Imagining the Iberian Championship: Catalunya claims Group A

By Dermot Corrigan, imagining in Madrid

When the Iberian Championships was first mooted (last month, here on A Football Report), there was some skepticism in Spain as to the concept’s viability, given the tightness of the club schedule, rivalries between different footballing authorities with competing jurisdictions, the logistical challenges involved, fraught political atmosphere etc. But due to the diligence and far-sightedness of those involved in the project, and the generosity of a certain gulf-oil-money fuelled TV broadcaster looking to break into vital European markets, the first round of games is now taking place during this week’s international break.

As is customary in Iberia, the draw was organised to give the better supported teams the best possible chance of progressing, with the top four ranked sides - Castilla, Catalunya, Euskadi and Valéncia - securing home advantage for two of their three group games. Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque did the honours at the neutral territory of the Andorran FA HQ, with the coaches and captains of all eight teams showing up for the event, along with a healthy smattering of regional political dignitaries and cultural figures. There was a surprisingly positive mood of friendship and fraternity among all involved, especially with the first tranches of TV money being delivered up front.

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Valencia’s month from hell begins

As we enter February, the shortest month of the year (let me be the first to remind you that this year February has 29 days), Valencia’s coaching staff must think this is some kind of sick joke. 8 games in 29 days. It’s been done before, of course. But not quite like this. To start the month, Valencia host Barcelona at the Mestalla in the semi-finals of the Copa del Rey. It’s a treat for the fans, and the club have a real chance of winning. That being said, it’s the first of three times Valencia will play against Barcelona in February. The Non-Barça La Liga matches? They include Atlético Madrid, Sevilla, and Sporting Gíjon.

Beyond that, those able to use the transitive property with their imaginations (looking at you, Andy Gray) will be happy to see Valencia square off for 180+ minutes in the Europa League with Stoke City, visiting the Britannia on what will likely be a cold Thursday night. 

Valencia have done remarkably well so far, though were unlucky to get knocked out of the Champions League. They’re 5 points clear of securing a 2012-13 Champions League spot in La Liga, however, nothing is certain with Espanyol, Athletic Bilbao, Atlético Madrid, and Malaga challenging for third and fourth place. Think Valencia will pull through? [Schedule below]

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Through Ryu’s Lens - Champions League - Chelsea vs Valencia, Stamford Bridge

Click pictures to enlarge. Japanese photographer Ryu Voelkel has teamed up with AFR and he will be featuring photos exclusively on our site on a regular basis. Learn about Ryu and his art in our interview with him from last year (embedded below), and be sure to check out his personal website.

You can also follow Ryu on twitter @Toksuede


Will the revolution crumble tonight at the Mestalla? by Dominic Vieira

 
Valencia is sailing in uncharted waters are they’re sitting at the top of La Liga, a position they’ve struggled to conquer since the glorious Ranieri and Benitez days. However, since 39 year old Unai Emery took control of the boat in 2008, he has fulfilled a productive job with the restricted resources available. To great disappointment the Basque manager has yet to lift a trophy for the club. But in the last two seasons Valencia finished in 3rd place and that achievement can be viewed as success.
Success is a defining term in football and one which certainly revolves around Pep Guardiola & co. Today the 4 times Champions League winners travel to the Mestalla stadium to take on a team which has yet to taste defeat this season. A team with options, youth, talent and quality. This summer has been a revolutionary one at the club where dozens of changes were made and the man leading this movement is Roberto Soldado who has scored 5 goals in 3 games.
We all know what to expect from the Barça boys but will Los Che deliver tonight? Valencia vs Barcelona is about to kick off! Vamos, vamos, vamos!

Will the revolution crumble tonight at the Mestalla? by Dominic Vieira

Valencia is sailing in uncharted waters are they’re sitting at the top of La Liga, a position they’ve struggled to conquer since the glorious Ranieri and Benitez days. However, since 39 year old Unai Emery took control of the boat in 2008, he has fulfilled a productive job with the restricted resources available. To great disappointment the Basque manager has yet to lift a trophy for the club. But in the last two seasons Valencia finished in 3rd place and that achievement can be viewed as success.

Success is a defining term in football and one which certainly revolves around Pep Guardiola & co. Today the 4 times Champions League winners travel to the Mestalla stadium to take on a team which has yet to taste defeat this season. A team with options, youth, talent and quality. This summer has been a revolutionary one at the club where dozens of changes were made and the man leading this movement is Roberto Soldado who has scored 5 goals in 3 games.

We all know what to expect from the Barça boys but will Los Che deliver tonight? Valencia vs Barcelona is about to kick off! Vamos, vamos, vamos!

Traveling España: Previewing La Liga’s Basque Country, Andalucia, and Valencia

By Kaushik Lakshman, our new La Liga expert. Give him a warm welcome!

The new season of La Liga is almost upon us and there has been a lot shake-ups in several squads. The big two have gotten stronger, but there have also been significant improvements in the next rung of teams. While these may not result in the big two being toppled, there is still lot to look forward to. This preview is split into two parts, and we will take a look at each team, region by region and how their season looks to be headed. In part one, we travel through the Basque country, Andalucia and Valencia; and in part two, the big cities of Madrid and Barcelona, as well as the rest of España.

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Deulofeu y las Flores Azules - AFR Podcast Ep12 iTunes / Soundcloud / RSS

Brazil legend Carlos Alberto leads us into the latest podcast saying hello to his “friends from A Football Report.” Dominic Vieira and Eric Beard are the duo holding it down on the pod this time chatting from Lancaster University in England and Boston, respectively. We converse about Arsenal’s hope to take yet another starlet from La Masia, 17-year-old Gerard Deulofeu (who Eric confuses with Barça-based band Delafe y las flores azules), and use our moral compasses to discuss who’s in the right and who’s in the wrong. After that we proceed to talk about Samir Nasri coward-like contemplations and the strength of Valencia and Villarreal. We also cover the UEFA U21 Championship and the CONCACAF Gold, and finish with our ideal players for the New York Cosmos to choose to play in Paul Scholes’ testimonial match.

When Football and Bullfighting aren’t enough…

By Saheli RC, writing from Singapore

For the world looking to Spain, there seem to be three popular pastimes: bullfighting; football; and the somewhat dubious, but perhaps most interesting of the three, dramatic scandals. Okay, maybe not in that particular order, but they are certainly there up at the top. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you have probably heard about the latest scandal brewing in sunny Spain, involving a famous radio station, a journalist with a hyperactive imagination and three angry football clubs.

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When Does a Rivalry Go Too Far?

by Elizabeth Hanchett, writing from Toronto

On Sunday night, soon after the Sevilla-Barcelona match which saw the two sides draw somewhat anti-climactically (the match itself was intense, though the result was not something the blaugrana and their fans would have wanted after the performance), in part thanks to the decisions made by referee Pérez Lasa, the Cope radio station in Spain announced that Real Madrid was beginning a process of asking the Spanish Football Federation to test more often and better for performance-enhancing drugs, citing FC Barcelona and Valencia CF as notable targets.

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