No other sport has the wealth or cultural significance that football has. It is the largest social phenomenon on the planet, more than just business, entertainment, or escapism from our daily lives. It is one of the few forces that can unify in a world where race, gender and religion divide. It can offer opportunities to those who have nothing otherwise. But the truth which many have become accustomed to accepting is that, like society, football doesn’t work for the half the world.
Guardiola’s image in the football world is complex to describe. While polarizing, everyone seems at least to agree that he is an unique innovator. Funnily enough, he is polarizing exactly because of this mutual agreement of critics and fans. The public discourse about his Barcelona team mainly revolved about the positional style of play and – even contrasted with Aragones’ successful EURO campaign with the Spanish national team – was highly focused on his idea of playing football and how it differed from most teams. Building up from the back with passes on the ground and involvement of the goalkeeper even under pressure, overload in the center while maintaining high width and depth, or even their extreme pressure with an extraordinarily high line to enable early regain of possession have conquered football back then (with two Champions League titles in four heavily favored campaigns) and since taken over the ideas of others teams more and more – some of them, Guardiola had started already in his first year as head coach back at Barcelona B.
With Tottenham unbeaten in the last six games in all competitions against their North London rivals, Mikel Arteta came into the match on Sunday having to show how exactly he has improved Arsenal in the last year and a half or so.
Lyngby BK and FC Nordsjælland clashed on Friday evening for an important derby. Both teams have underperformed this season; with only two games of the Superliga’s preliminary phase remaining, Lyngby sat second bottom in the table, with Nordsjælland only one position higher. A win would take Nordsjælland into the top half, and, crucially, out of the relegation fight.
AC Milan have undergone somewhat of an unexpected revival this season, transforming themselves into surprise contenders for the Scudetto whilst also performing admirably in the Europa League as well. Stefano Pioli is no doubt slowly but surely steering the Rossoneri back to European prominence, with a free-flowing attacking mantra that make Milan thrilling to watch.
Chelsea set up in their usual 3–4–2–1 but with a range of changes in personnel, after a rotated side drew 1–1 away at Southampton and a game midweek against Atletico Madrid. Despite their European heroics, it was time for them to still try to address their lack of potency in front of goal, in the hunt to finish for Champions League football next season. Unfortunately for them, Manchester United haven’t been the easiest opponents, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer somehow being competent enough to be second in the league.
Arsenal have had a terrible time against Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City side in the Premier League. Since Pep took charge of the Citizens, the Gunners have failed to beat them in the league, while conceding 22 goals in 9 games spanning since the start of the 2016/2017 season. This Sunday was no different as Raheem Sterling scored after two minutes from a header (no, I don’t know either).
Leicester City have made constant progress since the arrival of Brendan Rodgers in February 2019, from securing Leicester’s position in the top six in his first full season to now contesting for the Premier League’s top spot half-way into the 2020-21 season. The improvements are evident and though claims that Leicester are not title contenders are played down by Rodgers himself, their performances this season suggest otherwise. In fact, it would be of much surprise if Leicester were not in the running for a top four finish if not more come the end of the season.
With only two wins in their last five, Liverpool’s recent form has seen them slip so far down the top of the table that both Chelsea and West Ham started the day with only one point behind their fourth place rivals. Only a win against Leicester would lift them into a better position.
However, despite Brendan Rodgers’ problems against the Big Six in the past, he has become more confident registering wins against Arsenal, Manchester City, Tottenham and Chelsea this season.
VfB Stuttgart have outperformed expectations during the Hinrunde. Yet, perhaps more so than their results and play, the array of strategies and structures employed in build-up and defensive transitions have left an impression on the Bundesliga. Head coach Pellegrino Matarazzo has established a formidable attacking team that consistently penetrates and creates, and hence can beat almost every opponent.