Luis Enrique’s Barcelona side made the enviable trip to Paris on Valentine’s day for a last-16 first leg clash with Paris Saint-Germain. Both sides are experiencing average domestic campaigns by their lofty recent standards and the Champions League thus takes on great significance as an alternative way of enjoying a successful season.
Granada v Real Sociedad belongs to the group of fixtures which one does not tend to eagerly anticipate. Both teams are, however, interesting in their own different ways.
Fresh from their midweek defeat to Manchester City, Enrique’s Barcelona travelled to the Sanchez Pizjuan on Sunday night for an eagerly anticipated clash with Sevilla. An away win would see the Catalan side close the gap on leaders Real Madrid to 2 points, however they were struggling in the absence of Iniesta and Pique in particular. As for the hosts life under Sampaoli was bliss and victory would leave them 3 points off the pace and dreaming of a title challenge.
The most tactically-enticing game of the weekend-just-gone came from Spain as the best defensive system in the world travelled to stop Sampaoli’s fluid Sevilla team.
Jose Mourinho’s Real Madrid met Guardiola’s Barcelona at the Bernabeu on the evening of the 10th of December 2011. Mourinho’s men went into the game with a 3 point advantage and were desperate to add to their solitary victory over their arch-rivals in Mourinho’s tenure.
La Liga champions Barcelona made the short trip to the Basque country to take on Athletic Bilbao on Sunday evening. In what is one of the more eagerly anticipated clashes on the La Liga calendar, Bilbao’s intense and energetic pressing was pitched against Barcelona’s commitment to passing out from defence. What followed was a thrilling encounter where only poor finishing from both sides meant the game finished with one goal.
In the midst of the busy season, there are several good matches that initially pass under the radar due to the sheer number of fixtures. In this series, our authors analyse some of their favourite games from the 2015/2016 season.
Fresh from their last gasp Europa League triumph over Liverpool Villarreal travelled to the Mestalla to take on rivals Valencia on Sunday evening. Whilst victory would assure Marcelino’s men a top 4 position and a Champions league qualification round entry, their rivals, meanwhile, have endured a bitter season having even flirted with relegation at times.
In the first clasico since Cruyff’s passing, Zinedine Zidane lead his side to a late win in what was otherwise one of the most meaningless games between the two sides in the past few years. The French coach learned from Benitez’ mistakes and fielded Casemiro as a 3rd midfielder in the centre as their game plan was largely based around control of the midfield battle.
Diego Simeone and his Atletico Madrid side continue to prove that solid defensive organisation and effective transitioning is just as, if not more effective than attacking flair in winning football matches. Simeone has beaten Mourinho, Ancelotti and now Zidane at the Bernabeu in his time as Atletico Madrid manager.