Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Another one bites the dust?

What is it with tabloids and their obsession with celebrities and infidelity? Are celebrities supposed to lead more pious lives than the so-called journalists who cover them? Or is it an acceptable practice to lay judgement on these celebrities just because they're rich and famous?

The latest footballer to fall victim to the media's uncontrollable appetite for sleaze is, according to reports, none other than Man Utd's most decorated footballer, Ryan Giggs. And the fact that Giggs has often been portrayed as a mature family man and a leader on the pitch has only made the story juicier for the tabloids.

Then again, the court injunction obtained by Giggs to prevent publication of his name in this alleged scandal, probably didn't win him any new friends in the media. But as all these reports indicate, Giggs isn't the first person to use a court injunction to install a 'gag' order on the media.

But if the media is willing to print trashy stories, it is only because there are millions out there ever willing to consume them. And nothing demonstrated this any better when the Giggs matter was brought up in the British parliament yesterday. No doubt, the move towards removing a law that obstructs the freedom of the press is a good thing in any country.

But when the catalyst for the movement stems from a footballer trying to prevent his alleged infidelities from being published in the open and causing irreparable harm towards his family, you start wonder what the fuss is all about and if, just if, this whole matter seems to have been blown out of proportion.

After all, it is not as Giggs' supposed injunction was covering up some heinous crime. But such logic hardly matters to self-appointed moral guardians of society.

And so now we wait to see how Giggs handles this fiasco. Unlike some of his teammates who often make it to the newspapers for all the wrong reasons, Giggs has had a career that has been unblemished by scandals. One only has to look at John Terry's career ever since his personal affairs became public to see the toll scandals like these have on professional footballers (Wayne Rooney included).

More importantly, the big question now is whether this scandal will have any effect on Giggs during this weekend's Champions League final against Barcelona in Wembley.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Barca vs Man U Part II

And so, as expected, Barcelona and Man Utd will face each other in Wembley at the Champions League final on May 28, in a repeat of the same fixture in 2009. Will this be redemption time for Sir Alex Ferguson's men or will Pep Guardiola's side march on to s third Champions League trophy in five years?

Interestingly enough, both sides will go in to this final with quite a number of things in common. For one, victory would translate to a fourth Champions League for either side while this is also the third final both sides have been in over the last five years(although only Barcelona have won two of those three finals.

And while having the final in Wembley literally makes Utd the 'home' side in this fixture, both clubs share a common bond with England's most famous football ground. Wembley, after all, was the venue of Man Utd's first ever Champions League (or European Cup as it was known then) in 1968. Fast forward 24 years and Wembley was once again the venue for the coronation of a new European champion and this time it was - you guessed it - FC Barcelona.Ironically, Guardiola was a member of that famous Barcelona team which was at the time coached by Dutch legend, Johan Cruyff.

On another footnote, the final on May 28 will be sixth time Wembley has hosted The final of Europe's most prestigious footballing tournament and no club has won the Champions League/European Cup at these grounds more than once. This in turn means that whoever wins on May 28 will be the only one to have won at Wembley twice.

So who really holds the advantage going into the final? Barcelona's free-scoring form all season has made the Catalans the most feared side in Europe. Add to that an in-form Lionel Messi with a supporting cast made up of David Villa, Xavier Hernandez and Andreas Iniesta, Barcelona are clearly the favourites going into the final even if their semifinal victory against Real Madrid was marred by allegations of diving and play-acting. Indeed, the referring in this month's final will be closely scrutinized.

Like their opponents, Man Utd will be fielding many players that featured in the 2-0 defeat at the 2009 Champions League final in Rome. However, this time around there won't be a Cristiano Ronaldo at Man Utd to match up against Barca's Messi (although I'm guessing Ronnie will be rooting for his old club).

As such, unlike the previous encounter, i'd expect Ferguson's side to employ a more defensive stance going in to this final and capitalize on quick countr attacks. There's no way United's going to win this contest by playing free-flowing football.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Is the title race open?

It's strange how quickly fortunes can change. Several weeks ago, Carlo Ancelotti resembled a man with a very bleak future at a club that was on an alarming decline. But thanks to a five-game winning streak, Chelsea now find themselves second in the table and three points behind Man Utd.

All of a sudden, there is a genuine chance Ancelotti may lead the Blues to a second successive league title. And wouldn't that be some acomplishment considering the season they've had?

But make no mistake about it. The Chelsea that had to rely on two contentious goals to al a 2-1 victory over Tottenham last night did not bear any resemblance to the team that won the league last year. The Blues are still unconvincing up despite having the most expensive strike force in the Premier League. Ancelotti has struggled to find the right approach to field both Fernando Torres and Didier Drogba since the former's arrival to Stamford Bridge in January and it appears as that partnership will not produce results Roman Abramovich desires for the remainder of this season.

Still, Chelsea's resurgence may be academic at this point if Man Utd win their remaining four games, starting with their clash tonight with an Arsenal team that has fallen on some really hard times since their Carling Cup final defeat to Birmingham in March.