Michael Moschetto

La Liga

The Spanish Duopoly Strengthens With Malaga’s Downfall

MalagaWithin the past decade, La Liga has evolved (or devolved, depending on who you’re talking to) into a two-horse race between Real Madrid and Barcelona. Between TV contracts, exposure and merchandise, the Spanish league is divided into distinct categories: the haves (two teams) and the have-nots (18 clubs).

Qatari oil baron Sheikh Abdullah Bin Nasser Al-Thani purchased Malaga in 2010 hoping to restore some balance to the league. Looking to follow the model of Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich, Al-Thani wanted to build a competitive team that would compete in the UEFA Champions League and feature star players. Santi Cazorla, Julio Baptista, and Joaquin were three of the biggest acquisitions the club made last summer. Most importantly, the presence of Malaga served as a fierce opponent to Real Madrid and Barcelona.

Europe

EURO 2012 Final Preview: Spain vs. Italy

Few would have predicted that Italy and Spain’s 1-1 draw on June 10 would end up becoming a preview of the EURO 2012 final just three weeks later. Each squad has fought off adversities, injury problems, and questionable form among its players to make it to Sunday’s clash at Olympic Stadium in Kiev, Ukraine.

Lineups and Tactics

Spain will undoubtedly play a rough 4-3-3 once more, basically shaping up as a 4-6-0 if Cesc Fabregas is to start as a false nine once again. The defense and midfield will most likely remain unchanged as usual. Alvaro Arbeloa and Jordi Alba have exceeded all expectations and have brought width to La Furia Roja from the fullback position, while Gerard Pique and Sergio Ramos have been absolute anchors in central defense.

Premier League

Semifinal Preview: Italy vs. Germany

Italy and Germany are tremendous historic rivals; as two of Europe’s most powerful footballing nations, any match between these two squads is intense and there is usually something on the line. Although this match probably won’t be as epic as the battle in Dortmund in the 2006 World Cup, it is still highly-anticipated and should be plenty exciting.

Injuries and Depth

Germany had an injury concern this week when Bastian Schweinsteiger suffered an ankle injury; there was a concern he would be unable to play in the semifinal but he seems to have recovered quickly. Still, there is a significant chance he is not at 100% fitness and his performance could be impacted. Coach Joachim Low must evaluate the options he has on his bench to play the role of impact sub.

Premier League

Semifinal Preview: Spain vs. Portugal

Wednesday’s semifinal between Spain and Portugal has everything you want in a thrilling match; big names, interesting storylines, and tactical intrigue for hardcore fans.

Star Power

This game features some of the greatest players of the Spanish league in conjunction with a handful of the most underrated players in world football. Spain’s squad is undoubtedly stacked with world-caliber talent; its bench contains players that would for just about any teams in Europe. Portugal has perhaps the best or second-best (depending on who you’re talking to) player in the world in Cristiano Ronaldo; he and club teammates Fabio Coentrao and Pepe should have an interesting battle against not only their Real Madrid teammates, but Barcelona enemies playing for La Furia Roja.

Premier League

EURO 2012 Quarterfinal Preview

The group stage of EURO 2012 has come to a conclusion, and the end product is a quartet of thrilling quarterfinal matches. With at least one goal in every game thus far, this summer’s tournament is the first edition of the EUROs to not feature a 0-0 result in any match in the group stage. Here are the quarterfinal matchups with complementary analysis

Czech Republic vs. Portugal

Premier League

Italy and Tactical Flexibility

On the eve of EURO 2012, Italy was an ominous cloud, surrounded by stifling winds of a Serie A match-fixing scandal and a base of supporters still disappointed from the country’s performance in the 2010 World Cup. Going into this summer’s tournament, defensive stalwart Andrea Barzagli had a calf injury, forcing him to miss at least the first two games of the tournament. Manager Cesare Prandelli has handled these issues with great confidence and tactical cognizance. He has been able to instill an unorthodox system with Italy’s squad and advance out of the group stage.

Premier League

Group Round-Up, Part 2

After the second round of group stage games, we have reached the final roulette of matches before nations start getting eliminated (two have already clinched failure to advance past the group stage.) Almost every game has implications as to whether a team’s knockout-stage hopes will be realized or be a mere dream.

Group A

Russia: 1-1-0, 4 points
Czech Republic: 1-0-1, 3 points
Poland: 0-2-0, 2 points
Greece: 0-1-1, 1 point

Premier League

Group Round-Up, Volume 1

Each team has played one game in EURO 2012, and we have already gotten an idea of what to expect from this summer’s tournament. With a few surprises after a mere four days of games, this is shaping up to be quite the spectacle of European football.

Group A

Russia: 1-0-0, 3 points
Greece: 0-1-0, 1 point
Poland: 0-1-0, 1 point
Czech Republic: 0-0-1, 0 points

Premier League

Top 10 Forwards in EURO 2012

Having a top forward doesn’t only ensure that a team will score a ton of goals; it also keeps the squad’s supporters happy. As important as a solid defense and a gifted midfield are, they simply don’t offer the excitement of a winger beating two defenders off the dribble and slotting the ball into the far post. With that, here are the ten most prolific forwards at this summer’s tournament:

NOTE: Wayne Rooney is not on this list because of his two-game suspension; it’s difficult to rate a forward who may only play in one game. If he wasn’t suspended, he would roughly fall between number 3 and 4 on this list.

Premier League

Top 10 Midfielders in EURO 2012

With the way in which modern soccer has evolved, the need for a technically gifted midfield has become the prevalent way to build a team. Gone are the days of a classic number 10 who simply makes plays in attack and does barely anything on defense; gone are the days of pure “destroyers” who sit in front of the defense and simply tackle everything in sight. Today’s best midfielders are capable of playing what the Dutch of the 1970’s called “total football”. From passing and receiving the ball, to moving all around the pitch, to dropping back in defense, the modern midfielder is a complete footballer. Here are ten of the most dynamic midfielders playing in this summer’s European Championships: