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Arun Pradeep
Sunday , April 14, 2013

Champions League: Why Barcelona must be afraid

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"The real Juve did not face Munich," said a visibly stung Giorgio Chiellini after the 0-2 first leg quarterfinal defeat to Bayern Munich. "And we will prove it (in the second leg)". They did, in a way. "At times," said Juventus boss Antonio Conte after another 0-2 defeat in the second leg, "110 percent is not enough. We woke up from a wonderful dream, but are still in the top eight sides in Europe". Conte's latter claim is debatable. What is indisputable, though, is Bayern's superiority over the Italian champions over two legs of their Champions League quarterfinal. In the end, class won out. But it was not just class. There was muscle too. And that's why Barcelona must be afraid. Arturo Vidal and Claudio Marchisio, the energizer bunnies who boss the play against inferior opposition in Italy, found they couldn't stay....

Saturday , April 06, 2013

Champions League: Bayern flex muscles, Real just glide

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A livid Jerome Boateng jumped and down at the Allianz Arena like Rumpelstiltskin. He turned around at his team-mates and cursed at no one in particular. Jeffrey Bruma, the centre-back owned by Chelsea who is on loan at Hamburg SV, had just soared above the Bayern Munich players marking him and crashed a header into Manuel Neuer's inviting goal. Bruma's goal should not have mattered to Boateng, a defender who plays for Bayern. The goal was Hamburg's first after the eight already scored by Bayern on the evening. The match was 75 minutes old and there was just a quarter of an hour to go. One more goal for Bayern, Boateng must have thought, and they would've scored a goal for every ten minutes of the match. 90 minutes, nine goals. With a clean sheet to boot. And now Bruma had spoiled it all. "In recent....

Saturday , March 16, 2013

Champions League: Harsh lessons for AC Milan, Arsenal

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As he trudged off the Camp Nou pitch towards the players' tunnel with the half-time whistle ringing in his ears, Christian Abbiati could have been forgiven for turning back nostalgically, sweep his eyes over the departing Barcelona players and mutter to himself, "You know, that used to be us". Abbiati had just been at the receiving end of a brilliant first half blitz by Barcelona, when the Milan players on the pitch could as well have been orange cones used in practice. The Barca players moved about the pitch in a million intricate triangles, with the opposition almost an afterthought. Milan could have prised the ball off the Ladislao Kubala statue commissioned just outside the Camp Nou with more ease, than regain possession from the hosts. It was as tough as Liverpool had found to get the ball off Milan themselves in the 2005 Champions League final.....

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

EPL: Arsenal in free-fall

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You can take four good defenders but they don't just become a good unit by accident. The durability has been down to the characters themselves but also down to hard work. And it can be repetitive and tedious. Then it works. In training with George (Graham, former Arsenal coach), we would constantly work on forwards against defence. At first it was one on one, with the ball thrown to the attacker and the defender working him. Then two vs two, to learn how to work as a pair. Then a back four moving together - getting organized, dropping off to cover the run (of the opposition). 'No, no, no, stop. Like this,' George would interrupt. He would stand with his arms outstretched. 'My shoulders are the centre-backs and the palms of my hands the full-backs,' he would say. And he would move his arms to show how the....

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Serie A: Fiorentina spice up Italian top-flight

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You could see that it hurt. Andrea Stramaccioni, natty as ever in a white shirt and black suit, was peering down at the grass of the Stadio Artemio Franchi. Inter were playing in white, in the jersey they use in their away matches. Stramaccioni, however, was wearing a black and blue tie, which seemed to complement both his grim mood and the manner in which they had been beaten. And Inter had just scored. It came too late in the day to salvage the match, however, for the scoreline read 4-1 to Fiorentina with less than four minutes to go. It could have been worse. "Inter were too ugly to be true," said a contrite Stramaccioni when recalling the match. Anyone who watched of the second half of Sunday's encounter between Inter and Fiorentina would have agreed with Stramaccioni. But the second....

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Steven Gerrard still pushing boundaries at 32

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The tyro with a buzz cut took off from near the middle of the pitch. He ran across the turf in a sharp semicircle, as if boxing in the opposition goalkeeper inside an imaginary arc. His head was bowed, before he gradually raised it as he swerved to his right, like Usain Bolt when opening up his stride at the bend in the 200m. He stretched out his arm in acknowledgement of the delirious crowd, before collapsing in a heap of English bodies near the corner flag. Steven Gerrard had scored his first international goal. It was quite a strike. Taking advantage of a bad clearance from German defenders, Gerrard had let fly from just outside the box, leaving Oliver Kahn, no less, flailing to his right as the ball found the net. Gerrard was 21 then. ....

Sunday , December 30, 2012

EPL: Robin Van Persie leads the line for United

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Ashley Young was preparing to take the corner kick when he noticed the man who had just entered the field. He was running towards Young in pouring rain, his lithe legs carrying him briskly across the sodden surface. The man's red jersey already looked damp in patches due to the downpour and specks of gray glistened in his prematurely ageing hair. Young immediately vacated his spot and ran back into the field, leaving the new entrant to take the kick. Young had had a good game yesterday. His lacerating pace and twinkle-toed stepovers had led to the afternoon's only goal so far, an own goal by West Bromwich Albion that gave Manchester United the lead. But one goal was not enough. United had created enough chances but had failed to kill the game off, thanks largely to an excellent display by the Baggies goalkeeper Ben Foster. West Brom, sensing....

Tuesday , December 11, 2012

EPL: United silence 'noisy neighbours', but City still in this fight

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Carlos Tevez stationed himself between a bleeding Rio Ferdinand and a pitch invader, driving his palms with all his force into his former team-mate's massive frame in a bid to restrain Ferdinand. Tevez is five-feet-eight-inches, and Ferdinand six-feet-two. The Argentine almost lost his footing before stewards escorted away a pitch invader - flagged down by Hart - who had made his way on to the pitch with an intention to confront Ferdinand. "Enough blood for one day," you could almost hear Tevez muttering. But for Tevez, Ferdinand, who had been hurt after being struck in the face by a coin from a hostile crowd when he was celebrating Manchester United's winner on Sunday, would certainly be facing a case of assault against a fan by now. It was perhaps fitting that it was Tevez who stood between Ferdinand and a possible Football Association sanction against him. For....

Tuesday , November 27, 2012

Serie A: Capricious Milan roll over mighty Juve

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The Jeep sputtered and coughed, looking out of fuel and battle-weary. But it motored on nonetheless, as if constant movement would smooth over its shortcomings. "Just keep moving," it seemed to be saying to itself. "We'll get there any moment now." But they never got "there". Against a capricious Milan side that seemed to be giving its performance of the season, Juventus never really got going on Sunday. The Italian champions saw a lot of the ball, had almost 60 per cent possession, had 656 passes at the San Siro compared to the home side's 490, but could not guide a single one of them into the Milan net. Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri took a look around his dressing room before the crucial match and decided to hand the captain's armband to Ricardo Montolivo. Italian clubs pass the armband down the squad according to the number....

Tuesday , November 20, 2012

La Liga: Atletico Madrid gatecrash Real-Barca party

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There used to be a league in Spain, whose winner was not presented a trophy amid a blizzard of tickertape and booming snare drums. The victorious side's manager was not playfully thrown into the air and caught back by celebrating charges. TV cameramen did not scramble to capture the outbreak of wild dressing room antics that could last well into dawn. The following day, most of the new champions would not be wearing shades that made them look like secret service agents on a presidential convoy during the traditional journey on the bus top through the city. Because there would be no bus top journey; because there would be no celebration; because there would be no trophy. Because the new champions were not champions at all. They had finished third in the Spanish League. In years past, that was as close as anyone got near the Spanish league....


More about Arun Pradeep

Arun Pradeep is a sports journalist who has covered international cricket and tennis events. A keen follower of European football and enthusiastic blogger, he has written extensively on the sport for the New Indian Express. His biggest dream is to see AC Milan play Newcastle United in the Champions League final with both teams sharing the trophy. Against better judgement and despite nebulous prospects, Arun firmly believes a writer's life is the best there is, even if his mom ends up footing the bills, as she often does.