Posts Tagged ‘ AC Milan ’

Strip Club–Best (and Worst) of 2013/14

The new European soccer campaign is almost upon us.  Starting with the final rounds of the 2012/13 season, manufacturers started releasing new strips for the upcoming season.  Due to the commercial pressure to release something new every year, clubs and companies are ever more creative and sometimes even risky.

I’m not really going to go too deep into English or Spanish kits.  Kit Nerd has assembled all kit releases for the English Premier League at his site, for one stop browsing.  I’ve mimicked his idea for the La Liga kits, and will be creating a page that has almost every single kit from the Spanish league for the upcoming season.

Here we go.

Possible the creepiest advertising promotion has to go to Chelsea, who simply teased their home kit, “It’s Blue”.  Then adidas released ads with players interacting with blue paint in weird ways.  It has to be seen to be believed.  Last year Nike brought us Purple Reign Pain (Arsenal and FC Porto) and Stop the Sleeve (almost everyone else).  This year the focus has turned to Warrior, who has produced an epic fail in the Liverpool Away and Third kits and one of the worst advertisements in promotion history with the Glory Hole feature of their newest shoe.

Moving on . . .

Starting with AC Milan.  Adidas and the Rossoneri look to put last year’s pocket disaster behind them and went with an away jersey that still isn’t quite right.  Using the gold trim that has accented recent Real Madrid and Swansea kits was a good thought, but then the three stripes goes and adds thin red and black lines to further clutter the front of the shirt.  These additional element clashes with the gold and makes this a miss.

AC Milan 13/14 Adidas Away Football Shirt

Unfortunately, the pocket has returned, this time as part of a new gold third kit.  The shirt itself is serviceable, more of a training kit look in my opinion, but the pocket downgrades it even further.  Has there ever been a time in kit manufacture where a pocket has been a good idea?

AC Milan 13/14 Adidas Third Football Shirt

Another Italian team has done something rather unique.  AS Roma, due to conflict with Kappa, created a kit that was designed and manufactured by the club.  The kit maintains the typical look of the club but adds a couple of innovations, which the post from Football Fashion explains:

  • The shirt is void of the technical sponsor’s logo since it was produced exclusively by the Club.
  • The serial numbers on each jersey further contribute to its uniqueness.
  • A special message will be entrusted to this jersey that is destined to make history.  “Solo per questa maglia…Unico Grande Amore” is the phrase and the commitment which will be on the interior of each jersey.
  • The roman numerals on the collar represent the Club’s foundation year – 1927 – a style that pays tribute to the tradition: the first jersey that gets inspiration from the early 1900’s ROMAN FC team, one of the three clubs that merged together to give birth to the Associazione Sportiva Roma.

New-Roma-Kit-13-14

I like the collar and the subtle trim around the collar itself and the sleeves.  Nike takes over next year so who knows what will happen.

Moving to Scotland, Celtic had awesome kits last year for their 125th anniversary.  This year, not so much.  The home kit takes one of the club’s nickname, The Hoops, to a new level.  Refashioning Manchester United’s awful away kit (blue base with black tire like tracks) from a couple of seasons ago, there are hoops upon hoops, which based on the post on Football Fashion is because “each of the club’s iconic green hoops is made of up seven smaller hoops, which are inspired by some of the club’s greatest players — such as Jimmy Johnstone and Henrik Larsson, who wore the No. 7 shirt.”

I’m not sold.

celtic-home-shirt-2013-14

One quick comment about an English side.  Everton is going to get some flack this year.  The badge redesign went horribly wrong, causing the club to already backtrack.  Focusing on the home jersey, Nike has seen my Stop the Sleeve aggravation and raised me one.  A second stripe now adorns the sleeve.  For what purpose?  Your guess is as good as mine.

Everton 13/14 Nike Home Football Kit

Over in Portugal, Benfica’s home kit is typically solid, some sort of red with adidas striping. This year they have added a sublimated image of their iconic eagle to enhance the offering.  Really like this one and I like their refashioned badge as well.

benfica

AS Saint-Étienne celebrate their 80th anniversary this season and their kits are kinda cool.  The home kit has “the club’s original crest from 1933 is printed on the shirt’s inside upper back (courtesy Football Fashion).”  The away set grabbed me due to the claw marks.  Haven’t seen this since Cameroon’s unique kit at the turn of the century.  The marks are “in reference to ASSE’s adopted symbol since the 1960s (courtesy Football Fashion).”  The additional sponsor on the pectoral makes the shirt a little busy, but other than, both are decent.

New-ASSE-Maillot-2013-14 St-Etienne-Away-jersey

Off the beaten path a little bit, I came across the European kit for Swedish club Malmo FF.  As readers of my Strip Club posts know, I am a sucker for black kits, and this kit is no exception.  Sky blue and white from the club crest accent this strip, and Puma is using a new collar template for most of their kits, which is kinda meh, but doesn’t detract too much from this shirt.

Malmo-Europa-League-shirt-2014

Speaking of the club badge, it piqued my curiosity.  Further research revealed a couple of interesting tidbits.  According to Wikipedia, the star on top of the crest symbolizes more than 10 league titles, which is similar to Serie A and other leagues.  According to a post on BIGSOCCER.com, here is a possible back story to the Star of David under the club name.

The star beneath the club emblem has nothing at all to do with Judaism nor does the club have any notable Jewish heritage.

The tale of the star is rather simple and goes like this:

Back in the day, Malmö FF:s logo was just the shield with the initials MFF. While MFF was playing some team in another country, legendary MFF chairman Eric Persson (whose nickname was “The Chief”, who held the chairman position from 1937-1975, and who has been described to possess the leadership qualities of an “enlightened despot”) overheard some kid asking his father where the team with the MFF-emblem came from. Eric Persson realized such confusion was unacceptable, and added the “Malmö FF” beneath the shield. And for no reason other than to round off the new logo, he added the star.

Apparently, the star is from the city of Malmö’s old shield. That it happens to be a six-pointed-star rather than a five-pointed one (or seven-pointed, etc) is just happenstance.

For those that looking for a little eye candy, take a look at the offering from German sportswear firm Jako for FC Augsburg.  According to Football Fashion, “the club will wear the same white home kit as last season for its upcoming campaign.” However, Augsburg’s 13/14 away and third kits are both new.

Based on the Football Fashion post, “All three kits were modeled by topless soccer babes wearing bodypainted renditions of the shirt during the launch.”

augsburg

I’m particular to the red head.

augsburg redhead

Finally, PSV Eindhoven marks their 100th anniversary this year and has released beautiful home and away kits.

PSV 13/14 Nike Centenary Home Football Shirt

Love the home shirt.  Simple, modern and classic all at the same time.  A couple of key elements about the shirt presented in the Football Shirt Culture post:

  • PSV’s famous red-and-white stripes have been replaced by a solid red shirt that references the colours worn when they won the UEFA Cup in 1978.
  • The red jersey also recalls PSV’s successful 1987-88 campaign in which they won the Dutch league, the Dutch cup, and for the first and only time in their history, the European Cup.
  • Inside the back of the neck on a bonded woven label is an outline of the famous arch from the main gates of Phillips stadium and the motto “Eendracht maakt macht” (“Unity creates strength”).

This is definitely going on the wish list.  Many years ago I had an old PSV shirt, you know made with the hot polyester, the Philips letter peeling off, and the embroidered crest curling, but I loved it.  The jersey finally headed to into the dustbin of history and this is definitely a worthy replacement.

psv 2013 nike centenary away football shirt

The away kit echoes of one of my favorite kits of all time—2000-02 Arsenal Third.  This  jersey is so fantastic, even the thick sleeve hemming can be overlooked.  Thank god it was not a contrasting color, creating a Stop the Sleeve situation.

All in all kudos to the Nike and the club for creating a memorable selection for such an important historical milestone.

So that’s all I got.  There are hundreds of kits from all over the world, but I only have so much time.  These are the ones that jumped out to me.  If you want to see more, visit the following sites.

Football Fashion

Beautiful Gear

Football Kit News

Football Shirt Culture

Kit Nerd

Quality posts, great pictures and a wide selection on offer.

MatchDay Memory–Going Hollywood

During one of our Mid-Michigan United watch parties, after yet another Joe Hart/Rachel Maddow joke, I had the idea to do a post about players who like actors/characters.  I started jotting down some ideas and kept my notebook with me watching games in case something came to mind.  As usual, I was a day late and a dollar short to an idea.  Putting the post together, I came across the tumblr page Footballers Who Look Like Actorswhich had already gotten quite a head start.  Disheartened I pushed on, because I had a couple in my notes that they did not have, so here is my starting eleven plus a manager, a referee and a mayor.

CTC-2911-image4

From the moment I saw David de Gea at Atleti, I was convinced he was the starting keeper for the Whoville National Team.  Look at him.  Crazy hair and sideburns, little button nose, scrawny as Calista Flockhart on a bad day.  As a United fan I want him to bulk up and be more of a controlling presence in the penalty area.  As a bitter, snarky prick, I want him to remain ridiculously frail so that everyone can make fun of him.

Val Kilmer is preparing himself for his role as Sergio Ramos in the upcoming biopic about the Spanish defender.  Not a single part of the last sentence is true, especially because Val would have to lose too much weight to even make that happen.  When I see the current Sergio Ramos (beard, highlights, shorthair), I think Ice Man and Thunderheart.

mexes-renner

Philippe Mexes has an uncanny resemblance to actor Jeremy Renner.  Credit to Footballers Who Like Actors for the pic, who did the hard work for me on that one.  Mexes occasionally has a moment of glory but sometimes (read: most of the time) can be utterly useless.  Likewise Renner has been in decent movies (The Town and Hurt Locker) but also has made some bad choices (The Avengers and Ghost Protocol).

Cedrick suggested that Thomas Vermaelen IS Jude Law.  Have to agree that some of the pics on the interwebs are striking in their similarities.  Tough to say whether the Belgian player is actually a decent defender or impersonating one in hopes of running off with Arsenal’s great fortunes.  Wait, what?

Fabio Coentrao is probably not chasing around supernatural forces or writing another best seller but he does have a resemblance to David Duchovny’s characters over the years, especially Hank Moody from Californication.  The actor has a little squarer jaw but Coentrao could probably do in a pinch.

ashley young

Another United player has a twin in the acting world.  Skimming the Footballers Who Look Like Actors website, a recent post showed side by side pics of Ashley Young and Jaime Hector.  Think what you want about Young (diver, poor crosser of the ball, waste of space) but Hector’s performance as Marlo Stanfield in the Wire was amazing.  What you say.  You haven’t seen the Wire.  Stop reading this post and start watching the series right now.

For the purposes of this post and as an acknowledgment of the Spanish Waiter’s tactical creativity with Chelsea at the 2012 Club World Cup, I have moved David Luiz into central midfield, and his doppelganger is easy: Sideshow Bob.  Next.

Mesut Ozil / Peter Lorre(submitted by mimirose)

Out on the left side of the pitch I have put Mesut Ozil.  Again the Footballers Who Look Like Actors website provided the comparison, in this case—Peter Lorre.  His name sounded familiar but had no idea who he was.  After a little research, found out he was in Casablanca, the Maltese Falcon, the Mr. Moto movies and Arsenic and Old Lace.  Who knew?

Pulling the strings for this eleven has to be everyone’s favorite Uruguayan—Luis Suarez.  Hopefully in some hypothetical match he doesn’t offend the opposition, try to dive for a penalty or save a goal bound shot with his hand.  His twin, Anne Hathaway, has been a running gag on the Men in Blazers podcast for a while now, even generating an entry on the MIB wiki.

Roberto-Soldado-111123-Celebrates-AI-300bradley-cooper

Hopefully scoring the goals for the team would be Roberto Soldado and Edison Cavani. I started referring to the Spanish striker as Bradley Cooper in my early posts on La Liga, while Cavani’s particular facial features reminded me of days gone by and Masters of the Universe villain Skeletor.

holloway sloth

Mean-spirit-ness ahoy. Managing this team has to be Iain Dowie.  Due to his long record of success?  No.  Due to his inspiring man management skills?  No.  Because he is Sloth, again a touchstone to another movie of my youth—The Goonies.  Not nice to say but most think it and don’t say it out loud.  Credit to ROLFrazzi for pic.

Finally, taking charge of the match must be Spanish referee Cesar Nunez Fernandez who, along with University of Kentucky Lead Car Salesman Head Basketball Coach John Calipari, is keeping the world’s hair gel economy afloat.  Obviously he’s been hitting the beach or tanning bed more than the UK coach, and I’m sure he could make sure that any game goes off without a hitch.  Even with Suarez on the field.

Overseeing all of the festivities would be Mayor Quimby from the Simpsons, giving the match a sense of decorum.  And if he couldn’t make it, I’m sure his understudy, Brendan Rodgers, could step in.  Have to give a shout to Mid-Michigan United Supporters John and Ravi who tipped me off to this one.

——

So that’s the list.

GK      David de Gea              Who from Whoville

RB       Sergio Ramos              Val Kilmer

CB       Thomas Vermaelen     Jude Law

CB       Philippe Mexes            Jeremy Renner

LB       Fabio Coentrao           David Duchovny

RM      Ashley Young             Jaime Hector

DM      David Luiz                  Sideshow Bob

AM      Luis Suarez                 Anne Hathaway

LM      Mesut Ozil                  Peter Lorre

ST        Edison Cavani             Skeletor

ST        Roberto Soldado         Bradley Cooper

MGR   Iain Dowie                  Sloth

Referee Cesar Nunez Fernandez        John Calipari

The goal now becomes creating another squad for this team to play against.  The notebook will be at the ready and if I can’t create it on my own, then I’ll “borrow” from Footballers Who Look Like Actors.

In my research I found some more resources:

Enjoy and thanks to everyone for their suggestions and notes.

Old Futbol Buffet–The Reds Go Marching On

A busy week at work and at home, kept me from getting my usual reading and podcast listening done.  And due to my son’s floor hockey this tournament, my EPL viewing was KO’ed.  So not much on offer this week, but I was able to follow games on twitter and read as United overturned Sunderland; Liverpool dominate yet fall to Aston Vila; and QPR finally win a league match.

Daniele of Red Rants saw United win comfortably, and, with a little more composure in front of goal, the margin could have been more.  Cleverley’s goal was sick.  Amazing technique.  Daniele was struck by how the control of the game was conceded with the introductions of Scholes and Giggs.  Can’t be surprised.  With the game in hand, I imagine Sir Alex gave some of the lads a rest.  On another note, Young set up two of the goals today. Maybe he’s not worthless after all.

James Martin looked at the slow disappearance of Nani from Manchester United for the ESPN FC blog.  The Portuguese winger, according to reports, had one foot on a plane to Zenit in the summer before a U-turn in, and seems to be on his way out of Old Trafford either during the winter transfer window or next summer.  His relatively poor end product, especially recently, has seen Sir Alex turn to Valenica and Young, even though both of those players have issues (injuries and form).  Watching some of the goals embedded in the post, you are reminded of his stunning strikes from range, but those days seem long gone, with memories of unlucky fans in the upper decks getting struck with his wayward strikes, constant turnovers, and lack of crosses in the forefront.  Hopefully United get something for him and bring in a viable replacement.

Finally, looking through old posts at the Stretford End, I found Darren Richman’s account of his trip to the Manchester Derby.  Worried, confident, and anxious in the build up, his reaction in the second half was just like mine:

When City scored a minute later despite De Gea’s best efforts, I could only see it ending one way. ‘We’ll lose this now’ I cheerily informed my neighbours. When it went to 2-2, I wasn’t even upset, simply resigned to the worst. I started repeating ‘A draw’s still a good result’ in my head like a mantra. And out loud I think because I’m sure the bloke next to me said, ‘you’d have taken it beforehand.’

Make sure you read all the way end to get a surreal finish to his day.  Great stuff.

——

In my elation last week after the dramatic Manchester Derby, I totally forgot to post this little tidbit:

Twitter was abuzz about the photos of AC Milan’s new physio.  Chelsea have upped the ante with Eva Carneiro.  Injuries to Chelsea players have been doubled in value with her introduction.  Back to AC Milan, at this point it seems as if it was a PR stunt with no more details disclosed, including her name.  But trust me, the SoccerNomad I Team is all over this.

Morbo Minute–Manitas All Around

Looking back at La Liga teams in Europe last week. . .

The gang at Forza Futbol pod reviewed an incredible MatchDay 3 for Spanish teams in both competitions.  In the Champions League, FCB snagged all three points at the end; Soldado scored a hat trick for Valencia; Malaga have a 100% record and no goals against; and Real Madrid fell to Borussia Dortmund.  Over in the Europa League, Atletico kept cruising while Levante got three vital points in their campaign.  Poor Athletic lost and only has one point thus far.

Sam Thompson analyzed the Malaga/Milan game for his site TTT Football.  The Spanish side started in a 4-2-3-1 with Joaquin behind Saviola and Isco and Portillo coming inside for combinations and allowing the fullbacks to overlap and provide width.  Milan played an unusual 3-4-3, which defended as a 5-2-3 before becoming 5-4-1 towards the end of the match.  Watching the game, the Italians were constantly pinned back and looked blunt coming forward, with the Spaniards living if lacking the final ball.  Joaquin secured all three points with a difficult effort, having missed a penalty in the first half.

Continuing with Malaga, Graham Hunter wrote a wonderful piece on Los Boquerones as they dismissed Milan and look set to qualify for the knockout stages.  After a summer of disorder and scrambling, the team has stuck together and is reaping the dividends—top of the group and fourth in the league.  How far can they go?

Zonal Marking examined the clash of the Spanish and German champions and called the match more of a “German” game, based around pressing and quick transitions, than a “Spanish” game, which tends to be focused upon ball retention.  And what a match it was.  I told several people after watching it that I felt it was a like a game of FIFA on fast speed.  Eventually Dortmund was able to overwhelm Essien who isn’t a LB by nature, plus he wasn’t assisted by CR7.  A big three points for the Germans which should enable them to qualify for the knockout stages.

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Round Nine

I watched Rayo Vallecano v FCB on Saturday afternoon.  David Villa opened the scoring for the visitors and after a tightly contest affair of about an hour, the Blaugrana took absolute control, eventually winning 5-0.  The hosts went down and responded by pushing forward which left them more and more exposed.  Have to admire the fact that they did go for it but it was all for naught.  Leo Baptistao was starved of service and I didn’t see much in the attack.  As for FCB, I am really starting to wonder about Song and Sanchez.  Song was moved into central midfield to support Cesc and Xavi and seemed to be well placed but I don’t know.  Something is still missing.  As for Sanchez, he is channeling his inner Bojan and trying so hard and not getting the results.  On as a sub to grab an easy goal or two and build his confidence, he went the other direction, making things worse, constantly straying offside and usually picking the wrong pass or not delivering the correct one.  Aggravating to watch.

Kxevin of Barcelona Football Blog is seeing a different squad emerging this season: Those days (tiki taka and endless possession) are gone, replaced by a different kind of match control, in which brilliant players crawl through a sliver that someone leaves, and put the knife in.  He focused on Fabregas, noting his passing, runs and energy but is reserving judgment to see if he can do it the whole season.   In the end, Rayo ran out of steam and were put to the sword.  It happens.

What happened to Los Leones?  Sid Lowe asked that question for his weekly column in the Guardian.  He correctly states that There is little of the intensity, the sense of mission, that there was last season.  In its place a soap opera:

First there was the fight. Then came the failed escape bid, Martínez going to Germany, Fernando Llorente failing to go to Italy. Then the break in. And then the worst part of all: the secret recordings.

Athletic could be following the Yellow Submarine into the Segunda.  Sitting just above the relegation zone, everyone keeps waiting for the run that will take them to safety so the club can rebuild for next season.  It never came for Villarreal. It may not come for Athletic.

Kieran Canning, writing for Football Espana, brought me up to speed on Levante.  After a slow start in the league Los Granotes have won five in a row and have climbed up to sixth, plus they have six points in the Europa League.  Obafemi Martins is scoring for fun right now and maybe the Nigerian has finally found a home.

Madridista Mac examined a possible plan B for Real Madrid.  With a rash of injuries in the defense combined with the loss of Khedira, Mourinho rolled out a variation of the formation he has built in this time there.  Problem: Madrid’s injury problem at fullback created a two-fold problem: less dynamism on attack in the flanks and lack of depth in the midfield muscle department. Solution: put CR7 and Di Maria on their natural sides and put creative, technical players in the middle.  With the wingers stretching the play wide rather drifting centrally, the dynamic players had time and space in the middle to exploit.  As Mac rightly says, The true test will be if we can play such a system successfully against a team with a very good #10 or with the meanest, baddest, nastiest combo of physical midfield destroyers.

Finally, Phil Ball paid homage to the grizzly old veterans bringing their experience to teams around La Liga.  I remember Juanfran and Valeron from my early days watching the league and here they are still getting a game.  Great column for its personal insight and brief history lesson.

Old Futbol Buffet–Dog Days of Summer

Roger Bennett examined MLS’ campaign to gain national exposure during his latest column on Soccernet.  As he explains, teams have been able build soccer specific stadia that create a homebase for the club and fans, plus they have been able to partner with vocal and passionate supporters groups that create a buzz and atmosphere around games.  The result has been pockets of excitement but very little in the way of national prominence or attention for teams other that the ones supporters already follow.  There are several hurdles, and if the MLS is willing to take it slow and focus on its strengths then they may build an identity in the American sports culture.

Staying with MLS, the panel on the SI Soccer Roundtable (July 13) looked back at the first half of the season, focusing on the incredible goal tally of Chris Wondoloski, the surprise package of the San Jose Earthquakes and the turnaround at DC United.  They also looked ahead to the playoff race that will heat up after the All Star break.

Along the same lines, Ives Galarcep talked to the guys on Beyond the Pitch about his thoughts on the MLS season thus far.  Besides breaking down teams and looking at recent coaching changes, Ives commented on the possibility of the New York Cosmos being the 20th MLS team, having recently joined the NASL to start playing competitive matches.  Lots of info and well worth the listen.

Looking to Europe, Ben Lyttleton reviewed the earth shattering transfers of Ibra and Thiago Silva to PSG, as they look to take over Ligue Un and compete in the Champions League.

Anto held court on Beyond the Pitch about his beloved Milan, and really brought it.  He gave an impassioned and logical view on the path the Rossoneri are on as the Italian giants finally begin the rebuilding process that has been needed for years.  Listening to this pod got me excited about the upcoming Serie A season and how Milan can push Juventus and bring the league back into the spotlight.

Speaking of Juventus, the gang at Juventiknows.com looked back at their first year while looking ahead to next season, including possible transfer targets and expectations in the Champions League.

Finally, a little closer to home, Andrew Lewellen wrote a piece about Detroit City Football Club’s first season, focusing on the management team and the outstanding support Le Rouge received this year.  Hopefully this is just the beginning as everyone is looking to bring Major League Soccer to the Metro Detroit area.

Morbo Minute–La Liga dominates Europe

The only Champions League Quarter Final I wanted to watch was FCB and AC Milan.  Two European giants, a good test for the Spanish Champions, a real possibility of elimination.  The rest of the ties didn’t get the juices following.  Marseille could only survive by digging in and making things difficult for Bayern Munich; APOEL couldn’t possibly hope to beat mighty Real Madrid; and Chelsea and Benfica was mildly compelling but I couldn’t find time.  In the end Bayern and Real cruised while Chelsea got the away goal in the first leg and then held on at the Bridge.

The confrontation between the Blaugrana and the Rossoneri was tense and exciting, filled with talking points in both legs.  Ultimately the tie was decided by finishing or lack thereof.  AC Milan could have scored several goals in each leg but Robinho and Ibra weren’t sharp enough.  If your only goal comes from Nocerino then you’re in trouble.  Having said that, what a wonderful goal it was.  But Barca were not sparkling either.  Messi in particular has set the bar so high that you expected him to score with the numerous chances he was given.  At the Nou Camp, with the tie on a knife edge, he kept firing at Abbiati or just wide, making the pit in my stomach bigger and darker.

I was very nervous for the return leg, feeling that AC Milan could score at least one, which they did, and had nightmares about Inter in 2010 when FCB needed two goals and it took forever to just get one.  So when Messi scored the first penalty, the work was only half done, because Nocerino scored, putting the pressure back on Barca.  The second penalty was dodgy.  Very rarely called, complicated by the Puyol pick, the hosts were lucky to get that one.  Plus Ibra might have had a shout early in the second half.  Iniesta’s goal was quality and put the result beyond doubt.

AC Milan were positioned to advance.  They acknowledged that FCB were better and dug in, hitting the ball early to their forwards for a moment of magic, with KPB running around as another option.  And it almost worked because Barca were in control but not necessarily sharp.

Zonal Marking examined the match and looked at how Barca’s starting 3-3-4 affected the match. Cuenca provided the width that was missing the first leg, while equal or superior numbers in midfield kept the Blaugrana in control.  Zonal Marking felt that they did not create many chances.  I disagree.  In the first half, they had chances but Barca, Messi in particular, fluffed their lines.  Robinho’s improved tactical contribution was noted, but the conclusion says it all:

Barcelona are a far better football team than Milan on paper – but over the two legs, they only looked marginally better. Milan didn’t do anything special to frustrate Guardiola’s side, but a combination of an over-cautious approach in the first leg, and a slightly confused formation in this second game meant that Barca struggled to demonstrate their natural superiority in the final third. In the tie, the goal that was most Barcelona-like was Nocerino’s equaliser.

Kxevin at Barcelona Football Blog skipped the tactics and focused on the result—victory.   He advised cules to take the high road, that no matter what FCB do, haters are gonna hate.

On to the Semis with mouthwatering matchups that could provide an all Spanish final or Bayern home field advantage or Mourinho coaching against his former club.  Real have to be a favorite because if Bayern really go at them, whatever attacking formation Los Merengues go with will tear them apart. Chelsea have a puncher’s chance and an inspired performance at Stamford Bridge could give them a platform for an upset.  Bayern vChelsea is the least likely matchup and would be a let down in most circles, but stay tuned and see what happens.

Can’t end without mentioning La Liga success in the Europa League.  Last year it seemed to be the year of the Portuguese and this year it is dominated by the Spanish.  Athletic Bilbao, Atletico Madrid and Valencia all progressed to the semis, pretty comfortably I might add.  I didn’t watch a minute of the quarters but may have to carve out some time for the semis.

Atletico could win this competition for the second time in three years and salvage something from the season.  Valencia, who are in free fall in the league, could use a little boost that this trophy would provide heading into the summer.  (Chalk on the Boots had a nice post on the second leg at El Centrocampista.  He mentioned thatValencia are missing Banega, which could be crucial in the run-in for the league and this cup.)  As for Athletic, the Champions League push is all but over, so they are pursuing a cup double, which would be nice return from an up and down season.

Old Futbol Buffet/Morbo Minute Mash Up

Last weekend was the annual church retreat for our church, so I went into the weekend telling myself that I would not check scores, that I would not plow through my usual pile of articles, that I would not blog.  Plan the work, work the plan, right.  Little did I know that the weekend I took off, everything would blow up, putting my plan at risk.

Saturday saw the top of table clash in Serie A between AC Milan and Juventus.  One concession I made for the retreat was to deck myself out in my scarf and my personalized Juve jersey, and I was able to maintain internet silence before withdrawing from the group late at night to watch the game with a Milan fan.  We made it through a disappointing (from the biaconeri point of view) first half before our internet signal became too frustrating.  I ended up reading about the game the next day and saw Matri’s equalizer late Sunday night.

Zonal Marking focused on the midfield battle during the match as well as the forward choices by Conte.  I wondered why he went Quags and Boriello up front and was frustrated when Juve players tried the play to ball to their feet, which ended up in a series of turnovers.  A change in formation and personnel got the Old Lady a point, who are still unbeaten and just might just do this.

Aaron gave his comments on the big game at Juventiknows.  He questioned the starting line-up but praised Conte for making positive changes and for the squad having the fitness to turn the match around.  I agree with him that Boriello was a strange choice and was completely outmuscled up top.  As for Bonucci, he had a ‘mare and hopefully he can turn it around for the final push.

Paolo Bandini chimed in on the controversial and entertaining match between Juventus and AC Milan, noting Milan’s dominance and Juve’s resilience.  He also noted the managerial news, with Reja staying at Lazio, Ranieri on the outs at Inter and Beretta taking charge at Cesena.

What a day I missed on Sunday.  At lunch I checked the scores and saw that Arsenal had come back from 2-0 down to crush Spurs; United had beaten Norwich late thanks to Giggsy; and that Liverpool was down to Cardiff.  And that was just inEngland.

Zonal Marking looked at the clash of formations and tactical changes made in the second half as the Gunners turned around an open match and ran out 5-2 winners over Spurs at the Emirates.  Huge three points for Arsenal and cements Spurs third place position.

Following the North London Derby was the Carling Cup Final, featuring Liverpool and Cardiff.  It was also the kick off for Mid Michigan United Watch Parties at the Lansing Claddagh, which, from responses I have gotten so far, was a rousing success.  I missed the back and forth of the match and the dramatic (and not well taken) penalties.  Scousers enjoy this second rate trophy next year when you are out of Europe again.

As for Spain, an eventual weekend saw a couple of changes in positions in the top ten and some amazing goals and performances.  I got bored during my Monday meeting at work, so I jotted down some notes.  CR7’s backheel goal, or as my friend Mike called it a donkey kick, won all three points for Real against Rayo. Valencia lost again as their poor 2012 form continues. Malaga got three vital points as they clobbered bottom of the table Zaragoza, while Levante stunned Espanyol. Barcelona beat Atletico Madrid 2-1 in a match that featured three great goals from Alves, Falcao and Messi.

Meg Ryan opened her recap of the Barcelona with this statement: one thing does not have to be questioned any longer — the dedication and strength of this team.  The Blaugrana met an organized, physical opponent, who despite not seeing much of the ball, made things difficult on the visitors.  Another sublime moment from Messi sealed the three points after an intense game which demanded the most of Pep’s men.

Looking ahead to next year (trust me I didn’t pay attention at this meeting) I see it shaping up this way:  Real Madrid will continue to be a strong presence, grinding out maximum points against everyone except Barcelona, who will be in interesting position next year in terms of fitness, depth of squad and motivation.  If Valencia can strengthen their squad and improve consistency in form (and not run over themselves with cars), I could see them pushing FCB for second next season.  Just thinking.

Los Merengues are doing exactly what Barca did last year, going on a long streak of maximum points which ensures a big enough gap for any slips in the second half of season.  Last season the Blaugrana lost early to Hercules and then went unbeaten in 30 some games to create a gap that allowed them to take the foot off the gas in the league and win the Champions League.  Real is in the midst of the same thing.  After their hiccups against Levante and Racing in rounds in 3 and 4 , they have won 19 out of 20, with the only loss coming to FCB.  This season Barcelona has dropped too many points and now the gap is unassailable.

I took a look at Valencia’s form in 2012.  In eight league game thus far, they have only won a single match, drawing four and losing three.  Seven points out 24 is not going to get it done.  In the cup competitions, however, they have five victories out of eight, with a semi-final loss to FCB in the Copa and have made the Round of 16 in the Europa League.  I guess Los Che figure third is a mortal lock so they might as well win a cup.

Sid Lowe reviewed the game between Rayo Vallecano and Real Madrid.  The hosts, loudly and proudly supported by their fans, lost out to a moment of genius, magic, absurdity from CR7, but they will continue on in a one of a kind ground and one of a kind experience.

Phil Ball examined Athletic Bilbao’s season thus far, from their improving league form under Bielsa, their run to Final of the Copa del Rey, and their match up against Manchester United in the next round of Europa League (First Leg March 8 at Old Trafford and Second Leg March 15 at San Mames).  Plus several members of the squad have been chosen for the La Furia Roja friendly and Olympic Team.  Los Leones are trending upward.

Graham Hunter put an excerpt of his book  Barca: The Making of the Greatest Team in the World up at Soccernet, choosing a story of a young Messi disobeying doctor’s orders in order to compete in a Cup Final.

It looks like the Copa del Rey will be in Madridafter all, except that it will be at the Calderon instead of the Bernabeu.  Based on Wikipedia and the Bleacher Report, Athletic Bilbao and FC Barcelona will play on May 25th.  We’ll see.

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Podcasts

The guys on World Football Phone In discussed the Arshavin transfer; the nature of how clubs are run in South America and Europe; Kerrison and Giovanni dos Santos’s positions at FC Barcelona; FCB’s style and thin squad; and third party ownership.

On Men in Blazers, Rog and Mickey recapped the FA Cup 5th round and wondered what can be done to improve the competition.  Plus they looked at the problems atChelsea and Arsenal.

The SI Soccer Roundtable panel examined Klinsmann’s line up for the Italian friendly which includes the possibility of Donovan and Dempsey playing together (foiled by Donovan’s illness) and a Champions League recap.

Dermot Corrigan (@dermotcorrigan) was on the Forza Football pod to discuss La Liga, including newcomers of the year, Barca’s away form and where Bilbao should put their focus this season.

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Jerseys

I saw this post at Football Shirts UK facebook page revealing the possible Barca home kit launch from football fashion FB page.  Simply awful.  A terrible PSG knockoff at best.  I really hope this is not the real deal.

I recently found the site Mao’s Football, and he did a Euro 2012 kits post that includes almost every jersey from each team going toPoland and Ukraine.  Fantastic work.  I’m hoping to put together a full review before tournament.