Copa Del Rey 2013 Semi Final Preview: Barcelona vs Real Madrid

El ClásicoOn Tuesday night, millions of people worldwide will have their eyes glued to their TV’s as El Clásico will take place at Camp Nou.

It is certain to be a thrilling game as a place in the Copa Del Rey final hangs in the balance, following a 1-1 draw at the Santiago Bernabéu. In the first leg, the sides battled out a draw with nothing to separate the teams. Madrid defender Rafael Varane, who is just 19 years of age, was one of the stand out stars of the night, and provided Madrid with a fearless defensive display to keep the big guns of Barcelona quiet for most of the night. Since this tie, Madrid and Barca have both managed 2 wins, a draw, and a loss. In the UEFA Champions League, Madrid held Manchester United to a 1-1 draw in the 1st leg, whilst Barcelona have a huge mountain to climb as they lost 2-0 to AC Milan at the San Siro.

With Barcelona 15 points clear of rivals Real Madrid, surely José Mourinho’s team can no longer retain their league title. Therefore, Madrid have set their attentions to the Copa Del Rey and the Champions League. Mourinho knows he must win a trophy this season, or he will be under serious pressure in his managerial position, although rumors suggest he will leave the club anyways at the season’s end. Madrid will fancy their chances as they are unbeaten in their last 4 games against Barcelona, earning 3 draws and a win. However, Barcelona will also fancy their chances as they are flying form domestically this year, 12 points clear at the top of La Liga, and in the semi-final of the Copa Del Rey.

Real Madrid

Things To Note
  • Real Madrid have the 2nd best away defensive record, only conceding 13 goals away from home this season.
  • They have a very solid defence, with the likes of Ramos and Varane at their disposal.
  • However, even with the quality Madrid have going forward, they still lack the amount goals that matches Barcelona. They have scored 20 less goals this season than Barcelona in La Liga, which has let them down this season.
  • Real Madrid have lost 5 games away from home this season in La Liga.
Key Players
Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano RonaldoClearly Real Madrid’s most influential player this season, netting 37 goals in total in the 2012-2013 season (4 of which were scored in the Copa Del Rey). Every time Cristiano Ronaldo steps on the pitch, he poses a threat to any opposition he comes up against. He possesses a good record against Barcelona in recent times, scoring 4 goals against the Catalan Giants this season (La Liga-2, Super Cup-2). Ronaldo owns many strengths such as pace, power, and aerial ability. He will be looking to use these abilities against Barcelona, and guide his side to Copa Del Rey success.

Mesut Özil

In recent weeks, Özil has been a stand out performer for Real Madrid. He impressed against Manchester United in the Champions League, looking very energetic and creating many chances for Madrid. In La Liga this season, he has scored 4 goals and assisted 7 goals. He seems to link up well with Madrid’s hit-man Cristiano Ronaldo. He is certain to start for Madrid on Tuesday, as he has played a key role in their success this season.

Barcelona

Things To Note
  • Barcelona are in great form this season, only losing 1 game domestically.
  • They are unbeaten in Nou Camp this season.
  • They lost their previous Champions League game 2-0 against AC Milan.
  • They have scored 80 goals in La Liga already this season (with Lionel Messi scoring just under half of those goals [37]).
Key Players
Lionel Messi

Lionel MessiHe doesn’t take much describing really; he has been classed as ‘The greatest ever’ several times by many pundits. Week in week out, he performs for Barcelona and just continues to score and score. In 2012, he scored a record-breaking 91 goals in a calendar year. It really was breath-taking to see a player of his quality continue to score as often as he did. There is no doubt that he will be a key part of Barcelona’s play on Tuesday, as he links up well with Xavi and Iniesta who are the core of Barcelona’s offense.  The clash of Ronaldo vs Messi will be a one to watch, as they both strive off each other’s success, but who will win this battle?

Andrés Iniesta

Andrés Iniesta will play a very active role on Tuesday evening. He has assisted 13 goals for Barcelona this season and has scored 2 goals. Iniesta has an extraordinary pass success rate this season (89%) which is way above the average La Liga player. He has great composure on the ball and can always find a pass. He has great vision and can read the game like no other. When Lionel Messi broke the goal record last year, Xavi and Iniesta assisted the majority of goals he scored. Messi links up well with Iniesta and understands the way in which he plays.

Summary

El Clásico is certain to entertain, with 2 world class teams facing each other aiming to set the world alight and guide their team to the Copa Del Rey Final. With the game hanging on a knife edge with the score (1-1) after the first leg, both teams will be looking to win the game; this will guarantee goals. Both teams own world class players with the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Mesut Özil, and Andrés Iniesta. You are certainly in for a treat and this match-up is a MUST watch for all football fans.

Prediction: Barcelona 2-1 Real Madrid

Written by @FirstFastFooty

Messi Wins 4th Successive Ballon d’Or Ahead of Ronaldo and Iniesta

Argentina and Barcelona striker Lionel Messi was awarded his 4th consecutive Ballon d’Or at a ceremony held in Zurich, Switzerland on Monday.

Messi Wins Ballon d'OrMessi crushed the world record last year, scoring 91 goals for his country and his club in a single year. Those goals broke Gerd Muller’s long-standing record of 85 goals for Bayern Munich and Germany in 1972, making the Argentine the clear favorite to win the award after such a successful season. Of those 91, Messi scored 79 for Barca and another 12 for Argentina in a total of 69 games in 2012.

But despite all of his goals, Barcelona did not have a very successful season. They conceded La Liga to arch-rivals Real Madrid by a margin of 9 points, and lost to Chelsea in the semi-finals of the Champions League.

Messi was part of the 3-man shortlist selected to be voted on for the prize. The other two players contending for the Ballon d’Or were his Barcelona teammate Andres Iniesta and Real Madrid striker Cristiano Ronaldo. National coaches and captains as well as selected media cast their votes for who they felt was best suited for the award.

The final results polled:

  1. Lionel Messi-41.60%
  2. Cristiano Ronaldo-23.68%
  3. Andres Iniesta-10.91%

Messi became the first player to win the FIFA Player of the Year Award 4 times in a row. With 3 titles, Messi was previously tied with former France international striker, and now UEFA president, Michel Platini. Now that he has surpassed that benchmark, it can now be confidently said that Messi is the best footballer in the world.

At a news conference following the results, Messi said:

“To tell you the truth this is really quite unbelievable. The fourth award that I have had is just too great for words.”

“I would like to recognize my other colleagues from Barcelona. Andres, it has been great to train and play alongside you.”

“I would also like to recognize all of my friends in the Argentina national team, everyone that has worked with me, coaches and staff and my family and my friends. Also my wife and my son. Thank you.”

Meanwhile, a slightly downcast Ronaldo congratulated Messi with the award:

“Whether I win or not it doesn’t matter, it’s a privilege to be here.”

Messi Wins Ballon d'OrBut in case you have forgotten, Ronaldo had also won the Ballon d’Or. The Portuguese was named FIFA Player of the Year once before, seemingly decades ago in 2008, before Messi’s prime. He wore a New York Yankees cap to the pre-gala conference in which he participated.

In the meantime, US international Abby Wambach was named FIFA Women’s Player of the Year. Also, Spain coach Vicente del Bosque and US Women’s coach Pia Sundhage were both given the coach accolades after leading their teams to a Euro Cup and Olympic victory, respectively.

Real Madrid manager Jose Mourinho and former Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola finished behind del Bousque. At the news conference, Guardiola confirmed that he plans to resume coaching at the start of next season.

Uzbekistan won the fair play award for their outstanding disciplinary record, while Franz Beckenbauer won the FIFA presidential award.

The World XI All-Star team, which was chosen by FIFPro group of players’ unions, was made up completely of players contesting in Spain’s La Liga. All 3 contestants for the Ballon d’Or were on that list, while the other 8 consisted of players from Barcelona, Real Madrid, and Atletico Madrid.

The goalkeeper was none other than Real Madrid’s Iker Casillas, accompanied by teammates Sergio Ramos and Marcelo as well as Barcelona’s Dani Alves and Gerard Pique who all made up the defense. Iniesta stood alongside teammate Xavi Hernandez and Real’s Xabi Alonso in the midfield. Messi led the attack, with Ronaldo and Atletico’s Radamel Falcao at his sides.

The team saw little change from the one created in 2011, with the only changes being Marcelo and Falcao for Manchester United’s Nemanja Vidic and Wayne Rooney.

Euro 2012 Final Post Game Report

The Spanish celebrate as they are once again crowned the European Champions after their 4-0 win against Italy.

History was made in the Olympic Stadium in Kiev, Ukraine this past Sunday. Spain battled Italy in the fight for the Euro Cup, but the Spainish renewed their title as the European Champions after their amazing 4-0 win. In this game, Spain had 52% possession and shot the ball 14 times (9 on target), while Italy had 48% possession and 11 shots (6 on target). Interestingly, even though most of the match statistics were almost equal for both teams, this was probably one of the most one-sided games of the whole tournament. It was a significantly different game compared to the one these teams played in the group stage. In general, the Spanish offense was unstoppable, while their defenses could not be broken. Spain had a great tournament as well as a very successful final, and the team’s hard work surely paid off after being handed their 3rd straight major title. The Spanish definitely went into the game feeling confident, despite the history between these two teams. The game started off with a beautiful chance for Xavi in the 10th minute after running into an open space inside the box, but the ball flew slightly above the goal. The first goal came just 4 minutes later, when the ball was knocked forward to Cesc Fàbregas inside the box. He then made an areal pass to David Silva who shot the header into the back of the net. On the 38th minute, Balotelli had a fairly good chance to score, but he was too eager and shot the ball high from outside the box. In less than a minute, Jordi Alba (Spanish defender) dashed at the speed of a bullet into the offensive half. While avoiding all of the defenders but staying onside, the ball was passed forward to him, and he shot the ball above Buffon and into the net; this is his first ever international goal. When Antonio Di Natale went out on the field in the beginning of the second half, he had two golden chances to score. Unfortunately, his header went a bit high, and his kick was blocked by Casillas. In the 61st minute, Thiago Motta (who was previously substituted in) was injured, and with no Italian subs remaining, the Italians played with only 10 players. The choice to substitute Torres for Fàbregas quickly proved to be effective. He had a nice breakaway and scored against Italy in the 84th minute. But the Italian’s bad luck didn’t end there. In just 4 minutes, a similar breakaway was made, and Fernando Torres made an assist to Juan Mata who scored yet another Spanish goal, ending the game at a 4-0 win for Spain. After the historic game ended, Fernando Torres was given the Golden Boot Award for scoring the most goals (3) in the least amount of time (187 minutes), and Andrés Iniesta was named Man of the Tournament.