Ben and Sophie return to the Lounge to discuss where it all went wrong for Barcelona and Real Madrid in the Champions League this week.
Was Messi selfish to start? Who is helping Ronaldo? Is it time these teams looked beyond their individual icons in favour of collective choreography? Did Mourinho mess up? Why didn’t Tito react? Is a miracle comeback possible for either side? Just where do they go from here?
Let’s credit Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund for their beautiful performances. They certainly shocked Spanish football to its core and have started a debate about the rise of German football. Is it premature? Is everyone getting carried away with their claims that Spanish football is dead?
Sophie and Ben discuss it all in La Liga Lounge. And if you agree or disagree with any of their opinions, let them have it volley style @LaLigaLounge. It’s always happy hour here.
There’s no biting in football…unless you are Luis Suarez of course! Liverpool’s star player is in hot water once again and the biggest question is what will this legendary and historical club do with him?
Unless you’ve been living under a gigantic rock, Suarez took a healthy bite out of Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic during a game at Anfield over the weekend. It’s not the first time Suarez has done this to an opponent. In April 2011 while playing for Ajax, he sunk his teeth into PSV Eindhoven midfielder Otman Bakkal. He received a seven-match ban and it was the last time he ever played for Ajax, a club with as much rich football history as Liverpool. This is unacceptable behaviour from a player who doesn’t even need to act like Mike Tyson on the football pitch.
Suarez is undoubtedly one of the best players in Europe, let alone the Premier League. His continual bad decision making however leads you to believe he is definitely a couple of sandwiches short of a picnic. Where do Liverpool go from here? They will probably support him because without his thirty goals this season, they’d be languishing below mid-table and Brendan Rodgers would probably be standing in the football unemployment line.
In this week’s verbal memo you can also catch soundbites about Tottenham, Jose Mourinho and there’s even a mention about my chat with Brazil football legend Carlos Alberto. There will be more of that interview posted in the coming days.
Sit back. Relax. Rant. Rave. If you agree or disagree with anything you hear, lob me @soccerdiva and let me have it.
As the competition reaches its business end, Sophie and Ben discuss Barcelona’s depleted defence (who will partner Piqué?), Messi’s mini-absence, disagree on Víctor Valdés and question whether the Catalans have a mental issue late in games.
The Lounge bar staff also talk Madrid and how it’s all coming together for Mourinho, Casillas vs Diego López, the strikers and how this could be their year. We also chat Cristiano Ronaldo, look at his amazing stats and those of Messi, remember Ronaldinho, weigh up Neymar and big up Málaga, probably the story of this Champions League campaign. Will we see them back next year?
And the show wouldn’t be complete without predictions, some banter, fun, info, insight and interaction. From Sophie in LA and Ben in Barcelona, to you the world: This is La Liga Lounge…The One with the Champions League Quarters. Join us! It’s always happy hour here.
Two Clásico clashes in five days and both were won by Real Madrid. We haven’t seen that for a while. Sophie and Ben discuss the two latest installments of the famous fixture in an hour-long special not to be missed!
What is wrong with Barcelona? Qué pasa con Messi? We also talk Tito and Roura, Pique and Alves, the penalty incident and much more!
And then there’s Madrid, of course. Is Mourinho having the last laugh? Is Ronaldo the world’s best player right now? We look ahead to the Champions League clashes, talk Milan and Manchester United and even made some predictions for our respective teams in the North London Derby!
It’s an epic! So join us for our Happy Hour special!!
There’s no doubt the Gooner nation is happy with the arrival of a class player like Santi Cazorla, together with German goal machine Lukas Podolski and rising French star Olivier Giroud. Despite the pedigree of these players, fans are upset Arsene Wenger didn’t do enough to replace Alex Song and they are also disgruntled the club sold Robin van Persie to rivals Manchester United. In A Conversation With Akil Vyas, we break down the Arsenal situation and discuss the hot topics engulfing the famous North London club.
What do Gunners fans really think about Theo Walcott? With all of Diaby’s injuries, can the club trust he’ll be available and fit throughout an entire season as the ready-made replacement for Alex Song? Should The Ox play or be a super sub? What is Arsenal’s best formation? Is there a need to worry about the injury prone back line? Can they have an impact in the Champions League?
Akil answers all of these questions and more in our conversation. You can follow him on Twitter @10akhil. Kick back, relax and enjoy!
At the time, the entire crew answered with a resounding “no.” But after tonight’s performance by Chelsea against Barcelona, should the World Football Daily crew re-think the listener’s question?
Was it a miracle? Or was it just a monumental defensive display with a counter attacking twist?
It was a fascinating evening of European football. Everything was going according to plan for the West London club. Thirty minutes gone in the first half, no goals conceded and defensively, they picked up exactly where they left off at Stamford Bridge last week.
But after a tornado of attacks from Barcelona, the Chelsea defense finally succumbed. They failed to pick up Sergio Busquets in the box and in turn, he easily slotted home the first goal of the night. Eight minutes later, Iniesta hit a sweet strike to make it 2-0. Advantage Barcelona and at this point, everybody expected the flood gates to open. Instead…a moment of madness!
John Terry decided to knee Alexis Sanchez from behind, right between the legs and the linesman informs the referee who then shows the former England captain a straight red card. An idiotic and unnecessary act from Chelsea’s leader and with each step he shamelessly took towards the dressing room, it felt like a stamp in the heart for Chelsea fans. Surely Barcelona’s dominance would payoff with lots of goals now. Surely Terry’s stupidity would be punished. Or would it?
Just before half-time and moments after Terry’s sending off, Frank Lampard delivered a delicious signature pass that split Barcelona’s phantom defense and Ramires capped it off with a delightful chip Xavi, Iniesta or Messi would be proud of. It was exquisite and deserving of the run Ramires made to get into that position. The goal stunned the Camp Nou. Stunned the players. And stunned Guardiola. How many Barcelona fans said a little prayer before the second half? How many fans believed Lionel Messi would bail them out of trouble?
It was a night however where the world’s best player lost his magical touch. Messi has scored more than 60 goals this season but he couldn’t find the back of the net against Chelsea. And the most glaring of all misses was his penalty effort that hit the woodwork. Barcelona needed another hero to step forward but nobody had that killer finish. As the minutes painfully passed and with every kick of the ball, you felt more and more like the script was never going to veer in the direction of Barcelona. Not on this night. Not against this Chelsea team.
This is the same team that capitulated under Andre Villas Boas on a weekly basis. This is the same set of players who lacked confidence and any type of spirit for the majority of the Premier League season. I’ve said the same thing repeatedly since Andre Villas Boas was fired. This team will win to spite him. They now believe in themselves. It’s evident throughout the entire club. They had an obvious swagger even when they were losing 2-0. And after they made it 2-1, you felt like there was still another headline waiting to be written.
The final say came from the one player who suffered under Andre Villas Boas dictatorship the most. Fernando Torres returned to Spain with Chelsea as a 50 million pound flop and left Spain with Chelsea a 50 million pound hero. He ran his heart out and dodged the challenge of Victor Valdes to bury the goal that could deliver Roman Abramovich the Holy Grail!
But it’s not just a win against Barcelona that is driving Chelsea towards unexpected glory. Roberto Di Matteo and Eddie Newton have added a certain magic to this once woeful team. Call it belief. Call it confidence. Call it men leading men. Something is swinging down the Kings Road again and this time it’s not Lionel Messi’s shorts.
Al Michaels, a famous U.S. sports announcer once asked if we believed in miracles. In modern day football, against this particular Barcelona team and with only 10-men at the Camp Nou on a Champions League semi-final night, I would say a smidgen of me believes a miracle did happen tonight…
If you are a Manchester United fan, it feels more like the nightmare before Christmas than a holly, jolly holiday.
When it comes to English football, Manchester United have long been the epicenter of success over the last 20 years. And like Margaret Thatcher many moons ago, United have ruled with an iron fist for so long, it’s almost strange to think how life would be if their prolific reign came to a dramatic end.
Success in sports is cyclical and following Manchester United’s shocking exit from the Champions League at the hands of Swiss side FC Basel, coupled with the 6-1 thrashing at Old Trafford courtesy of “noisy neighbours” Manchester City, you could argue the football tide is turning. Is this going to be a season where United win nothing?
When the season started, nobody expected Manchester United to fail so miserably in the Champions League. They had one of the easiest groups of any big team in Europe and their failure to qualify for the last 16 was as shocking as seeing Mike Tyson hit the canvas in Tokyo back in February of 1990. Tyson was so good, you never thought he could lose. And Manchester United have been so good for so long, a defeat to FC Basel wasn’t something the fans or media were expecting.
Mentally, I don’t believe they have yet recovered from that horrific 6-1 loss to their biggest rivals. There is no doubt Sir Alex Ferguson is one of the best managers ever. He will go down in history as a managerial pioneer of the modern game. From tactics, to mind games and handling the media, he has provided a master class for all to enjoy. But, his overall demeanour of late has not been the same and I truly believe the epic loss to Manchester City felt like a death to him and he might well still be in his grieving period.
To hear Sir Alex Ferguson apologise to fans following their loss to Crystal Palace at home in the Carling Cup was shocking. Yes they fielded a weaker team, but they still had the likes of Park Ji-Sung, Antonio Valencia, Darron Gibson and five other international players on the pitch. Regardless who plays, United look a shadow of the team we’ve seen in recent years. And let’s be honest, some of Sir Alex Ferguson’s recent team selections, especially in the Champions League have been questionable.
Granted it takes United a while to heat up their season and they are where they usually would be around this time of year. The difference however is that they are playing so much worse than they normally would at this stage. There is very little creativity in midfield and their inability to replace Paul Scholes following his retirement is clearly evident on the pitch. Yes Tom Cleverley is a wonderful young player, but how did he become so integral to their midfield after only just starting in the first team this season? Hernandez hasn’t yet captured the dizzy heights he reached last season and Rooney’s incredible start has come to a grinding halt.
Even with Nemanja Vidic in defense and the emergence of hugely talented players like Chris Smalling and Phil Jones, United still appear extremely vulnerable at the back. Rio Ferdinand is an aging defender who has lost his pace and the overall inconsistency of not playing the same group of players together more often has definitely hurt them. They also have issues with David de Gea in goal. He cost a lot of money when he came from Atletico Madrid and he continues to make expensive mistakes that should not come with an almost 19 million pound price tag.
You can never write off Manchester United, but it’s hard not to flirt with the idea this season. They are just not good enough and their history and pedigree shouldn’t be a reason to diffuse the critics opinions about the current state of the club. There’s no doubt one should beware of the wounded animal, but right now, Manchester United can barely compete with Newcastle, let alone Barcelona, Real Madrid or Bayern Munich.
The mighty have definitely fallen and we have yet to see Sir Alex Ferguson overcome too much adversity in his illustrious career with the greatest of the Manchester clubs. He’s rattled by City and for the first time in a long time, his magic wand has eluded him in European competition too.
It probably won’t be too long before Manchester United are back to their usual best. But for now, it’s the turn of their fans to suffer in a football nightmare and just before Christmas too…
When I was growing up in London, I had the great fortune of spending summers in Cyprus with my family. The island of love would always serve up an atmosphere and flavour that was intoxicating and addictive to the soul.
From the sounds of locals playing backgammon, to the delicious food, the sparkling sun and mesmerizing Mediterranean Sea, Cyprus had you falling head over heels in love with its beauty. Nowadays, there is an entirely different reason to fall in love with one of the world’s most picturesque and fascinating islands.
Football is very much part of Greek Cypriot life and culture. And over the last few years, the Cypriot’s have become much better at the game. This season, one team in particular has got the island singing and the rest of Europe watching. APOEL Nicosia has put Cypriot football firmly on the map and the island of barely a million people is garnering a reputation for more than just tourism.
APOEL are the first Cypriot side to ever qualify for the knockout stages of the Champions League. It’s a monumental achievement. And it hasn’t been a fluke either. Granted they’ve had some luck along the way, but APOEL played their group methodically and passionately, garnering phenomenal results. Zenit St Petersburg, FC Porto and Shakhtar Donetsk are not easy teams to beat or even get a draw against. But somehow, some way, their never say die attitude galvanized APOEL and they found a groove that surprised the world of football.
We all love seeing the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Manchester United in the latter stages of the tournament. Who isn’t excited by watching the world’s best players battle it out? But surely in every season, there should be a Cinderella who gets to go to the Champions League ball? Who knows, APOEL might turn into football pumpkins at the first try, but at least they can say they had one wee dance.
There is no doubt APOEL’s presence in the Champions League has been as refreshing as an iced cold Keo beer. The island brew is a firm favourite with locals and tourists. But beyond the local brew and tourists, anything can happen on the island of love. Trust me, I’ve felt the mystery and the magic for myself…
Jose Mourinho has ruffled the feathers of many people, including some of his star players. Following the defeat to Barcelona in last week’s Champions League semi-final, the Special One has come under fire for not only his comments post game, but also his tactics.
It wasn’t so long ago when Mourinho launched a scathing attack on Tottenham’s tactics, accusing them of “parking the bus” during a Premier League game. Well now, Europe’s most controversial manager is being accused of the same. There are some who believe he is a tactical genius, and there are many who believe he is killing the spirit of Real Madrid football.
Whether you like Mourinho or not, you can’t deny the success his style of football has achieved in multiple leagues across Europe. Pretty or not, he is a born winner. Just ask Arsenal fans if they would take two seasons of Mourinho’s style in order to fill the trophy cabinet with a bit more silverware. Wouldn’t you?
Mourinho was loved by the British press for his uniqueness and never ending classic sound bites. In Italy, his controversial approach was not embraced so much, but they did respect his achievement of winning the treble with Inter Milan. And in Spain, his football style has been panned by the media and Real Madrid fans.
There’s no doubt Mourinho faces his toughest challenge as manager. The Real Madrid hot seat is piping hot. Whether or not he stays for another season is all dependent on what happens in the Champions League. If he pulls off a miracle and defeats Barcelona, all of the negative press could change in a heart beat. And if anyone can turn things around it’s the Special One. But right now, in one of football’s most beloved cathedral’s, he’s not so special. What do you think?
Gareth Bale saved Tottenham’s blushes in Europe last night with a stunning hat-trick against Inter Milan. Let’s face it. After Tottenham’s first-half display, nobody saw Bale’s second-half performance coming. If Lionel Messi had scored three goals in that fashion, everyone would be lording him today.
Bale was the only Spurs player who didn’t look like a deer in headlights at the San Siro. He turned the travelling fans experience from a nightmare into an almost amazing dream. Still. Well done son. You are without doubt, a future divo in the making. In fact, last night, you officially arrived.
The Welsh star has long been considered one of the most exciting British prospects in years. He went through a miserable time when he first joined Spurs from Southampton. Every time he’d play, they’d lose. But Bale didn’t let it bother him. He fought back and was given a position in the side that is almost the nucleus of the current Spurs team. Impressed? I am.
Does Bale remind you of another flying winger from Wales? He’s almost identical to Ryan Giggs in every way. Let’s hope Spurs can hang onto him for a good few years. He can become a legend at the Lane if he wants. But the lure of money could lead him to pasture new. For now, soak him up Spurs fans.