Tag Archives: la liga

World’s finest come from too few teams

First of all, congratulations to Lionel Messi for capturing his second consecutive World Player of the Year award. Though Xavi and Andres Iniesta were also worthy finalists, little Leo’s tally of 58 goals in 54 games for Barca last year was simply too outstanding for voters to ignore. Congratulations also must go out to every player named to FIFA’s world XI, all of whom were outstanding at their respective positions last year:

GK: Iker Casillas (Real Madrid)

RB: Maicon (Inter)

CB: Lucio (Inter)

CB: Gerard Pique (Barcelona)

LB: Carles Puyol (Barcelona)

MF: Xavi (Barcelona)

MF: Andres Iniesta (Barcelona)

MF: Wesley Sneijder (Inter)

FWD: Lionel Messi (Barcelona)

FWD:  David Villa (Barcelona)

FWD: Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid)

A look at the players, however, shows a disturbing pattern. All of the XI belong to just three clubs! And the way Real Madrid and Barcelona are tearing up La Liga this season, it isn’t beyond the realm of possibility that next season’s World XI will be comprised entirely of players from just those two Spanish squads.

We all love to watch soccer for various reasons, but I think everyone can agree that one of the most compelling reasons is the game’s unpredictability. If European soccer continues to be dominated by so few teams, then the game will begin to bore us all. Yawn. Wake me when Real and Barca make the Champions League final, will ya???

Hadi Zogheib

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Filed under Champions League, La Liga, Serie A

Happy New Year! (Pass the Advil)

Sorry, Lenny…

I’d like to start a new calendar page with two announcements:

1) I still feel like arse after a night of debauchery at Late Night Lenny’s fine sporting establishment, Rails and Ales.

2) At The Rails will be new and improved! By that I mean, we will actually try to post every day. I know, we dare to dream big…

We admit we’ve been lazy.  And I have to admit that yours truly was too, uh, tired to watch any of today’s Premier League games. Actually I caught a bit of the Birmingham – Arsenal game… but I seemed to have missed all the exciting bits.

Speaking of bits (and bobs), here’s what happened in the football world today:

White Hart Becks?

– David Beckham is set to join Tottenham Hotspur but needs permission from the L.A. Galaxy.  It’ll be interesting to see who gets bumped out of an impressive Spurs midfield.  Rafael Van der Vaart? Pffft…. what’s that guy done lately?

– Woy Hodgson insists that he has the backing of Liverpool’s owners and players.   His comments come one day after he apologized to Liverpool fans, saying he hasn’t experienced any of the “famous Anfield support”.    Sing when you’re winning, Roy: you’re not in the posh end of London anymore.

– Diego Maradona’s grandson is not even two years old but he already can kick the ball better than Wayne Rooney… although he made have had a little help, chemically-speaking.  That’s not baby powder!

– At The Rails did not make the Guardian’s “100 Football Blogs to follow in 2011“.  Looks like someone is going to get a tersely-worded e-mail… and perhaps a bag of Mick McCarthy’s “special” brand of caramel.

– Spanish football will go ahead this weekend, despite efforts by the players’ union to suspend the games. It seems that Spanish footballers wanted Sunday off.  Where’s my burrito! Where’s my burrito!!

– I came across this photo of Don Fabio as I researched this article.  It’s enough to make me drink through my hangover (shudder)…

Here’s to a great 2011!

Brent Lanthier

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Fear and Loathing in La Liga

They call it El Clasico. Barcelona vs. Real Madrid.  A literal Clash of the Titans.

It was Version 20-10, Round One, The Nou Camp. Actually, for us, the actual locale was Scallywag’s in midtown Toronto. But it was a memorable afternoon, in that Ian and I got to drink pints and watch a stunning rivalry, all the while texting and taunting Kev and Len — two other ATR contributors — because they had to work.  But on the pitch, only one team showed classic form… and the other failed to live up to its superstar credentials.

The media build-up to the game was epic.  Thirteen World champions were facing off, along with the two greatest players in the world at the moment: Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Argentina’s Lionel Messi.  Both acted according to type: Messi was a genius (although he failed to score) and Ronaldo once again threw all his toys out the pram.

Let’s just get down to it. Final score: 5-0.  After a build-up of rhetoric — mostly from the evil genius, Jose Mourinho — the game was nothing short of a blood bath and an embarrassment for Real Madrid. Barcelona tore their rivals apart and left them bent — and possibly broken. Real had gone into this game undefeated but now they sit second, humiliated by their rivals. Nothing but sour grapes for the arrogant side of the Spanish capital.

Everyone talks of how Messi is the best player in the world, but Xavi Hernandez is the best playmaker on the planet… and he proved it with a lucky, flukey goal that looked like he was giving a camp course.  The midfielder took a pass off his back heel, flick it up his over his shoulder, and onto the toe of his boot. Some fortunate physics may have been involved but  it was a massive, massive 1-nil.

Xavi: The “Real” Special One…

From then on, it was all Barcelona.  And regardless of  their club stripe, all Spaniards will take small consolation that Xavi — along with teammate David Villa — embarrassed the national goalkeeper, Iker Casillas.

But none of it was as embarrassing as Ray Hudson’s colour commentary on Gol TV.  Sounding like someone who forgot to take his Ritalin, the Geordie was over the top on every single play, making inappropriate and/or nonsensical references. Examples:

On Victor Valdes: “He looks like Mussolini looking over the balcony…” Nice… comparing the Barca keeper to the second-most infamous Fascist in history.

On David Silva: “He’s on fire… He looks like a Peregrine Falcon.” Um… I believe you are referring to the phoenix, which is born out of a fiery demise. Peregrine Falcons are known as fetchers for their master.  Perhaps you can get one to find you the definition of mixed metaphors…

On Lionel Messi: “He’s the world’s best player… on account of his powerful little legs.”

Scintillating analysis….

Back to La Liga.  Like it or not, Mourinho has finally lost, a defeat that he is  calling the worst of his career.  More importanly, the landscape has changed on the Iberian Peninsula, with the Catalans walking as softly as their gaffer, but carrying a big stick.  All the while, Madrid will look back at a performance where they began as Los Merengues… but ended as lemons.

Ole…

Brent P. Lanthier

Only it wasn’t supposed to end up like this. Madridistas around the world were so sure their team was finally up to the challenge of beating Barcelona. They had the players. They had the manager. They had the confidence of being unbeaten all year.

But, as the saying goes, that’s why they play the games. The end result was a thrashing of historic proportions, handing Jose Mourinho the worst defeat of his managerial career. The new boys of Real were supposed to make the difference. Angel Di Maria, Sami Khedira, Mesut Ozil, and Ricardo Carvalho were playing scintillating football all season. The blistering Madrid counterattack was touted by pundits as the key to unlocking the slower Barcelona defence. But, the newbies seemed absolutely overawed by the occasion.

Instead it was Barcelona who were majestic. Over six hundred completed passes in the match. Six hundred!! That’s how you play, baby. Forget Messi vs. Ronaldo. Ronaldo has a long way to go to play up to the standards of Xavi and Iniesta, let alone Leo Messi. This was team football at it’s finest. The mesmerizing movement of the blaugrana showed the world that years of playing as a unit trumps any amount of bought talent. Sure Barcelona has some big name buys too (David Villa, Dani Alves, etc.), but it was the interplay between Xavi, Iniesta, Busquets, and Messi that unlocked the toughest defence in La Liga.

It may only be one game and there’s still a long way to go in the season. But it’s clear for all to see that Real Madrid has a long way to go if it is to be considered Barcelona’s equal. For those of us who had the privilege of witnessing the game, it was one we will not soon forget.

Hadi Zogheib

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Winning Means Nothing


Real Madrid confirmed what must have been the worst kept secret in the football world today. They have sacked Manuel Pellegrini and have hired Jose Mourinho.

So Pellegrini wins a record amount of points in his first season, but he gets the hook. Mourinho wins Inter its first European Championship in almost 50 years, plus the domestic league and cups, and he isn’t happy. If there’s anything the football world can’t stand, it’s a lack of effort.

The lesson here? Never Try….

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Barca Love

So this photo comes out in the Spanish press of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Gerard Pique imitating Gary Neville and Paul Scholes. Ibrahimovic doesn’t like the implications made about his sexuality and makes a suggestion about the reporter’s sister.  I’ve linked to the actual El Mundo article in Spanish because it reads so much sexier. Unless you put it through Babelfish… then it comes out as broken directions to an orphanage. Either way Ibrahimovic is still an over-paid, over-rated jackass…

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Valencia continue to amaze

Hadi Zogheib

While the headlines across Spain in recent months have revolved around the mega clubs, Valencia’s remarkable consistency may be the story of the year in La Liga. Sure Barcelona, with the phenomenal brilliance of Lionel Messi and co., look set win the title. And the return of Los Galacticos, led by Cristiano Ronaldo, has kept the race interesting. But under the radar of many, Valencia continues to impress each week, although they have been more pedestrian in the past two months.


Photo from fOTOGLIF


What makes their story all the more amazing is the fact that they are playing scintillating football in the midst of rumours that their two superstars will be sold to relieve the club’s crushing debt. With the number reportedly hovering around the 500 million euro mark, is it any wonder that the board is considering all of its options? And yet, the team keeps on winning. Meanwhile, the media continues to speculate on where David Villa and David Silva will be playing next year. Real Madrid, Liverpool and Manchester United have all shown a keen interest in one or both of these players but, for now, none of that seems to matter.

Valencia’s success this season can be attributed to many factors, but its road form is the most eye-catching. They began the season a remarkable 7-2-2 away from the Mestalla and, despite a five-match road winless streak, have maintained a solid foothold on third place and an automatic Champions League spot for next season. David Navarro has been the anchor in a solid defence and the emergence of holding midfielder Ever Banega has been a revelation. This has allowed attacking players such as Silva, Juan Mata and Pablo Hernandez more freedom to terrorize opposition defences.

And let’s not forget number 7. While the off-field soap opera continues, Villa has proven time and again why he may be the most coveted striker in Europe. Only Messi’s brilliance has kept him out of the running for the pichichi, given to the highest goal scorer in Spain. Is there anyone more automatic from 12 yards in?

While the La Liga crown remains out of reach for Los Che, they can still exert an influence on the title race, with a visit to Madrid’s Bernabeu on tap this Sunday. While they’ll be valuable summer targets, not many in the capital will be happy to see Villa and Silva in town this weekend.

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