CL Preview: Rubin Kazan – Barça, Wednesday 12:30pmEST, Fox Soccer/FSE
Reading the history of Kazan it quickly becomes obvious that the city is prone to being reduced to rubble. Fires and wars were the typical culprits, but Ivan the terrible massacred most of the population and then sent the rest of the Tatars to live a couple of dozen miles away. Basically, this is a resilient city. In the US, we talk about Mrs O’Leary’s cow burning down Chicago an it’s pretty amazing that it survived like it did; the 1909 San Francisco earthquake was devastating, of course, and the Dresden firebombing was awful, but those things only happened once. Kazan’s destruction happened at least five times. No wonder they’re able to consider simply going to Barcelona and winning a match par for the course.
I’m not customarily one of those “I told you so folks,” but when everyone was predicting destruction for Rubin Kazan, a few folks were cautious. Last year, when we were sweeping all before us, that prediction would have been easy. We would have wiped the floor with them. This year, in the wake of iffy team displays that have been bailed out by individual brilliance, we were ripe for the picking.
What did it take? A resolute team with absolutely nothing to lose, poor finishing on our part and two plays, both facilitated by a defender who has a contract on the table, but shouldn’t have been on the pitch.
This picture of Pedro! says it all. He was the beneficiary of our absolute best chance of the second half, a half filled with hope until it was cruelly snatched away by a casual stab at the ball by Bojan Krkic, who did a Busquets, directly into the path of an attacking Kazan player. The Yaya tried a sliding tackle …. Read MoreBarca 1, Rubin Kazan 2, a.k.a. “I saw it coming.”
CL Preview: Barça – Rubin Kazan, Tuesday 2:45pmEST, Fox Sports en Español
There’s a man standing in the beautiful wilds of an untamed jungle. He is forty feet in the air, balanced easily on a branch, surveying the scene. His blond locks shimmer and dance in the spotted light seeping through the canopy top. Both camouflaged and elegantly obvious, the man is one with his surroundings: poisonous and beautiful, stealthy and skilled. He has been here for a thousand years, you would imagine, motionless and watchful. There’s movement nearby and his eyes swing to the side, his head never moving, his muscles tensing ever so slightly.
There are words to describe the flurry of movement, the screech of pain, and the scene of horror, but those words are lost in the fear that ripples through you as watch a master hunter at work. He has taken another scalp for his bountiful collection. There is murder in his eyes as he turns his gaze upon his next victim. Be wary, traveler, for there is a killer on the loose and he is approaching another milestone in a career of milestones: Read MoreNever Let Your Guard Down: Barça – Rubin Kazan
Well, now. Not sure what to say about that one. Actually, I do:
Elegant, workmanlike and except for two Keystone Kops moments, drama-free. Dinamo Kyiv rolled into the Camp Nou, full of the same quotes that have been buttressing the hopes of every club we’ve played so far this season, stuff like “Well, we’re going in to win,” “Barca can be beaten, blah, blah, blah.” And perhaps we can, but you aren’t going to win it by setting up shop in your own end, kicking at every ball and player that comes near you.
CL Preview: Barça – Dynamo Kiev, Tuesday 2:45pmEST, Fox Sports en Español
In the 10th century, Русь, or Kievan Rus’, controlled what we know as the Ukraine, Belorussia, and eastern Russia. There were notable figures like Vladimir the Great and his son Yaroslav the Wise and Kievan Rus’ ended up controlling a vast swatch of Eastern Europe that extended into eastern Russia. They wrote the Russkaya Pravda and made the Dnieper a major trading route. Modern Kiev probably owes much to those centuries of rule.
It’s easy, of course, to get lost in the ramblings of history, to find ourselves connecting Kievan Rus’ to the present in a direct line, and, what’s more, to think about the Ostrogoths that came before that as somehow connected to the fairly ridiculous historical comparison we made last time with Visigothic maraudings in reverse. We could continue that and say that we are fighting the next battle in our made up war, moving from Italy to the Ukraine (with Barcelona as a proxy for the actual Ukraine), and ending up in Russia on Matchday 3, but that, of course, seems even more far-fetched than it did the first time I went about it.
Whether Lobanovskyi ever tried to channel Vladimir or Yaroslav, we’ll never know–perhaps there are better historical equivalents, but, again, I never did study Europe and I’m far too lazy to do a truly in-depth look at the history of these countries–but certainly there are connections between the Ukraine of footballing antiquity and our modern Barcelona-based juggernaut. Valeriy Vasylyovych Lobanovskyi, for those of you who are unaware, is one of the fathers of modern football. There are, of course, disputes about who developed what or influenced who, but it’s generally accepted that Lobanovskyi was one of the first to push players into that realm of physicality that allowed them to run for 90 minutes, to play, in essence, Total Football because they could stand the pace and no one else could. Read MoreThree Golden Points: Barça – Dynamo
Those numbers are, of course, from a very small sample, but would you take those numbers as a ratio for the entire season? I would because I know that the first one is Ibrahimovic’s current scoring rate (5 appearances, 2 goals) and the second goal is our total goals scored to goals allowed. Feel free to extrapolate that to how many goals would be scored in an entire year: 16 goals for Ibra if he makes 40 appearances, 113.67-10.33 in a 62-game season.
My point is, of course, that we need to take a moment to look at the overall picture, the picture that keeps in mind not the price paid for a particular player, but the value of that player within the greater framework of our club and our club’s future. Yes, we’ve had some “funky” displays over the last few games, but during those “funky” displays, we’ve successfully won five out of six matches and we drew the other one. We’ve allowed one goal. We’ve scored 11 from six different players. We’ve incorporated a major new piece of the total footballing puzzle and have been attempting to change our tactical approach in every match. This is not a momentary effort, a light switch that goes from off to on.
I’m a little irritated right now, so pardon me if a bit of it seeps into this review of a match in which only one team came to really play football. And that’s fine. We should expect that. Why, oh why would any side in its right mind come out to play against us? All that awaits is death. So Inter took the same route as Chelsea, and Deportivo, and every other inferior side.
Keep 9 or 10 behind the ball, and stick your legs out.
Champions League Preview: Inter – Barça, 2:45pmEST Wednesday, Fox Sports en Español (FSE).
I flew into Milan on a bright and beautiful morning in November 2006, having left Berlin early enough to catch the sun’s raise hitting the streets for what looked like the first time that day. As we swooped into Malpensa Airport, I was met by the panorama of a city that is know world-wide for being cosmopolitan, for being the nexus of fashion, design, and, lately, aging footballers. It looks stunningly gorgeous, as Italian as it gets, and certainly a welcoming destination. I never did see the Stadio Guiseppe Meazza, though, because I quickly boarded another plane to head to Florence for a week of unadulterated sight-seeing and Tuscan sun basking. On my way back, thanks to an unrelenting bank of fog that closed the Florence airport, I was taken by bus by Alitalia through twisting mountain roads and tunnels and finally back to the airport late at night for a then-delayed flight to Berlin.
None of this was Milan’s fault, of course, but I was left, after my 14-hour travel day that should have been 5 hours long, semi cursing the city for having the temerity to be in my plans on a fairly obliterated day. That I still didn’t get to see the monumental stadium that is the San Siro was merely an added bonus in a long list of pejoratives that I used to describe all things northern Italian for a day or two, when I was able to refocus my distaste for transit authorities and metropolitan areas on the MTA, who, as luck would have it, delayed me a few hours in getting home because of random track work in New Jersey between Newark and Penn Station.