Andy Mitten

  • Liga fails to keep to script

    So much for
    the Spanish League being predictable.

    There's not
    a soul who doesn't expect Barcelona and Real Madrid to occupy the top two
    places at the end of the season, but nor did anyone anticipate the two giants
    tripping up so early in the season. Barca's 2-2 draw at Real Sociedad was
    followed by the same scoreline at home to Milan last Tuesday.

    Barca
    started with two midfielders - Sergio Busquets and Javier Mascherano - in the
    centre of their defence. It's something they've done before  without any
    problem, but the pair were left standing as Milan's Alexandre Pato steamed
    through to put

    Read More »from Liga fails to keep to script
  • Barca seeking support system

    It's Saturday night in Barcelona and despite Pep Guardiola's side leading Atletico Madrid 5-0, the rain isn't the only thing putting a dampener on the atmosphere. Barca may boast the highest average attendances in world football at almost 80,000, but Camp Nou is far from a seething cauldron of noise.

    Many of Barca's match-going fans are middle class and middle aged. They view going to the match like going to the theatre, where they expect to be entertained before they applaud. The thousands of football tourists who watch games are frequently blown away by the football and the huge stadium, but

    Read More »from Barca seeking support system
  • Returning star Higuain gives Mourinho selection headache

    With a historical record of one win in every five
    games against Real Madrid, Espanyol's fans must have known what was coming at
    the weekend.

    10pm on a Sunday night is no time for a game of
    football to kick off, but Espanyol's biggest crowd of 2011 nevertheless
    congregated in the bars on the narrow streets of the barrio close to their new
    home in Cornella in fine voice. Barça fans would not have appreciated the
    songs, not that these supporters of their city rivals would care.

    Espanyol have been restricted to winning just four
    domestic cups in their history and an appearance in the 2007 UEFA

    Read More »from Returning star Higuain gives Mourinho selection headache
  • Spain really does rule the world

    Monday night
    saw a leading Spanish radio station broadcast live from Manchester, where David
    de Gea, David Silva and Pepe Reina were the guests. The programme started at
    midnight and while that might seem late, that's the culture in Iberia where
    late night radio shows with big name players have always been popular.

    Spain may be
    European and world champions and most of the national team play for Barcelona,
    but a significant number of top Spaniards play in England.

    Spanish footballers
    haven't always travelled well. Fernando Morientes' experience in Liverpool was
    a chastening one, while the

    Read More »from Spain really does rule the world
  • Levante run captures imagination

    One of the most engrossing aspects of sport is when David
    slays Goliath. There have been countless one-off upsets in football matches,
    it's one reason we love it. Who expected Hercules to win at Camp Nou last
    season? Or third tier Leeds United to beat Manchester United in the FA Cup at
    Old Trafford?

    When David goes on an even more sustained run it becomes
    more gripping. Stories like 'The Miracle of Castel di Sangro', the team from a
    mountain village of 5,000 in central Italy who went up and up until they found
    themselves in Serie B playing - and beating - the likes of Genoa away were so
    good

    Read More »from Levante run captures imagination
  • Spain bemused by Scotland away following

    La Liga may be on a two-week sabbatical because of international football, but there's plenty happening in Spain.

    So much for being a fan-owned democracy which represent a panacea for football's ills - the bewildering politics of Barca have spilled into the courtroom, with former president Joan Laporta accused of acting more than a little dishonestly in Barca's dealing with that country famous for footballing glory, Uzbekistan.

    Laporta, who still enjoys great popularity with influential figures such as Pep Guardiola and Johann Cruyff in Catalonia, could even face further legal action for

    Read More »from Spain bemused by Scotland away following
  • Barcelona braced for derby

    The
    loudest noise at Camp Nou during Sunday's 5-0 thrashing of promoted Real
    Sociedad didn't come when Lionel Messi scored two more wondrous goals. Nor was
    it when a banner was unveiled objecting to Barça's recently announced shirt
    sponsorship deal with the Qatar Foundation - though the banner won
    approval. 

    Of
    course the 74,000 crowd purred in appreciation as Barca completely dominated
    their opponents, setting a record for the number of passes in a football match
    for the second time in a week. Barca made 971 against Rubin Kazan last Tuesday
    and 938 against Sociedad. Such statistics have only

    Read More »from Barcelona braced for derby
  • Cesc set for Barca bench role

    Sir
    Alex Ferguson joked last week that he should cut his weekly press conferences
    to once a month.

    When
    he arrived at Old Trafford, the United manager used to give his local newspaper
    team news every morning. Now he sees all the media once a week, unless he
    decides that he doesn't want to, like if he's irked by the reporting of a
    particular incident. It's on Ferguson's terms and that's how he likes it. He
    holds all the power and knows it.

    When
    it was pointed out that Bayern Munich have a daily press conference he laughed
    away. As he would if he saw how Spanish clubs deal with the media.

    I

    Read More »from Cesc set for Barca bench role
  • Silly season nearly over in Spain

    Spanish cities almost shut down in August as the country takes a holiday. Most shops close for a month and those fortunate enough to be in employment stop work and head for the coast.

    In football, training sessions are rescheduled to early morning and late afternoon to avoid the hottest part of the day. Barca and Real Madrid may have thought that they were escaping the heat with their American pre-season tours. Instead, they experienced a heat wave.

    At least Barca's third and final game was in the air-conditioned bliss of Dallas's stunning Cowboys Stadium. It was the only time a much-changed

    Read More »from Silly season nearly over in Spain
  • Kempes likes look of Valencia

    Mario Kempes laughs when he is asked how Barcelona can be beaten. The Argentina legend, who scored two goals and set up the third in the 1978 World Cup final against Netherlands, is in Washington DC to watch the Catalans take on Manchester United in a sell-out friendly that will be watched by a local record crowd of 81,807.

    "It's not impossible to beat this Barca side," says Kempes, now 57 and living in Connecticut. "Nothing is impossible in football, but it's very, very difficult. They really know how to play because so many of them have played together for so long and share the same

    Read More »from Kempes likes look of Valencia