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Barca – Benfica: Xavi’s battle to the death

SpainBarca is second in Group E Champions League. They can win a place in the 1/8 round, but also face disaster if they lose to Benfica.

*Barca – Benfica: 3 a.m. Wednesday, November 24, Hanoi time.

Right in the first match leading Barca in the Champions League, Xavi was faced with a must-win situation despite being two points ahead of Benfica. The result of drawing or losing to Benfica will put Barca at high risk of being eliminated from the group stage, because they will have to meet Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena in the final round. Xavi’s army is difficult to earn points from Bayern at the moment, while Benfica has a great chance to get three more points when playing at home against Dynamo Kyiv.

Barca lost to Benfica 0-3 when as a guest in Lisbon on September 29, but the Camp Nou team has changed since then. The arrival of Xavi in ​​place of Ronald Koeman brought a new atmosphere in Barca. That is partly reflected in the victory against Espanyol on November 21. Teams tend to play more excitedly when changing coaches, and Barca can take advantage of that to win positive results against Benfica.

Xavi faced a big challenge in the second match to lead Barca. Photo: Reuters

Benfica has also changed since thrashing Barca at Da Luz. They won only two of the next seven games, including two in a row inevitable defeat to Bayern. Jorge Jesus’ teachers and students were able to regain their form with the last two victories in Primeira Liga, as a springboard to march to Barcelona.

The last time Barca was eliminated in the Champions League group stage was the 2000-2001 season, which is 21 years ago. In the first season without Lionel Messi after more than 15 years, Barca is in danger of ending the circuit to pass the group stage. The host’s strength is still superior to Benfica, but football is still a collective game and there is no guarantee that Xavi will win the second match with Barca.

Xavi is even more difficult when missing players like Martin Braithwaite, Pedri, Ansu Fati or Ousmane Dembele because of injury. He denied rumors that Sergio Aguero had to retire due to heart disease, but the Argentine striker has not yet been able to return to play. In the Catalonia derby, Nico Gonzalez, Oscar Mingueza and Sergio Busquets also have fitness problems and are not sure to play against Benfica.

On his debut, Xavi introduced 17-year-old striker Ilias Akhomach. But given the importance of the Champions League, he may return to using veterans like Philippe Coutinho. Defender Sergino Dest also returned to normal training, along with midfielder Ronald Araujo.

Benfica’s team situation is better, when Valentino Lazaro and Andre Almeida recover from injuries. Pillars like Joao Mario, Roman Yaremchuk and Pizzi could also return to the main lineup. Coach Jesus only lacks midfielder Nemanja Radonjic and midfielder Lucas Verissimo.

Xavi will not want to have to find a place to continue by defeating Bayern, so he will have to calculate to win Benfica at all costs. This is also a way for Barca to collect debt from the defeat in the match at the end of September.

Hoang An


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Morientes: ‘Real is about to run out of patience with Hazard’

SpainAccording to former striker Fernando Morientes, Eden Hazard can be kicked out by Real Madrid, if it continues to fail in the 2021-2022 season.

“Real tend to be very patient with players like Hazard. We know Hazard is very good, but maybe it’s time for Real to decide. This season is decisive. It’s very important for Hazard and for him. Real Madrid have been waiting two seasons for him to regain his level. This season is the season when the club, fans and teammates expect Hazard, but he did not start in the best possible way. wait too long, Real may have to decide not to wait any longer,” Morientes warned.

Hazard is becoming a burden for Real. Photo: EPA.

Hazard has a lackluster start to the 2021-2022 season. In eight appearances, the Belgian striker did not score a single goal.

Compared to the senior superstar, the two young players playing in the attack are contributing much better. Vinicius has scored seven goals in 11 games. Rodrygo has yet to score in La Liga, but has two in three Champions League group stage games.

Injuries are one of the main reasons that ruined Hazard’s career. In his first two seasons with Real, the Belgian striker played only 22 and 21 matches, and scored only five goals. This season, Hazard continued to be injured when he returned to play for Belgium. He is unlikely to be present when Real play Barca on October 24, and has not played in the previous four El Clasico matches.

“It’s a pity that Hazard has to suffer many injuries. Not only him, any player is affected physically and mentally when suffering so many injuries. Meanwhile, like Barca, Liverpool or Man United, Real need results immediately. Real have spent a lot of money on Hazard, so it is normal for people to expect him. I think he feels the pressure and responsibility himself, “Morientes commented added. .

What is happening at Real is in stark contrast to Hazard’s glorious past in a Chelsea shirt. The Belgian striker has scored 110 goals in 352 matches for the home team at Stamford Bridge. He received the Premier League Player of the Season award once and the Chelsea Player of the Season four times.

Hazard said: “I signed a five-season contract with Real. The first two seasons were not smooth. Injuries made it difficult for me, but I have three seasons to prove my worth. Real have spent a lot of money on me. I want to give them something back.”

Thanh Quy (follow Marca)



Football: Lionel Messi arrived in Paris

The only footballer to be awarded six times the Golden Ball and the European Golden Shoe, Lionel Messi marked the legend of football, but also that of his club, FC Barcelona, ​​in which he played for almost twenty-one year.

The superstar landed Tuesday, August 10 afternoon, around 3:30 p.m., at Le Bourget airport, where the Argentinian, dressed in a t-shirt “Here is Paris”, greeted the hundreds of supporters who cheered him on.

→ ANALYSIS. Lionel Messi, a star at all costs for Paris

Paris Saint-Germain celebrated his arrival with a 13-second video full of references to the striker’s career, such as his six Ballons d’Or and the Argentinian flag, placed between the shirts of Neymar and Kylian Mbappé.

→ READ. Football: superstar Lionel Messi leaves Barca

In statements to several local media outlets at Barcelona-El Prat Airport, his father and advisor, Jorge Messi, responded with a ” Yes “ laconic to a journalist who asked him if his son was going to engage with PSG.

Highly anticipated

At the Parc des Princes, employees cleaned and set up the red carpet for the stadium’s VIP entrance.

The players in Ligue 1, too, shared their enthusiasm during the weekend as to the probable arrival of the six-fold Golden Ball.

Since the brutal announcement, Thursday, August 5, of the departure of Messi from his club, Barça, PSG appears to be the most likely destination for the Argentine. ” It’s a possibility “, had confirmed Sunday, August 8, the striker, when bidding farewell to the Blaugrana club. “Honestly, I got a lot of calls from a lot of clubs when the release (of his departure) appeared. At this moment, there is nothing done ”, he continued. This Tuesday, football fans now know that the transfer is indeed official.

The French press mentions PSG’s proposal for a contract of at least two years, with a net annual salary of around 40 million euros. Figures that would place Messi at the level of Neymar (36 million euros), the highest paid footballer in France.



Euro 2021: Italy arrives in the final by beating Spain

Indestructible Italy! Pushed to its limits by a bright Spain, Tuesday, July 6 in London, the Nazionale dictated its law on penalties (1-1 after, 4-2 tab) to find the final of the Euro and complete its rebirth at most high European level. The Azzurri were in the opening match of this Euro 2021, at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome on June 11 … They will be in the closing match against England or Denmark, exactly one month later, in the temple of football in Wembley!

→ ANALYSIS. At Euro 2021, already a great story for the Danes

What a resurrection for this Nazionale, still knocked out, three years earlier, by the non-qualification for the 2018 World Cup … Here is the rising generation of Chiesa, Donnarumma, Barella at a march from the European summit, alongside the elders of his defense, Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini. In three years, the Italian selection has been able to rebuild an identity, not only focused on aggressiveness and solidity, but animated by attractive small sizes, by an astonishing collective strength and by an uninhibited style of play.

And in more than 120 minutes, on Tuesday night, she showed that she could also return to her basic principles, namely a foolproof defensive solidarity in the face of countless Spanish assaults, and an ability to strike fast and hard. By Federico Chiesa in first blade (60e minute), then via a save by his immense goalkeeper Gianligi Donnarumma, in front of Alvaro Morata after a controlled penalty shootout.

Missed opportunities

La Roja will regret the failures of Morata and Dani Olmo at eleven meters, her multiple missed opportunities, but she did not expect to appear so high in this Euro, carried by the youth of Pedri (18 years old), Olmo or Ferran Torres . The players feared an atmosphere tarnished by the impossibility for fans to travel to England because of health restrictions … Their fears were quickly dispelled in the evening in London, where 57,811 spectators made forget the time of a meeting the surge in cases due to the Delta variant in the country.

The 11,000 or so Italian fans – probably British residents – who came to the legendary venue, sang the praises of Marco Verratti and Donnarumma all evening, and applauded the name of Roberto Mancini, the coach behind the rebirth. of a selection that remains on a crazy series of 33 games in a row without defeat.

The technician had not turned everything upside down at kickoff, a sign that his formula is close to his heart against any opponent, including Spain, queen of possession. On the other side, coach Luis Enrique tried a bet by leaving the most Italian of the Spaniards, Alvaro Morata … finally a scorer out of the bench in the second half (80e).

Mancini vs. Enrique

This shock was definitely that of the coaches: Mancini and Enrique hardly left their technical zone during the whole meeting. The Italian “Mister” must have experienced a cold sweat in the face of opposing domination. The Spaniard, for his part, stressed for 80 minutes for a strike to finally end at the bottom, after the multiple failures of Ferran Torres (15e), Dani Olmo (25e, 33e) and Mikel Oyarzabal (58e, 65e, 66e). Too many inaccuracies to hope to win, even if the first Italian strike, from Emerson Palmieri, was delayed until the 45e minute.

→ READ. Football: Spain, still in search of its lost glory

But Italy had not yet released its favorite wall-piercer, Federico Chiesa, scorer with a meticulous coiled shot (60e). This opposition, untenable from start to finish, looked like a 21st century classic.e century, with this fifth duel in four Euros … La Roja had won in the final in 2012, Italy won that round. And begins to dream of a second title, after 1968 …



Europa League: Villarreal, the triumph of peripheral football

And at the end of the night, after an interminable shooting session, the valiant people of the “yellow submarine” send the hopes of the “red devils” to the bottom. Yes, it was Villarreal who won the Europa League on Wednesday, May 26, beating Manchester United against all odds (1-1, 11-10). The Spaniards, novices at this level, have defeated the English winners of three Champions Leagues (1968, 1999 and 2008) and already rewarded in this competition (in 2017).

In other words: the club from a large town of 50,000 souls 60 km north of Valence has won against that of one of the largest metropolises of football, Manchester United featuring the best in terms of training for global audiences, trademark of global football. The fable of the renewed earthenware pot, which we would see very significant in this period when the leather mastodons came close to building their extremely rich closed residence, the Super League.

The flagship role of a local entrepreneur

Because Villarreal is indeed a singular attraction in the current football landscape. The club, founded in 1923, remained at the regional level for a long time, before slowly emerging at the turn of the century. Main responsible: Fernando Roig, local entrepreneur, fortune in ceramics, the region of Valencia being one of the largest centers of European production. It was he who bought nearly 60% of the club’s shares in 1997 for around € 400,000, he who launched the renovation of the stadium, the construction of a modern training center.

The ambition is real, and validated by a rise in the elite in 1998, for a season barely before coming back down, but a more stable return in 2000. Villarreal will first build its reputation thanks to the checkbook of its president , with, from 2004, striking and staggering recruitments, such as that of the Chilean coach Manuel Pellegrini (future coach of Manchester City) or the Uruguayan “serial scorer” striker Diego Forlan. Villarreal is on the podium in La Liga, then his nose in Europe (a semi-final in the Champions League lost against Arsenal in 2006).

Sound management and training

But this period ended in 2012 with a return to earth and a relegation to the second division. The stay was brief – barely a year – but above all it caused a reorientation of house policy. The club gives up the classic practice of indebtedness dug by recruitments to focus especially on training. It has been his trademark for ten years. The management wants to be balanced, and the accounts appear rather healthy. This year, Villarreal is the seventh budget in La Liga (117 million euros), after climbing to 144 million euros before the health crisis. By comparison, we are talking about a budget between that of Rennes and that of Marseille in France.

→ ANALYSIS. Audiovisual piracy weakens the football economy

With these means and without making any noise, Villarreal has always ranked between the 4e and the 7e place (this year), with the exception of a small gap in 2019 (14e). But this season, the Spanish team wanted to turn a corner, especially on the European scene. Coach Unai Emery, former playing master of PSG and Arsenal already three times titled in the Europa League with Sevilla (2014, 2015 and 2016), was recruited to give additional impetus and also more rigor on the pitch. The beautiful game and the willingness to attack usually displayed have given way to a more austere system. But effective.

In the offseason, Villarreal also took advantage of the crisis of the Valencian neighbor to do some good deals on the transfer market, attracting players like the Spanish international Dani Parejo or the French Francis Coquelin at a lower cost. Good pick: Wednesday night, the first was the author of the free kick bringing the goal of Villarreal, the second was elected best player of the final. At the end of the match, the Frenchman could be enthusiastic: “Villarreal is a village of 50,000 people. And bringing a trophy back to the village is incredible ”. Effectively.



Football: searches and arrest of the former president of FC Barcelona

Police raided Monday 1er March the headquarters FC Barcelona and arrested ex-president Josep Maria Bartomeu as well as three former or current leaders of the club in connection with the investigation into the “Barçagate”, according to a source familiar with the matter.

The case erupted a year ago after an investigation by Spanish radio Cadena Ser into an alleged campaign of slander against Barça figures (such as star Lionel Messi or defender Gerard Pique) on social networks, orchestrated by a company working for the club.

A smear campaign

The press then stressed that the aim of this campaign was to improve the image of Josep Maria Bartomeu, the people targeted being all critical of the president who resigned on October 27.

The radio had shown that the club had paid one million euros in six separate invoices to this company, I3 Ventures, with whom Barca have since cut ties. That is an amount six times higher than market prices, according to the press. The club had categorically denied any smear campaign.

“Have they been given the task of monitoring social networks? The answer is yes. Have they been tasked with discrediting people or institutions on social networks? The answer is no. And we will prosecute all those who accuse us of this ”, then defended Bartomeu.

Resignation of the entire management committee

Criticized by a large fringe of supporters, players and members of the club, Josep Maria Bartomeu ended up resigning at the end of October 2020, after a long crisis, with his entire management committee.

Remained six and a half years at the head of Barça, he had come close to losing the living legend Lionel Messi. At the end of August, the latter had announced his wish to terminate his contract “Unilaterally”, disappointed by the results of his team and even more by the decisions of its leaders who in particular chose to separate from his great friend Luis Suarez.

These searches and arrests come six days before the elections for the presidency of the club scheduled for Sunday, where the socios (supporters-shareholders) will be called upon to choose between Joan Laporta, Toni Freixa and Victor Font to succeed Bartomeu.



Football: in Madrid and Barcelona, ​​red alert on old Spanish houses

Is history an eternal restart? The question must trot in the head of Zinedine Zidane. The fate of the Real Madrid coach is partly dependent on the results of his team, which receives Borussia Mönchengladbach in the Champions League this Wednesday, December 9. Victory is imperative to qualify for the round of 16, a formality that the Spanish club has fulfilled without firing a shot since 1997.

Zidane on an ejection seat

Except that a more distant look into the past can give the tricolor strategist a cold sweat. Madrid-Mönchengladbach, the poster knows only one antecedent in the most prestigious of European cups, in 1976 in the quarter-finals. The first leg in Germany ended in a 2-2 draw. Same thing on the return, but 1-1 this time and with two goals denied to the Germans, including a non-existent offside. Real just pass, with the difference in away goals.

Bis repetita this year ? In the first leg, the result was in any case similar (2-2), with an identical scenario, the Germans leading 2-0 before the Spaniards equalized. Lady! Is a 1-1 draw on Wednesday written in advance? Zinedine Zidane is quite superstitious. But he blurted out at a press conference last week: “I feel strong to find solutions with my players. “

The solutions, however, he seeks in vain for the moment. Madrid have conceded nine goals in five group stage games, the worst defensive record in club history in this competition. His choices discussed as never before, the coach knows he is in an ejection seat.

Barcelona hit a bad slope

On this European front, the situation is quieter for the other big Spanish house, FC Barcelona, ​​in the round of 16 even before their last duel against Juventus Turin, Tuesday 8 December. Its walls are cracking in La Liga. The league title seems to have already flown this year, with the club pointing 12 points behind Atletico Madrid, who prances in the lead.

Barcelona have actually been going downhill since the start of 2020. “Barça” finished last season without a title (a first since 2013) and with humiliation on the European scene, the terrible 8-2 in quarter-final against Bayern Munich. The episode revealed a latent unease, accentuated by the feuilletonesque desires of Lionel Messi, and provisionally concluded with the resignation of President Josep Maria Bartomeu on October 27.

→ THE FACTS. Football: end of the suspense for Barça, Lionel Messi remains

The two Spanish giants are actually going through a fairly similar crisis. Financial first. Madrid and Barcelona had planned a development to match their prestige. The coronavirus has been a game-changer. Over the 2019-2020 season, the Covid-19 generated 91 million euros in losses, the capital club has just announced, 97 million on the Catalan side according to an audit disclosed in early October. Budgets for this season are down on both sides by around € 200million.

Limited budget

Major consequence: the two clubs have limited their payroll. Especially Real, whose summer transfer market has resulted in a total lack of arrivals, for nearly 100 million euros in sales. Barcelona has allowed itself some shopping, but the arrivals-departures balance also indicates some 100 million savings.

→ DEBATE. Can French football go bankrupt?

Problem: without real renewal, the two clubs count on faltering numbers, like two stars of the locker room. Real and Zinedine Zidane bet big on Belgian playmaker Eden Hazard in the summer of 2019 (nearly 160 million euros). But injuries have since followed and the player, still unavailable today, was only able to ensure thirty games out of more than the double possible.

Side “Barça”, Antoine Griezmann struggles to integrate since his transfer to 120 million euros in July 2019. Others, present for ages, seem to be at the end of the line.

In both clubs, a spring, especially, seems broken. The aura around Zinedine Zidane who, since his return, is no longer on the pedestal from which he dominated the Casa Blanca during his triple consecutive European coronation (2016, 2017, 2018); the magic around Lionel Messi, this year far from his usual fireworks (only four goals in ten games), and which leaves a doubt about his future. The two old houses on the eve of a major facelift? Nothing can be excluded.


Lionel Messi gets wanted

He wanted to go, he had to stay. Suffice to say that since the soap opera of his true-false start at the end of the summer, Lionel Messi does not shine as usual in Barcelona. His case maintains the fair of rumors, which announce it here and there according to the declarations of the ones and the others.

Neymar put a coin back in the machine last week swearing he wanted to play with the Argentinian again ” next year “. By bringing him to PSG? By joining him in Catalonia? Lionel Messi lets say, probably waiting for the election of the next president of Barcelona, ​​scheduled for January 24, 2021, and the project presented by the new elected. For all candidates for the job, keeping Messi at home is a priority.