Atletico and Real to Contest Final Madrid Derby at Calderon

Nov 18, 2016 by Alex Baker

Real Madrid will make the short journey across town to the Vicente Calderon possibly for the last time on Saturday as they meet Atletico Madrid for the final La Liga derby to be contested at the storied stadium.

Saturday’s derby pits the best attack in the league against the best defense. While Real Madrid have scored 53 goals in all competitions this season, Atletico have only given up nine.

Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane has received a boost on the injury front with defender Sergio Ramos and Karim Benzema having returned to full training this week. Both are likely to start against Atleti, while Pepe, Toni Kroos, Casemiro and Alvaro Morata remain sidelined by injuries.

Benzema is likely to spearhead Madrid’s attack along with the other two members of the “BBC,”... Read More

Real's Unbeaten Record Could be Tested at Alaves

Oct 27, 2016 by Alex Baker

One team has won La Liga 32 times while the other has never won the Spanish title and, in fact, played in the second division for the majority of its existence. So, you wouldn’t think Real Madrid would be too bothered about Deportivo Alaves, however, this is a team that held Atletico Madrid to a draw on the opening day of the season and defeated Barcelona at the Camp Nou a couple weeks later.

Currently sitting 13th in the table, Alaves are not among the favorites to win any trophies this season but have shown a knack for causing trouble for La Liga’s more established teams. In addition to the Atleti draw and the Barça win, Alaves have beat Granada, and held the likes of Malaga and Deportivo La Coruna... Read More

Barcelona Look to Extend Unbeaten Streak Against Celta Vigo

Sep 30, 2016 by Alex Baker

As Luis Enrique looks to extend his Barcelona team’s unbeaten run the way forward lies through his former team Celta Vigo. Barça travel to the Estadio Balaidos on Sunday to face the club where Enrique spent one season in charge before taking charge at the Camp Nou in the summer of 2014.

With their stumble earlier this month against promotion side Alaves fast fading into the distance, Barça are flying high at the moment, despite having to play without the injured Lionel Messi. The Blaugrana came from behind in midweek to deal Borussia Moenchengladbach a 2-1 defeat in the Champions League with Arda Turan and Gerard Pique scoring the goals.

Paco Alcacer started in that game in Messi’s absence, but the summer signing, who has yet to score for... Read More

Barca Take on Atletico in Midweek La Liga Action

Sep 20, 2016 by Alex Baker

La Liga Big Three in Action Wednesday

It’s a crowded week for European soccer fixtures and Spain’s “big three” will be in action this Wednesday in a tight La Liga race. Barcelona, currently sitting in second, will face fourth-placed Atletico Madrid in the first big La Liga contest of the season. Real Madrid meanwhile, will look to hold onto their narrow lead at the top of the table as they face Villarreal.

Here’s what to watch:

Real Madrid vs. Villarreal

Real Madrid have a perfect record so far this season under Zinedine Zidane and will be confident they can maintain that when they welcome Villarreal to the Santiago Bernabeu Wednesday. Real have scored 12 goals in La Liga this season while letting in just four. Apart... Read More

Last-minute Deals Aplenty as Transfer Window Nears Close

Aug 30, 2016 by Alex Baker

The transfer window will slam shut at midnight on Wednesday and clubs across Europe are scrambling to nail down last minute targets or move on unwanted players. Here are a few of the deals that have, or could go down in the last week of the transfer window.

Barcelona sign Alcacer from Valencia
Barcelona’s protracted search for a striker to provide cover for Luis Suarez looks at last to have been brought to a conclusion as the Catalan outfit announced the signing of Paco Alcacer from Valencia. The 23-year-old, who scored 43 goals across two separate spells at Valencia, has joined Barça on a five-year deal and has a 100 million euro buyout clause in his contract.

More ins and outs at Arsenal
Just as Arsenal have secured a... Read More

La Liga Round 1 Review: Barca is as Barca Does

Aug 22, 2016 by Alex Baker

Spain’s “big three” were all in action this weekend as the new La Liga season got underway. While many of the league’s biggest stars are still working their way back from their exploits on international duty this summer, there was no shortage of action as the most quality league in Europe resumed for its 85th season.

Barcelona 6 – 2 Real Betis

New season, same old Barcelona. Even without Neymar, who was busy winning an Olympic gold medal with Brazil, the Blaugrana were resplendent in a comprehensive rout of Real Betis at the Camp Nou. It took Barça just five minutes to get things going with Arda Turan latching onto a cut back from Jordi Alba and slotting home from close-range.

Real Betis responded positively and pulled one... Read More

Barcelona in Hunt for First Trophy of the Season

Aug 16, 2016 by Alex Baker

With the new La Liga season days away, Barcelona have a chance to lift their first trophy of the new season as they contest Sevilla in the second leg of the Spanish Super Cup on Wednesday. The reigning La Liga champions take a 2-0 lead from the first leg into Wednesday’s clash thanks to goals from Luis Suarez and Munir El Haddadi.

But the score line is a little flattering to a Barça side that had trouble breaking down a Sevilla side that dominated in the first half, despite lacking a real penetrating final ball. Barcelona too lacked a cutting edge early on with Luis Suarez having a shot saved.

Barça’s problems were further compounded by the loss of right-back Jeremy Mathieu and midfield dynamo Andres Iniesta to injuries.

Thankfully... Read More

Real Madrid Face Sevilla in UEFA Super Cup

Aug 08, 2016 by Alex Baker

Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane has named his 20-man squad for Wednesday’s UEFA Super Cup clash with Sevilla. The highly anticipated match is the first real competitive clash of the new season for Real Madrid.

The match, which is set to take place at Lerkendal Stadion in Trondheim, offers Madrid the opportunity to claim their third UEFA Super Cup title, while Sevilla are in the hunt for their third, having lost the last two finals to Barcelona and Real Madrid respectively.

While neither side can really be expected to be fully in form, cup competitions like these are a welcome reminder to fans that the new club season is just around the corner.

Zidane is still without many of the key pieces of his team. He will field a... Read More

Atletico Season Preview: Holding onto Griezmann Key

Aug 05, 2016 by Alex Baker

While Atletico Madrid has just completed the successful signing of Kevin Gameiro the biggest the coup the Madrid outfit can accomplish this summer will be to keep hold of Antoine Griezmann. The France forward was the best player at Euro 2016 and could easily be the hottest property on the market if he were to become even slightly available.

The Frenchman scored 32 goals in all competitions for Atleti last season and helped propel them to a second Champions League final in three seasons. Earlier this month it was revealed that Griezmann had rejected an offer from Paris Saint-Germain with Manchester United and Arsenal also rumored to have expressed interest.

While Griezmann has been outstanding for Atleti, the club has lacked a truly reliable center forward ever since Diego... Read More

Barcelona Quietly Confident in Prepping for La Liga Season

Aug 03, 2016 by Alex Baker

With Premier League clubs snapping up every available player, the relative inactivity from the big Spanish clubs suggests that the English teams’ “arms race” is at least on some level, an effort to catch up with the La Liga powers. Like Real Madrid, Barcelona have been relatively quiet on the market this summer.

While the La Liga champions have made a couple of defensive moves—bringing in left-back Lucas Digne as a replacement for the now-departed Dani Alves, acquiring center-back Samuel Umtiti from Lyon, they haven’t really made any kind of “statement signing.”

Andre’ Gomes, the Portuguese central midfielder who won the Euros with his national team last month has been brought in from Valencia. Denis Suarez has been bought back with the club having exercised his buy back clause... Read More

Real Madrid in Hunt to Reclaim La Liga Title

Aug 02, 2016 by Alex Baker

Of all the big clubs out there snapping up players, Real Madrid have been suspiciously quiet on the transfer market this summer. The reigning European champions have endured mixed results on a preseason tour of the United States, losing their International Champions Cup opener 1-3 to PSG and bouncing back with a 3-2 win over Chelsea.

Having guided Real to what seemed like an unlikely Champions League victory after taking over for Rafa Benitez midway through the season, Zinedine Zidane is currently in preparation for what will be his first season in charge of the club. While the club has been quiet on the market thus far, there are rumors in Spain that Zidane would like to sign a holding midfielder before the start of the season.

The... Read More

Pique: ‘Barcelona (and Real Madrid) would struggle in Stoke’

Nov 12, 2015 by Alex Baker

Barcelona defender Gerard Pique has concurred the view first put forth by football pundit Andy Gray: that Barcelona would struggle on a cold, rainy night in Stoke.

Pique, who won the Premier League in 2008 during his one season with Manchester United, told the Daily Telegraph that the Premier League might prove tougher than expected for Barça and archrivals Real Madrid.

“I think that if Barcelona or Real Madrid goes to the Premier League then the first year of playing there, there is no chance of winning it,” Pique said.

“If you go to Stoke, or other types of teams, then it will be really tough. It’s a debate – we could spend hours on it. If Manchester United or Chelsea go to Spain then the same.... Read More

Fiorentina vs. Roma Highlights Serie A Action this Weekend

Oct 23, 2015 by Alex Baker

The current number one and number two teams in Italy meet Sunday, as Fiorentina welcomes Roma to the Stadio Artemio Franchi.

League leaders Fiorentina are enjoying their first spell atop the Serie A table since 1999. Roma, meanwhile, are in a position that they’ve grown accustomed to, having been the one team that’s managed to chase Juventus over the past couple of seasons. A win for Rudi Garcia’s men could see them move into first place, depending on how Internazionale’s game with Palermo goes on Saturday.

But standing in Roma’s way is a Fiorentina team that’s defied expectations this season. La Viola announced its intent on the opening day of the season, with a 2-0 defeat of AC Milan; they lost their next match to Torino before going on... Read More

El Clasico: La Liga Rocked by Match-fixing Allegations

Oct 22, 2015 by Alex Baker

Spanish media has erupted with reports that police are looking into claims by an assistant referee that he’s been pressured to favor Real Madrid in the upcoming El Clasico against Barcelona.

The linesman was apparently among the officials selected for the first La Liga clash between Real and Barça this season -– set to take place on November 21, at the Santiago Bernabeu.

While the linesman’s identity remains unknown, there are suggestions that the man attempting to pull his strings is Jose Angel Jimenez de Morales. According to reports on Catalan radio, Morales told the unknown official that he should “try to control the game in a way that thwarted the interest of one of the clubs, Barcelona.” The linesman was instructed that failing to do so... Read More

Real and Barça Both Win to Maintain Tight La Liga Race

Oct 19, 2015 by Alex Baker

Although it’s still early days, the La Liga title race is currently as tight as it’s been in decades. Real Madrid, Barcelona and Celta Vigo all jointly sit top of the table on 18 points each. The last time the La Liga race was this close was in the 1993-94 season when Real, Barça and Real Sociedad jointly occupied the top spot.

Trailing just slightly behind, Atletico Madrid and Villarreal are currently tied on 16 points each, bringing it to a total of five teams currently in contention to top the standings in Spain.

Despite both being hit by a spate of injuries, Real and Barça maintained their winning ways this weekend: Real Madrid dispatched Levante 3-0 on Saturday with Marcelo opening the scoring 27 minutes in. Moments later, Cristiano... Read More

Ronaldo’s Shift to Striker Could Test Atleti’s Derby Dominance

Oct 02, 2015 by Alex Baker

The Vicente Calderon has not been an easy place for Real Madrid to go in recent years. Last time they visited, they lost 4-0. That was during Carlo Ancelotti’s time in charge, during which Real failed to register a single win over Atleti in La Liga.

But now, with a new manager in charge and having beaten Atletico in the Champions League the last time the two met, Real Madrid are likely to be more confident going into this weekend’s fixture than they’ve been for some time; especially with Atletico still smarting from losing at home in the Champions League for the first time under Diego Simeone.

With just two points separating them in the table, both sides have it all to play for on Sunday. Atletico are notorious... Read More

Messi Knee Injury Won’t Require Surgery

Sep 28, 2015 by Alex Baker

Barcelona fans the world over awoke to the happy news Monday morning that Lionel Messi’s knee injury isn’t as bad as feared. While the player is still set to be sidelined for a period of seven to eight weeks, no surgery is required and Messi could return to action sooner than expected, according to Argentina’s team doctor.

Messi suffered an injury to the ligaments in his left knee in Barcelona’s 2-1 win over Las Palmas at the Camp Nou Saturday. After receiving treatment on the pitch, Messi was subbed off in the 10th minute and taken to a nearby clinic for tests.

Despite the hopeful prognosis from Argentina team doctor, Donato Villani, Messi is set to miss a number of important matches, beginning with... Read More

Rafinha Injury Testing Barça’s Squad Depth

Sep 17, 2015 by Alex Baker

Already reeling from the sale of Xavi and Pedro, Barcelona’s depth in midfield took another hit this week when tests revealed Rafinha Alcantara -– generally know as Rafinha -– suffered an injury to his cruciate ligament against Roma Wednesday.

The Brazilian midfielder had barely been on the pitch at the Estadio Olimpico in Rome for two minutes when he was the victim of a crunching tackle from Roma midfielder Radja Nainggolan.

After the match Barça boss Luis Enrique remarked that the injury “doesn’t look very good.”

The club released a statement early Thursday confirming that Rafinha had indeed injured his ACL and would require surgery and several months of rehabilitation. This means the 22-year-old is likely to miss the rest of the season.

Rafinha’s injury leaves Barcelona’s already thin squad... Read More

Ter Stegen to Make La Liga Debut Against Atletico

Sep 09, 2015 by Alex Baker

More than one year after signing for Barcelona, goalkeeper Marc-Andre Ter Stegen is finally set to make his La Liga debut against Atletico Madrid Saturday. While Ter Stegen featured in Barça’s successful Champions League and Copa del Rey campaigns last season, coach Luis Enrique favored Claudio Bravo when it came to league outings.

But after straining his right calf in training on Monday, the Chilean keeper is in doubt for Saturday’s clash at the Vicente Calderon. While last season Enrique chose to start Jordi Masip for the one La Liga match Bravo was unavailable for, reports in Spain have tipped Ter Stegen as the man who will step in this time.

Based on Ter Stegen’s most recent appearances in a Blaugrana jersey -– a 5-4 win over Sevilla, and... Read More

Atletico Madrid Come Out on Top in Transfer Dealings

Sep 02, 2015 by Alex Baker

The European transfer window slammed shut Tuesday and in terms of the business done this summer, Atletico Madrid left its La Liga competition in the dust. Unlike Barcelona, Atleti weren’t encumbered by any kind of UEFA imposed sanctions. Unlike Real Madrid, Los Colchoneros avoided getting dragged into any kind of protracted transfer drama.

Instead, Diego Simeone got his transfer dealings done early and sensibly. As is customary with Atletico, several key players left – Arda Turan to Barcelona, Mario Mandzukic to Juventus – but somehow those losses don’t seem as staggering as in past seasons.

In fact Jackson Martinez, signed from Porto earlier in the window, looks to be an upgrade to Mandzukic. And while it may take time to see how well Yannick Ferreira Carrasco does in terms of... Read More

Bale Under Pressure at Real Madrid

Aug 26, 2015 by Alex Baker

The new La Liga season is barely a week old and already the boo birds are circling over Gareth Bale. The Welsh international is a favorite target of Real Madrid fans when the club falls short of expectations, as it did in Sunday’s season opener against Sporting Gijon.

Of course Bale did himself no favors when, in the first half, he found space on the left and chose to shoot from an impossible angle when he had two teammates steaming unmarked into the box.

Madrid coach Rafa Benitez has moved Bale into a central position, just underneath the striker. It’s a different position than he occupied under Carlo Ancelotti, who preferred to deploy him on the wing. But it’s typically where he plays for Wales, where he has had great... Read More

Mario Balotelli Returns to AC Milan on Loan

Aug 25, 2015 by Alex Baker

Mario Balotelli’s ill-fated spell at Liverpool appears to have come to an end, as it was revealed Tuesday that the player has rejoined AC Milan on a season-long loan. Having already passed his medical at the club where he spent one previous season and that he supported growing up, Balotelli is expected to start training with his new teammates immediately and could be in the lineup to face Empoli this weekend.

The move is somewhat surprising, given the nature of Balotelli’s exit from Milan 12 months ago when then- coach Pippo Inzaghi said Milan would gain “team spirit and hunger” with Balotelli gone.

But one year can be a long time in footballing terms. With Milan in the process of retooling its team, club owner Silvio Berlusconi has been... Read More

Pedro and Xavi’s Exits Leave Barcelona in Precarious Position

Aug 21, 2015 by Alex Baker

Although it’s just completed one of the most successful seasons in its 116-year history, there is a cloud of uncertainty forming over Barcelona as this weekend’s La Liga kickoff looms. Earlier this week, the team that claimed the treble for the second time in its history last season lost the UEFA Super Cup to Athletic Bilbao. Over the two legs of the match, Bilbao simply seemed to want it more, which might be easier to accept had Gerard Pique, Barça’s best defender last season, not earned himself a four-match ban for cursing at the ref.

And all this is without even mentioning the loss of two players who’ve been at the center of everything Barcelona, and Spain, have achieved over the past six or seven years.

On Thursday, Pedro... Read More

Atletico Madrid Season Preview

Aug 17, 2015 by Alex Baker

Last season Atletico Madrid failed to hit the heights it had two seasons ago, when Diego Simeone’s team stormed to a La Liga title and came within 90 seconds of winning the Champions League. Instead, Atleti finished third, 14 points behind second-place Real Madrid and 16 behind Barcelona.

As has become almost customary for Los Colchoneros, Atleti has again seen a star striker depart the club, as Mario Mandzukic left for Juventus. But Atletico has managed to keep hold of last season’s leading scorer, Antoine Griezmann, and more importantly, Diego Simeone remains as the club’s manager, having signed a contract extension that will see him stay at the Vicente Calderon until 2018.

Defender Diego Godin has also signed on to remain at the club, despite interest from Manchester City, who... Read More

Barcelona Election: Candidates Debate Ahead of Saturday’s Vote

Jul 15, 2015 by Alex Baker

The four men vying to be elected president of Football Club Barcelona debated one another on Catalan television Tuesday night. With the pristine pitch of the Camp Nou as a backdrop, Josep Maria Bartomeu, Joan Laporta, Agusti Benedito and Toni Freixa took part in a heated discussion about the future and direction of the club that was moderated by journalist Bernat Soler.

The election comes at a time when the La Liga champions could be seen as being at something of a crossroads. On the one hand, Barça has just had one of the most successful seasons in its 116-year history. On the other, administrative and executive decisions in the past few years have seen the Catalan club moving away from its stated doctrine of being mas que un club... Read More

Atletico Looking to Swap Mandzukic for Tevez

Jun 17, 2015 by Alex Baker

With Carlos Tevez already identified as Atletico Madrid’s top transfer target this summer, Juventus, in a bit of football symmetry, have named Atleti striker Mario Mandzukic as the man they would replace the Argentine with. Mandzukic, who had a good but not great season with Atletico, is one of the players the club is reportedly looking to move on this summer.

After falling from last season’s dizzying heights of winning La Liga and making it to the Champions League final, to finish third this season, Diego Simeone is looking to rebuild an Atleti attack that suffered in the wake of Diego Costa’s departure to Chelsea.

While Mandzukic contributed a respectable 12 goals and five assists in the league this season, it was Antoine Griezmann who emerged as Atleti’s... Read More

Carlo Out, Rafa in at Real Madrid?

May 27, 2015 by Alex Baker

Was there ever really any doubt this was coming? Despite some in the media speculating it would be different this time, the inevitable sacking of Carlo Ancelotti by Real Madrid happened this week. Although he won the club’s 10th European title in his first season in charge, this season he won nothing. The last time a manager remained in charge at the White House after going trophy-less was in 1983; and that was Alfredo Di Stefano, a club legend.

Ancelotti has essentially been a dead man walking ever since Real Madrid were knocked out of the Champions League by Juventus. Barcelona clinching the title a few days later was just the final push down the staircase for Ancelotti. It’s unfortunate because there really aren’t many managers in world football better... Read More

Barça Look to Clinch Title Against Atleti

May 15, 2015 by Alex Baker

With the threat of a La Liga strike over the new TV rights deal now averted, Barcelona will travel to the Vicente Calderon Sunday to face reigning champions Atletico Madrid as planned. A win at the Calderon will see Barça crowned Spanish champions and keep Luis Enrique’s team in line for what could be a historic treble.

Despite Atleti’s home field advantage, Barcelona are seen as favorites Sunday. Although their 18-match winning streak was snapped by Bayern Munich on Wednesday, Barcelona are into the Champions League final against Juventus next month and will also face Athletic Bilbao in the Copa del Rey final this month. A win Sunday would see the Catalans claim the first of the three major trophies available to them and be a huge step towards claiming... Read More

Messi Magic Elevates Barcelona

May 07, 2015 by Alex Baker

You can take the Ballon D’or, the Pichichi, and all the other records and throw them into the Tyrrhenian Sea. Because if you wanted an answer as to whom the best player in the world is, it came towards the conclusion of Barcelona’s first-leg, semifinal clash against Bayern Munich at the Camp Nou on Wednesday.

The match had been at a deadlock for well over an hour when Messi suddenly turned it on. His first strike came in the 77th minute when from out of nowhere, he fired home a shot from the edge of the box that left the otherwise outstanding Manuel Neuer no chance in the Bayern goal.

He struck again just three minutes later, when he was played in by a nice pass from Ivan Rakitic,... Read More

New La Liga TV Deal Could End Barça and Real Dominance

May 01, 2015 by Alex Baker

On Thursday Spanish legislators approved a new law governing the sale of football television broadcasting rights that could open the door to a sea change in La Liga. Under the current arrangement, clubs are allowed to negotiate their own individual TV deals – a system that heavily favors Real Madrid and Barcelona.

The new deal was intended bring La Liga more in line with the other major European leagues like the English Premier League and Serie A. Once passed, the law will rectify the imbalances to how the TV money is distributed in Spain and should bring about more financial parity in the league.

Spanish sports ministry spokesman Miguel Cardenal described the deal as “a historic measure and one that was necessary for Spanish football.”

“The league will be... Read More

Real Madrid Right the Ship Against Levante

Mar 16, 2015 by Alex Baker

It was somewhat telling that Real Madrid’s two most spectacular moments during Sunday’s 2-0 win over Levante were near misses. The first came early in the first half when Gareth Bale controlled the ball in midair before trying flick it to the far post for Cristiano Ronaldo. It was a magical bit of control that unfortunately came to nothing. The same could be said of Karim Benzema’s Zlatan-like scorpion kick, which rocketed off the crossbar in the second half: impressive, but ultimately futile. Between these two spectacular near misses, however, Real put in a convincing, if not awe-inspiring performance.

Gareth Bale, increasingly the target of Real Madrid fans’ ire, came good with two first-half goals that essentially took the fight out of the visitors. Bale, who’s so often seemingly made... Read More

Second Draw in a Row Sees Atletico’s Title Hopes Slipping

Mar 09, 2015 by Alex Baker

In a weekend that basically saw the La Liga title race turned on its head, Atletico Madrid missed an opportunity to close the gap on Real Madrid and Barcelona by giving up a draw at home to Valencia.

Diego Simeone’s men had taken a first half lead through Koke who, with a little help from Tiago, got onto the end of a set-piece delivery from Gabi to put Atleti ahead with just over half an hour gone by.

Normally you’d expect Atletico to go on to win after taking the lead. Since Simeone’s arrival, the Los Colchoneros have proved masterful at managing out 1-0 leads. They give nothing away, especially at the Calderon, and as their opponents become increasingly frustrated, Atleti often strike again. This season they’ve run up several... Read More

Real Madrid Face Tough Test Against Bilbao

Mar 06, 2015 by Alex Baker

League leaders Real Madrid head to San Mames Saturday to face an Athletic Bilbao team currently sitting in 10th. Over the years, the Basque side has become something of a favorite target for Cristiano Ronaldo, who’s scored 14 goals in 11 matches against Athletic.

Of course the embattled Portuguese forward, who’s lately suffered abuse from his own fans, has often been an object of ire and derision from Bilbao’s fans. His contentious relationship with the San Mames faithful has boiled over on more than one occasion. It will be a measure of the man to see how Ronaldo responds to the pressure this weekend.

The firestorm surrounding his ill-timed birthday celebration has largely blown over. But his performances are still being criticized by the Spanish press and the latest rumors... Read More

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