Rado’s Soccer Round-Up

Radoslav Ivanov

As we are now getting well into 2009, the soccer season is already in full swing. We have a few teams that are playing the best soccer we have seen in years and it is only a question of time before those squads meet, and hopefully produce, very memorable games.

A review of the soccer season so far has to start in Spain. Barcelona is breaking records and crushing every single opponent that gets in its way. First, Barca broke the record for most points before New Year’s Eve. The old record dates back to when teams won only two points for a win instead of three, but Barca’s 12 wins in their first 14 matches were unequivocal proof of their caliber. As a result, they are now 12 points in front of second place Real Madrid and it is very unlikely they will fall short of the title in La Liga. They have scored 65 goals so far, which seems astronomical compared to Real’s 43 or British Premier League’s leader Manchester United’s 40. Most of their games finish with at least three goals, while 5-0 is their most frequent result this year. In their clash with Real, Barca won 2-0 while ball possession was 80-20 in its favor. In addition, they have the recently christened “God of Soccer,” Leo Messi. The only way a team has devised to stop him is by foul, but even that fails to work most of the time because Messi is so quick with the ball that it is hard for defenders to even kick his legs.

Moving to the British Premier League, we see another team that is simply unstoppable. Manchester United broke the record for most consecutive clean sheets: they have now played 11 games without dropping a goal and it does not look like they will anytime soon. United, after a tentative start to the season with losses to Liverpool and Arsenal, have now found their form and lead by two points with one game to play against Fulham.

In Japan, United did not meet serious resistance and, even with most of their stars on the bench, they won yet another cup this year. In addition, they advanced to the fifth round of the FA Cup, to the final of Carling Cup and to the round of 16 of the Champions League where they will play Inter coached by old rival Jose Mourinho. At this point, it looks like Mourinho’s side is the only major hurdle for United before a dream final with the great Barcelona side.

Inter, however, is also playing very good soccer. Inter has just increased its lead in front of Milan to six points and is looking forward to their fourth consecutive title. Even though city rivals Milan are also starting to produce some fantastic results, such as the 3-0 away win at Lazio over the weekend, it still has a lot of catching up to do. Milan has the advantage of playing in the UEFA Cup, so it is not under the heavy pressure of having to play tough games twice a week. Juventus, the other major rival, is still far from the great team it used to be before it got sent to Serie B for fixing games and bribing referees three years ago. So, Inter is almost guaranteed the title in Serie A but its Champions League clash with Manchester United might prove too big a challenge for Mourinho’s side. Even so, we have a great game in front of us.

The Champions League has also seen some fantastic performances so far. Unlike recent years, we have not had any major surprises and all the big guns have qualified for the round of 16. Juventus vs. Chelsea, Manchester United vs. Inter, Real Madrid vs. Liverpool and Lyon vs. Barcelona are games sure to provide great show for the viewers. It is not yet certain who will play who in the later stages, but all the neutral fans are hoping for a final between the best teams in the last couple of seasons, Barca and United. The first legs of the round of 16 are scheduled for February 25 and 26.

So, prepare for a breathtaking soccer season that promises to be all but boring. With phenoms like Leo Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo in excellent shape, we are certain to get the best the game can possibly offer. No matter which side you support, you have no choice but to watch a big proportion of the great games coming in the near future.