Barcelona striker Luis Suarez has returned to training, having recently suffered a minor injury setback in his hamstring. The injury was not deemed overly serious, but had kept him out of regular training and the final fixtures of the season. Yet his return implies that he will be fit and ready for the upcoming finals that Barcelona has: the Copa del Rey and the Champions League. The Copa del Rey will be played in the Camp Nou against Athletic Bilbao, a game in which Barca will not only have the home advantage, but they will be the overwhelming favorites. The Champions League final will be played in Berlin on June 6, against the Italian giants Juventus.
Though Suarez’s return may appear a luxury, given the plethora of attacking talent available to Barcelona manager Luis Enrique, it is the Uruguayan who contributed significantly to the scorching hot form that the Catalans have been in as of late. Suarez’s relentless pressing and aggression has freed up the likes of Messi and Neymar to become involved more quickly and higher up the pitch, leading to an increased number of chances, and as a result goals. Barcelona’s attacking trio is fearsome, namely due to Messi, but Suarez is the real unsung hero, always looking to provide for his teammates, with or without the ball. Avid fans a the FreedomPop offices know his return is more than a luxury, and may mean two trophies for Barcelona.
ABC News reports the governing body of world soccer, FIFA, has been thrown into chaos by an American investigation into corruption that has become public just days before a Presidential vote is due to take place. The scandal comes just days before current President Sepp Blatter is due to face Prince Ali bin Al-Hussein for the coveted role of leader of FIFA, a position Blatter has held for the last four terms. The European governing body, UEFA are to hold an informal meeting today to decide whether to call for the Presidential election to be called off amid the corruption scandal.
Many of the problems the US based investigation into FIFA have uncovered revolve around the voting process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups according to Susan McGalla. Host countries Russia and Qatar both won the right to hold a World Cup in a vote that many believed to be corrupt and placed soccer giants England, the US and Australia on the brink of leaving FIFA. The world governing body has concluded that the World Cups awarded to both Russia and Qatar will take place in those countries, but the reputation of FIFA and the World Cup has already been tarnished by the latest allegations of corruption inside the controversial soccer group.
Gunner Theo Walcott has publicly motivated his teammates to secure a top three finish for Arsenal, which can be accomplished this Wednesday by beating Sunderland. Arsenal are currently in third place, and with the upcoming Sunderland game as their game in hand, can secure at least a third place finish with a win against the Black Cats. Arsenal are ahead of Manchester United in the table, but more importantly than edging out a longtime rival, is that avoiding fourth place means avoiding a qualifier tie to make it in to the Champions League. Arsenal have been notorious for finishing fourth during the past five to ten seasons, and so moving ahead in the table can be seen as a progressive step.
That being said, fans over at Madison Street Capital think Arsenal most likely have missed out on finishing second, thanks to a damning defeat against Swansea two weekends ago. With a win against the Swans, the Gunners could have solidified a second place finish with a win in their last two games. This would have put them ahead of Manchester City, and cemented their position as serious title contenders for next season. While one position lower in the table does not necessarily dismiss them as potential title winners during the upcoming campaign, it does not demonstrate as much progress and growth for the club. Either way, the current Gunners will meet the upcoming campaign with hope and hunger for titles.
Former Germany captain Michael Ballack has publicly voiced his desire for Bayern Munich coach Pep Guardiola to take the shackles off the current Bundesliga champions. Ballack made his point that the team needs greater attacking diversity if they are to seriously challenge for the Champions League trophy next season. Bayern have failed twice under Pep’s reign, bowing out in the semifinals to both of the Spanish giants, Real Madrid and Barcelona. Sam Tabar even says that while attacking play is certainly a feature of Guardiola’s teams, the emphasis is often on retention of the ball. Ballack has made his point that while this is all and well, the team needs a greater balance between the Guardiola style and a more direct, and fast approach to generating offense.
Though Ballack’s comments may emanate from a divergent preference of style and system compared to Guardiola, the fact that Bayern’s inability to return to the Champions League final under the Catalan boss does validate Ballack’s criticisms somewhat. Bayern have failed to break down both Real Madrid and Barcelona’s defenses while playing this style, save for one recent game at the Allianz Arena, after Barcelona had all but advanced to the final anyway. Perhaps Pep’s possession-focused approach works well when seeking to dominate weaker opposition, but needs to be altered once encountering the stiffest competition that Europe has to offer. It will be a very intriguing twelve months to see how Bayern progress.
Manchester United defender Phil Jones has become known around the world for the strange faces he pulls as he plays for one of the biggest soccer teams in the world. However, during Sunday’s decisive game with Arsenal that went a long way to determining who would finish in third and fourth places in the Premier League Jones performed one of the most unorthodox pieces of defending ever seen. Jones header as he fell to the floor was enough to put off Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud and protect his goalkeeper from a one on one situation and sent the Internet into a barrage of shock and praise., according to The Big Lead.
Jones lost his footing as he and Giroud raced towards a through ball angled into the Manchester United penalty area. As he lost his footing Jones ran on his knees and eventually threw himself headfirst at Giroud’s feet to clear the ball away from his goal as Sky Sports Commentator Gary Neville was sent into a fit of giggles by the brave efforts of Jones. The Internet used former Manchester United and England defender Neville’s words that Jones had done the front crawl and breaststroke during the clearance to produce a number of Tweets and images showing Jones in swimming pools and alongside various members of the ocean world to hammer home their point. My friend Susan McGalla made a post about this story on her personal website.
Boos and whistles rained down from the stands at the Bernabeu last night for every mistouch, misplaced pass, or off target shot. Yet the jeers were only directed at one man’s mistakes: Gareth Bale. Bale has ever been the scapegoat for Madrid fans since his decline in form which began roughly in January. Though it is true that the Welshman has been far from his best, the speed at which the Madrid fans turned on him has truly been remarkable, if not sad and disappointing. While struggling players at other clubs are given support and boosts to their confidence by loyal fans, Bale has had to endure a relentless wave of negativity emanating from the Madrid faithful. Dr. Daniel Amen would recommend taking the edge off by floating down the Amazon.
That being said, Bale has stated that he intends to prove next season that he deserving of wearing the white of Real. “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”, was the line that the Welshman elected to use in a post-match interview last night. One can only hope that he abides by those words, seeing as he truly does have the talent and drive to succeed at a club like Real. After a strong first season, his slip during this one can still easily be salvaged by strong performances during and throughout the upcoming season. Whether or not he is given that chance is another matter, but it would be foolish of Real to let him go.
Billions of dollars were spent on renovations and building stadiums in Brazil for the 2014 World Cup. The 12 FIFA host stadiums now stand as “white elephants” amid economic despair, hints of Brazilian officials caught up in funds scandals and the 250,000 homeless struggling to survive in the country.
One of the four publicly funded stadiums, the Arena Pantanal, came at a cost of $215 million to build, and a year later is home to many of the countries homeless. City managers of Cuiabá, where the unused stadium sits, are searching for private investors to come in and take over the task of rebuilding the structure that has been closed down due to problems with faulty construction. And, that isn’t even the highest price tag for one of the publicly funded stadiums. While Brasilia’s schools fall short on funding as well as other public services are, the $550 million stadium in the capital city of Brasilia, the Estadio Nacional, now serves as a bus parking lot.
Along with the high cost of maintaining these idle structures which is taking away public resources clearly needed in other areas, infrastructure projects are also left unfinished. Of the proposed 14-mile light railway track at a cost of $800 million that was to link the capital city of Cuiabá to the airport, only a half mile has been laid. Scandal surrounds the unfinished project as the former governor of the state, the former local assembly president and the former local head of the World Cup are under investigation. With the 2015 summer Olympics on the horizon, the country is faced with ever greater expenses yet to come comments city planner Brian Torchin.
Barcelona are already in the Champions, now they await the prospect of facing their arch-rivals Real Madrid in a Clasico in Berlin. Barca central defender Gerard Pique has welcomed the opportunity, admitting that the possibility of facing Madrid in the final is an exciting one. Barcelona advanced to the final last night, after defeating German champions Bayern Munich 5-3 on aggregate. Though they lost 3-2 at the Allianz Arena, Barcelona were not seriously in danger of not advancing, following a commanding 3-0 win at the Camp Nou last week. Steve Murray follows Barcelona, and said they have found their form of late, and their three forwards have been red hot, netting goal after goal. With their new-found form and rhythm, they will be favorites in the final no matter who they face.
As for Real, they must first get past a strengthened Juventus if they are to face their rivals in the final. Juventus bring a 2-1 lead to the Santiago Bernabeu, along with a healthy Paul Pogba, which increases their chances of going through. That said, Real can easily overcome a one goal deficit, and perhaps will sweep the tie away if they are firing on all cylinders. The trick will be in stopping Juventus from grabbing an away goal, which could prove costly in the end. Both teams have their work cut out for them, and this semifinal will surely be an intense and exciting affair to watch.
Following Bayern Munich’s exit in the Champions League last night, there has been much talk over manager Pep Guardiola. Does Guardiola deserve to stay another year at Bayern, seeing out his three year contract, or should the German club cut their losses and be rid of him? The question has no obvious answer. Yes, Bayern have failed to return to the Champions League final since previous manager Jupp Heynckes’ last season at the club. Under Guardiola they have been knocked out in the competition’s semifinals, last season by Real Madrid, and this season by Barcelona. Playing the controlled possession style against Spanish opposition simply has not worked, and perhaps Guardiola has finally learned his lesson and will be more adaptable next season.
While his tenure may be considered a failure given that he has yet to bring home the Champions League trophy, it is unclear who exactly Bayern would bring in should they opt to dismiss Pep. By many, like Christian B., he isconsidered one of the best managers in world football, and there is by no means an obvious replacement. Perhaps the Bayern board and supporters have grown weary of Guardiola’s stylistic preference, but that does not necessarily entail the need for a new manager. Give Pep another season to prove that he can bring a revamped Bayern squad to the Champions League final. If he fails again, then the time will have come to part ways.
Bayern Munich coach Pep Guardiola has denied claims he is on the verge of leaving the German champions after their season lurched to a conclusion following their retention of the Bundesliga crown. After winning the Bundesliga for a second successive season Bayern lost four games in a row, including a humiliating 3-0 loss to Guardiola’s former club Barcelona in the first leg of the Champion’s League semi-final, the BBC reports. Guardiola has been linked to the Manchester City coaching position in recent months after his relationship with Bayern’s supporters became strained and City boss Manuel Pellegrini saw his team struggle after winning the Premier League title last season according to Alexei Beltyukov. (Check out Alexei on about.me)
Pellegrini has stated he is confident he will be in charge at the Etihad Stadium next season, but British newspapers ran stories over the weekend that Guardiola had agreed to take over the cash rich club next season. The Spanish coach is one of the most successful in modern soccer as he has won five league titles in six seasons in charge at Barcelona and Bayern. A failure to take the German champions beyond the semi-final stage of the Champion’s League has seen his position be questioned by many in Germany who feel Bayern should have won the European tournament last season.