Barcelona’s 2018/19 La Liga Triumph Encapsulates La Blaugrana’s and Lionel Messi’s Brilliance

?Barcelona secured their second consecutive La Liga title with three games to spare on Saturday evening as Lionel Messi scored the only goal in a 1-0 win over Levante.

It was the culmination of a truly dominant domestic campaign for La Blaugrana, where they have widened the gap between themselves and the rest of the chasing pack in Spain, and, unsurprisingly, it was spearheaded by the indescribably absurd talent that is Lionel Messi.

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It was fitting that it was to be ?Messi who secured the title as, at times this season, he’s cut a positively isolated figure, whose insatiable desire to win has been at the centre of ?Barcelona’s repeated success.

Messi’s natural talent has been eulogised a million times over in the past, but this season has seen the Argentinean take on increased accountability for his side’s fortunes after the departure of former club captain Andres Iniesta last summer.

The diminutive Argentinean is set to to finish the season as the top scorer in ?La Liga with a scarcely-believable 34 goals to his name and he’s also in line to top the assist charts after setting up 15 goals for his teammates.


The confirmation of the league title means that he has now won ten separate La Liga trophies, making him the most decorated player in Barcelona’s long and illustrious history in the competition, overtaking nine-time winner Iniesta.

While Messi has been undoubtedly superb, it would be disrespectful to suggest that the rest of Barcelona’s squad have been slacking this season.

The wave of summer signings that joined the club last season have slotted into the Barca squad seamlessly and have increased the strength in depth in depth to no end. In turn, Ernesto Valerde has been able to constantly tinker with his starting XI to effectively compete in all competitions without ever compromising their surge to the league title.


The standout summer signing, Clement Lenglet, has been the shining example of this as he has been able to make the continued absence of World Cup winner Samuel Umtiti seem practically inconsequential – something no one predicted would be possible.

And that’s also not forgetting the man between the sticks behind him. Marc-Andre ter Stegen may not have the best defensive record in the league, but he has certainly enjoyed his best season since joining the club in 2014.

He’s come up big on a number of occasions, making crucial saves at vital moments to ensure that Barca came away with victories when they otherwise may have dropped needless points. His performances have been so impressive that a case could even be made to suggest that he is now the world’s most complete goalkeeper.

But, as has been proven countless times in the past, talent can only get you so far. Grit, determination and the desire to upset the odds are always essential for a title-winning squad.

So far this season Barcelona have earned 21 points from losing positions, the highest total in the league, haven’t been defeated by any of their rivals at the sharp end of the table and have maintained their dominance over Real Madrid – highlighted by their 5-1 win over their bitter rivals in October.

It’s certainly been a remarkable season, but there is still plenty to play for. Barca are the only side to have ever secured a continental treble on more than once occasion and they could achieve that same feat once again if they are able to prevail in the Copa del Rey and Champions League.

They are set to face off against Valencia in the final of the Copa del Rey at the end of May, while they have the tricky task of overcoming high-flying Liverpool in the semi finals of the Champions League.

They’ll no doubt be confident of finishing the season with two more trophies under their belt and, if their league form is anything to go by, then they should have no troubles doing so.

Let’

Ernesto Valverde Reacts to Barcelona’s 8th La Liga Title in 11 Years Following Levante Win

?Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde has stated that he always planned to bring match-winner Lionel Messi on during the club’s 1-0 triumph over Levante on Saturday evening.

The Catalans claimed their eighth La Liga title in 11 years courtesy of the victory, nine points now separating them from second-placed Atletico Madrid. Messi was brought on for Philippe Coutinho at half-time with the scores level, breaking the deadlock shortly after the hour with an ice-cool side-footed finish into the far corner.

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It appeared that the Argentine forward would be rested this weekend, with ?La Blaugrana welcoming ?Liverpool to the Nou Camp on Wednesday night for the first leg of their ?Champions League semi-final clash.

However, Valverde has insisted that Messi’s introduction was decided before the ?La Liga fixture with Levante had begun. Asked whether his hand was forced regarding the 31-year-old’s appearance off the bench, the coach declared (as quoted by the ?Evening Standard): “No. That was planned.

I was clear that he was going to play, but we have a game on Wednesday [against the Reds]. You have to be active, score goals from different areas and he gave us the title.”

Valverde could not hide his joy at the addition of yet more silverware to the Barcelona trophy cabinet, the Spaniard exulting in his team’s impressive achievement. He continued: “Winning the title by a distance and having games left, with the competitors we have, are difficult things to achieve.

We have done it two years in a row and to see the fans enjoying themselves like that is amazing. We want to celebrate,” he said, evidently relieved after a tense ending to the match. “It was nerves more than anything.

“They had a couple of chances, but the one that hit the post [in the last minute] was incredible. We couldn’t finish it off, they believed in themselves and we got a bit nervous in the end. But luckily, we were able to see it through.”

Let’

Barcelona 1-0 Levante: Report, Ratings & Reaction as Barça Are Crowned Champions of Spain Again

?Barcelona claimed their eighth La Liga title in 11 years, as Lionel Messi came off the bench to sink visitors Levante in a slightly stressful 1-0 victory at Camp Nou on Saturday evening.

La Blaugrana dominated possession and territory for the entirety of the contest, yet looked toothless as they let their opponents off on countless occasions. However, their Argentine superstar was introduced at half-time and finally broke the deadlock, sweeping a shot into the far corner just after the hour mark ?to guarantee top spot with three games to spare.


?Barça were guilty of wastefulness in the first period, squandering a whole host of presentable opportunities after incisive build-up play. Philippe Coutinho could have had a hat-trick inside 30 minutes, but was continuously denied by the outstanding Aitor Fernandez in the Levante goal. 

The former ?Liverpool playmaker watched the goalkeeper parry a couple of skidding efforts behind, before missing a gilt-edge chance as his free header from 10 yards out went straight down Fernandez’s throat.

Despite his frustrations, Coutinho looked to be in a determined mood and rattled the crossbar with a marvellous free-kick. However, he was replaced by Messi at the break, the substitution proving to be decisive for the newly-crowned ?La Liga champions.

Philippe Coutinho

Ivan Rakitic was unlucky to see a delicious long-range arrow drift just wide, though Barça were not to be denied. Soon after the Croat issued that warning, the crowd were brought to their feet as their talisman struck a crucial blow.

The home side were fortunate to remain in front, however, Las Granotas almost snatching an unexpected equaliser. They were afforded several chances to level matters, but Marc-Andre ter Stegen first thwarted Borja Mayoral when the striker was played through on goal, before stopping a couple of point-blank headers.

The German international was powerless to stop Enis Bardhi’s precise side-footed in the dying embers of the match, but was relieved to see it bounce back off the upright and into his grateful arms. 

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Check out our breakdown of the game below.


Barcelona

Key Talking Point

For all their masterful interplay and ability to carve out opportunities, Ernesto Valverde’s men were lacking a clinical edge. 

Luis Suarez was one of a handful of players who disappointed on Saturday night. He doesn’t appear to have the necessary fitness levels as he drifted through the game. If this victory proved anything, it is that the Catalans rely heavily upon Messi.

Lionel Messi

He was the difference, slotting home to secure Barcelona’s spot on the Spanish throne. But, can they really win against Liverpool in midweek if they continue to struggle in front of goal. 

The Reds are rampant at the moment, meaning the La Liga club will need to bring their usual accuracy to overcome them. Fail to do that and they may have to settle for just domestic silverware this campaign.


Player Ratings

Starting XI: ter Stegen (7); Semedo (6), Pique (6), Lenglet (5), Alba (6); Rakitic (5), Vidal (7), Arthur (7); Dembele (8*), Coutinho (6), Suarez (5).

Substitutes: Messi (7), Busquets (5), Roberto (6).

STAR MAN – Ousmane Dembele 

Dembele was a constant danger, always keeping the Levante defenders on the back foot with his direct dribbling and intelligent runs off the ball. He linked wonderfully well with Nelson Semedo down the right flank in the opening half, getting in behind the opposition defence on a number of occasions.

The Frenchman thrilled the crowd with his fearless, incessant drives forward, whilst his teammates should have made more of his superb deliveries into the box. Dembele’s role changed when he switched to the opposite side, the winger drifting inside and feeding deft throughballs on to others in red and blue.

Messi may have been the goalscorer, but it was the ex-?Borussia Dortmund wide man who dominated proceedings. Many of those around him put in underwhelming performances, but Dembele can be mightily proud of his night’s work.







Levante

Player Ratings

Starting XI: Fernandez (8); Coke (7), Vezo (5), Rober (7), Luna (6); Campana (5), Vuckevic (7), Jason (5), Rochina (6), Simon (4); Mayoral (6).

Substitutes: Marti (6), Bardhi (7), Morales (5).


Looking Ahead

The Catalans play the first leg of their ?Champions League semi-final tie with the Reds on Wednesday, welcoming Jurgen Klopp’s buoyant side to the Nou Camp. They follow that up with a league fixture away to relegation-threatened Celta Vigo, with Valverde likely to rest players given the team’s European commitments.

Las Granotas have a home game against Rayo Vallecano next Saturday before making the trip to the Estadi Montilivi the following week to take on Girona.

Let’

Barcelona Clinch Back-to-Back La Liga Titles With Win Over Levante

?Barcelona officially sealed another La Liga title at Camp Nou on Saturday night, with Lionel Messi scoring the only goal in a 1-0 win over Levante.

After Atletico Madrid beat Real Valladolid earlier in the day, Barça knew that a home win was required to mathematically secure consecutive league crowns, ahead of their Champions League semi-final with Liverpool on Wednesday.

After leaving ?Messi out of the starting lineup in anticipation of the midweek clash, Ernesto Valverde was forced to call on the five-time Ballon d’Or winner in the second half.

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Messi took 16 minutes to get his 34th league goal of the campaign, cutting back inside the area to take two defenders out of the game, before slotting past Aitor Fernandez to put Barcelona on course for their 26th La Liga title.

Fittingly, the goal also means Messi has now scored more goals (24) as a substitute in ?La Liga than any other player in the 21st century.

Barcelona now on 83 points, with three games to play, have lost only twice this season, last tasting defeat in a 4-3 thriller against Real Betis back in November.

Despite rotating to keep key players fresh for the Champions League, Barça have also won eight of their last ten in the league.



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In a first for Spanish football, Barcelona were presented with the trophy on the pitch after the game. Historically, the ceremony has taken place at the start of the following season much to many supporters’ annoyance.

Unsurprisingly, Messi – who celebrated his tenth La Liga title on the Camp Nou turf with his young children – has taken the lion’s share of the plaudits this season and is a shoo-in for the Pichichi (Spain’s award for the top scorer).

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Serial winners Luis Suarez, Gerard Pique and Jordi Alba have also impressed this season for Valverde’s side.

With league business sealed, Barça can now fully focus on winning the ?Champions League for the first time since 2015. The first leg of the semi-final on Wednesday is followed by a trip to Anfield on Tuesday 7 May.

Let’

Malcom Reveals He Recorded Lionel Messi Applauding Champions League Goal Against Inter

?Barcelona winger Malcom has admitted he recorded footage of Lionel Messi applauding his Champions League group stage goal against Inter earlier this season.

The 22-year-old has endured a difficult debut season at Camp Nou since his £36.5m move from Bordeaux in the summer, scoring four goals in 19 games across all competitions. 

The first of his four goals this season came in the ?Champions League against ?Inter, as his finish beyond Samir Handanovic secured a 1-1 draw for La Blaugrana – becoming the first side to reach this season’s knockout stages in the process.

Lionel Messi,Malcom

It proved to be an emotional moment for the Brazilian, who revealed during an interview with ?Marca he’s recorded the moment ?Messi applauded his goal at San Siro.

Speaking about the Argentine, he said: “Messi is going to be considered the best after Pele. I didn’t think that before, but now that I’ve seen him closely, yes, I see how he works day by day and he is sensational.

“He never ceases to amaze me with the things he does. We know he can cut in from the left, but we don’t know when, and then waiting for that exact angle, that exact moment.


“During the game he is looking at the defence, it’s position and what he is going to do. It’s amazing. It is a unique feeling to play with him. I have the day that Messi applauded my Champions League goal recorded, I will never forget it.”

?Barc?elona remain on course to secure the treble this season, with the first of three potential trophies secured this campaign coming in the shape of a 26th ?La Liga title, which could be won this weekend. 

Following that is the first leg of their Champions League semi final against ?Liverpool. While Malcom has admitted that competition for places at the club is extremely high, he’s ready to ‘take advantage’ of any opportunity given to him by manager Ernesto Valdverde. 

Gerard Pique,Malcom,Luis Suarez

He added: “The coach knows when some players are tired and always makes changes. That is why whoever is on the bench has to be prepared because opportunities will come. I’m calm and will take advantage of those opportunities.”

Let’

Luis Suarez to Leave Friendships Off the Pitch as He Reveals Messages From Liverpool Canteen Lady

Luis Suarez has revealed a lasting affection for his old club Liverpool, but insisted ?all friendships will be left off the pitch as he seeks to knock the Reds out of the Champions League.

Suarez’s Barcelona take on Liverpool at Camp Nou for the first leg of their Champions League semi-final on Wednesday, before returning to Anfield for the first time as an opposing player on 7th May.

The Uruguayan striker spent three and a half seasons at ?Liverpool, after signing from Ajax in 2011. His time in the ?Premier League saw him emerge as a global star as he won the PFA Player of the Year and FWA Footballer of the Year awards, as well as the Golden Boot in 2014.

Luis Suarez

Now 32, ?Suarez may only have won the League Cup at Liverpool in comparison to three (soon four) La Liga titles and the Champions League at Barcelona, but he still has a strong affection for the club that helped make him.

Speaking to the ?Daily Mail, ahead of ?Barcelona’s tie next week, Suarez said: “Liverpool made me realise that I could keep improving as a player, keep growing, and I’m grateful for all that and for what I shared with my children there too.

However, the forward also insisted that sentimentality would not get in the way of his desire to make another final.

Carles Alena,Luis Suarez

“In the build-up to the game it’s nice to talk about how massively grateful I am to Liverpool for all they gave me but, you know me, once I’m on the pitch there will be no friendships, no companions, no thought for all the lovely moments,” he said.

“I’ll defend the colours of Barcelona with all the pride in the world.”

In a separate interview with the ?Guardian, Suarez expanded on his time at Anfield and happiness at being able to return to see old faces. He even revealed that the Melwood canteen lady has been messaging him ahead of his visit.

Luis Suarez

“It’s going to be a strange feeling but lovely, too. I saw Carra [Jamie Carragher] at Old Trafford and he was excited. Jordan [Henderson] is still there; some friends of his came for the Clásico. 

“It’ll be nice to see the staff, like Ray [Haughton], who used to handle everything. And I’ve been getting messages from the lady in the canteen [at Melwood]; she wants to see the kids: she’d always look after Delfi [his daughter Delfina], taking her into the kitchen with her. It’ll be nice to go back.”

Suarez also commented on Liverpool’s incredible title challenge this season, admitting this team is far better than the squad of 2014, who came so close to lifting the Reds’ first Premier League title.

He added: “I understand what they’re going through and it can’t be easy but I think with us it was different because it was: ‘now or never’, a one-off. When I was there, it was very different. We were on the verge of the Premier League with a squad nowhere near as good.
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?”They didn’t spend as much as they’re doing now. Any player would like to go to Liverpool now; it was different then. If we’d won the league, I think it would have been an even bigger achievement than if this team do.”

Let’

90min’s Definitive European Power Rankings: Week 30

?Even if Manchester United were deep in their slumber on Wednesday night, football never sleeps. And it was anything but restful around Europe this week: 

– Manchester City continued their indomitable journey to retaining the Premier League title.

– Paris Saint-Germain retained their title, their sixth in the last seven seasons.

– Juventus wrapped up their title for the eighth season running.

– Barcelona all-but shored up La Liga for the seventh time this decade.

– Bayern Munich continued their relentless pursuit of a seventh consecutive Bundesliga title.

With this clear monopolisation of the world’s best leagues in mind, we’ve enlisted the help of notorious system-decrier and verified ‘Slacker’ Richard Linklater, and his entire filmography, to aid us in our plight. Is that Alright? Alright…Alright.


15. Getafe (New Entry)

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?”Why is it that a dog, sleeping in the sun, is so beautiful, y’know, it is, it’s beautiful, but a guy, standing at a bank machine, trying to take some money out, looks like a complete moron?” (Before Sunrise)

I don’t know how it’s taken this long, but Getafe have finally wrangled themselves a place in 90min’s Definitive Power Rankings, and at the expense of their moneyed, moronic crosstown rivals. About time.

Now, if a less endearing side had held Real Madrid to a heinously dull stalemate at home, we might’ve been inclined to deplore their tactics, but not our El Geta – they’re dog-like in their beautiful destructive skills. Nice work lads.


14. Atletico Madrid (-)

Stefan Savic

“And remember: the passion for destruction is also a creative passion.” (Slacker)

Speaking of destructive sides from the Spanish capital: Atletico Madrid! 

Yet, with nothing on the line, Los Rojiblancos have suddenly become La Liga’s great entertainers. Five goals, in a back-and-forth rally, and three points at the end of it!

Yes, all this effervescence and creativity is great for Diego Simeone’s side, but remember lads: the passion for destruction is also a creative passion. Don’t forget your roots. 


13. Benfica (Re-Entry)

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“‘Say, man, you got a joint?’

 ‘No, not on me, man.’

‘It’d be a lot cooler if you did’.” (Dazed and Confused)

Substitute joint with ‘league title sewn up’, and you get the picture. 

Except, hold up kids, DRUGS AREN’T COOL! And neither are leagues that are won with three or more games to go, which is why Liga NOS should be seen as a shining example amid the murk of Europe’s so-called ‘bigger leagues’. 

Two sides. 75 points. Four games to go. 

The only thing separating Porto and Benfica? The Lisbon side’s superior goal difference, which was bolstered once more this weekend with a 6-0 victory against Maritimo. Now, that’s cool.


12. Arsenal (Down 5)

Unai Emery

“I’ve had a total recalibration of my mind, you know. I mean, it’s like, I’ve been banging my head against this 19th century type, um, what? Thought mode? Construct? Human construct? Well, the wall doesn’t exist. It’s not there, you know. I mean, they tell you, look for the light at the end of the tunnel. Well, there is no tunnel. There’s just no structure. The underlying order is chaos.” (Slacker)

Yeh, not a great week for Arsenal. Existential crisis much?


11. Eintracht Frankfurt (-)

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“I’m too philosophical for this sh*t!” (Everybody Wants Some!!)

Last week, we attributed the following quote from Noah Baumbach’s ‘Kicking and Screaming’ to Frankfurt: “If Plato is a fine red wine, then Aristotle is a dry martini.”

But, it turns out, they’re far too philosophical for that sh*t, even after frustrating stalemates with Wolfsburg. It’s Europa League or bust, baybee. Eyes on the prize.


10. Chelsea (Up 2)

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?“That’s what I love about these high school girls, man. I get older, they stay the same age.” (Dazed and Confused)

Despite a frustrating week, ?Chelsea found themselves in a much better spot than they did last week – in both the Premier League table thing and, more importantly, these here DER! (Do you like our new acronym? It’s in a trial period.)

But, even more importantly, why the iconic Matthew McConaughey line?

Well…the way the Blues have stockpiled their youth talent in recent times implies they believe these young starlets will never age, because they’ve never actually graduated. The problem is, they do, and Callum Hudson-Odoi’s injury showed just how little it takes to derail a sportsman’s progress.

Don’t take it for granted. 


9. Paris Saint-Germain (Up 6)

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“Let me tell you this, the older you do get the more rules they’re gonna try to get you to follow. You just gotta keep livin’ man, L-I-V-I-N.” (Dazed and Confused)

?Kylian Mbappe – you just gotta keep livin’ man. No, seriously, L-I-V-I-N. 

Yes, Paris Saint-Germain finally captured their inevitable Ligue 1 crown, yes Neymar made his long-anticipated return, but it was still all about you, and your indefatigable skill. 

A hat-trick against your former side to seal up your third consecutive Ligue 1 title, to add to your World Cup-containing trophy cabinet. Now that’s L-I-V-I-N. 


8. Borussia Dortmund (Down 1)

Mario Goetze

“I don’t know, I think that if I could just accept the fact that my life is supposed to be difficult, you know, that that’s what’s to be expected, then I might not get so pissed off about it and I’ll just be glad when something nice happens.” (Before Sunrise)

Nice work, Borussia Dortmund. A very solid 4-0 win against Freiburg kept up the pressure on rivals Bayern for the Bundesliga title. 

The problem is…will it matter? 

Probably not. It’d be nicer if we take this for what it was, and enjoy the moment, but its ultimate (probable) futility is tough to get over. 


7. Juventus (Up One)

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“You are an embarrassment to the game of pool and should be glad I even let you play at my table.” (Dazed and Confused)

 Yes, that’s right, that’s what Juventus told Fiorentina after they secured their eighth consecutive Scudetto on Saturday. Bravissimo!!!

And, when you win eight Serie A titles in a row, you get two quotes for the price of one! Here’s the second:

“All I’m saying is that if I ever start referring to these as the best years of my life – remind me to kill myself.” (Dazed and Confused)

We didn’t promise that you’d like it, just that you’d get it. 


6. Bayern Munich (-)

Robert Lewandowski

“You’re a fat loser and you have body odor.” (School of Rock)

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These are the kind of insults that were slung ?Bayern’s way at the start of this season. They were called old, decrepit, disgusting (?) etc etc. But now they’re top of the Bundesliga and, albeit dubiously, into the DFB-Pokal final. 

Clearly *tries to drag eyes away from Robert Lewandowski’s rock hard abs* this is not the case. They’re called FC Hollywood for a reason. 


5. Tottenham Hotspur (Down 2)

Son Heung-Min,bernardo

“I know how everyone’s always saying seize the moment? I don’t know, I’m kind of thinking it’s the other way around, you know, like the moment seizes us.”

(Before Sunrise)

Sure, they lost to Manchester City over the weekend, but they put up a helluva fight – at least compared to the efforts of the Sky Blues’ scarily sheepish neighbours – and, besides, it didn’t really matter, did it?

Not after the game that had come before. In that game, the moment seized Spurs, and they held on for dear life. Against Brighton on Tuesday, albeit in less glamorous circumstances, they took the initiative – and took three key points in the process.


4. Liverpool (Down 2)

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“?Give up, just quit, because in this life, you can’t win. Yeah, you can try, but in the end you’re just gonna lose, big time, because the world is run by the Man.” (School of Rock)

Wait, Jack Black didn’t finish: the world is run by the Man-chester City. 

Yep, despite Liverpool maintaining their impressive hunt for a first Premier League title ever, their eternal rivals Manchester United could do them no favours during their midweek derby with the Citizens. 

And, just like that, another title charge looks to be in the pan. Sad.


3. Manchester City (Up 2)

Bernardo Silva

“You get a bunch of competitors together and you are addicted to winning.”

(Everybody Wants Some!!)

Speak of the devils – no, not the irrelevant Red ones – it’s Manchester City!

And, to be honest, what is there left to say? That quote is about a team of college baseball players living together in a house drenched with competitiveness at every turn. 

I reckon the Etihad Campus is probably similar. 


2. Barcelona (Up 2)

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?”All right, all right, all right.” (Dazed and Confused)

Look at Arturo Vidal and Luis Suarez and tell me everything is all right with La Blaugrana these days. 

In fact, it’s much better than all right, it’s even better than McConaughey’s version of all right, which is almost as all right as it can get; ?Barca have one and a half hands on the league title with four games to go, and at least a couple fingers on the big-eared, big daddy of them all. 

Exciting times. (If you didn’t read that in a McConaughey drawl, I don’t want to know you). 


1. Ajax (-)

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?”I only came here to do two things, kick some ass and drink some beer. Looks like we’re almost outta beer.” (Dazed and Confused)

That’s right, the Dutch steam engine keeps rolling on. You’d think that maybe their European exploits might’ve distracted them from their domestic duties, but you’d be wrong. 

No, Ajax have maintained a grip on both competitions with aplomb, heading into their final two games at the top of the Eredivisie on goal difference. They’ve also been given the added boost of an entire fixture rescheduling just to give them a bit more rest prior to that all important ?Champions League semi final against Spurs. 

Plenty of time to finish all that beer before the ass-kicking begins, then.


Let’

Philippe Coutinho: Why Chelsea Should Stay Well Away From the Brazilian Flop

So, Eden Hazard is (probably) leaving Stamford Bridge. ?Losing him is certainly going to hurt Chelsea fans, but the only thing more painful would be replacing him with Barcelona’s Philippe Coutinho.

The Brazilian has been ?linked with Chelsea as the heir to Hazard’s throne, which would have been alright if this was 2017 and the Blues were signing the Liverpool version of Coutinho. But it is not. It’s definitely not.

Philippe Coutinho

It is 2019, and ?Chelsea could be signing the ?Barcelona version of Coutinho, who has arguably been one of the most disappointing signings in European history. 

He has five league goals to his name this season. Five. That’s as many as ?Alvaro Morata managed at the start of this season (in less games) before he was booted out of Stamford Bridge, but you don’t see many Chelsea fans calling for him to return any time soon.

The Coutinho of this season is barely worth £1, let alone £100m. Maurizio Sarri should avoid him like the plague.

Just think who he would be replacing. ?Hazard has carried this Chelsea side for years. His tally of both goals and assists is leagues ahead of any other player in this squad, and Chelsea need a player who can have a similar impact, or at least a player who can quickly establish himself as one of the league’s finest.

Is Coutinho that man? No. No he is not. Is that going to stop Chelsea? Well, it never has done in the past.

This deal has alarming similarities to the £50m signing of Fernando Torres in 2011. The Spaniard was once worth that amount, but endured a shocking season with ?Liverpool before Chelsea bit the bullet and spent heavily on him. Just look how that turned out.

Fernando Torres

Falcao’s loan deal was another example. Once one of Europe’s deadliest marksmen, he had just suffered through a humiliating spell with ?Manchester United, but that didn’t stop Chelsea from completing their own expensive signing just weeks later. 

It’s time for Chelsea to stop living in the past and take notice of where they are in the world. They need a bona fide star to carry them into the future, and this underwhelming form of Coutinho couldn’t be further from that.

The main alternative appears to be Lille talisman Nicolas Pepe. The 23-year-old is full of belief and confidence, and his tally of 19 goals and 11 assists is exactly the kind of output that Chelsea are crying out for. 


Not only are those numbers on par with Hazard this season, but they’re incredibly close to the stat line posted by the Belgian in his final season with Lille, before he moved to Chelsea and became one of the world’s elite.

This should not even be a debate. In no world should the Blues shell out for Coutinho over Pepe but, until the summer transfer window closes, Chelsea fans should be fearful that a deal could arise.

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Jurgen Klopp Names Manchester City & Barcelona Among Six Teams He Likes to Watch in His Spare Time

Jurgen Klopp has named Liverpool’s title rivals Manchester City and forthcoming Champions League semi-final opponents Barcelona among six teams he admires in his spare time. 

The Reds boss is currently overseeing what could prove to be a historic season for the club, as they are two legs away from another Champions League final and still in with a real chance of winning the Premier League. 

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Even the most obsessive of football managers have to kick back sometimes, however, and Klopp admits that watching ?Barca, ?City and a number of other English and German sides takes up a fair amount of his free time. 

?“Whenever I have time I like to watch ?Dortmund because I’m still connected with them,” Klopp told ?Goal“Furthermore there are three teams: Man City, Barcelona and ?Tottenham. I always like to watch them.

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“Werder Bremen I like to watch as well, but also Mainz – with them I’m still connected too. I also think it’s impressive the way they play under Sandro Schwarz.”

Klopp started his management career at Mainz after his retirement as a player in 2001, eventually leading them to promotion to the Bundesliga for the first time ever in 2004.

Despite working with the smallest budget in the German top flight, he led them to an 11th-placed finish, and although his later years at the club saw varying degrees of success – an eventual relegation and failure to bounce back at the first time of asking – he was snapped up by Dortmund in 2008. 

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There, he would win successive Bundesliga titles in 2011 and 2012, took them to the Champions League final in 2013, and eventually took over at Liverpool two years later.

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Samuel Umtiti Prepared to Snub Transfer Interest & See Out Remainder of Contract With Barcelona

?Barcelona centre-back Samuel Umtiti has told his agents that he wants to stay at Camp Nou next season despite offers from across Europe offering regular first-team football.

The France international was cemented in Barcelona’s defence before a knee injury forced him out of the squad, allowing his compatriot Clément Lenglet to walk into the starting line up where he’s largely stayed ever since.

A number of clubs in the Premier League have made it known that they want to sign Umtiti at the end of the season, but L’Equipe (via Sport) claim the defender will turn his nose up at the offers to see out the remainder of his contract in Catalonia.

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Le Parisien adds to the story, claiming that Umtiti has told Barcelona to reject any offer for him as he believes leaving the soon-to-be La Liga champions would be a step down in his career.

Umtiti has made 96 appearances for Barcelona since arriving in a £22.5m deal from French giants Olympique Lyonnais three years ago, where he’s scored two goals and claimed an assist as well as lifted six major honours.

But the defender has only been able to make 12 appearances in La Liga this season due to his problems with fitness, failing to play in back-to-back league matches since the start of the campaign.

Umtiti still has a deal with Barcelona until 2023, having agreed to a new long-term extension last summer which includes a reported €500m release clause, and he’s determined to remain at the club for the remainder of that contract.

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