El Clasico Returns

El Clasico is back. Another game will be added to the ever growing list of encounters between Spain’s biggest two clubs. The fans at the Camp Nou will be hoping Barcelona can reverse their luck and return to winning ways as they hope to cut the six point gap separating them from Madrid by half. On the other hand, Real Madrid are hoping to pile more misery on the Catalan side in a bid to reclaim the La Liga title after several years.

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Barcelona have had a mixed season so far winning eight, losing two and drawing three games in La Liga. Whereas they managed to top their Champions League group with one game left to play. Luis Enrique will want to play in the same way his side played against Manchester City when they won 4-0. After resting many of the top players in the Copa Del Rey match against Hercules, Luis Enrique will field his strongest possible starting eleven against Los Blancos. Obviously MSN will be leading the front-line but that is not enough.

Last time the two sides met in Barcelona, Zidane’s Madrid emerged as winners. Unless Barcelona step up their game then a repeat of that scenario is very likely. Andres Iniesta returns from a two month injury to Barcelona’s luck. A huge task will fall on his shoulders this Saturday in front of Madrid’s midfield. At the Madrid camp, Gareth Bale is the most notable absentee but Lucas Vazquez’s recent form should give Zidane some assurances up front. In case Zidane decides to keep Vazquez on the bench, Isco will likely take his spot and play alongside Benzema and Ronaldo. In the middle, Casemiro, Kovacic and Modric have been doing well so far this season and if Casemiro plays the same way he did in the last Clasico, then Messi will not be that big of a threat but what about Neymar and Suarez?

A big game is waiting for us this Saturday, another Messi vs Ronaldo, another Barcelona vs Madrid and another Luis Enrique vs Zinedine Zidane. Everything is at stake and both teams will be giving it their all as both sides fight for La Liga’s title.

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Champions League Matchday 1 Round-up

The first round of the UEFA Champions League group stages was played over the past two days with big teams such as Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, Leicester City and Manchester City scoring a whopping 25 goals in-between them and conceding none at all! Real Madrid had to wait till the final minute to turn a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 win, Juventus were held to a stalemate by Sevilla and Arsenal and PSG  were pleased to come out of their match with a draw.

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Barcelona and Bayern Munich were competing for the spotlight on Tuesday evening as the Catalans scored seven past Celtic and the Bavarians scored five past FC Rostov. The two, as always, are among the top candidates for the Champions League title but they may seem to find tough competition this year. Champions Real Madrid who scored a total of 15 goals in the past three Champions League opening fixtures had to settle for only two this time around. Cristiano Ronaldo saved Real Madrid from a potential loss by scoring his 550th career goal (366th for Real Madrid) in the 89th minute before Alvaro Morata added a second to gift Madrid the win. City-rivals and last year’s runners-up Atletico also settled for a small win as they beat PSV 1-0 away from home.

Pep Guardiola’s arrival at Manchester City was meant to change their fortunes in the Champions League and put them back on top domestically. The Catalan manager had already led his side to four straight victories in the Premier League putting his team two points ahead of rivals Chelsea and three above Manchester United but this is no surprise. However, on the European stage, City scored six goals past Steaua Bucuresti over two legs to qualify to the group stage and today they showed that they are still in form. Sergio Aguero who scored a hat-trick in the first game repeated that last night against Borussia Moenchengladbach as the Cityzens emerged with a 4-0 victory. Guardiola became the first Manchester City manager to win his first ever 7 games at the club, scoring a total of 21 goals and conceding only four. This can be already classified as a big achievement for Manchester City and a big boost for their confidence. Many expected Guardiola to transform his new team but very few thought he would do it this fast. Moreover, City had only won one out of their five Champions League opening games but that is history now.

Leicester City record a 3-0 win in their first Champions League game in their first ever Champions League campaign. Riyad Mahrez will be glad to have scored a brace and he will be hoping to carry that form into the Premier League to put his team back on the track. On the other hand, the two London teams, Arsenal and Tottenham failed to impress even though Arsenal managed to earn a 1-1 draw against French champions PSG in Paris. Their arch-rivals Tottenham lost at Wembley against Ligue 1 leaders Monaco. Things don’t look very bright for Spurs at the moment but all is possible in the remaining five fixtures. The French teams are showing the change is finally coming to France and PSG perhaps is no longer the best team out there. The third French team in the competition, Lyon is on top of group H after an easy 3-0 win over Dinamo Zagreb. Could this be the year Monaco outshine PSG and win the League?

Elsewhere, Mario Götze scored his first goal for Borussia Dortmund in 1250 days. His return to the club helped the team record their biggest ever away victory in the Champions League, 6-0 over Legia. Finally, it seemed ironic that Juventus failed to score a single goal against Sevilla despite signing players such as Benatia, Pjanic and Higuain to help them in Europe. Whereas, Napoli who had lost Higuain were able to win thanks to his replacement Arkadiusz Milik who scored a brace in a 2-1 away victory against Dynamo Kyev.

This season promises to be an exceptional one, filled with big surprises and big achievements. It is really early to predict any potential winner or any potential flop but it is certain that the quality of the top teams has definitely improved compared to the previous seasons as we see the big competing for Europe’s most prestigious title.

 

Real Madrid and Barcelona Building Momentum

The 86th La Liga season is about to start this weekend. The competition has evolved a lot since 1929. Back then, 10 teams were competing, many teams no longer exist or have been relegated but one thing remains constant: Barcelona and Real Madrid’s dominance. The two clubs have won 11 of the past 12 league titles, with Atletico Madrid making an exception and winning it in 2013-2014. After a summer of transfers, preparation, Olympic games and Euro 2016 both clubs are back to business and preparing themselves for the new campaign.

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Both teams started their season by winning a trophy after defeating Sevilla. Real Madrid waited till extra-time to win the European Super Cup while Barcelona eased 5-0 past Sevilla over two legs. The success of both clubs is a major boost in confidence for the two teams. Zinedine Zidane seems to have the backing of all his players and the same can be said regarding Luis Enrique who managed to win back-to-back La Liga titles. The two have a lot in common, they both were legends at their clubs and both won the Champions League in their first season as managers at their respective clubs.

Zidane took Real Madrid out of crisis to help them win their 11th Champions League title. Today he had the chance to build his squad prior to the start of the season and surprisingly his only signing was to bring Alvaro Morata back. Zidane has had a full summer to prepare his team. He refused to sign players for the sake of signing players, something his predecessors were very good at. Instead, he’s hoping to get the best out of Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema, and the return of Alvaro Morata gives Madrid an extra fire-power up front.

On the other hand, Madrid missed out on signing Paul Pogba and it is still hard for them to win the league title, something they haven’t done since 2012. Their rivals Barcelona have strengthened their team with defensive signings like Samuel Umtiti and Lucas Digne but also midfielders such as Andre Gomes and Denis Suarez. The Catalans had the best attack in any of the top leagues last season and it seems that Arda Turan is finally fitting in with his team-mates, this would help them rely less on MSN as an attacking force.

There is no doubt that Barcelona and Real Madrid are the top two candidates to win the title. However, Atletico Madrid are still in the race, Diego Simeone is still there and they haven’t lost any of their stars. Atletico may not have a strong attacking force like BBC or MSN but their defensive line is surely one of the world’s best and something that can help them get extra points during the season. An exciting new season awaits us. It is hard to imagine who will win it but we can foreshadow that it will be a long race and a tough one especially with all three teams looking in shape ahead of the start.

El Clasico: Why it Still Matters

The difference between Barcelona and Real Madrid could be a hundred points, but when El Clasico is being played, all that does not matter. It’s that time of the year again, this time around Los Merengues visit the Camp Nou hoping for revenge after being thrashed 4-0 at home earlier in the season. The difference between the two sides is 10 points with only eight games left to be played, it is very hard to see Barcelona drop so many points especially at this point in time but Real Madrid should be aiming for the win, not only to avenge the 4-0 loss but to build momentum ahead of the final rounds of the Champions League.

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Putting the Supercopa loss against Athletic Bilbao aside, Barcelona have so far been unstoppable this season. They are on course to win La Liga for a second consecutive season and the same can be said about Copa del Rey, they’re in the final against Sevilla and are one of eight teams competing for the Champions League title, the same one they won last season. They can write history by bagging more trophies but Real Madrid can put an end to all of that.

Real Madrid’s loss earlier this season in El Clasico came at a point where the club was in a huge mess. Now, Zinedine Zidane has somehow changed the course of things since Rafa Benitez left, despite not being able to close the gap with Barcelona. Zidane has a team capable of winning the Champions League but all they need is a morale boosting push and what could be better than a win against Barcelona at the Camp Nou? This is why Los Blancos need to put all their efforts on winning this match even if it doesn’t put them back in the Liga’s title race.

On the other hand, Barcelona should not be underestimating their opponents. They need to kill off the match and put Madrid’s hopes of having a good end to the season to bed. Even though, the match could drain Barcelona’s star ahead of an important Champions League clash against Atletico Madrid, they shouldn’t be resting just yet. They need to look ahead and damage Real Madrid while they can because if the two sides meet each other in the Champions League’s semi-finals or final then Los Merengues could be a real threat especially if they prove they can beat the Catalan team next weekend.

It would be wrong to think that the match involving the world’s two biggest clubs is of little importance. Both teams have a lot to fight for and the game will definitely be up to expectations. A win for either of the two sides could be a very important boost ahead of the final rounds of the Champions League. All we can do is speculate and simply watch the match, enjoy it and find out who the winner is.

Barcelona: Unbeaten in 33 games & Counting

The world’s best player, Lionel Messi, managed to be the difference yet again between his side and their opponents. This time, the victim was Arsenal. The Gunners are on track for yet another embarrassing early Champions League exit at the hands of Barcelona. Despite Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Olivier Giroud coming close to scoring, Barcelona were never going to lose that game. The Catalans are now unbeaten in the past 33 games with 109 goals and only 19 conceded.

It took Barcelona 71 minutes to break the deadlock thanks to the efforts of Messi who was able to finally scores against Petr Cech after just over 10 hours of play! Seven minutes later, the same player scored from the penalty spot increasing his tally up to eight goals against Arsenal. Messi 2016 was very much similar to Messi 2011 against Arsenal despite playing a different role. The Gunners were unlucky to be drawn a strong team such as Barcelona so early on, especially when Barcelona are on form domestically in both La Liga and the Champions League.

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Arsenal were unlucky to concede a penalty just 47 seconds after Mathieu Flamini entered the pitch and this was the first time they have failed to scored in 14 Champions League tickets. Despite their quality, the Gunners were never going to stand in the way of Barcelona. The away fixture is yet to be played but Arsenal stand very little chance of putting three goals past Barcelona at the Camp Nou. Luis Enrique’s side has become very pragmatic. They know how to win games even if they weren’t able to play well.

The Blaugrana are looking forward to win their upcoming two games against Sevilla and Ray Vallecano or at least avoid losing them in a bid to break Real Madrid’s record of 34 games without a loss. Fourteen wins in the past 15 games speaks volumes for Luis Enrique’s men, but can they keep on doing it until late May?