The Championship in Stills

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Kari posted celebratory photos yesterday. Here is another photo memorial of the entire game. We hope you enjoy. I’m sure there will be a review up later, but does it really matter through the champagne anyway?

The prize

 

Outnumbered

 

Team pictures, Messi's mom ordered ten sets

 

A little English flair

 

A worthy strike

 

Hug it out

 

Rooney slides home after a worthy strike

 

Valdes had about as much chance as you or I

 

Busi watch out, there's a carney on your back!

 

Van der Sar deserved a better final game.

 

Dancing with myself

 

Shooting gallery

 

Insert easy MESSIah joke

 

Giddy

 

Relief and a deserved title for Villa

 

A wonderfully refereed game, a welcome sight

 

Dejection

 

Elation

 

United acquitted themselves well, but there was no stopping Pep's boys

 

Honorary captain, heart of the squad, trophy lifter

 

A better team picture, Shakira bought 10 sets

 

I think I've seen this before somewhere

 

A deserved kiss: man of match, tourney, year

Photo credits (in order of above): Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images Europe; Clive Mason/Getty Images Europe; Jasper Juinen/Getty Images Europe; Shaun Botterill/Getty Images Europe; Shaun Botterill/Getty Images Europe; Clive Mason/Getty Images Europe; Clive Mason/Getty Images Europe; Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images Europe; Michael Regan/Getty Images Europe; Shaun Botterill/Getty Images Europe; Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images Europe; Jasper Juinen/Getty Images Europe; Jasper Juinen/Getty Images Europe; Michael Regan/Getty Images Europe; Michael Regan/Getty Images Europe; Shaun Botterill/Getty Images Europe; Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images Europe; Clive Mason/Getty Images Europe; Michael Regan/Getty Images Europe; Clive Mason/Getty Images Europe; Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images Europe; Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images Europe; Jasper Juinen/Getty Images Europe

Posted in Champions League126 Comments

BFB Staff Predictions (EDIT for Euler!)

Iniestazo please.


Two days hence the biggest event since we were nearly Raptured away is happening. I know you were sitting in your home, office, shantytown, and thinking to your self: “self, I wonder what the writers for this blog that I read religiously predict for the final on Saturday, I wish they would compile them all in one location.” Well, have no fear reader, because after scouring the emails and waiting on certain people who take forever to reply (read: Isaiah), we’re finally ready to go. Feel free to agree, or disagree as you will. Linda was unable to take part unfortunately.

Isaiah-Founder, overlord, jive turkey: 2-0 Barça

“The game itself should be fun. The questions leading up to it are all about United’s formation and Barça’s back line health, but when kickoff happens, we should see some serious fun and some seriously talented players having that fun. Goals by Eto’o, err I mean Pedro and Messi. Valdes saves well from Park early on, but then Anderson in the middle screws up and Iniesta torches him and provides the assist. From there, it’s all over except the trophy ceremony and the lauding from the journos. Greatest club team in history? Can they repeat in Germany next year? Which Icelandic volcano will keep them from doing it?”

Kevin-”Editor,” talking head, floor general: 2-1 Barça

“If Villa is as (Kevin said a naughty word) as he’s been of late, we’re screwed. Can’t beat them with just Messi. Pedro isn’t going to be the difference maker. You can cover him with a single man. He CAN be the difference maker if Messi and Villa are on. Rooney is the wild card. He’s a freed man with no more Thong Boy in the side. And Chicharito is a pain. Possession will be more important than ever before. Personally, I don’t think that straight up, they can beat us. But if somebody gives the ball away in the wrong spot (cough! Zambrotta! cough!) suddenly we’re down a goal, and the wagons are circled.

The side will be rested and full-strength, and neither side will have the fully honed match fitness, which means that natural talent starts to carry the day. We have the most talented player(s) on the planet at a few positions. I don’t see a 3-0, but I can easily see a 2-1, with goals by Pique and Iniesta.”

Luke-Honey badger, wisenheimer, naked & famous: 3-1 Barça

“Goals by Messi x 2, Iniesta, and Chicharito. It’s not that Manchester United is such a weak side that they will or can be easily manhandled or that Sir Alex is some bush league tactician who knows nothing about the game, it’s that they have already stated they have no real plan for Messi (like Mou did with Pepe) and with Messi, Pedro, Villa, Xavi, and Iniesta all starting, along with Afellay in reserve, that’s 6 players who are difficult enough to prepare for without taking into account Alves and Busquets. The problems will come from the back like they have recently, but not from Rooney. It will be the sneaky Little Pea who will give the back line fits and with lingering questions at LB, the health of Puyol in some question, and Abidal’s slow return all in focus, it would mean VV has to stand on his head to make this Barcelona’s 4th European title and a huge Double. It’s not that I’m overconfident, I’m not, it’s just that I have so much respect for Messi in these huge games and Xaviniesta create plays better than any tandem in the world.”

Soccermom-Holy mother, Kanye West’s hypeman, union winner: 2-1 Barça

“I honestly have not the slightest idea, except for some really bad puns involving Bárdarbunga and plays by Eugene O’Neill. Don’t quote me directly but I’m going for Barça 2 – Man U. 1, goals by: Chicarito (min. 8), Messi (p., min. 37) and Iniesta (min. 68). Because really, why the hell not?”

Colin-British name, live blogging machine, thug life: 2-1 Barça

“Barcelona wins 2-1, with Messi and Pedro scoring. In my mind I’ve been billing this game as the Magnificent Barcelona against Stalwart Manchester. Early on it will be a very even match, but Barcelona will find the goal first and Manchester will be forced to chase the match. Xavi, Iniesta, and Messi will form a roving triangle of death for Manchester that they just won’t be able to stop. Manchester will pull one back in the second half, and it will be a nervy ending but Barcelona has the mental toughness to be champions, and they will repeat the win from two years ago”

Kari-Canadian, owner/operator of Cesc fan club, daughter of Jens Lehman: 3-0 Barça

“This match really depends on the first goal. Cliche, I know, but really. I don’t think Man Utd will be going all out against us, because, well, with all due respect that’d be suicide. My brain tells me they’ll play a conservative game and look to hit us on the counter using their pace (which is why I think Valencia will start), so it won’t be a high scoring game. Luckily, we’ve had ample time to work out how to play against such a team (4 times in fact. Ahem.) The boys are really, really ready for this one. I’m sure that Xavi and co. feel really pumped at the thought of winning the CL in the same stadium the club won its very first in 1992. They’re romantics like that. (And I am too).

Messi will probably be quadruple teamed but that leaves space for Pedro! and Villa to exploit. Iniesta will be massive in this match with his attacking forays (just chut de bol, Andres! Good things happen when you do! Like birth rates go up!) and to add to the team’s confidence is that our resident caveman of a captain is back, and our best outfield player of the season that isn’t Messi that come back from a liver tumor will feature as well. It’s both full backs and Villa’s first final and we want to win this one. United have boatloads of quality and will have their fair share of chances, but our ‘keeper Valdes is in a rich vein of form and it won’t be easy to beat him. I respect United, but I have faith in this team. I want this CL. Badly.

Official prediction that I wish will become a reality: 3-0, Barcelona: Villa, Messi, Abidal (what can I say? I’m a romantic.)”

Euler – Bridge Wanderer, Rinus Michels StickerCollector: 3-1 Barça

Barça have been off form for several months. With two weeks off and one game left to play I believe they’ll circle back towards maximum performance. Look for Barça to come out and press with great intensity like they did against Arsenal at Camp Nou. I expect that level of energy.

Manchester United is a wonderful club –- better than many give them credit for. However, United are weakest in the one area where you just can’t afford to give against Barça –- in the space between the lines. In turn Manchester United are going to be forced to make very difficult trade-offs in how they play, and how they allocate game resources.

Perhaps the key player for Barça is going to be the LB, who will most likely (hopefully?) be Abidal. United will look to circumvent the midfield when they are in possession, and look to play the ball out very fast to the wings to build play. The danger man for them is Valencia –- who is a wonderful flank player. Valencia lines up where Barça are in theory most vulnerable due to injury and lack of form. If the left back can contain the United right wing player, Barça will be that much more secure in winning. The other player who will need to be in form for Barça is Busquets, as he will likely be responsible for marking Rooney in his unorthodox role.

Goals by Messi, Ghostface and Pedro. Havoc wrought by all the blaugrana!

So there you have it, a lot of 2-1′s and everyone taking Barcelona for their 4th European title.

Posted in Champions League, Interviews34 Comments

CL Final Interview with the Enemy: Corey Dowlar

The Final

Luke’s Note: Corey Dowlar is a Florida State University alum (where I just graduated law school) and currently works as a blogger, writer, and editor for Noles247, a website that focuses on all Florida State Seminoles sports, but specifically American college football recruiting, which I could explain is extreme detail, but will let Wikipedia do the legwork for me. Anyway, Corey has graciously agreed to do a short interview with us and give a Manchester United fan perspective on the match, specifically that of an American. You can follow Corey on Twitter if you are so inclined at @cdowlar. And remember kids, be nice in the comments, Corey is a guest, and as a Seminole, he’s better people than you anyway. :)

Firstly, how did you become a Manchester United fan?

Well, must admit it was arbitrary as many followers are on this side of the large pond we call the Atlantic. Back in 2006 during college at Florida State, me and my roommates all selected teams and chose to follow them with the rule being everyone had to have someone different to make things interesting. I found myself taking a real liking to the game. Now I’d have to say it dominates my thoughts in the realm of sports. I have taken a lot of time to research on the youth teams, club history, and other facts, so I feel justified in calling myself a supporter these days.

You seem to be a prodigious follower of soccer, or as our blog title snootily calls it, “football,” on Twitter, even though your from Amurka, did you ever play the sport?

Competitively, no. On the Florida State IM fields, yes. Was a big target man forward that was less skillful than brute and I have a nice unrepaired torn ACL in my left knee to show for it.

As we all know, this is a rematch of the 2009 final, what is your most vivid memory of that final?

Has to be Park’s miss in the opening minutes. United fielded a squad built to hit Barcelona on the counter attack and had a golden opportunity. Park was unable to convert and soon the Spaniards did. It was probably all over at that point. Ferguson’s army had to chase the game – and the ball too. It was never going to happen then, was it?

Do you hold any animosity toward Barcelona over that final? Or are you one of those fans who just generally hate Barcelona for their “tapping up” and diving?

Not towards the final, but their tendency to mix scuba diving into the fray is quite annoying at times. I understand all teams do it, even Manchester United. It is reality. The most annoying part, for me, is the swarming of the referee. Four, five, and six Barcelona players will all have their say and quickly. I’m not inclined to agree completely with the self-proclaimed special one that there is some conspiracy, but there is a large amount of evidence that something is giving Barcelona the benefit of the doubt on a lot of crucial decisions. Could be based entirely on reputation, who knows.

Moving forward to today, what do you see as the key matchup in Saturday’s final?

A lot of it depends on what team Sir Alex intends to employ. It’s no mystery how Barcelona will play, I don’t think. It isn’t broken after all. I think it would be safe to assume Ji-Sung Park will be closely marking the Argentine wizard as he normally keeps tabs on the opposing dangerman on European nights. Two-lung Park has completely taken players out of the game before and will be expected to do the same – to the best of his capabilities – in the final. I think we’ll see two tired footballers at the final whistle.

Other than Messi, which player worries you the most? I’m assuming Messi worries you most, you are a mortal correct?

Well, I think I touched on this previously. I think Xavi/Iniesta actually hold the real keys to the carousel’s effectiveness. Those two will have to find ways to spot runs and use their creativity to unlock an organized defense. Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic against Villa will be an interesting battle as well.

If you’re Sir Alex and you’re looking for a big advantage, which Barcelona player do you attack and overload, and why?

Anyone in the back line. None of them are that overwhelming on the back foot and we have first-hand knowledge of Pique. Fortunately for Barcelona, they usually don’t need to be as they hold the ball for 60-75% of contests. I don’t think you will see much ‘overloading’ at all. Most of the attacks will try to hit back on the break.

As Barcelona fans, who should we worry the most about exposing the team’s super porous (right commenter’s, right?) defense?

Has to be the boy Wayne. He is certain to play in some type of trequarista role whether in the odd-man midfield or the two forward system. He has a keen eye for the killer ball wide or through the middle, and can score himself, you know. Also possesses the ability to win a header in the air and find the back of the net.

Even if you don’t answer “Chicharito” to the previous question, I will assume you did. If he scores, which part of his body will he do it with? I’m looking for a “nose of god” moment myself.

Does he play? I don’t think it is a certainty yet. Ferguson said after the last final he knows how he would beat Barcelona if they played again – that was before Hernandez arrived. It will be an interesting headache leading in. The 4-4-2 counterattacking system has been extremely effective of late, but does he use it? We’ll see. If he scores, has to be a back heel, right?

What is your prediction for the game? A Manchester United victory? Iniesta causing another Catalan baby boom?

I have zero feel for it this far in advance, I really don’t. It is going to come down to whoever scores first, that I am very comfortable in saying. It is absolutely essential United score before Barcelona if they want to win this one, or it might be a very similar one to the Rome affair. I guess you will force me to say something though. Barcelona have to be considered favorites, I think, given the perception of the club and the most recent contest. But I have a good feeling about this one, for whatever reason. It has been a special year for United. Hasn’t always been pretty, admittedly, but they’ve figured out ways to get things done. Might be biased, might be delusional, but 2-1 to the England side.

Looking then to the offseason, what position are the Red Devils most in need of upgrading for the 2011-12 season?

Obvious answer is the goal keeper. Edwin van der Sar will retire and certainly be missed. He’s been tremendous, absolutely tremendous since his arrival. Keepers don’t grow on trees, especially ones that stop shots in the biggest games. It looks like it is going to be Atletico’s de Gea, but don’t rule out the Ajax man Steklenburg either.

Beyond that it is midfield, midfield, and midfield. Owen Hargreaves, I am convinced, will never return to fitness. Paul Scholes very well may retire this summer. Tom Cleverly could be treated as a new signee when he returns from a successful loan spell, but I still think there is a need for a legitimate boss in the midfield. Modric has been mentioned often, but big money moves like that typically don’t happen at Old Trafford with the exception of a Ferdinand, Rooney, or Berbatov.

Varane of Lens in France seems a certainty, an 18-year old defender that can play in a defensive midfield role. Wouldn’t expect him to play straight away, and could very well be loaned back to France at a club such as PSG.

Finally, if you can only choose one Man U jersey and one player’s name to be on the back of it, who are you going with to celebrate the 19th English championship?

Must shake my head at the term ‘Man U’ but will forgive you. I think it is going to be John O’Shea. He’s been a loyal servant of the club, played a big role in the last several titles, and I am Irish.

Thanks Corey!

Posted in Barcelona89 Comments

Barcelona 2011-12 Kits are Released, Earth still rotates Sun

As you may remember from last year if you were here then, I love new kits. I love that they change every year, the new patterns, and all that jazz. There are a few rules to live by when creating a new kit: don’t stray from typical/historic club patterns when creating a home kit; stripes are usually a good thing (unless they are horizontal); simpler usually equals betters, too much clutter ends up making it look like a NASCAR vehicle (I’m looking at you every Mexican club team); and bold colors can be great, but within reason. Oh yes, and black kits are always a plus. A good example is the 11/12 Argentina NT home kit, which is as beautiful as ever. Blue and white stripes with the crest, just perfect. This year’s unveiling comes with the added bonus of the Qatar Foundation kit sponsor fiasco (some would call it that, I more or less call it an inevitability). Anyway, on to the unveiling. Here is a quick video with English subtitles of Puyol, Thiago, and P!!! talking about the kit (incidentally, Puyol tore a groin muscle while tying his shoe, Pedro died of shock at the sight of it).

 

The Blaugrana

I'm hardcore even when tying my shoes

The new home kit comes equipped with vertical stripes that start out fat and then get thinner going down, a highlighter yellow “Qatar Foundation” logo on the chest and UNICEF represented on the back, below the name/number. While I know there is much hand wringing about these on the Twittersphere, I like these to a certain degree. They are certainly better than the half and half treble-winning monstrosities from the 2008-09 season, though the change in stripes is off-putting. I do like the simple blue shorts/socks combo though. Overall I find these not totally abhorrent, though I do wish that the club had gotten a company like Apple to sponsor it, if only so I could have an Apple logo on my Blaugrana shirt, and my misgivings about the Qatar Foundation controversy are more or less trumped by knowing that this was in the offing for a very long time. So, 6/10 for some controversy and the ass logo, but not terrible.

The Black

/Plays "Imperial Death March"

Say what you want about the new home kit, it may take some getting used to, but this one, oh it is sexy. All black everything with only the highlighter yellow logos to contrast and the crest, oh my, I’m in love. Seriously, there is still some part of me, however, childish, that believes that black kits inspire confidence in the team wearing them, and trepidation in the opponent. These are simple, clean, contrasting, and have a nice collar touch. 9/10, would be perfect but for the ass logo.

 

Oh, and why the hell not, a Thiago sullen stare to send you off with.

Smolder young man, smolder

Posted in Team News257 Comments

Singing in Tongues: Learning Cant del Barça

 

I have a problem. It’s one of the few I have along with caring too much and people randomly coming up and telling me they are my father. I don’t know the Cant del Barça. Granted I can hum along with it and clap appropriately, but I don’t know the words. This probably boils down to the fact that I know very little Spanish (I can pick out subjects and some phrases but cannot speak it at all). And due to the transitive property of Spanish offshoot languages: I cannot speak Catalan either. But I will not let this deter me, I am going to learn the official hymn, or die trying. I will keep all of you abreast of my results and possibly post a video of me singing, which would be possibly the worst thing on the internet if not splash pages before websites and drop-down ads. Anyway, here are the official words in case you do not know them, from Wikipedia (English in parentheses):

Tot el camp, és un clam, (The entire field is a clamour,)
som la gent blaugrana, (we are the blue and red people,)
tant se val d’on venim, (no matter where we come from,)
si del sud o del nord, (be it south or north,)
ara estem d’acord, estem d’acord, (now we all agree, we all agree,)
una bandera ens agermana. (a flag unites us in brotherhood.)
Blaugrana al vent, (Blue and red with the wind,)
un crit valent, (a brave cry,)
tenim un nom, el sap tothom: (we have a name everyone knows:)
Barça!, Barça!, Barça! (Barça!, Barça!, Barça!)
Jugadors, seguidors, (Players, supporters,)
tots units fem força. (all together we are strong.)
Són molts anys plens d’afanys, (Many years full of zeal,)
són molts gols que hem cridat, (many goals we have screamed,)
i s’ha demostrat, s’ha demostrat, (and it’s proven, it’s proven,)
que mai ningú no ens podrà tòrcer. (no one will ever beat us.)
Blaugrana al vent, (Blue and red with the wind,)
un crit valent, (a brave cry,)
tenim un nom, el sap tothom: (we have a name everyone knows:)
Barça!, Barça!, Barça! (Barça!, Barça!, Barça!)

Isaiah will be along after the Madrid-Getafe match with your Levante-Barça preview, by which time the club may already be champions of La Liga. If Madrid drop any points, the championship is assured and the honor guard will appear against the jersey thieves.

Posted in Cant del Barça82 Comments

[UPDATE]Quick Note: Busquets’ Comment

Isaiah will be up with your preview shortly and Kevin has already told you the amazing news that Abidal has been cleared to practice (though he is unlikely to play this weekend due to fatigue issues). Unfortunately the biggest news of the days is the ongoing saga of Sergio Busquets’ comment or non-comment to Real Madrid player Marcelo during last week’s Champion’s League Semifinal First Leg.

Preeminent Sports Illustrated and Guardian football columnist Sid Lowe came away believing the weight of the evidence from Pep’s press conference today all but confirmed that some comments were made. From Pep at his press conference (translated), emphasis on the most interesting comments:

“I know these players. They are an example of professionalism,” said the Barcelona coach. “They love this sport. Some of them, during the game, can make a mistake but as players they are exemplary both for Spain and for Barcelona.”

Asked if he would punish Busquets he said: “We are not proud when they make mistakes but I know these players. If we do something wrong, then Uefa have to decide. What is in the past is in the past. It won’t happen again.”

From his Twitter, @sidlowe:

Pep Guardiola’s comments tonight appeared to confirm Busquets racist remark did happen. So, action presumably will (and should) happen

1. Let me clarify for those who don’t seem to understand ‘appeared to confirm’. Pep did not say Busquets made racist remarks, but asked

2. directly about it, he didn’t deny it and said that his players can make mistakes on pitch and are not proud of those mistakes.

3. It would of course still be helpful to have an explicit admittance/denial, though.

Many suggesting alternative interprets. There’s a certain ambiguity but i think what Pep said (and didnt say) implies confirmation

Mr. Lowe has never been one to pull punches, engage in oversimplifications, or get carried away with the mob and when he goes out on a limb like this, it usually means there is something to it. I am sure you have watched the video and possible made up your mind. Personally I cannot make up mine, mostly because I do not speak Spanish and am a terrible lip reader.

Until we know more, this blog will continue to operate under the familiar guise of “guilty until proven innocent” for Busquets. I would hope that a full investigation is under way by UEFA and the club and that if he is found to have been innocent, then Madrid should be punished for such lies, because falsely calling someone a racist is abhorrent. However, if Busquets did make these comments, then I believe he should be fined, made to offer a proper apology, and suspended or removed from the team. I personally vote for removal, since we have so many players from different nationalities, specifically 2 Brazilians, a Malawian, and I have no idea how he could look them in the eye again. But, I am not the final arbiter there, that is Sandro and Pep and his teammates. If they can forgive him, then that is excellent for them and I would hope he could continue as a productive member of the team, though I doubt I could forgive him (not that anyone cares about my forgiveness)

But make no mistake, racism is intolerable in any form, joking or serious. It has no place in the game or anywhere else for that matter. To be sure we stand by Busquets and the team until proven otherwise, but if the worst is true, then it is an action that should be swiftly condemned and is unacceptable, period. This is just an update of the current situation as it stand. NOTHING IS OFFICIAL YET. Please keep the comments germane, intelligent, and friendly.

[Update]

This has been transcribed by a friend who watched the press conference:

“Pep was talking about the Pedro incident with regards to the quote “We are not proud when they make mistakes, but I know these players….etc”. He was asked by a lady who asked him what he thought about Pedro! grabbing his face. She outright called it pathetic and Pep said they weren’t proud but it’s in the past and he knows his players.”

Apparently, it’s being mixed up with the Busi quote where he was asked what Barca would do if Busi was found guilty:

“If proven guilty, we would take appropriate measures, but the players are honest”

Posted in Barcelona, El Clasico90 Comments

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