Barcelona notched up the pressure on La Liga leaders Real Madrid with a 4-0 home win over Getafe as Alexis Sanchez scored twice on the day that the Spanish club's defender Eric Abidal had a liver transplant.
France coach Laurent Blanc declared at his Tuesday news conference that he plans to field two different sides for this week¹s friendly matches against USA (Friday) and Belgium (Tuesday). "It will be a young team against USA and a stronger one against Belgium," he said.
Cristiano Ronaldo scored a superb hat-trick as Real Madrid thrashed Osasuna 7-1 to increase their lead at the top of the Spanish La Liga to three points following Barcelona's surprise 2-2 draw at Athletic Bilbao.
Sometimes soccer can seem a very simple sport. The great Dutch coach Rinus Michels, the father of the Total Football school of the late sixties and early seventies and the man who took that style of soccer to Barcelona, believed that his side should always play one more defender than the other team had attackers. If the opponent played three up, Michels liked four back; if two up, then three back. To an extent, that has been the theoretical orthodoxy ever since.
Barcelona striker Lionel Messi has hailed the performance of his teammates after the Spanish giants beat Manchester United 3-1 at Wembley on Saturday to lift their third Champions League trophy in six seasons.
Barcelona's team we know; Manchester United's is a matter of speculation, a fact that, in itself, is indicative of two things. First, that Barcelona is the favorite, with such a defined and familiar style of play that, even in this age of rotation, it is possible, as with the greats of the past, to rattle through a first eleven.
There are many things that set this Barcelona team apart from its predecessors. But one which hasn't often been highlighted -- and which is truly striking -- is that this is a more settled side than any other Champions League finalist in recent years. Not just by a little: by a lot.
The tradition of French players at Barcelona is not a strong one. Ludovic Giuly (2006) and Thierry Henry (2009) may have won the Champions League with the club, but more often the story is one of high hopes and failed expectations: Richard Dutruel, Philippe Christanval, Christophe Dugarry and Emmanuel Petit.
Ask anybody who's done it, and they'll tell you that sustaining success is much harder than achieving it in the first place. The great Hungarian coach Bela Guttmann refused ever to spend longer than three years at a club because he felt that after that he could no longer motivate players. It may be that in the modern world of soccer in which money begets money, success is easier to sustain than previously, at least on a domestic level. On a European scale what that means is a cluster of perhaps eight or so super powers constantly battling for the Champions League, which is surely the main reason no side has successfully defended the title since the AC Milan of Arrigo Sacchi in 1990.
The unpleasant memories of France's World Cup fiasco were called to mind in recent weeks when two Ligue 1 players went on strike to force moves from their clubs. The first was Stephane Sessegnon, who had fallen out with Antoine Kombouare, his coach at Paris Saint-Germain, and missed training for three weeks as he agitated for a move to Sunderland. It was only after he returned to the fold that PSG agreed a deal with the Premier League side.
Four members of the French national soccer team were punished by a disciplinary commission Tuesday following an inquiry into the team's much-criticized performance and behavior at this year's World Cup.
Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola is spoilt for striking choice as his side attempt to overcome a two-goal Champions League semifinal deficit against Inter Milan, but faces a defensive poser with captain Carles Puyol suspended.
Lionel Messi scored an extra-time winner as Barcelona came from behind to beat Estudiantes 2-1 in the Club World Cup final on Saturday to confirm the Spanish and European champions as the top team on the planet.
Barcelona duo Thierry Henry and Andres Iniesta continued their respective bids to be fit for the Champions League final as they returned to training on Monday, although not at the same level as their team-mates.
A stunning last-gasp strike from Andres Iniesta put 10-man Barcelona in the Champions League final on the away goals rule, giving the Catalan giants a 1-1 draw at Chelsea on a night of high drama at Stamford Bridge.