Andy Mitten

  • Liga awards of the year

    Best players of the year

    Well the top five has to be: Lionel Messi, Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Cristiano Ronaldo and Gerard Pique.

    But, as you know all about them and their exhausting of the superlatives, it's time to shine a light on some of the other leading lights.

    1. Diego Forlan

    Booed every time he touched the ball, Forlan scored a key away goal for Atletico Madrid at Anfield in the Europa League semi-final.

    "When I scored, I saw some of their faces (the Liverpool fans)," he said. "They were not happy. In fact, they were very unhappy."

    Forlan also netted a dramatic extra-time winner in the

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  • Barça jet in for African cup tie

    Barcelona will play a competitive match in Africa tonight, one that coach Pep Guardiola describes as "the most dangerous game of the season."

    The Catalans have been drawn against third division Ceuta in the Copa Del Rey. Ceuta is one of two Spanish enclaves in North Africa. Melia - 150 miles to the east, is the other. Both are tiny, densely populated ports which front the Mediterranean, while sharing their heavy fortified land borders with Morocco.

    When Ceuta and Melia meet at football, one team flies to Spain and then take a boat or flight back across the Straits of Gibraltar to Africa.

    It

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  • Espanyol also flying flag for Barcelona

    It is not just the fans of Barca who are pleased as punch right now in the city of Barcelona. 

    The 25,000 pericos - parakeets - who watch Espanyol regularly have seen their team rise to fourth on the back of a better home record than Barca. Espanyol have won all seven home games this season and sit four points clear of Valencia in fifth. Not bad for a side who have never played Champions League football.

    Their latest win came against Sporting Gijon on Sunday when, as in four of their previous home games, it was 1-0 to Espanyol.

    The Blanquiazules - blue and whites - spent much of their

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  • Colossal Clasico worthy of all the hype

    In an attempt to play down the hype surrounding the Camp Nou clash
    against Real Madrid, pre-arranged interviews with trusted media outlets have
    been cancelled.

    Despite many of his players being media savvy, Guardiola fears that, no
    matter what they say, their comments will be twisted into a war of words with
    Madrid, which he doesn't want.

    So players talk through Barca's club media about how the world is
    round, how they are happy when their team wins or they score a goal and about
    how the next game will be a tough one. Are you still awake?

    Guardiola's theory is that any public slanging match

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  • The farce of a Monday night Clasico

    Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola have urged their players to refrain from talking about it - but that's easier said than done.

    Both clubs have games this weekend and want to avoid adding to the pre-match hype which is building weeks before Barcelona entertain Real Madrid in the first Clasico of the season.

    Yet the players are asked about little else; and the media are then slightly disappointed when Iker Casillas says how much he respects Guardiola or Lionel Messi talks respectfully about Real Madrid. It's hardly the fighting talk that works so well in headlines.

    El Clasico is likely to be

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  • A different sort of crowd trouble

    Some
    said it was two thousand, others reported three. Spain doesn't do accurate
    attendance figures; instead, most clubs publish estimates. They can't see a
    problem. Why would anyone want to know how many people were actually at a game?

    Getafe are the worst supported team in Spain's Primera
    Liga. They play in a tough Madrid
    satellite town where most of the locals support Atletico or Real Madrid. They
    were only founded in 1983 and haven't built a historical fan base like their
    neighbours. And while last season's sixth place league finish was enough to get
    the Dark Blues into the Europa League,

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  • Another day, another gong for Messi

    Most days
    after training, an employee of FC Barcelona goes to collect Lionel Messi.
    Sometimes the Argentinian is still in training kit, at other times he's
    showered and ready to go home.

    Messi is
    escorted to meet a waiting camera crew or photographer, where he is presented
    with an award individual award, usually one for him being the planet's best
    player. It might be a British magazine or a Uruguayan television station, a
    Japanese newspaper or Argentinian website. The exchange usually takes two
    minutes, with Messi gratefully accepting the accolade with a murmured 'thank
    you.'

    Maybe he

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  • Barca’s Clasico supremacy

    On
    Monday night, thousands of Barcelona fans took to the streets to sing anti-Madrid
    medleys, pro-Barca and Catalunya songs. They celebrated by the fountain of
    Canaletes at the top of La Rambla, a place where Barca's frequent successes
    have been honoured for over a century.

    Spain
    is gripped by economic uncertainty and high unemployment, but I have not seen
    so many happy people in Barcelona since Barca won the title in May. Or maybe it
    was since I watched Sevilla fans after victory in the Copa del Rey or Catalans
    after Spain won the World Cup. Perhaps it was a Fernando Alonso or Rafa Nadal

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  • Money issues frustrate Guardiola

    Spain's recession has cut deeper than most,
    with the effect on the Primera Liga's transfer market all too telling.

    The 20 top-flight clubs have spent €209
    million on transfers during the close season - a figure which will struggle to
    climb to half the €462m spent last summer.

    Barcelona and Real Madrid are responsible
    for 60 per cent of the transactions, with David Villa's €40m transfer from
    Valencia the costliest deal. Delighted with the last Brazilian full-back they
    bought from Sevilla, Barça's only other signing has been the versatile Adriano.
    Madrid have brought in six players, with Angel

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  • Jose’s big ambitions for Real

    The 2,100
    Real Madrid fans travelling to Milan
    for Wednesday's Champions League game will be delighted with what they've seen
    so far under Jose Mourinho.

    Unbeaten Madrid top the Primera Liga with a slender one-point lead
    over Barcelona.
    After nine games, Spain's
    big two occupy the top two positions for the first time this season and that's
    unlikely to change. Villarreal could have gone top for the first time in their
    history a couple of weeks ago, but such stories will fade from view as the big
    two restore the natural order.

    There was a
    25 point gap between Madrid
    in second and the rest last

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