To die for a victory

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To play like your life is on stake makes a huge difference. Whether you want it or not, when a team dies on the pitch for a win and the opposition gives up, this difference in mentaliy gets normally reflected on the score line. That is what happened on Saturday. No one could say we didn’t try but I could see that determination in the eyes of many Fulham players, a determination that we didn’t have.

If they lose and Milwall beat Cardiff away they would have a chance to get just 4 points behind, and they finish the league against Middlesbrough and Norwich, two teams on direct promotion positions. So, Fulham came to Bloomfield determined to get the 3 points and to die on the pitch if necessary. On the other hand we look like we asking for this nightmare to end as soon as possible. We still have some pride and never surrender but the reality is what it is.

Yesterday I watched Betis v Zaragoza from the spanish second division and I was wondering what is like to play as a local on a proper pitch. A beautiful green carpet… I have always been told that if someone can’t play well in the Villamarin, that player is not good enough. They also have Pepe Mel, who deserves a mention on its own.

Betis is an institution in spanish football and their coach is an excellent one with a great personality. They should have given him more time and trust in England because he had done a good job at West Brom. I remember his press conferences and I admit I suffered for him. He would dare answering to the journalist on his own, without any translators and with a very limited english. If you have a chance try to watch the one in which he was praising his goalie Ben Foster and you’ll see what I am talking about.

But he ketp trying. Pochettino helped him as a translator for nearly 2 years. Some times it is important to be a likeable person and Mel wasn’t liked in England. He is, however, a great coach and with time he would have been able to demonstrate that. Right now, he is very very close to return Betis to the first division. I am happy for him.

I must highlight two names this week, Suarez and Mourinho. Both of them are winners and I won’t discover anything if I say that Barca has probably got the best three attackers in the world because they all contribute in their own way. Let’s start with Messi. He has no comparison with Ronaldo in my opinion. Cristiano is a better finisher but Leo is something else. He is above that, if the team is not passing the ball well he is always there to distribute the ball, when the team needs to score there he is to score the goals, when the team needs assists, there he is to pass the ball to someone to finish it. He does everything right, absolutely everything.

There are exceptional footballers who based his game not on being a 10 on nothing but an 8 on everything. Some are a 10 on something and a 9 on everything else. Messi is a 10. I understand that Cristiano Ronaldo is a great player but when I see Messi playing I forget about everything else. You can also tell that he is really full of determination, enjoying himself next to Neymar and Suarez and helping his Barca. That is the key.

I also wanted to talk about Suarez. Neymar is electric, good combinations, very deep in his game and he scores a lot. He will be whatever he wants to be when he changes his slightly arrogant attitude. One good thing he could do would be to look at Suarez. His adaptation has been exemplary and not valued enough by the press. He is not as aesthetic as the other two but extremely effective.

Luis was a crack at Liverpool and an admired footballer in England. He could have arrived at Barca showing off his credentials but he did it showing admiration for his new team mates. He works really hard, runs, defends, finds spaces, puts pressure on…He is a beast and he’s starting to collecting the rewards.

His two goals against PSG were beautiful and it surprised me the way he tricked David Luiz as this is very common in England and David Luiz played for Chelsea. Luiz played without being 100% fit so that has to be considered as a harmstring tear takes more than 2 weeks to heal. PSG missed Ibrahimovic, Verratti and Motta though. I think it’s now game over but we must not take away any merit from the great game Barca played.

By the way, Suarez, Messi and Neymar get on very well. You can tell straight away that their relationship is excellent and that is very important in football. I can assure you that. People say that what it is important is that they understand each other as footballers which is correct but if they also have a good relationship even better.

I will not miss the Madrid derby on Wednesday. I don’t want to bet on any team because you already know how bad I am at that and because someone could get upset if I talk badly about Atletico…. But the truth is that Madrid will have a problem without Marcelo and Modric and probably Bale. I am surprised to see how much criticism he receives and how bad results he gets in the polls (which I hate by the way), without considering that in a game in which Atletico will try to narrow the pitch, Bale’s speed could prove very important for the team.

Tomorrow I will have on eye on Barça-PSG and another one on Bayern-Oporto. I am surprised about Bayern because they can win the League on Saturday and yet we only hear bad news from Munich. Do you know they called them Hollywood FC? A friend from Barcelona told me that the other day as apparently when things go wrong everybody starts gossiping. All the Bayern former players, some legends, are directors and they talk without thinking about what the team needs. The team’s doctor has apparently resigned and left with a few bad words against Guardiola.

I remember when I watched them at the Etihad and how impressed I was by the personality that Pep had transferred to the team. Now they lack fluency and it is in part normal due to the large amount of injuries they have but I think they are capable to recover from the first leg and turn the resulta round. It won’t be easy though as Lopetegui has constructed an excellent team.

Did you realise that the 8 coaches in the quarter finals played for Barca? It might be a coincidence but this says a lot and good about Barca.

I mentioned Mourinho earlier. On Saturday he “won” the Premier with Chelsea. Still not mathematically done but after their win over Manchester united, they are nearly there. I think he is an excellent coach but as I have said before, I don’t like his attitude. I will expand on this again another day.

Now, I prefer to think about the game in Cardiff and the possibility of seeing some of my dear friends whom I will be able to meet given the proximity of Cardiff from Swansea. It is our last away game and we will fight until the end.

Big hugs to all.

Come ooooon!

Translated by Alfons Vinent.

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