Three reasons why Real Madrid won’t win the Champions League this year

Three reasons why Real Madrid won’t win the Champions League this year

2018 hasn’t been a great year for Madridistas. After selling Cristiano Ronaldo to Juventus this summer, Real Madrid are now 6th in La Liga and as the defending champions, qualified for the round 16 of the Champions League.

Despite being experienced, I believe that Real Madrid winning the UCL at their arch-rivals’ stadium next year. Here are the reasons why – in the first year of “post-Cristiano era” – Madrid will struggle in their favourite competition.


Reason 1 – The defence is inconsistent.  

I’ve seen a lot of Barcelona-related fan accounts on Instagram who mocks and trolls Thibaut Courtois for his performance. It doesn’t matter if he’s with his club or country, 5 is the number the Culés always talk about when it comes to the Belgian keeper.

While I have sympathy towards Courtois as a rival fan, it shows that Real Madrid are no longer the strong team they used to be. It’s not just goalkeeping but also, the vulnerable backline. You know that it’s a big problem when they can’t beat Eibar away.

Introducing new, younger defenders from the academy can be a good option. They certainly can recall Archaf Hakimi from Dortmund as a reward of his stellar performance with the Germans. But Pérez and the Board members may have other ideas in their heads.

By the way, Navas should be given more chances to play in goal. Courtois may not like the feeling of sitting on the bench but “preferred keepers” shouldn’t be a thing in Real Madrid as rotations have to be made in their busy schedules, be it Copa del Rey, La Liga and the Champions League. Just saying.


Reason 2 – The fighting mentality is gone.

One of the reasons why I have huge respect for Real Madrid is that I really admire their spirit. Juanito, who was a legend playing for the club before his death, once said a famous quote regarding his club:

“Noventa minuti en el Bernabéu son molto longos.” 

It means “90 minutes at the Bernabéu is a long time” in Spanish. In these days, however, it seems that Estadio Santiago Bernabéu is becoming the playground of the big and middle clubs, with the home side occasionally lose to the visitors and drop points.

Aside from the form at the Bernabéu, it’ll be better for the Madridistas to forget their conditions when they’re playing an away fixture. The lack of will to fight back after conceding goals is what stops Real Madrid from winning games.

Of course, you may argue that it’s all about luck because you can’t score every time when you shoot. But the truth is, it’s what the current Madrid squad lack. And Solari should remind the players about the “ethos of Juanito”.

All the time when they train and play.

This is essential to Real Madrid’s defence of their title, especially when they’re in the knockout stages of the UCL, where it’ll be a long journey to the final. After all, winning the Champions League isn’t just about the physical form but about mental endurance.


Reason 3 – The decision on their biggest star.

With Bale, Benzema, Asensio and Mariano misfiring these days, it is rumoured that they’ll be splashing clash for a proven attacker like Eden Hazard, Harry Kane and Neymar, who played for their eternal enemy Barcelona before transferring to PSG.

The adverse effects of the departure of the Portugal captain are now being displayed on the scoreboards of the stadiums the Spaniards play at. It’s not just the Bernabéu but Camp Nou, Luzhniki Stadium and most recently, the Ipurúa.

Yes, Real Madrid weren’t just Cristiano Ronaldo. But the truth is, he made everything easier for the team and was more than just a goalscorer. He also gave assists and was a leader in the dressing room who cheered everyone up when they were down.

Real Madrid shouldn’t have sold Cristiano Ronaldo to Juventus. They may not miss their former leading man and the glory days with him. Alas, the damage is already done. Now they’ll have to do their best to keep moving forward and play as a team.


I wish that Los Blancos can prove me wrong and claim their 14th Champions League title in Madrid next year to make history.

Yet, realistically, it won’t be easy for the title holders to get ahold of the Ol’ Big Ears for the fourth consecutive time with the shabby defence, inconsistent form and ineffective attacking options.

Let’s see how far they’ll go this season. They may be able to be in the semis if they’re fortunate but chances are they’ll go out in the quarter-finals, if not a humiliation in the Round 16 (like the “pre-Cristiano era” of Madrid).

Yay or Ney? Barcelona should strive to become more than just MSN

Yay or Ney? Barcelona should strive to become more than just MSN

As a Barcelona fan who heard the recent rumours about Neymar’s possible return to La Liga, let me make this very clear: I don’t want Neymar to be back. It’s not about his attitude but a product of the realistic situation.

I’ll never deny that MSN, or the Messi-Suárez-Neymar trio amassed goals before the deal of the Brazilian to PSG materialised. I also recognise Neymar is the third-best player in the world, behind Cristiano Ronaldo and Messi.

Here’s the problem, though. A big one. If Barcelona decides to agree on a deal for Neymar, then it’s very likely that two young players will be affected. Ousmane Dembélé and Malcom Oliveria.


Without a doubt, Dembélé is a player with the pace to tear up the opposition defence. He also gives assists to his fellow teammates. Sadly, he doesn’t defend but the best thing ever?

He’s just 21, a month and eleven days younger than me.

However, there are transfer talks concerning the French player, stating that he has a problem with his attitude and isn’t happy under Ernesto Valverde.

While Arsenal can be one of the future destinations in his journey, I believe that he should stay. The reason? Neymar needs a backup and I see Dembélé as Barcelona’s “plan B”.

I get it, Neymar is a quality player who deserves to be in the starting lineup, but there’s no guarantee that he doesn’t get injured. Also, Valverde may want to rotate the squad for the Copa del Rey and give the youngsters playing time.

In this case, I’ll be more than happy if Dembélé stays.

Of course, no one wants to become a benchwarmer at Camp Nou if they have the quality to contribute as a regular. Yet, it’ll be foolish for Barcelona to sell Dembélé in the middle of Neymar’s deal.

The Barcelona board should remember themselves that “failing to plan is planning to fail”, as Benjamin Franklin said. Thus, provided that Neymar is back and Dembélé stays, the impact would be inflicted on the poor newbie.


And yes, I’m talking about Malcom Oliveria.

Malcom joined Barcelona this summer after a controversial move from Bordeaux, with the contract being snatched from Roma’s hands (something I, as a football fan, despise).

The miserable fact is that he’s not getting a lot of playing time. This is why it is also rumoured that he’s looking for a new club in the Janurary transfer window, having fed up with Valverde.

His performance was okay and scored the vital goal against Inter Milan in the Champions League, but it is yet to be seen if he can make an impact to the Barcelona first team.

In my opinion, loaning the Brazilian out would be the better option than selling – as you’ll never know what will happen to those “benchwarmers” when they’re playing for a new club.

Just look at Alcácer. If he can do it, why can’t Malcom do the same?

Yet, this is where it gets complicated. Considering Malcom, Dembélé and Malcom as a trio of attack. It’ll be best if they can play together, but if only two of them can stay, who should pack his luggage and find a new club?


Neymar’s possible return to Barcelona complicates matters to the team as it will relegate either Dembélé and Malcom to the bench. The worse case? Pushing one of them out of the club, which may result in a bad decision.

With the ample funds inside their bank account, I believe that Barça should sort out their priorities.

Signing a nice defender, whether from the other teams or have him promoted from La Masia, is always the better thing to do than getting Neymar back.

Neymar is an excellent player but the good old days will never be back. Deal with it, Culés. We’ll need to move on from the past. Just leave MSN behind in the history books at Camp Nou. We’re “more than a club”, aren’t we?

For Barça, losing Messi isn’t a problem because there’s a bigger one happening now…

For Barça, losing Messi isn’t a problem because there’s a bigger one happening now…

Without a doubt, the recent 4-3 win at Camp Nou will be a memorable night for Real Betis to savour for years. The home defeat, for Barcelona, will certainly give a lot for the team to think about during the international break.

Not to mention that Atlético Madrid will be their opponents after the players return from their international duties. If they can’t beat Real Betis, chances are Barcelona will be dropping points against their title rivals at Wanda Metropolitano.

So let’s be honest, Barcelona, despite being the first in La Liga, will need to do something in order to become greater in Europe.

There’s one thing that Barcelona supporters will all agree on: losing Leo Messi as their star player to retirement from football is a big deal for the Catalan club – unless they can sign a decent replacement for the Argentine.

However, as a Culé myself, I have an unpopular opinion on this. I believe that there is a huge assignment that Ernesto Valverde must finish before it’s too late to mend the damage caused. That is, fixing the defence of the squad.


If you know Barcelona well, you’ll know that the guy inside the featured image is Carles Puyol. Having played as a defender in his career, he’s the former captain of Barcelona before passing the armband to Andrés Iniesta.

In the meantime, Valverde loves to stick to his trustworthy four-man defence: Sergi Roberto (or Nélson Semedo), Gerard Piqué (or Thomas Vermaelen), Clément Lenglet (or Samuel Umtiti) and Jordi Alba.

The thing is, while Piqué is clearly the most experienced player in the back half, he himself is regressing.

At 31, Piqué is ageing and started to make mistakes which cost the squad the precious points. I could still remember how awful he was when his wrong pass gifted Leganès the winning goal.

The rest are, certainly, better but it’s still horrifying to contemplate.

Meanwhile, where are the La Masia defenders who only got chances in the Copa del Rey? Why aren’t the best performers given a chance to play in La Liga?

Also, Valverde tends to ask his players (defenders included) to push forward to create chances to score.

While it’s nice to feed the ball to the forwards (somehow accustomed to Messi’s needs), the midfield and defence become vulnerable at the back.

Without a doubt, when the opposition decided to launch a counter-attack, say, after a failed corner attempt, chances are the whole Barcelona defence will be caught off-guard and they’ll be able to find the back of the net.


Now you may ask, “what does it do with Puyol?”

I’d say, Barcelona must be in search for a leader who’ll be doing the stuff Puyol did in the past. The current XI tends to lose concentration when they take the lead, so there should be someone who’ll tell his teammates not to be too confident in winning.

This is also the reason Barcelona were eliminated from the Champions League last season.

The squad did win 4-1 at Camp Nou, but we know that the travelling squad lost 3-0 away with Manolas netting the decisive goal to knock the Catalan club out, owing to the away goal rule by the UEFA.

I’m not sure if it’ll help to turn the tide for Barcelona to advance to the semi-final but I certainly believe that if Puyol was in the team, they wouldn’t have lost badly and got beaten by the Italians.


“Attack wins you games, defence wins you titles” – Sir Alex Ferguson

It is one of my favourite quotes in football. Trophies may not matter but the performance of the team does. Unfortunately, Piqué may be the only current player who can do the job. Perhaps a new name in the dressing room needed at Camp Nou?

Be it a foreign player or a homegrown talent, Barcelona should be conscious about the development of the whole future lineup instead of just focusing on replacing Messi. If Bartomeu’s men in the transfer section don’t look into this issue, it’s going to be costly.

And I’m pretty glad that Barcelona lost to Betis. Why? It forces Valverde to rotate his squad to replace the suspended Rakitić so that either Denis Suárez or Carles Aleñá can get a berth in the starting eleven, even for just a few games.

El Clásico – the blockbuster is still a good show without the stars

El Clásico – the blockbuster is still a good show without the stars

The first El Clásico of the 18/19 season in the Spanish La Liga is no ordinary fixture for both Barcelona and Real Madrid.

The main man for the home side, Leo Messi, will be absent owing to the injury he contracted while playing against Sevilla while Real Madrid has sold their main man, Cristiano Ronaldo, to Juventus in the summer transfer window.

For those who would like to see Cristiano Ronaldo playing against Messi, they may want to wish for a “Barcelona vs Juventus” clash in the Champions League. Nevertheless, it’s still a tie for football fans to anticipate and a good excuse to grab popcorns.

You’re at the right place for our analysis of the match of the century, with the investigation of both teams in the last few games, records last year and most importantly, score predictions by our fans.


Continue reading “El Clásico – the blockbuster is still a good show without the stars”

It’s the best time for Barcelona to start “Project Messi” now

It’s the best time for Barcelona to start “Project Messi” now

We all know how crucial Messi can be when he’s on the pitch with his fellow teammates, no matter which jersey he dons. He’s the kind of player who masters everything and works hard to perfect his skills, which makes him special.

For football fans, it is unarguably to say that Leo Messi is one of the players who deserve to be called the “greatest of all time”, or the G.O.A.T. as we call them. But the cruel truth is, Barcelona will experience a downfall if they don’t plan for life without him.


We all know what Real Madrid is experiencing after Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure to Juventus. With Los Blancos headed to the international break without winning any of the four games they’ve played, this could serve as a warning to their fierce rivals.

For Barcelona, Messi is more than just a legendary player. He’s the icon of the club and to be honest, as a player, it’ll certainly affect Barcelona if the Argentine decided to call it a day in his professional football career.

Without Messi, Barcelona won’t be a bigger club than we’ve possibly imagined. Without Barcelona, he wouldn’t be the superstar he is now. Barcelona gives Messi the resources for him to thrive while Messi returns goals and points for the team.

Now, here’s the question, “what may Barcelona experience when Messi retires?” I believe that there won’t be an absolute answer for it since the future is unpredictable in the football world.

However, there’s one thing for sure – without a suitable reinforcement to play in Messi’s position, Barcelona will struggle in finding the back of the net, just like what happened to Real Madrid these days without their Portuguese leading man.


Messi is irreplaceable and the only thing Barcelona can do is to find a player with identical, technical skills like him. It doesn’t matter if he’s from La Masia, other big clubs or somewhere else. The aim of the project is that they must find someone like Messi.

It doesn’t mean that Messi’s successor must shoot with his left foot and has a short height, though. For Barcelona, the most important quality of the “chosen one” is that he’ll need to consistently score a lot of goals to help the team to clinch the 3 points and secure the trophies they can get.

From the board’s perspective, they may want to seek help from the transfer market in order to get the proven talents outside. What matters to them is money. Hence, I won’t be surprised if one of the “big names” will be posing with the Blaugrana jersey soon.

However, let’s not forget that Barcelona has a lot of youngsters at their disposal, like Malcom, Munir, Ousmane Dembélé, Aleñá and Abel Ruiz. They may consider recalling Alcácer, who is currently on fire and started to score loads of goals in the Bundesliga. Still, he’s nowhere close to Messi.

As a Barcelona follower myself, other than buying players, I would want to see the local boys to take place of our Argentine hero. I wish the board can make good use of our very own “talent-based” La Masia to expand our brand of “més que un club” for a little bit.

Therefore, “Project Messi” may not be a problem in the long-term if it pays off eventually. But it all depends on the board (especially Josep Bartomeu himself) on the attitude of the matter and eventually, how they decide to execute the strategies.

The current Barcelona squad is good but they’ll need to stop relying heavily on Messi to become better. Barcelona aren’t a one-man team, after all. Thankfully, the future of Barça is in safe hands, so let’s see how Bartomeu will formulate a plan for them.

Spanish football is coming to the United States

Spanish football is coming to the United States

Last week, La Liga announced that they are moving at least one match every season to the United States for the next decade and a half. They’ve made a deal with a U.S. media company, Relevant.

Now this shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. The game is more globalised than ever before with players from all over the world playing in Europe’s top five leagues. The idea of playing matches overseas isn’t new either with the idea of a “Game 39” in the Premier League played abroad first proposed way back in 2008. Americans will look at this and they’ll love it. Finally, top-level, important matches will be played in their country.

But needless to say, it’s not getting the same response everywhere else.

In Spain, players from all twenty La Liga sides met with Asociación de Futbolistas Españoles (Spanish Footballers’ Association) head David Aganzo in Madrid in protest of the change. Sergio Ramos and Nacho of Real Madrid attended, alongside Sergio Busquets and Sergi Roberto of Barcelona and Atletico’s Koke.

And incredibly, if the plan is implemented, players might strike in protest of it.

Look, I see the appeal of having Barcelona or Real Madrid playing at Soldier Field or the StubHub Center. I see why this looks like a good plan from the outside. But they’ve not consulted the players whatsoever, and they’ve not consulted the fans.

It’s the fans’ game. Football is nothing without them. They’re the lifeblood of football the world around, and that’s no different in Spain. How do you think the Blaugranes feel having a home game shifted to New York or Miami just to please people who don’t even give their own sides that much attention?

Some changes that we’ve seen in the last five or ten years have been positive. Some have been negative. That’s expected. But this – this is an absolute shambles of an idea. If the US want to see good teams playing, why can’t they develop them themselves? At the moment, all they are are a leach on world football, sucking away once-talented players and ruining them.

I cannot support any plan that tears a team away from their fans. Hell, I get annoyed when my local side, the Wellington Phoenix, play a “home” game across the country in Auckland. This is taking the most important parts of Spanish football and tearing them apart. And for that reason, I am so, so very disappointed in La Liga.

Image credit: https://i.eurosport.com/2018/08/16/2399164-49882059-640-360.jpg