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Ray Hudsonisms Part 1

12 Sep

For those of you who do not know Ray Hudson, he is the color man on GolTV’s American broadcast of football matches. To put it bluntly he is out of control, bat-shit crazy. A Geordie by blood, Hudson plied his trade with Newcastle in the 1970’s before moving to the NASL for the rest of his career. Surely not the greatest midfielder to have ever graced the game, but Hudson’s brilliance lies in his broadcasting. Euphemisms, metaphors, other worldly comparisons, hysterics, turrets-like shrills of excitement, and plenty of high blood pressure is the best way to describe a match with Hudson in the booth. If you have never heard him, it is imperative you find time to do so this weekend.

To whet your appetites a bit, and to recap what you may have missed, every Monday will feature an installment of the best quotes from Hudson over the weekend. They are as baffling as they are comedic.

Below are the highlights from Saturday’s match between Real Madrid and Getafe at the Bernabéu:

“Rifling his way through the clashing rocks.” (Di Maria)

“Little ‘avatar eyes’ takes over the wheel there.” (Ozil)

“Wonderful header from Mr. Slick.” (Cristiano Ronaldo)

“And that’s what happens when you don’t take your chances against real Madrid. They’ll jump out of the closet and draw your blood.”

“Cool like a killer. Wonderful penalty box predator.” (Benzema)

“That was magic from saint Iker. Picking out Sergio Ramos who was putting his headband right.”

“Coentrao misses an absolute howler! It’s beyond a toilet bowl finish…and Fabio makes a big red baboon’s backside out of the finish. No excusing it – finger down the throat again.”

“The Venezuelan international absolutely flamethrowers this.” (Miku)

“Cannot quite spread his wings like a bat out of hell to get to this.” (Moya on Cristiano’s penalty take)

“Fabulous from Cristiano Ronaldo! Look at this people. Get out of your sofas and go and kiss the TV set and Cristiano’s smiling face because that is an absolute phenomenal pass…beyond split millimeter. He curls it. He takes everything – the moon’s gravitational pull – into account and provides it on a silver plate with a big white ribbon tied around it. Cristiano! Superlative.”

La Liga Kit Preview 2011/12

18 Aug

Whether the 2011/12 La Liga season begins this weekend or faces two weeks off due to a players union strike, the kits will remain the same. Check out the newest shirts to feature in Spain this coming season. Continue reading

Mourinho Disgraces Spanish Football Once Again

18 Aug

Everything was going so well. Sure, a few harsh and untimely challenges from both clubs, but it will always be an element of this bitter rivalry. For ninety minutes (plus the ninety from the first leg on Sunday), Real Madrid and Barcelona wowed the masses with a display of football that puts both clubs light years ahead of the rest of the competition. Finesse, technique, ambition, and creativity all personified in an open, attacking Supercopa that saw plenty of goals from both sides and Messi’s brilliance to the rescue once again. And then Marcelo ruined it.

In an attempt to “close down” Fabregas on the touchline, the Brazilian launched into a two-footed scissor kick, scything the Catalan to the floor. It wasn’t cynical. It was criminal.  No more helpful was the fact that it occurred in front of both benches, bringing substitutes and coaches into the subsequent melee. Marcelo rightly saw red and luckily, Fabregas did not suffer any serious injury. And then Mourinho ruined it even more.

With a conniving shit-smirk on his face, after standing just feet away from the grotesque assault on Fabregas, Mourinho decided to have some fun. Not knowing whether Marcelo’s challenge had quite possibly shattered Fabregas’ ankle, he meandered into the fracas and plunged his finger into the right eye of Tito Vilanova (video below). Credit Barcelona’s assistant for not completely losing control after having his eye gauged – a show of composure that should be applauded. But what to make of Mourinho? Arsene Wenger now looks completely sane and rational compared to his former nemesis.

It all comes to a head now for the Portuguese manager. His antics over the past two seasons have resulted in an attempted stabbing, conspiracy theories, suspensions, and an overall disregard for the gentlemanly class of Spanish football. Last night trumped them all. The severity of attacking a fellow coach like that cannot be understated. No less after the horrific challenge by Marcelo, when Mourinho should have escorted his left-back straight to the dressing room. But he didn’t. His actions once again represent a tacit approval of the harsh, bullying physicality imposed by his own players on the pitch.

A line has been crossed and it is time for the LFP to show that they truly care about the image of their league and hand down severe punishment on Mourinho. He should be banned for at least five matches – perhaps more. Assault and inciting violence, because he sure as hell wasn’t a peacekeeper, are as reprehensible an offense any manager in any sport can commit. On the eve of a players’ strike which could shut down the opening two weeks of La Liga, an opportunity presents itself for the LFP to display a semblance of credibility. For the sake of Spanish football, let’s hope they do.

(On another note, I cannot allow my fellow Barcelona supporters to emerge unscathed. The monkey chants directed at Marcelo throughout the second half were disgusting and shameful. Racism continues to give Spanish football a black eye, while any sort of punishment from the LFP is as likely as humans inhabiting Mars tomorrow. The “say no to racism” campaign is a complete joke when the suits behind it are spineless, cowardly individuals unable and unwilling to punish the culprits.)

La Liga Releases 2011/12 Fixture List

6 Jul

Almost every country treats the release of the fixture list like a national holiday, crafting the rumors, conspiracy theories, and potential outcomes months in advance just to spark interest. Luckily for Spain, the press need not conjure up such ridiculous and outlandish stories since the boneheads who run the RFEF do all the work for them. And believe me, bonehead is an understatement.

For better or for worse, depending on how you see the rivalry progressing, Real Madrid and Barcelona will resume their war of attrition before the season kicks off with the two-legged Spanish Super Cup. Here’s the fun part: the first leg will be played in Madrid on August 14th at 10pm, while the second leg will kick off in Barcelona on the 17th at…11pm!!!! That is not a mistake. The reason for this is that UEFA Champions League qualifiers will be held that day, and UEFA forbids any other matches to be played in the same time slot. So rather than exert a little bit more energy to sit around a table and find new dates, the league pushed the return leg to 11pm. And they still wonder why they can’t attract more viewers around the globe…

The first regular season Clásico will take place on December 11th in the capital, just four days before Barcelona are scheduled to play in the FIFA Club World Cup in Japan, so expect plenty of verbal sparring as they try to change the date. The second leg is scheduled for April 22nd in Barcelona, which will be the third-to-last fixture of the season wedged between the Champions League Semifinal legs. Tasty!

Don’t expect a slow first weekend either as the docket is loaded with derbies and a potential top three clash. The reason I say “potential” is that Málaga has never come close to finishing that high up the table, but with the arrival of new owners from Qatar accompanied by a war chest of money to spend, Málaga could very well be the surprise team to fight the duopoly. What better way to start that campaign than welcoming Barcelona on the very first day?! As for the derbies, both Madrid clubs will face the two Basque outfits, Real Sociedad vs Atlético and Real Madrid vs Athletic, while down in Andalucia, Betis reacquaint themselves with top flight football by welcoming their hated crosstown rivals Sevilla.

Five of the next eight matches will be tricky for Barcelona, who usually find their rhythm in late November into December. Following Málaga they return home for Villarreal,  but then travel to Sociedad and Valencia, and host Atlético and Sevilla at home.  Real Madrid won’t face stiff competition until week nine at Málaga followed by a home match against Villarreal.

La Liga supporter depression aka the Christmas break begins December 19th, with the league scheduled to resume play on January 6th, at which point English players will be “exhausted” from lack of a break and the press will already have their excuses for the team’s early dismissal from the European Championships in the Summer.

Overall, it appears the schedule was not fixed, and the league should benefit from big early season matchups.

For a full list of the fixtures, click here. Just a little over a month away from the first Clásico! Buckle up.

Madrid Official Shoved to the Ground

20 Dec

Sunday’s encounter between Real Madrid and Sevilla was anything but a visually appealing spectacle – 40 fouls, 9 yellow cards, and 2 red cards. However, a delightful piece of magic from Angel Di Maria in the 76th minute proved to be the only goal, denying Sevilla a point and allowing the Madridistas to keep pace with Barcelona.

While the referee was busy overseeing the boxing match on the pitch, he could do nothing to prevent the confrontation on the sideline between members of both teams’ coaching staffs. At halftime as both teams headed for the locker rooms, Real Madrid’s goalie coach Silvino Louro got into a spat with Gonzalo Hurtado, one of the Sevilla assistants. After some yelling, Louro went after the Sevilla coach and inadvertently shoved Agustín Herrerín to the ground, a Bernabeu official. The older looking gentleman hit the ground rather hard, but was able to get up immediately.

There’s always something troubling about seeing an old man thrown to the ground, although that concern does not seem to affect the Sevilla players, who look more preoccupied with getting inside than intervening in the altercation.

El Clásico Preview – Barcelona vs Real Madrid

29 Nov

Today, the footballing world will come to a halt for the most anticipated match, in the greatest rivalry on the planet. For purists, front-runners, and neutrals, there is something to savor in every aspect of this match. Barcelona’s beautiful game. Real Madrid’s stonewall defense and lethal counter-strikes. Messi vs Ronaldo. Mourinho vs Guardiola. Catalans vs Madrileños. Not to mention 13 Spanish internationals. Ten of the starting XI from the final vs Holland.

Barcelona fans have already stoned an assistant coach as well as two players, in addition to the Madrid team bus which shattered a window. We get it, they don’t like each other and tensions are higher than ever before. Not since Figo’s return to the Camp Nou have we seen such excitement and anticipation. How will it play out? Let’s delve into the main match ups to highlight the keys to victory for both clubs. Continue reading

El Clásico Preview – Guardiola vs Mourinho

23 Nov

If you can find me a better match-up of managers and minds, be my guest. Their work ethic, style, and philosophy puts them on a level never before seen. Okay, Mourinho and Sir Alex had their duels back in England. But Guardiola, with all due respect to the Scotsman, is a completely different animal…and much more hungry.

The history of these two men dates back to 1990’s, when Mourinho joined Barcelona as Sir Bobby Robson’s assistant, and later Louis Van Gaal’s. Barcelona won the European Cup Winner’s Cup as well as two league titles in Mourinho’s time there.  The focal point of that team – the proverbial cog in the wheel – was none other than Pep Guardiola. He had epitomized the role of central midfielder, winning the European Cup four years before Mourinho arrived.

They were different then. They are different now. I love Mourinho and I hate him. I love him because of his arrogance, his narcissism, and his ability to make any team a champion in no time at all.  I hate him because of his arrogance, his narcissism, and his ability to make any team a champion in no time at all. Tito Vilanova, Guardiola’s right hand man, said of Mourinho the other week, “He is a football manager who never talks about football.” Call me a purist, or call Mourinho brilliant for taking attention away from his players, but it is a style of managing that simply gets under your skin. Agree with it or not, nobody has ever done it like Mourinho.

Guardiola is a psychotic workaholic. Up 8-0 against Almeria over the weekend, Guardiola barely sat on the bench. He is always managing, always directing, always looking at the smallest errors and mistakes. Can you blame him? The man has created a system decades in the making, taking the Dutch idea of “Total Football” to an unthinkable level. Not to mention, he always talks about football. He is as cool as a cucumber during press conferences, and never gets mired in managerial cheap shots. It’s about the players and the game on the pitch. Nothing else.

Intangibles:

Guardiola’s combination of shaved head, heavy beard, sweater/cardigan, tie, and suit or jeans and a flannel checkered shirt are epic. Mourinho has trouble keeping his socks up (he’s always pulling them up on the sideline), and looks incredibly sloppy with the loose tie. Advantage Guardiola

Guardiola won an unprecedented 6 trophies in his first season as manager. In 8 seasons of management with 3 teams, Mourinho has 2 Champions League trophies, 1 UEFA Cup, and 6 domestic trophies. Advantage Mourinho

Guardiola speaks fluent English. He probably spoke a little Italian while at Brescia for a season. Mourinho learned Catalan when he coached Barcelona. He learned Italian with a Milanese dialect at Inter Milan. He spoke English while at Chelsea. However, it is unfair to fault Guardiola who has coached nowhere but Spain. Draw

Guardiola LOVES Coldplay. Mourinho sobbed when he said goodbye to Marco Materazzi. Draw

Guardiola’s press conferences are kinda boring. Raspy voice and all, he’s never good for a soundbite because it is impossible to bait him into angry responses. Mourinho’s press conferences should interrupt every channel on the planet. He grips the room like a fat kid clings to candy bar. Advantage Mourinho

Guardiola sprints down the sideline at Stamford Bridge. Mourinho jogs onto the pitch at the Camp Nou. Speed kills in this game. Advantage Guardiola

Too close to call!! Both of these guys are class acts, and arguably the most respected managers in the world. There will be as much excitement on the sideline as there is on the field of play.

(Photo courtesy of Zimbio.com)

El Clásico Preview – Messi vs Ronaldo

23 Nov

If I may borrow the words of Pep Guardionla, “Es una puta barbaridad” – it’s f***ing barbaric. Not the unprecedented and historic point tally both Barcelona and Real Madrid accumulated last season to which Guardiola was referring to, but the output of the two best players in the world. Raw numbers do more justice than poetic prose:

Lionel Messi (23) - 16 goals in his last 9 competitive matches. 19 goals in 15 appearances in all competitions. 13 goals in 10 league matches. He has scored in each of the team’s last 8 consecutive matches. 6 multi-goal matches this season – 2 hat tricks and 4 doubles.

Cristiano Ronaldo (25) – 17 goals in 18 appearances in all competitions. 15 goals in 12 league matches (current league leader). 5 multi goal matches this season –  3 doubles, 1 hat trick, and 1 four goal tally. He is the highest scorer in Real Madrid history at this stage of the season. He is the first Real Madrid player to lead the league in goals heading into the clásico since Ildefonso Fernando Sañudo García back in 1935/36.

Who or what can stop them is a question better left unanswered – you’d spend the rest of your life trying. The easy answer is you can’t – you can only hope to contain them. There are, however, two possible ways of containment.

First, injure them (not recommended). Second, cut off their supply, although that won’t really work either as they are too intelligent to allow it. They may line up on the wings, but just to start. Should they find it hard to receive the ball, both have shown a tendency to drift into the middle or even to the center circle in order to receive the ball. No matter what you do, they will find a way to get the ball at their feet. At which point, as an opponent, start praying. I will say that Messi, more so than Ronaldo, comes back to the ball more often. And that comes down to the system. Khedira, Alonso, and Ozil dominate the middle and usually don’t stray to the sidelines. Ronaldo can disappear from matches. Messi on the other hand has much more freedom to roam in Guardiola’s system making him that much more deadly. The bottom line is, you can only hope to contain them. You probably won’t.

Intangibles:

Messi likes paying with legos. Ronaldo likes to pout and sit on the ground crying like a baby. Advantage Messi

Messi has a cute little girlfriend. Ronaldo bangs supermodels, lingerie models, cover girls, swimsuit models…you get the point. Advantage Ronaldo

Messi’s hair flaps in the wind like a 5 year old’s bowl cut. Ronaldo has a an incredibly dumb looking “mohawk.” Advantage Messi

Messi likes his shorts baggy like a basketball player. Ronaldo opts for short shorts. Advantage Ronaldo

Messi is everyone’s favorite little big kid. Ronaldo is everyone’s bratty pain in the ass. Advantage Messi

It’s settled! Kind of… The biggest game in the world calls for the biggest superstars to perform. Ronaldo has never scored a goal in Barcelona. Messi has never scored against a Mourinho managed side. Something better give.

(Photo courtesy of AS.com)

El Clásico Preview – The Ref

23 Nov

Eduardo Iturralde González is the man charged with officiating El Clásico. The 42 year old Basque dentist is known for being quite unsparing with his bookings, and lacks many friends around the league. Last season, he led all La Liga referees with 102 yellow cards, 15 more than the next guy. He averaged 6 cards a match, which ranked second for referees officiating at least 10 matches.

This season he’s no better. 22 yellow cards in only 3 matches including 1 straight red. His average is up to 7.33 yellow cards a match, ranking him 4th among active officials.

Monday will be his third clásico. Both previous matches saw Barcelona defeat Madrid 3-0 in 2004/05 and 2005/06. (The latter was the very match we celebrated last week when Ronaldinho was applauded off the pitch by the Madrid faithful.)

Historically, here is how he’s fared officiating both clubs:

Barcelona
31 matches
20 wins, 7 draws, 4 losses
4 players sent off, 9 opponents
10 penalties in favor, 6 against

Real Madrid
36 matches
22 wins, 3 draws, 11 defeats
6 players sent off, 7 opponents
10 penalties in favor, 6 against

Let’s all hope that he is not the main focus on Tuesday. We all know the tensions and competitive edge for both clubs will be full tilt. Any thought of nerves or cagey performances should be thrown by the wayside. There will be fouls and plenty of  physical play. Iturralde must issue his bookings cautiously, or the entire ebb-and-flow of the match will be ruined.

(Statistics courtesy of statbunker.com)

Historical Monday Clásicos

22 Nov

It’s Clásico week here on the Footy for the Soul!! A week in the full sense of the word as the epic match-up will be played on a Monday this year. No worries – anger and dismay have already been expressed, and we can now look ahead to the game itself.

To start, a trip down memory lane to the previous two instances when El Clásico featured on a Monday, both played at the Camp Nou coincidentally:

March 30, 1964 – Real Madrid 2 Barcelona 1

Madrid took a valuable three points with only three matches to play in the season. Francisco Gento opened the scoring for the visitors which was nullified by a José Antonio Zaldúa equalizer nine minutes later. Only sixteen minutes after that, the incomparable Hungarian Ferenc Puskás put Madrid ahead for good. The important three points allowed them to stay top of the league and ultimately win their 10th La Liga title by a four point margin over their rivals.

April 3, 1972 – Barcelona 1 Real Madrid 0


Revenge! An 11th minute strike from Juan Manuel Asensi was all the home side needed to hold off their opponents.  Didn’t matter much in the end however. Barcelona finished third on 43 points, four points behind Real Madrid who won their 15th championship.

Next Monday will be the all important rubber match.  We should expect more goals than the above two combined.

(Photos courtesy of El Mundo Deportivo and Marca)
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