Article by Tomislav Kovacevic
Josep Guardiola has turned Barcelona into the best football club in Spain for the past couple of seasons. Real Madrid was top of the pile but recent seasons haven’t seen consistency at Madrid and Barcelona has triumphed. Barcelona are currently top of the Spanish La Liga by 5 points, ahead of Real Madrid. Barcelona earns many plaudits for the way the play the game, the ‘beautiful way’. With Xavi and Iniesta in the heart of the Barcelona midfield, they have two of the best passers of the game and they are the heart beat of the Barcelona side.
Xavi and Iniesta have been phenomenal this season, but as always, there is one man at Barcelona who always steals the show. Lionel Messi, 43 goals in 35 starts already this season is a phenomenal record. Lionel Messi is one of the best players in the world and possibly the best of this era. His ability to keep the ball away from defenders and to open up defences with his dribbling has the crowd on the edge of their seats throughout the game. Words can’t describe how good Messi is and his sensational form this season has seen the success of Barcelona this season, domestically in the La Liga and in the Champions League. Not only has Lionel Messi been in formidable form, but the recent acquisition of David Villa this season who has 21 goals in 36 games himself has seen the attacking threat of Barcelona prove too much for any side this season.
Not only does it help having two strikers that can create a goal from nothing, but they have a midfield that works tirelessly when off the ball that makes it very easy for Barcelona to defend as shown in the recent 4-3 aggregate win over Arsenal in the Champions League. Again they are favourites to win the Champions League despite being knocked out last year to Inter Milan, Barcelona brushed aside Arsenal at the Nou Camp and look unbeatable at home in the competition.Not to mention that Barcelona play Real Madrid in the Spanish Cup final in April that they happen to be favourites for that as well. Barcelona’s attacking flair and ability to keep the ball in all circumstances under any amounts of pressure is the main attribute for their success. Puyol is the leader at the back for Barcelona and he’s been missing for a couple of months through injury but they still look resolute and assured in defence, emphasising the side Guardiola has formed to be labelled one of the best teams in world football.
Barcelona possesses 7 regular Spanish internationals that have won the European Championships (2008) and World Cup (2010) in succession to dominate the national competitions. These 7 internationals consisting of: Puyol, Pique, Xavi, Iniesta, Busquets, Pedro and David Villa, thrown in with Dani Alves, Lionel Messi, Eric Abidal and substitute Spanish keeper Victor Valdes, you’re inevitably going to get a squad that’s near enough perfection.
Despite Barcelona’s dominance, Real Madrid have ran Barcelona close and have a superior side of their own which consists of the worlds superstars which came at a hefty price. Cristiano Ronaldo was signed for 80 million pounds, Kaka was purchased for 50 million pounds and Benzema was 30 million pounds. Oh, and combined with the signings of Mesut Ozil, Sami Khedira, Angel Di Maria and Xabi Alonso. The forward seven of the team that has been glued together with Iker Casillas, Pepe, Marcelo and Sergio Ramos, it’s obvious to say you’re going to have a team with ability in abundance. Despite the list of megastars Real Madrid have at their disposal, Real Madrid have yet to really explode this season but nevertheless, they still have got a good chance of winning the treble this season. That statement sums up Real Madrid this season, despite not playing at full potential consistently; they’re still competing for 3 major trophies which is frightening for the clubs competing against them. Jose Mourinho is in his first season at Real Madrid and his first in Spain. He has a big fixture coming up in the form of Lyon in the last 16 of the Champions League which astonishingly, they’ve been knocked out at this stage of the competition for the last 6 years running despite Real Madrid’s force. Jose Mourinho’s arrival in Real Madrid was very much with the Champions League in mind having won the competition with Inter Milan in the previous season.
Cristiano Ronaldo, a Champions League winner with Manchester United in 2010, will want to help carry the battle for Real Madrid and since his arrival in Spain he has been vital asset to the Galaticos. He has notched on average 1 goal every game for Real Madrid (53 goals in 55 games) which is an incredible start to his Madrid career. So far this season he has scored 28 in 26 and has 8 assists to his name in the La Liga to date that includes 5 hat tricks so far this season. Currently he is injured which is a big blow to Real Madrid if they want to progress in the Champions League and push for the La Liga title in Spain. Ronaldo’s overall game has been stated by many Football pundits to be the best in the world, with Ronaldo having the feet of the winger and finishing of a striker added with a very good ability to score goals with his head. All these fundamental parts of his game create a world class player.
Real Madrid has yet to gel together with all the world class players they have in one squad, but with Jose Mourinho’s impact on Real Madrid in full flight, it’s only a matter of time before the players and supporters unite as one and become the potent side that Real Madrid used to be in the days of Zidane and Figo.
Similarly to Real Madrid, Manchester United haven’t been at their superior best and not played at the standard they have done in previous seasons. Fortunately for Manchester United, other teams in the English Premiership have not maintained any consistency either and can’t compete against Manchester United’s ability to grind out results. Manchester United are currently 1st in the English Premiership and still in the Champions League as well as the FA cup semi-finals. This is despite having a particularly average season performance wise by Manchester United’s high standards.
A lot of Manchester United’s success this season has to go down to Sir Alex Ferguson. Despite being one of Manchester United’s weakest sides in his years at the club, he has still worked wonders with them this season. He has used Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes so effectively this season for players that are at the age that are unable to compete competitively 2 times a week.
The dip in form of Wayne Rooney has seen other players around him step up to the mark and perform at their best which has also seen the success of Manchester United this season. Dimitar Berbatov has excelled massively this season and has already hit two hat tricks, against Liverpool and Blackburn respectively. Javier Hernandez has also been pivotal this season and has scored vital goals this season in what is his first season in English football. The Mexican striker signing for 7 million pounds this season has scored 16 goals so far, is one of the signings of the 2010/2011 season. Nani and Ryan Giggs have also been in exceptional form this season that has helped contribute to Manchester United’s results this season and they will need to carry that form on for several more weeks if they are to win that illusive 19th English Premiership title that will see them go past Liverpool’s record of 18 English Premiership titles.
Manchester United’s quality in depth has also been a strong reason for their success this season. The English side have been hit with unfortunate injuries this season too many of their leading stars. Rio Ferdinand has been hit and miss this season with injuries but Chris Smalling has been a revelation since signing from Fulham and definitely looks one for the future. Antonio Valencia’s unfortunate injury has seen Nani deliver consistency in his performances which has turned him into one of the best wingers currently due to being given much more match time than last season. Gary Neville’s long term replacement, Rafael has come on leaps and bounds since the start of the season which saw Neville lose his place to the young Brazilian and recently the former England international retired from football. Rafael is now ever present in the Manchester United side.
Tottenham have exploded on the European scene this season, and people in Milan won’t need reminding. Tottenham were desperately unlucky to lose in the group stage 4-3 to Inter Milan with Gareth Bale hitting a hat trick at the San Siro. Tottenham beat them in the home tie and also recently knocked out AC Milan in the knockout rounds of the Champions League to progress to the last eight of the competition.The success has been down to a number of different aspects of the club that have been significantly improved to make Tottenham one of best sides in England. They have found a consistent manager in Harry Redknapp and is regarded as one of the best managers in England. He has helped stabilise the club and has brought the best out of all his players. His wheeling and dealing in the market has also provided Tottenham with one of the strongest sides in the English Premiership in depth. With Niko Kranjcar, Roman Pavlyuchenko and a host of other stars finding it hard to break into the side proves how strong the Tottenham side is.
Tottenham have been helped by one of the best players in the world this season. The vast improvement of Gareth Bale this season has earned him many plaudits and deservedly so. Gareth Bale’s performances this season are right up there with Lionel Messi this campaign and he has been speculated about in national newspapers about possible moves to Manchester United or Inter Milan. The left sided midfielder is