7f14a57c91b5c731893551057a756499

Happy 1st Birthday!

This month marks our first anniversary! Since we’ve begun, there have been almost 100 posts on the blog (95 to be precise!) and a few Podcasts for good measure. We have reached out to over 85 countries around the world, across every continent. Amassing almost 3,000 hits on the site!

We want to thank everyone who has supported us with the likes on Facebook and the follows on Twitter. We will take a break over the Summer, and hopefully return with some new ideas to freshen everything up.

So here’s to another successful year ahead. *raises glass*

Team TSY :)

fc-barcelona-getafe-scor-6-0-in-campionatul-spaniei-5530

Barcelona Back On Top

This time last season, it was Atletico who went to the ground of then holders Barcelona and snatched away their title. A year on, the roles were reversed. Barcelona travelled to the Vicente Calderon, looking to take back their crown.

Unfortunately for Atletico, it has not been a successful defence of their title. The loss of Costa & Courtois to Chelsea and the strengthening of the Big 2 has seen their title hopes dented.

Real Madrid and Barcelona have traded top spot all season, but it is the Catalans who have ended the season on a high. The sensational trio of Messi, Neymar & Suarez have been unstoppable, contributing to over 100 goals this season. Madrid have been stumbling recently, and their form has seen them get knocked out in the Champions League, and a 2-2 draw to Valencia last week, virtually killing their title hopes.

With a 4 point gap with 2 to play, Barcelona just needed to equal the result of Real Madrid, playing away to Espanyol. A situation which saw Real wanting their neighbours Atletico, to take points off Barcelona. Who in turn, would love to see their neighbours Espanyol steal some points from Real.

Atletico were never going to be a walkover, the current champions would not go down with a fight, but in a tight game, it was none other than Lionel Messi who scored the valuable goal to take Barcelona to the brink in the second half. Over at Espanyol, Madrid were looking for an unlikely turnaround at the top of the table, after a goalless first half, Madrid took the lead after Ronaldo put away a Benzema pass. Espanyol did equalise soon after, a gaffe from stand in keeper, Kaylor Navas. Barcelona may have had an eye on the scores back home, but they knew all they needed was to hold onto the lead . Real charged back, Marcelo and Ronaldo completing his hat-trick took them to a comfortable 4-1 win.

But it was too little too late. Barcelona held on, to take them to title number 23. For Real, a disappointing end to an average season, for Barcelona, this is only the start, with 2 more finals awaiting in the Champions League and Copa del Rey.

1521348-32424176-1600-900

The Old Lady Rises

Rewind back to 2004, an unwanted Fernando Morientes is sent away from Real Madrid, only for him to have a key part in the Spanish club getting knocked out in the Champions League. It was deja vu for Madrid, as this time, it was the unwanted Alvaro Morata sold to Juventus in the summer who returned to haunt his former club.

After Barcelona had progressed to the final the previous night, thanks to 2 away goals from Neymar in a 3-2 defeat to Bayern Munich, all the pressure was on Real Madrid to not just overcome the deficit against Juventus, but to also set up the ‘dream’ Champions League final with their Catalan rivals.

Whereas Barcelona looked comfortable for most part of the tie, only looking nervous in the second half of the return leg, when Munich pressed for an unlikely win. Madrid had not looked at ease at any point in the tie. Juventus deservedly won the first leg, and were holding firm in the Bernabeu for the early part of the match. It was only until a clumsy challenge by Chiellini on James that allowed Ronaldo to fire Madrid level on the night from the penalty spot.

Thought the home team were ahead, Juventus knew it would only take one goal from them to force Madrid to score 2 more to win it in normal time. Juventus, with a midfield of Pirlo, Pogba and Vidal were simply on top of their game. Their power, combined with grace was too much too handle for a Real midfield not really set up with any defensive players in mind. As Juventus got a foothold in the second half, it was once again Morata, who scored in Turin, to break the hearts of the home fans. A cheap free kick given away, lead to the ball being played back into the box for the young Spanish striker to smash the ball off the pitch into the net.

The Bernabeu was stunned, after their La Liga hopes were pretty much extinguished over the weekend, their season suddenly looked to be on the ropes. Try as they may, the holders could not find a way past the brilliant Italian wall. Ronaldo failed to make much of an impact, Bale spurned several opportunities and the other top players were simply not up to it on the night. In fact, Juventus had a few chances to finish the tie once and for all, but were denied by some fine saves.

So the team perceived to be the weakest by some fans out of the 4 semi-finalists,has ended up in the final, eliminating the current holders while they were at it. Once again, the Champions League trophy has not been retained the following season. Real Madrid can have no complaints, the better team won over the two games. But now the Old Lady has a far more daunting task at hand, to stop the lethal combination of Messi, Neymar and Suarez in Berlin.

Sevilla's players pose with the trophy as they celebrate defeating Benfica in their Europa League final soccer match at the Juventus stadium in Turin May 14, 2014.              REUTERS/Albert Gea (ITALY  - Tags: SPORT SOCCER)

The Europa League : England needs to respect it

The Europa League is seen as somewhat of a burden to the English clubs. A hindrance, rather than a quest for European glory. It’s around this time of year managers will complain about the prospect of having to play those Thursday night games and the media will make a song and dance about teams willingly trying to avoid those ‘dreaded’ spots.

It’s a weird conundrum, the teams that usually end up in these spots, such as Tottenham Hotspurs, Liverpool & Everton will not make a realistic challenge to the title, they may end up with a domestic cup if things go their way. Yes, the Europa League may start earlier than it really should, and yes, the format is drawn out, but the the representatives from England should be well enough equipped to make a decent attempt at it.

England have been shown up in Europe this year, with no English team making the Quarter Finals in either of the two European club competitions. The English Premier League may call itself the best in the world, but it’s La Liga who currently hold both of the European crowns.

The early rounds may be an annoyance, but our clubs can manage them with a mix of first team and reserve members. It is the later knock out rounds where the teams are not as bothered to go for gold, worried it may impact their domestic form. This season, neither Everton or Spurs ever had a realistic shot at breaking the top 4. So why not prioritize the Europa League, a competition that now awards the winners a place in the following seasons Champions League? It will also give the teams good practice in dealing with 2 games a week, and encounter some top teams. For Liverpool, it may have been a tougher decision on what to prioritize, but getting knocked out at the Round of 32 was underwhelming.

Chelsea took the cup seriously, and although it was a competition they could have easily put on the back burner and fielded their reserves, went on to win the cup in 2013. The prize money may not be of any significance for a top club like Chelsea, but for the players and fans. A trophy is a trophy.

Southampton, who have done remarkably well, will hopefully go all out for that last Europa league spot. They have had a great season, and will not make a top 4 bid next season. A European campaign would not only give their fans a treat (well the later rounds anyway!) but also give them a chance to entertain some of Europe’s finest names.

The attitude in general needs to change in regards to the Europa League, the Premier League cannot boast about how great it is, if it cannot win any of the European cups, which is a more accurate marker on which league is on top.

274E799100000578-3026530-image-a-95_1428253601592

Who Will Bite The Bullet?

With Burnley and QPR looking set to be relegated, one dreaded spot still remains. Two points separate Aston Villa,  Newcastle, Leicester City, Hull & Sunderland, any one of those 5 could end up taking the unwanted 18th spot in the table.

Sunderland are currently in 18th, and have the most work to do. Their current form isn’t too bad, only losing once in their last 4, and picking up 3 points on two occasions in that time. The Black Cats may look back to last season, when they pulled off a marvellous escape this time last season, beating Chelsea and taking points off City. If Sunderland are to escape, they will be looking at wins against Everton and a vital clash against fellow rivals Leicester.  Their final two games are away at Arsenal and Chelsea, and any points from them look very unlikely. 

Staying in the north east, Newcastle find themselves in one almighty mess. A shambolic run of 8 defeats on the bounce has dragged them from mid-table safety into the relegation dogfight. After a pathetic performance last weekend at Leicester, John Carver has a mountain to climb, but they have one of the more simpler run ins. QPR already have one foot back in the Championship, and both West Brom and West Ham have nothing much to play for. On paper, they should pick up at-least one win, but on this current form, nothing is certain!

It’s been a resurgent Leicester City who have somehow found a spectacular run of form to drag themselves off the foot of the table. 5 wins in 6 games has catapulted the Foxes up the table. Nigel Pearson may be a controversial figure,  but he has instilled a great fighting spirit in the squad, and their main striker Leonardo Ulloa has found his golden touch from earlier in the season. His goals being vital in their late surge. With Sunderland and QPR still  to play, they will fancy their chances in retainer their status in the top flight.

Hull have been in a malaise for quite some time. last season they stumbled to 16th place, their run to the FA Cup final did mask their dire domestic form. This season has been the same, despite an abundance of new faces in summer. They face a tricky set of fixtures to end their season. Next up is Burnley, a win here is a must, as Spurs and United await in the subsequent weeks. If points are dropped to Burnley, it will be a nervous fortnight for the fans.

Tim Sherwood does not enjoy the best of reputations, but he has done a great job at turning around the season of free-falling Aston Villa. With 4 games left to play, and a 2 point buffer, Villa should feel some what comfortable, compared to their rivals. Christian Benteke has been stunning in the last few weeks, surely putting himself in the window for a big move come summer. The striker has been instrumental in Villa’s late season resurrection.  Home games against West Ham and Burnley should provide the points required to survive, though with the confidence flowing in the FA Cup finalists, points at Southampton and Arsenal could be salvaged.

Of the 5 teams, Sunderland and Hull have the most to do, and Newcastle may get sucked in if their current form continues until the end of May. The other 3 will feel confident that they can obtain the points that they require. If we had to say one team, Hull City look like the unfortunate team. One thing is for sure, this fight will go into the final minutes of the 38th match of the season!

44909531

To the victors, go the spoils….

With 3 games to go, the champions of England have been decided, and their coronation awaits on the final game of the season. Chelsea have been the stand out team all season, and have cruised to the title with relative ease. Manchester City were level with the Blues at the turn of the year, but stuttering performances from the current champions lead to a commanding Chelsea run.

Chelsea may not have finished the season with great conviction, but their sensational early season run had given them much room to work with. Summer signings Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas were instrumental in their early season charge, helping the team win 10 of their first 12 league games. Their first league defeat not occurring until December. While rivals City, United and Arsenal were struggling to find their best form, and Liverpool suffering from the departure of Luis Suarez, Chelsea were the only team showing championship credentials.

The team has lost only 2 games so far this season, away to Newcastle, and a stunning 5-3 defeat at White Hart Lane on New Year’s Day. They have been unbeaten ever since.  Arsenal, with 6 defeats were 2nd in terms of games lost. Showing the winning mentality that Mourinho has embedded into the team, and the gulf in class to the chasing pack. Chelsea have not always been convincing in the last few months, scraping late wins, and benefiting from several goalkeeping errors to bag the 3 points. The team may have been labelled with the ”Boring Boring Chelsea” tag, but that won’t bother them much, as they will now cruise to the finish line, and lift the grand prize later this month.

Eden Hazard has been the stand out performer of the season, while Fabregas’s stunning early season form dropped considerably after Christmas, and Costa suffering from several injuries stalling his season, it has been the Belgian ace who has electrified the Bridge. He has been the key play maker all year, and was voted the Player of the Year by his fellow professionals. The best team, with the best player. The perfect end to the season for the Blues. While captain John Terry has had one of his finest seasons, after several underwhelming years in the team.

While it has been Chelsea who emerge triumphant, the standard of the rest of the league has not been so great. Arsenal had a moderate start, and only a run 8 straight wins in Spring has elevated them up to a potential 2nd place finish. If they started the season as they are ending it, the race may the title may have been a bit more thrilling. Manchester City, who for most of the season were looking like the biggest challengers to Chelsea, had a shocking 2015, losing 5 games. From being challengers, level on points with Chelsea, they dropped back, and are now fighting for 2nd. United also suffered a shocking start, and only run of wins in the last few months had taken them up into the top 4, though with 3 consecutive defeats, a scrap for 4th is still on the cards.

But take nothing away from Chelsea, while the rest have been struggling to hit find top gear, Chelsea have been top all season, and as boring as they may be at times, they have achieved their goal, and the rest must step up for next season, otherwise it may be back to back titles next season.

DSC_1506

Brazil v Chile @ The Emirates

Brazil took on Chile in a rematch of last summers World Cup knock-out game between the two South American neighbours at a sold out Emirates Stadium this last Sunday..Although it was a friendly, there were still plenty of stars on show, and both Neymar and Alexis played the entire 90 minutes, the two superstars on the pitch. Brazil edged a tight match 1-0, with a goal from Firmino. Harsh on Chile, who probably deserved at least a point from a messy game. The loudest cheer of the day was the substitution of Robinho, who’s announcement seemed to stun most of the crowd, who probably haven’t heard much about him since his time at Manchester City!Enjoy the pictures!

Real Madrid v Atletico de Madrid - UEFA Champions League Final

16 becomes 8

All the English clubs hit the canvas in the round of 16, but the show moves on! Without any representatives from the Premier League, the media hype was somewhat subdued for the draw on Friday for the Quarter Finals. Regardless, we still got some mighty intriguing ties.

PSG v Barcelona

After their sensational result at Stamford Bridge, PSG will finally have some serious belief that they can actually go on and win the big one. Not many would have bet that the Parisian club had it in them to overcome a hurdle which included a red card, and falling behind twice on enemy turf! Their belief will be tested to the limit with a tie against current La Liga leaders, Barcelona. The Catalans comfortably dealt with Manchester City, and without the display of Joe Hart in the Nou Camp, the victory would have been resounding. Both clubs were in the same group for the group phase, each winning their respective home tie. Not much separated the two clubs back in Winter, but Barcelona have found some great form, and have surged in front in Spain. Barcelona will be favourites to proceed here.

Atletico Madrid v Real Madrid

It’s a repeat of last years final, and current La Liga champions would dearly love to get some revenge for their defeat in May. Atletico were within seconds of winning the Champions League, before a late equaliser took the game into extra time. Although Real Madrid are the holders, their form of late has not been as devastating as it was earlier in the season.  Atletico haven’t been great either, slipping down to 4th with their patchy form, but they seem to have somewhat of an Indian sign over Real as of late. Atletico have not lost in their last 6 encounters to their glamorous neighbours, and their last match ended in a resounding 4-0 win for Simone’s men. If Atletico can get something from their home leg, they could knock out the holders come the return at the Bernabeu!

Bayern v Porto

Both teams progressed with comfort in their return home leg. Bayern destroyed a shell-shocked Shakhtar 7-0 in the Allianz Arena. The German team showing that they will be a force to contend with, and a sigh of intent to regain the title they lost to Madrid last May. Porto progressed with a 4-0 victory over Basel, after a tight first leg which ended 1-1. The Quarter Finals may be a step to far for the Portuguese side, Munich simply look too strong, and barring any great upset, not many can see Porto winning over 2 legs against the 2013 champions.

Monaco v Juventus

Dortmund and Arsenal shared the same group, and both shared the same fate, going out in the final 16 to the participants of this tie. While Juventus beating Dortmund was a result that many would have expected, considering Dortmund’s underwhelming league form. Monaco shocked everyone by knocking out an in form Arsenal team, their first leg heroics sealing the tie, despite a loss in the return leg. Juventus are flying in Serie A, 14 points clear at the top. With the league pretty much wrapped up, they can give the Champions League a good push. The injury to Paul Pogba may have come at a bad time, but the Italians are still packed with talent. Monaco have done well to get this far, but Juventus will not be as charitable with their defence as Arsenal were in the last round.

Wembley_Stadium_by_WhiteEyedHyuuga

Vitality North London Half Marathon

Next week, I will be taking part in the Vitality North London Half Marathon. A challenging 13.1 route, which will incorporate a pitch-side run through Wembley stadium at the half way point! This will be my second half marathon, having completed the Adidas Half Marathon around Silverstone Circuit a few years back.

I’ll be raising money The Laureus Sport for Good Foundation, which raises funds to provide financial and practical support to more than 150 projects which use the power of sport to provide coaching and education to young people in some of the most challenging or deprived environments around the world.

If readers would like to drop in  kind donation, please visit the link below :)

https://www.justgiving.com/AbuTeamLaureus

thumb.php

The FA need to step up

The news that Burnley striker Ashley Barnes would face no punishment for his tackle on Nemanja Matic this weekend comes as no surprise to fans.  The officiating this season has been at times shocking, and the failure of the Football Association to take any action if the officials saw the incident has become a joke of a rule that the FA tend to hide behind.. Officials seem to be making several high profile mistakes, and the FA seems to not discipline their staff for poor performances, and even if the officials have missed something, the FA tend to not do anything to amend the mistakes that are made. Several incidents have taken place this season where officials have gotten things severely wrong.

  • In the FA Cup tie between Arsenal and Middlesborough, Mike Dean booked Olivier Giroud after he had the goalkeeper had kicked the ball at him while he was running back. The referee may have thought the striker had blocked the ball, but the linesmen could have easily told him that was not the case. Had the referee just assumed that Giroud had blocked the keeper? If so, you can’t simply assume things if you did not see it. So the Frenchmen picked up one of the most bizarre bookings of the season.
  • Liverpool beat Swansea convincingly at home back in December, but one of the main talking points was the actions of Raheem Sterling by the corner flag. After a coming together with Swans player Fernandez, the player raised his arms into the face of Fernandez, right in front of the linesmen. Although no malice was intended, by the laws of the game, raising your hands is a straight red. Nothing happened, which raised eyebrows across the land. The linesmen saw it happen right in front of him, so either he somehow missed it, or suddenly it’s not a red card. The FA took no action saying the officials saw it. Which begs the question, if they did, why was there no red card? Rather than leaving it to the refs to sort out the mess, the FA should have intervened.
  • Wayne Routledge suffered a similar fate as Matic on New Years Day, in the match between Swansea and QPR. Karl Henry lunged into the Swansea attacker with a dangerous tackle. Routledge reacted angrily to the challenge and saw red. With Henry getting nothing. Although it is harsh to get sent off for a natural reaction, its the fact the referee failed to spot the wreckless challenge and punish the player for it.  If players are getting away with dangerous tackles, and in turn, know if they get a reaction out of the opponent, it will mean trouble for them, it only encourages things.

These are just some of the awful officiating decisions made in a season where standards have dropped dramatically. It has gotten to a point where former referee’s head Kieth Hackett has publicly slammed the levels of the officials. At the end of the day, referee’s are only human, and mistakes can be made. It’s up to FA to shake things up. If a mistake is made by officials, the FA should take responsibility to correct it. If a ref has missed something, help them, retrospective action will not reduce the importance of officials, but improve any injustices that have somehow been created. Until the FA start taking the blame for poor officiating, it looks like the levels will not improve any time soon.