Thursday, May 28, 2009

Barca Shocks Mr. Football

My longstanding rule of thumb in international football has always been...

English team>Spanish team
Spanish team>Italian team
Italian team>any non English or Spanish team

Usually that holds pretty true, but this is a damn good Barca team with a lot of star power, and they played pretty much a perfect match to win the UEFA Champions League title 2-0 over Premier League champs Manchester United.

Samuel Eto'o scored early in the match to put the Red Devils back on their heels, and then in the second half Barca put it away with a goal by the new Best Player In the World, Lionel Messi, he of the size 3 shoes. There was no coming back for Man U, they played like a shorthanded hockey team most of the game as Barcelona was able to pass the ball beautifully and play keep away.

As per usual in European football, the losers were gracious after the match. Or not. Cristiano Ronaldo, the former Best Player In the World, feted his conquerors by saying, "We have to give credit to Barcelona, but they were a bit lucky to be here because Chelsea did not deserve to lose and no-one has mentioned that." Classsseee. We'll see how that plays out if he bolts for Real Madrid this offseason, as has been rumored.

So that pretty much wraps up the 2008-2009 European football season. My coverage has been spotty at best. I apologize. I will try and be better in 09-10.

A quick rundown of how the big European leagues ended up:

Man U finished second in the Champions League, but for the third straight season they are Premier League Champs, and that's something. Cristiano Ronaldo led the team with 18 goals, just one away from the league lead. Wayne Rooney reached double digits in goals for the 5th straight Premier League season.

Liverpool finished second, 4 points back, and you have to wonder if they might have come out on top if they got more than 24 matches out of Fernando Torres, who was still second on the team with 14 goals.

Chelsea went thru a rough patch right around the New Year which led to them changing coaches and finishing 3rd despite a strong finish. They'll be looking for another new coach this summer as Guus Hiddink will be returning to his role as the head coach of the Russian national team. "The Incredible Sulk" Nicolas Anelka rebounded from an awful 07-08 campaign to lead the Premier League in scoring with 19 goals.

Arsenal was stuck in a limbo most of the season where they were clearly the worst of the Big 4. They finished 11 points back of 3rd place Chelsea, and 2 of their stars had disastrous seasons as Emanuel Adebayor went from 30 goals in 07-08 to just 10 this season, and captain Cesc Fabregas blew out his knee.

Everton used a tough defense to finish the year as the best of the rest, finishing 1 point ahead of Aston Villa. Fulham also leveraged an excruciatingly boring style of play to jump from 17th in 07-08 to 7th and a berth in the next Europa (formerly UEFA) Cup Tournament.

At the bottom of the league, Newcastle has met disaster as they finished 18th and will be relegated for the first time in 16 years. They also are pretty much guaranteed to see their star, Michael Owen, walk this offseason. Middlesbrough's 12 million pound transfer Afonso Alves flopped, and they too will be going down, their first sojourn from the top flight in 11 years. West Brom rounds out the relegation crew, as they remain unable to make their Championship success translate to an extended stay in the Premier League.

Next year, Wolverhampton will be up in the Premiership for just the second time and the first time since 2003-2004. Birmingham City will be back after a 1 year absence, and tiny Burnley is back in the top flight for the first time since 1976.

Barcelona dominated all season. They truly had a special team this year. Eto'o scored a crazy 29 goals and Messi was not far behind with 23. Thierry Henry chipped in 19 just because.

Barca's eternal rivals Real Madrid is eight points back, and will finish second. While they were second in the league in goals, they scored 22 fewer goals than Barca, and defensively they were very ordinary ranking a 7th in LaLiga with 50 goals allowed. They've got a long way to go to catch up to where Barca is, but they've also got alot of money to spend, and Cristiano Ronaldo may be getting a bunch of that money.

Sevilla looks like they will grab the final Champions League automatic berth that comes with 3rd place in La Liga, and they will have a stifling defense to thank. Atletico Madrid looks like they will grab the Champions League Qualifying spot, thanks in large part to a breakout season by Uruguayan Diego Forlan, who leads La Liga with 31 goals.

David Villa had a great season for Valencia with 26 goals, but it looks like both they and Champions League regulars Villarreal will have to settle for playing for the Europa Cup in 2009-10.

Jose Mourinho's first (and probably only) season at Internazionale has resulted in a Scudetto, the 4th straight Serie A Championship for Milan's blue team. Zlatan Ibrahimovic tied for the league lead with 23 goals.

AC Milan has Kaka, Ronaldinho, and David Beckham, and is owned by the prime minister of Italy, and with all that star power may miss the Champions League for the second straight season if they lose to Fiorentina this weekend and then fail to qualify. Fail. Their coach Carlo Ancelotti is rumored to be taking over Chelsea next season. They can have him.

Juventus will probably finish second or third (they need only draw at home against Lazio this weekend to nail down a Champions League spot) and celebrated by firing their coach Claudio Ranieri last week. This club has just kind of been running in place since the gambling scandal that saw them do time in Serie B a few years ago.

Fiorentina got a 19 goal payoff from big offseason transfer Alberto Gilardino and had a very nice season. They'll get at the least a chance to qualify for the Champions League as they will finish no worse than 4th.

Genoa and AS Roma get Serie A's Europa Cup spots. Genoa's happy about that, Roma isn't. 32 year old Marco DiVaio had a career year for a dreadful Bologna team, as he is tied for the league lead with 23 goals. He scored more goals this year than he had in the last 5 combined.

VfL Wolfsburg, which is 100% owned by Volkswagen, shocked everyone by Fahrfegnuging all over the Bundesliga this year, winning their first league title behind a league leading 28 goals from Brazilian Grafite and 26 goals from Bosnian star Edin Dzeko. Their coach Felix Magath is bolting to take over Schalke o4 next season, which should tell you how small time this team is and how surprising it is that they won a major league title.

League powerhouse Bayern Munich finished second, so they'll be in the Champions League, but they are rightly embarrassed by surrendering their league title to a nobody team like Wolfsburg.

No comments: