:
“FIFA is here, and I am here today as FIFA President, to bring full support to European football, to UEFA, and the 55 member associations of UEFA and of FIFA, to the leagues, clubs, players, and to fans. To all the fans, all over Europe, and actually all over the world as well.”
“We can see that there is a lot to throw away for the short-term financial gain of some,” the FIFA President added. “People need to think very carefully, they need to reflect, and they need to assume responsibility. They need to think not only of their shareholders, but they need to think about all the people, of all the fans, of all those who have contributed to making European football what it is today. It goes back not only decades, it goes back more than one hundred years. People – with love, with passion, with commitment – have created all this. And we need to protect this. It is our task.”
“FIFA is a democratic organization, an organization that is open,” the FIFA President concluded. “Everyone can bring ideas and proposals, but always with respect for the institutions, leagues, associations, UEFA, and FIFA.
With respect for the history and with the respect for the passion of so many people around the world. I understand as well that on these particular days, emotions are very high, but we need to always keep the line. Football is hope, and it is our responsibility to make hope a reality. So we hope that everything will go back to normal and that everything will be settled, but always with acting responsibly, with respect, with solidarity, and always in the interest of national, European, and global football.”
3 Premier League Flops Who Made It Big Elsewhere
The English Premier League has welcomed some of the best players in the history of football. Players from different continents have made a huge impact on the league with impressive performances. There are others who failed to impress and can be termed as flops.
The League is quite unique from other European leagues. It is more competitive, fierce, physically challenging in nature. Needless to say, a player who isn’t mentally and physically geared up for this will stumble under the pressure.
Established stars can fall by the wayside with their former successes and triumphs becoming nothing more than a footnote in the EPL. Impressively, some of these players put in impressive performances when they moved to other leagues.
3 Premier League Flops Who Made It Big In Other Leagues
Following the impending sale of Gareth Bale to Real Madrid, Tottenham bought several players, one of the players they bought was Paulinho.
Paulinho was signed from Corinthians in Brazil where he helped them win the Copa Libertadores, Brasileirao, and the FIFA Club World Cup.
They defeated Chelsea in the latter to lift the trophy. Importantly, he had just won the FIFA Confederations Cup with Brazil and was voted as the third-best player at the tournament.
He joined Tottenham as the club’s record signing in 2013, so a lot was expected of him. However, his performance was not as impressive as the club had envisaged. He was later sold to Guangzhou Evergrande in China at a loss.
The Brazilian’s transfer to the Chinese league resulted in a change of fortunes, as helped the club claim the Chinese league and the AFC Champions League title in his first season.
In the second, he was voted into the Chinese League team of the year in recognition of his performance. Also, he won the league, FA Cup, and Super Cup.
Although critics downplayed his performance, citing the standard of the Chinese league compared to the English league, Paulinho impressed in Spain too following a €40 million move to Barcelona.
Paulinho helped the club claim the league and the Copa del Rey trophy. His performance in his only season with Barcelona impressed Ronaldinho who said: “He really stood out.”
- Iago Aspas
Most Premier League fan remembers Aspas only as a Liverpool flop with the number 9 jersey. Aspas moved from boyhood club Celta Vigo to Liverpool for a deal estimated to be around £7.7 m, with Liverpool hoping to have unearthed a gem. However, that gem turns dregs, failing to score in any of his 14 league appearances.
After just one season, Liverpool decided that they have seen enough so they sent him on a season-long loan to Sevilla with an obligation to buy. In his season-long loan at the club, he was the joint top scorer in the Copa del Rey alongside Neymar with 7 goals and won the UEFA Europa League.
At the end of his season-long loan at Sevilla, the club signed him from Liverpool but sold him to Celta Vigo in the same transfer window. In every of his first 5 seasons at Celta Vigo, he scored in double digits.
In fact, in three of the 5 seasons, he won the Zarra Trophy awarded to the Spanish player with the most league goals in a season. As of December 2020, Aspas had won La Liga player of the month four times.
- Diego Forlan
Perhaps, the most notable and interesting English Premier League flop who became a star in another League. He was not just impressive in another league; he was extraordinary with his National team Uruguay.
Sir Alex Ferguson signed Forlan in 2001 following the attacker’s impressive form at Independiente in Argentina. In his first season in England, Forlan made 18 appearances but failed to score a single goal. The two seasons after were not impressive either, hence his transfer to Villarreal.
Impressively, Forlan scored 25 league goals in his first season with Villarreal and won the league’s top scorers award (2004/05). Also, he was awarded the European Golden Shoe award alongside Thierry Henry the same year. He left the club two seasons later for Atletico with 59 goals scored in 128 matches.
In his second season with Atletico Madrid (2008/09), Forlan beat Samuel Eto’o to the Spanish league’s top scorer’s award. He scored 32 league goals in 33 league appearances that season which earned him the Pichichi trophy. Again, he won the European Golden Shoe but this time it was not shared with anyone.
The next season (2009/10), Forlan played a key role as Atletico won the Europa League. He scored six times in the tournament, including two in the 2-1 win over Fulham in the final. He was voted as the man of the match in the final.
With his national team, he was just as impressive; he scored the most goals at the 2010 FIFA World Cup alongside Thomas Muller, Wesley Sneijder, and David Villa.
Furthermore, he was voted into the FIFA World Cup dream team and won the Golden Ball and goal of the tournament title. By the time he retired, he was Uruguay’s highest goal scorer in history, a record which has since been broken by Luis Suarez.
Forlan eventually became so good that some Football fans think he is the caliber of player that could have won the Ballon d’Or.
There are several reasons why players struggle when they change clubs, especially to other countries. Culture, language, teammates, family are some factors that can affect their performances.
These 3 cases show that a player may fail to perform in one league but go on to become a star in another league.