EPL 2011-12 Preview: Swansea Vs Manchester United

Swansea City play host on Saturday, November 19, 2011, in match week 12, when Manchester United come visiting, at Liberty stadium.

Swansea are coming off a creditable 0-0 stalemate against Liverpool at Anfield, in match week 11. Swansea shared enough possession in the game but without troubling the Liverpool back-line, unduly. Dyer staged a right-to-left run in the 64th minute but he squandered a scoring opportunity after collecting a through ball. With six minutes left, Graham knocked down the ball in front of the Liverpool goal but Mark Gower failed to keep the ball down, and Swansea missed out on what would have been a historic win for the promoted side.

Manchester United edged out Sunderland in a lacklustre home game, at Old Trafford, in match week 11. In a match unforgivable except for coinciding with Sir Alex's 25th anniversary at the helm, United's win was built on Wes Brown's own goal, at the interval. While dominated possession, in the first half, they rarely tested Westwood, in the Sunderland goal. While Hernandez had a glimpse of goal in the second half, after being put through by Fletcher, the Bulgarian striker blew the chance by going down a bit too easily, in the face of a charge by Larrson, in the Black Cats' area. Referee Lee mason was not impressed with the penalty claim that ensued. Kieron Richardson denied United the chance of a second goal in the 64th minute when he swept efforts from Nani and Hernandez, within a minute of each other.

Head to head, Swansea and Manchester United have met in 8 league games, with United triumphing on 6 occasions, with the remaining matches ending in stalemates. The last time these teams met was in may 1983, in the English first division; that match hosted at Old Trafford was won 2-1 by Manchester United.

Swansea have won 3 and lost 3 of their last 8 league matches, while United have won 3, drawn 2 and lost one of their last 6 league games.

Currently in a creditable 10th place on the league table after being promoted from the Championship this season, Swansea have hosted 5 home games, this season, and won 3 and drawn 2 of them, while Manchester United, who are in 2nd place behind Manchester City have had 3 wins and 2 draws in 5 games on the road.

United have lost steam since the brilliant beginning to their Premiership season. But Sir Alex's wards carry enough firepower to be able to take away all three points from Liberty Stadium, come match week 12.

Swansea City's starting eleven against Liverpool: Vorm, Rangel, Monk, Williams, Taylor, Gower, Britton, Allen, Routledge, Graham, Dyer.

Manchester United's starting eleven against Sunderland: Lindegaard, Jones, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, Nani, Fletcher, Rooney, Park, Wellbeck, Hernandez.

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10 Reasons Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo Are Not the Greatest of All Time [GOAT] in Football

For the best part of the last decade, two names have dominated world football (soccer) more than any others; Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. These great rivals have broken countless football records, scored insane number of goals and pushed each other all the way to greatness despite the fact that they are two very different football players, playing two very different styles in two very different roles for two different clubs. The only thing that really connects the two is the ocean of ability that separates them from the rest of the players in the world. There can be no question as to whether the duo belongs in the pantheon of football all-time greats anymore. Although any effort to determine the greatest footballer of all time is subject to generational bias, it should be noted that Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are not individually or collectively the greatest football player[s] of all time due to the following reasons;

Cristiano is not the best ‘Ronaldo’ to play the game: Despite his unparalleled achievement in and off the field of play, Cristiano Ronaldo is still not considered the best Ronaldo to have played the game. Ronaldo de Assisi (also known as Ronaldinho) and Ronaldo de Lima (the phenomenon) are the other ‘Ronaldos’ whose legendary attacking prowess is often compared to Cristiano Ronaldo’s. Ronaldo de Lima was a more explosive and complete striker who would have probably been the ‘World’s Best Striker Ever’ if he had stayed injury-free in his footballing career, while Ronaldinho was the entertainer who, at his peak, constantly wowed the footballing world. Cristiano Ronaldo is better than other ‘Ronaldos’ in terms of constituency over the years, phenomenal goal-scoring rates, overall fitness and prolonged career (due to low rate of injuries) but for sheer skill, explosiveness, superior technical ability, and the ‘wow’ factor, the two ‘Ronaldos’ are better than Cristiano Ronaldo.

Lionel Messi is not the best ever Argentine player: It is a well-known fact that for a footballer to be the best ever in the world, he has to be the best ever footballer in his country and sadly, Lionel Messi isn’t both. Lionel Messi is not the best football player Argentina has produced. That honor goes to Diego Armando Maradona. Maradona (widely regarded as one of the best football players ever) is a footballing legend that inspired Argentina to a world cup victory and S.S.C. Napoli (in the Italian Football League) to its first and second League title [Scudetti] in its history. He is the scorer of the world’s most dubious goal (the ‘Hand of God’ goal) and the FIFA Goal of the Century. There is virtually a cult around the player in Argentina. Diego Maradona (and Pele) is the benchmark for the illustrious South American nation when a new star comes on to the block. So, while Messi has dazzled on the European stage, passing milestone after milestone and picking up loads of awards, his countrymen regard him as the country’s second best football player ever.

Both players have never won the World Cup: Although the latter rounds of the modern-day UEFA Champions League would rival the FIFA World Cup in terms of quality, with talents from around the globe increasingly concentrated in the hands of an elite few, the World Cup still retains substantial symbolic value as a quadrennial competition which pit the best of one nation against the best of another. It is no secret Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have never won (or inspired their respective countries to win) the FIFA World Cup. Cristiano Ronaldo has won an European Cup (The Euros) with his home country, Portugal but has never been to the semi-finals or the finals of the World Cup while Lionel Messi was underwhelming in the 2014 world cup semi-final and final with his home country Argentina eventually losing to Germany. The World (and Messi) was shocked when he was named the best player and awarded the Golden Ball of the tournament. Lionel Messi is also a three-time runner-up in the Copa America competition with Argentina. Most football players such as Zinedine Zidane, Pele, Diego Maradonna, Ronaldinho, Ronaldo de Lima etc. often touted as the world’s best ever football player all played dominant roles in the World Cup tournament they eventually won. The same cannot be said presently of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

They are not Football’s best Goal-scorers ever: Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are efficient, effective and phenomenal goal scorers boasting amazing goal per match ratio but they aren’t among the five best goal scorers in football history. Neither of them have scored up more than 700 goals in their respective careers so they cannot be in the company of great players such as Pele, Romario, Josef Bican, Ferenc Puskas (he has a FIFA goal-scoring award named after him), Gerd Muller. The rate of scoring of these legendary players is more impressive than that of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo given they ended their footballing careers with goal tallies well into the 800s. So if scoring goals are what makes footballers great, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, having better players boasting better goal tallies ahead of them, cannot be the greatest footballers of all time.

Both players have been accused of being criminals: They both have tax payment issues with the Spanish authorities (the country they reside and play in) and so have been accused of being criminals. After a lengthy trial that attracted so much publicity due to his status as a supremely gifted sportsman, Lionel Messi (and his father) was found guilty of not paying his taxes to the Spanish government, fined heavily and sentenced to two years in prison (he has since agreed to pay an increased fine rather than have a 21-month suspended prison sentence). His trial, guilty verdict, fine and (suspended) sentence damaged his credibility as a morally upright athlete who could do no wrong and that of his football club (FC Barcelona). Cristiano Ronaldo is also being investigated for tax evasion by the Spanish authorities, might be tried (or not), heavily fined and get a suspended prison sentence.

Their overall goal tallies are padded with too many penalties: Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are the greatest goal scorers of their generation. They score obscene number of goals in a football season but almost half of the total goals scored both players have come from the penalty spot. In football, penalties are the easiest way to score because it involves only the designated penalty-taker and a goal keeper to beat. Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, being the designated penalty-takers of their respective club sides, always take every penalty kick awarded them or their teammates thereby increasing their goal tallies. In 2013/2014 Football season in England, Luis Suarez of Liverpool FC (before he moved to FC Barcelona to become a teammate of Lionel Messi) won the highest goal scorer award in the English Premier League and shared the European Golden Shoe award with Cristiano Ronaldo by scoring 32 goals in 33 games in open play without taking a single penalty. That is a record Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo do not yet hold.

They play for football’s most valuable clubs: Messi and Ronaldo play for super-clubs in Spain where the top sides score goals by the hatful. The second millennium’s new financial order unfortunately gave birth to the modern super team essentially creating a certain form of predictability in both domestic and continental leagues. Lionel Messi plays for FC Barcelona in Spain while Ronaldo plays for Real Madrid CF also in Spain. FC Barcelona and Real Madrid CF are extremely rich and dominant football clubs that can afford to buy and stockpile the best and most expensive football talent anywhere in the world and so Messi and Ronaldo are always surrounded and assisted by world-class players to aid in dominating continental club football thus raising their international profiles. Both clubs always have a slew of world-class players at their disposal which leads to utter domination in domestic (Spanish La Liga) and continental (UEFA Champions League) football competitions.

The benefit of playing in the Modern Era: It is almost impossible to compare players of different era in a game that has changed so much over the years. Great footballers like Ferenc Puskas, Alfredo di Stefano played in an era when the game was played at a tempo unrecognizably slower than in the modern era. That does not make them less great than Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. The game played presently has changed because of changes in rules governing the game and the quality of footballs produced and used. Players in the modern era are also fitter, faster, and stronger than they have ever been, but players (especially defenders) are technically weaker than they have ever been. The Champions League’s expansions of the nineties is also an advantage to the modern player: having a group stage allows a margin of error that simply did not exist in the knock out style pre-1995 tournament. It has never been easier for attackers – Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo probably would never score 40-60 goals a season in the 1980s when the rules governing the game and footballs used didn’t benefits attackers (strikers), and defenders/defenses were littered with world-class talents.

They are a part of football’s rich history: We view the history of the game through our own national experiences, or at least we did until the modern era, where we can watch the Spanish league, Messi and Ronaldo every weekend. It is worth remembering that in the 1970s and even into the 1980s, most of Europe just watched the European Cup and UEFA Cup games of their own national teams. So, here is a little suggestion; the next time Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo score a breath-taking goal and someone on Twitter suggests the debate (on the greatest football player) is over, head to YouTube and spend ten minutes watching goals from Diego Maradona, Johan Cruyff, Pele, Ferenc Puskas, Roberto Baggio, Eusebio, Alfredo di Stefano and so on. There have been plenty of geniuses in the game, and Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are part of that rich football history.

Generational and positional bias in football: The hunt for the greatest football player in history is like that of the Holy Grail. All footballers (sportsmen) are products of their time. Due to football’s developmental stagnation relative to other sport and because there are so many different positions, and so many roles within those positions, it is hard to have a worthwhile conversation about who the best football player of all time is. Since the main objective of the game is to score a goal, the best goal scorers such as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo will always be near the top of any list about the game’s best players.

Conclusion; Don’t kid yourself that there won’t be another player like Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo, no-one thought they would see another player like Diego Maradona.

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FC Barcelona Facts – History of Spanish Giants

FC Barcelona, one of the world’s richest and most successful clubs, has a rich history and a culture that is synonymous with the Catalonian part of Spain. Founded in 1899 by a group of English, Swiss and Spanish footballers led by Joan Gamper, the club has grown in stature with every passing day since its inception and managed to achieve the highest stature in club football by winning all the trophies that is possible by the side to win. Here are a few more interesting FC Barcelona facts for the readers’ digest.

Since its inception, the club has won many trophies in both domestic and big competitions. Barcelona has been a club with arguably the best forward line in modern football. Back in 1910 when the club was relatively new and was full of players unknown and no fan following, they used to play matches with local clubs. It was back in the same year when they participated in the first ever UEFA competition. This was followed by a collaboration with the Football Association of Spain. Barton along with a host of other clubs propounded the theory of inventing and creating a new league for the top tier of Spanish football where teams would participate and the ultimate winner would be the best club of Spain.

Barcelona along with Atletic Bilbao and arch rivals Real Madrid remain the only 3 teams till date to have never been relegated from the top tier of Spanish football. Barcelona always has a political history as the club considered to be the heart of Catalonia, which had been an area of disturbance in Spain as the region openly resisted the policies set by the Capital of Spain, Madrid. Catalonia has always been a part of Spain and it was during the late 2000 when the Spanish government allowed Catalonia to break away from Spain and create their own state. Barcelona, till date, has won a sextet and ten Champions League trophies which is in itself a big feat.

Barcelona saw real progress back in 1978 when Nunez was appointed as the president of the club. His main objective was to make Barcelona a world-class team and a brand throughout the world. He remained at the club for 22 years and had set stringent wage policies to make sure that no Ayer becomes bigger than the club itself. He let go of star players likes of Romario, Ronaldo and Maradona just because he would not meet the unrealistic demands set by them back then. The team became invincible under the leadership of Johan Cruyff as he built a dream team consisting of a core of Spanish and English players like Pep Guardiola and Ronald Koeman.

The Barcelona team became a dream team and Cruyff’s tactics was highly appreciated as he would bring the ideology of introducing total foot for the first team in the game. After the resignation of Nunez as president, the La Porter saw the club decline further. They won back their lost glory in 2008 when the club came back to the mainframe with the signing of Brazilian superstar Ronaldinho who decimated Real Madrid single-handedly. What followed after being the exponential meteoric rise of Lionel Messi through the amateur ranks at the club and it went on to win the Champions League along with La Liga and the Copa del Ray.

The club is ranked among the richest club in the world with a net property of nearly 2 billion pounds. Barcelona is a club to be feared and continues to hold the legendary status.

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