BLOGIN BETS 4/10/20 – £100 challenge (Stage 3)

STAGE 3

• BARCELONA v SEVILLA – BOTH TEAMS TO HAVE 1+ CORNERS IN EACH HALF 1/2

  • STAKE: £22.50
  • RETURNS: £33.75

OVERVIEW: Arsenal wrapped up stage 2 with a comfortable victory over Sheffield United. The running total is now up to £22.50 so slowly we make our way toward the magic £100 mark.

Moving onto stage 3 straight away I’ve found a little corker in Spain tonight. Barcelona host Seville and all we are looking for is for each team to be awarded a corner in each half. Barcelona have had 11 corners in their first 2 La Liga matches while Seville have had 9 so this sounds simple enough. These 2 sides are amongst Spain’s most attacking sides and at 1/2 this is exactly what we need to keep this challenge going.

A CORNER A CORNER!

HOW LIONEL MESSI BECAME BARCELONA’S BIGGEST PROBLEM

Wouldn’t it be just like the crazy times of 2020 if the 8-2 Champions League demolition at the hands of Bayern Munich does turn out to be Lionel Messi’s last game for FC Barcelona. The greatest player to ever play the game cut a forlorn figure as he and his hapless, ageing teammates were mercilessly took apart in an empty stadium over in Portugal. 2020 may be one of the strangest years in human history but the Barcelona train has been on buckled tracks and on course for the cliffs of humiliation for a long time. They’ve finally reached their destination and Messi wants off.


The warning signs have been up for a while, not that the Barca higherachy seem to be paying much attention. Winning leagues. Yes. Winning cups. Yes. Yet those that have followed the club’s progress over the last 2 or 3 seasons have been aware of an alarming broader picture. The teams ageing squad, the very poor recruitment of players coupled with the lack of once famed youth team progression all playing major parts.

Messi, through no fault of his own, has become the club’s main problem which we’ll go into more detail later. But, his unwavered ability to win games on his own has lead those in charge to bury their head in the sands of Copa Del Rey’s and La Liga titles. There seems to be a complacent, arrogant air of ‘it’s ok, we’ve got Messi’ which wafts away around the Camp Nou. To an extent, this has papered over cracks but only because of Messi’s undoubted genius. It’s in the latter stages of the Champions League where the club have been found out. Crushing defeats to AS Roma and Liverpool in previous seasons made the world sit up and take notice. This isn’t the Barcelona of old, in fact, stop Messi the conductor and you stop the train completely.

Luis Suarez, Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba, once reliable and unquestionably world class performers have all had the sands of time catch up on them. The wrong side of 30, the explosive pace needed at the top end of the elite game now eludes them as their glistening careers wind down. It’s to the club’s great shame that they didn’t let these legendary players either leave for a farmer’s league final payday or allow them to gracefully retire at the very top of their game a few years previous. The blame here lies in Barcelona’s terrible recruitment and lack of planning.


MESSI

The 6 time Balon D’Or winner ended the 19/20 season with 31 goals and 26 assists in all competitions for Barcelona this season despite missing a quarter of it through injury. How do you replace that? The answer is you can’t. But what Barcelona have failed to do is come up with any sort of contingency plan for a post Messi world. The world’s greatest player’s extraordinary performances over the last 15 seasons have seen him become not only invaluable on the pitch but commercially invaluable off it. It has earned him contracts of eye watering amounts but they’re contracts which has increasingly taken power away from the club and ones where the club can be effectively be held to ransom. Messi has it written into his contract that he can leave for free at the end of every season if he so chooses. This has meant signings all seem based around keeping their star man happy rather than looking at a bigger long term picture of the team. One case in point being that Luis Suarez probably would have been shipped out a year or 2 ago had he not been Messi’s best mate.

There has also been a very public dispute between Messi and the club’s sporting director, Eric Abidal. Usually quiet and unassuming, Messi flexed his muscles by lashing out at the Frenchman who had claimed the players weren’t working hard enough under then coach Ernesto Valverde. A wake up call for the club’s board, a PR disaster and a glimpse at the level of Messi’s general unhappiness within the club.

As it happens, Antoine Greizmann was last year’s marquee signing at £107 million which did gain Messi’s seal of approval. A great player for Atletico, he was seen as a good signing. However, looking a bit deeper, at 29 years of age it was another short term solution to Barcelona’s problems and a transfer fee that seemed very inflated. Sadly, even in the short term, Greizmann has looked a shadow of his former self and has struggled to fit into the Barca system, often pushed into a wider role he’s not been used to. Rumours have circulated that he and Messi don’t get on. Rumours which the pair have both strongly denied. Unsettling none the less and again, more bad publicity for the club. Prior and even post Greizmann, Messi has openly pined for Neymar to return to the club from PSG but his own astronomical wage package has meant the club could no longer afford the type of numbers needed to bring back world’s most expensive player. Greizmann would have to do and it’s failed massively.

Then there was the mid season signing of Martin Braithwaite outside of the transfer window which saw a lot of very highly raised eyebrows. It didn’t make any sense especially as Barcelona sort special permission to sign him. That along with other expensive failures such as Ousmane Dembele and Philippe Coutinho have compounded the boardroom misery. With the lack of money available, you would think La Masia would be the club’s focus. The development of a new Messi, a new Xavi, Puyol or Iniesta should have been a priority but the talent coming through seems to have dried up with the clear focus being on the more established, older and expensive signings. This lack of youth intergration has probably set the club back years. The death of Johan Cruyff hasn’t helped either, would he have let things go this far? The famous Cruyff style of play seems to have been diluted out of the team’s DNA in recent seasons. One things for sure, new coach Ronald Koeman needs to clear the decks and start from scratch. The slight advantage for Koeman is his knowledge of the club. A legend in Barcelona, he knows the Cruyff core principles better than most and, hopefully, how to reimplement them. The downside he and Barcelona have is, how far do you let the club fall behind in order to rebuild properly? Big spenders Man City and PSG won’t wait around for them that’s for sure.

As for Messi, what next? Only a couple of clubs could realistically afford him in Europe, the afore mentioned. Talk of a return to boyhood club Newells in his native Argentina hasn’t gone away. That would basically mean playing for nothing with the major intense scrutiny and fanaticism that comes with it. This has potential to become a logistical nightmare for him and his young family. The 3rd option is to stay at Barcelona and help Koeman rebuild. He’d have to accept the old guard all departing and he himself taking up a more back seat role to allow the club to properly prepare for life without him. That’s not to say the club don’t just continue to keep their heads firmly lodged up their own proverbials and go on as though nothing has happened. Wouldn’t rule it out. Messi would still get the numbers because he’s that good. Then, a year or 2 down the line, he’d retire. What then? A dead institution primed and ready for mediocrity.

BLOGIN BETS 19/6/20

This week’s offering is 2x £5 lines. £5 ACCUMULATOR @7/1 and £5 TREBLE @11/1

LINE 1

  • BARCELONA 5/6 (Away v Sevilla. Friday KO 21:00)
  • LEVERKUSEN 4/7 (Away v Hertha Berlin. Saturday KO 14:30)
  • ATLETICO MADRID 1/3 (Home v Valladolid. Saturday KO 21:00)
  • CHELSEA 1/2 (Away v Aston Villa. Sunday KO 16:15)
  • INTER 3/10 (Home v Sampdoria. Sunday KO 20:45)

CONFIDENCE: 6/10

LINE 2

  • ARSENAL 13/10 (Away v Brighton. Saturday KO 15:00)
  • WEST BROM 4/7 (Home v Birmingham. Saturday KO 15:00)
  • NEWCASTLE 9/4 (Home v Sheffield United. Sunday KO 14:00)

CONFIDENCE: 5/10

OVERVIEW: A slight change of tactics this week after another horror show last time out. I’ve decided to split this week’s £10 and have two lines running, hopefully at once. Main reason for this being I’ve selected Barcelona on line 1 which is on Friday night. Normally that wouldn’t be a problem, it’s Barcelona after all, but on this occasion it’s a risky selection with them being away at high flying Sevilla. Should that selection fail it would leave us with nothing to go at over Saturday and Sunday. That’s where the back up 2nd line comes in.

The results really have been all over the shop since football’s return, 2 lines should increase the chances of a win. I read the other day that home win percentages were down about 30% or 40% since the behind closed doors matches began. It shows what a difference the crowds make in creating the home advantage we’re usually accustomed to.

This week’s fixture set isn’t the greatest pool to pick from and going off the previous failures I’ve tried to be a bit more gut feeling rather than being too focused on stats and form. I’d be lying if I said these selections were anywhere near guaranteed and it’s probably the least confident I’ve felt since football returned. Having said that, a change of luck is definitely due and usually arrives when least expected. Here’s hoping.

LINE 1 PICKS: Barcelona travel to 3rd placed Sevilla looking to maintain their lead at the top of La Liga. Seville have had a good season and they have their own Champions League securing aspirations. This is by no means a given result but Lionel Messi has returned from the break in imperious form resulting in 2 wins from 2. If Barca can get through this tricky Friday night match this line has a GREAT CHANCE.

Fresh from a comprehensive drubbing of Osasuna, Atletico will be looking to carry on their decent form and hold on to the converted Champions League spot at home to lowly Valladolid. Golden Boy João Felix finally started to show his worth with a hattrick last time out, hopefully the start of a run for the talented Portuguese. HOME WIN.

Leverkusen are unbeaten in 9 away matches in all competitions with 7 of those being victories. I fancy that run to continue at Hertha who have lost their last 3 matches and are marooned in mid table with nothing to play for. Havertz to bag again, AWAY WIN.

Chelsea have been moving along quite nicely under Frank Lampard and sit in the top 4. Their opponents Villa haven’t won for 7 matches and are 2nd bottom with relegation looking a very distinct likelihood. Chelsea’s quality should shine through with the help of an empty Villa Park.

Inter’s Serie A title hopes may have faded in the week’s leading up to the lockdown but they still should be too strong for struggling Sampdoria. The away side have secured a couple of positive results in recent, not so recent matches, albeit against team’s way off Inter’s quality. It’s possible we could have a good cash out number if we get to this point on Sunday night which maybe worth looking at, but I reckon Inter will wrap up the acca without needing it. HOME WIN!

LINE 2 PICKS: Arsenal divide a lot of opinion but the defeat at City was their first in 2020. Despite a lot of draws in that run, that’s pretty good going. Their opponents on the other hand are on a 10 match winless streak and only 2 points above the drop zone. The Gunner’s extra match fitness could be an aiding factor and hopefully we’ll see Lacazette partner Aubameyang upfront to give the away side that extra firepower. AWAY WIN.

WEST BROM look destined for promotion to the Premier League but they also aim to pip Leeds to the Championship title. Although this is a heated derby match I’d usually avoid, I think the home team will show why they are deserve to be promoted against Birmingham side who sit 16th and without a win in 7 games. Bragging rights West Brom.

Ahhh Newcastle United. This is a pick from the heart with logic going straight out the window. The opposition, Sheffield United, have had a excellent first season back in the Premier League and are chasing a European spot. I just have sneaky feeling the Toon will gain a narrow victory in this one at St.James’ Park. Having beat the blades in the corresponding fixture earlier in the season, I’m hoping for the same on Sunday. Saint-Maximin to be key in a 1-0 or 2-1. TOON TOON!!!!

BLOGIN BETS 13/6/20

This week’s accumulator £10 @8/1

• DORTMUND & OVER 1.5 GOALS 2/5 (Away v Fortuna Düsseldorf. Saturday KO 14:30)

• BRAGA 4/11 (Home v Boavista. Saturday KO 21:00)

• BARCELONA & OVER 2.5 GOALS 4/6 (Away v Mallorca. Saturday KO 21:00)

• LEVERKUSEN 1/2 (Away v Schalke. Sunday KO 17:00)

• GALATASARAY 4/7 (Away v Rizespor. Sunday KO 19:00)

CONFIDENCE: 7/10

OVERVIEW: After last week’s shit show I was tempted to move away from the acca avenue but,having scowled and researched the fixtures, there’s a more wide ranging selection of picks to go at this time round. La Liga returns in Spain along with the Turkish SuperLig so I’ve gone for 5 selections across 4 different countries spread over Saturday and Sunday. More confident than last week.

PICKS: Dortmund’s title hopes may be fading by the week but they have still won 4 away league matches on the bounce. Their style of play will always suggest goals, either their own or leaking at the other end. Their opponents, Düsseldorf maybe unbeaten in their last 4 home games but that only includes one win. 2nd top v 3rd bottom. Away win with goals.

Braga will be looking consolidate their Europa League spot at home to Boavista. A defeat in their last outing was their first for 11 games so they’ll be looking to bounce straight back. Boavista haven’t won for 6 games 4 of which were defeats and are on the slide, I reckon that streak will continue. HOME WIN.

Despite not always being at their best away from home this season, Barcelona are still top of La Liga with a 2 point cushion. They’ll be out to maintain that gap when they travel to 3rd from bottom Mallorca. With Lionel Messi expected to be fit, the chances of goals are greatly increased. In the 5 previous meetings between the sides, Barcelona have triumphed with a margin of 2 or more goals. I fancy that run to continue, Comfortable Barca victory.

Leverkusen are excellent value at 1/2. They have won 5 consecutive away games in all competitions and are unbeaten in 9. 17 year old forward Florian Wirtz has been very impressive in recent weeks along with main man Kai Havertz and both are in line to play. Their opponents, Schalke, haven’t won for 12 league games with defeats in 7 and have only managed 4 goals whilst shipping 20 in that run. Another defeat incoming. AWAY WIN.

Galatasaray are only 3 points out of the Champions League positions so there’s a big win incentive. The opposition, Rizespor, are winless in 10 matches and are in the relegation places. No crowd could be to Gala’s advantage in this one where quality should prevail. Another away win to CLINCH THE ACCA!!!

EL SALVADOR, EL FENOMENO AND A WISE OLD MAN FROM SACRISTON

The tempestuous summer of ‘96 at FC Barcelona

Since arriving as manager in 1988, Johan Cruyff had transformed the fortunes of FC Barcelona. Already a club great from his time as a player, he went on to oversee 4 La Liga titles, a European cup winners cup, a Copa del Rey, 4 Supercopas and even managed to bring home the elusive European Cup. The first in the club’s history as Barcelona were dubbed the dream team. However, two trophy-less seasons coupled with very public disagreements with club president, Josep Luís Núñez, the talk had remarkably turned to questions about the manager’s future. With speculation increasing, the president did the unthinkable. He sacked Johan Cruyff in May 1996. All hell broke loose in Catalonia and El Salvador himself was gone without any resurrection.

The man asked to step in and act as God was a 63 year old Englishman from the coalmine heartlands of Sacriston, County Durham. Bobby Robson was handed the unenviable task of replacing the greatest figure in Barcelona club history. Having passed up the opportunity twice before due to other contractual commitments, he was offered the job after an unrelated phone call about Barcelona star Luís Figo. The time was right for Robson. He’d been successful with the English national team and won titles with various club teams on the continent. He felt he now had the experience needed to handle the Spanish giants on the pitch, but also the political affairs off it. Robson would bring with him a young José Mourinho as Assistant, coach and translator having worked together at sporting Lisbon. The remit was simple; to propel Barcelona back to the la Liga summit.

In the boardroom, Núñez was up against it. It was an extremely risky move to dispose of Cruyff. There was the inevitable media frenzy and a very discontented supporter base. Death threats had arrived at his door and he required 24 hour protection. The president needed something to get the fans back on side and not only that, Barcelona had gone two years without a single trophy. It was practically unheard of.

Núñez, along with Vice President Juan Gaspart, summoned Robson to a meeting. It was outlined that they needed a big signing, a striker that would fire them back to trophy success and also put bums back on Camp Nou seats. They asked Robson if he knew any and, more importantly, if any that would be available. Robson identified a couple of centre forwards but explained to his new employers that it was going to cost. Barcelona at the time didn’t have the money but the club was at a real crossroad. Núñez was getting desperate. They’d have to find the cash, take Robson’s recommendations and back him. 

The first striker identified was in England. Alan Shearer was top goal scorer at Euro 96 and the European golden boot winner. Indications were that he would be leaving Blackburn Rovers that summer. A few phone call enquiries later it was apparent he was looking to stay in the Premier League and didn’t want to relocate his young family to Spain. A polite thanks, but no thanks.

Not too downbeat, they headed to the Dutch city of Eindhoven.

RONALDO LUÍS NAZÁRIO DE LIMA

Ronaldo, El Fenomeno was exactly that. A bonified footballing phenomenon. Playing the previous season with PSV, Ronaldo had fired 54 goals in 57 games. He had electrifying pace, power and mesmerising skill, the likes of which, many had never seen before. At just 19 years of age, Ronaldo was the hottest property on the planet and ticked all the Barcelona boxes.

The Barcelona Vice President, Juan Gaspart, contacted PSV and the green light was finally given on a whopping $19.5 million transfer after a series of long stand-offs. With the world record fee set, Barcelona had 30 days to agree terms with ronaldo or PSV would pull the plug. It seemed like plenty of time to get the deal done but there was a problem. Ronaldo was half way round the world in Miami with the Brazilian national team and was proving impossible to contact. With time running out to sign him, panic had started to set in. Gaspart flew to the United States in hope he could speak with the player one to one.

The signing of Ronaldo was out of a film’ Gaspart told YouTube channel Idolos. “I arrived and wasn’t able to see Ronaldo very easily. There were some bouncers at his door in the hotel and they had orders not to let anyone through. I couldn’t beat the two-metre-tall bouncers up because they’d have sent my flying with a single punch, but something occurred to me. I managed to get a hotel waiter to lend me his bow tie and jacket and he gave me a tray with a Coca-Cola on it. I went up to the floor the team were on in the lift and there were two bouncers there. I told them I had a drink for Ronaldo and I went in. I introduced myself to Ronaldo and he called his agent and told them that he’d been caught. I told him that we’d complain if he didn’t sign and, in the end, an agreement was sped up. We hugged on the bed in his hotel room and finalised everything.’

Ronaldo was finally unveiled in July 1996 and a slice of the summer negativity at FC Barcelona was partially lifted. Becoming the most expensive player in the world has its pitfalls but Ronaldo would score within five minutes of his debut against Atlético Madrid and Bobby Robson got off to a flying start as boss. However the season of 96/97 would become one of fall outs, controversy and betrayal which threatened to derail the club’s ultimate quest for glory.

To be continued.