On Barcelona Losing and Bus Parking

So I’m not going to go through and rank the players or recap the match. I might do that later, but I’m not going to now.

What I’m going to do is say why I’m not willing to give Milan the praise a lot of other people are throwing their way.

I can give credit to teams that beat Barcelona. Let’s get that out of the way right now. I gave credit to Sociedad for their comeback last month. They deserved to win. I gave credit to Celtic, because they had a strategy and executed it cleanly and perfectly on a special night against a much more accomplished team. I even gave Real Madrid credit and wasn’t upset when they won the Spanish Super Cup, because I felt that in the second leg, Barcelona were just bad.

I can take a step back and acknowledge when the other team did well, even when the other team are my team’s biggest rivals.

But there are also instances where I don’t give credit to the other team. Chelsea are one instance. Milan tonight are now another.

Here’s the crux of the problem for me: my expectations of a team change depending on who the team is. For a team like Celtic, I look at a parked bus and say, “You know what? That makes sense. They’re doing what they have to do against a much more accomplished team, and they did it cleanly. They deserve credit for that.”

But for teams like Chelsea, or Milan – top teams in the four best leagues in the world who qualify for the Champions League year after year – the standards are higher. Some teams play more offensively, and some play more defensively – I prefer to watch teams that press, overall, but there’s nothing wrong with playing a more defensive game. It’s a legitimate approach that I respect.

However, there’s a difference between a strong defense and bus parking, and bus parking should be beneath teams that are ranked among the top 15 in Europe. Parking the bus doesn’t impress me when you’re one of the best teams in Europe. When you’re one of the best teams in Europe, you shouldn’t have to resort to something so unimaginative. Milan have a lot of players who are skilled at what they do. They have players who were in the final of the Euro last summer, and who got there playing attractive football. (Surprisingly, for Italy, but it happened.) For a team like that to park the bus…

I’m not going to heap praise on them. I’m not going to call them brave. And I’m certainly not going to say that they should be admired.

That said, Barcelona were god awful tonight, and probably didn’t really deserve to win. I just don’t think Milan deserves any praise for how they won.

La Liga: Round 23 (projections)

Note: This is being published after the Mallorca/Osasuna game started – sorry. I wrote most of it up last night, but then I needed that little thing called sleep.

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Tracking Europe: Matchday 20-22

Tracking Europe: La Liga, Matchday 20-22

Something pretty catastrophic would have to happen for Barcelona and Real Madrid to fail to qualify for the UCL, but what about the other two spots? The competition for them is always heated, and this year, it doesn’t look like one of them will automatically go to Valencia.

So, throughout the season, I’m going to be tracking the five most likely contenders for those UCL spots, and recapping how their prospects look. Click through for matchdays 20-22.

Note: This is the fifth post in a series.

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CDR semi-final leg 1: Clasico

(Everybody’s doing it. I feel like I ought to, too. Sorry it’s a bit late – I have a day job, too.)

I went into this game feeling tense. I was sure that Barcelona would lose – and not just lose, but lose horribly. It just seems like the favorites never win the clasico, and Barcelona were the favorites going in.

But as it turned out, the game was nervewracking, intense, and for many fans of both sides, terrifying for the entire 90 minutes. In a lot of ways, that’s a good thing – it means that it was a great game in which no one was really humiliated. However, I’m also not sure how much more of that my heart can take, and I’m sure I’m not the only fan who feels that way.

But onward and upward.

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On Resurgences

One of football’s favorite narratives is the “resurgence.” You can barely go a weekend without hearing about the resurgence of some team or player somewhere in Europe. The better the league, the bigger the hype.

Most of these so-called resurgences don’t actually amount to anything, because people tend to be looking for the wrong things. This post is inspired in particular by all the talk surrounding Real Madrid and Fernando Torres, but I’m not trying to pick on them in particular – they just happen to be the major talking points this season.

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