Hit The Bar Hiatus.


Hi everyone, I’m sorry but due to some unforseen circumstances and site renovation, Hit The Bar is going on a two month hiatus (yes, it is a long time). Don’t worry though, as soon as November starts, HTB will be back with its usual insight, analysis and more explosive content!

Stay tuned.

-Zain R. Mian

Zlatan ‘Unneeded’ovic- Should Ibrahimovic Leave Barcelona?


For quite some time now, there has been a dark cloud hovering over the Nou Camp in Barcelona. A cloud of uncertainty that surrounds the future of Zlatan Ibrahimovic at the club. Even though Ibra and his agent have consistently denied the possibility of a move away from the Nou Camp, rumors have refused to die down and with the passing of each day a move to Italy seems increasingly likely. But does a move away from the Blaugrana have to be a bad thing? Hit The Bar investigates:

This summer Barcelona signed one of the most prolific strikers of the modern game, David Villa. The Spanish forward is expected to grab the Pichichi award this season as fans are hoping he links up well with the team. This is something he has mastered at international level and hopes to replicate again for the club. This may well mean bad news for Zlatan though as he himself hasn’t exactly impressed in the Red and Blue this season.

Even though Guardiola has repeatedly stressed that he will play both Villa and Ibra’ together and El Guaje himself has said that he has no qualms about playing side-by-side with Zlatan, still a move away from the club may be the best option for him if he hopes to re-establish himself as a player. Since Barcelona don’t really need him in the truest sense of the word, he could well benefit from a transfer to another European Club.

Then there’s AC Milan, a prestigious club with an equally impressive history: With no less than seven Champions Leagues (inclusive of the old format) and seventeen Serie A titles to their credit Milan are undoubtedly one of the major players in Europe. What’s more, Milan actually want nay need Ibrahimovic in their ranks. The Rossoneri have been suffering from a prolonged slump for quite a long time and spectacularly crashed out of this season’s title race after coming within a couple of points of eventual Champions Inter.

Zlatan could be exactly what Milan need to partner with Alexander Pato upfront and bag them an excess of goals. The Swede will feel accustomed to the style of play in Serie A after his time with Inter and a return to Italy may just be the best option for him. But can Ibrahimovic be the catalyst Milan need to finally end their Serie A drought? Can he do the same for Milan as he did for their eternal rivals Inter?

Should he at least try?

I think Yes.              

-Zain R. Mian

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Mesut Ozil and Real Madrid: Should Barcelona Be Worried?


A few days ago, it was confirmed by both Real Madrid And Werder Bremen that German International Mesut Ozil had completed his long awaited transfer to Los Blancos.

The signing of the German international has capped off a spectacular run of Real Madrid summer spending in which the Whites also signed Pedro Leon, Sergio Canales, Sami Khedira, Ricardo Carvalho, and Angel Di Maria. These signings have signaled the formation of a “New Galacticos and a Real Revolution under Jose Mourinho now seems imminent.

Barcelona, on the other hand, have not been especially active in the transfer market this term. Besides adding David Villa and Adriano to their ranks, the Blaugrana have not been successful in acquiring the services of a midfielder (read: Cesc Fabregas) to slot into the first team. But should Cules be worried just yet? Have Real Madrid become too much of a force to be reckoned with?

I think not.

Granted, Real have done a lot of re-fortification this summer, but this was still not their weak point last year; the likes of Kaka, Ronaldo, and Xabi Alonso etc. were still quality signings that made up the bulk of the first team, a squad few teams could rival. 

But last year, even with all their ludicrous spending, they still lacked the “key” to unlocking the full potential of their players: cohesion.

Whereas Barcelona mastered the art of keeping possession and passing the ball a long time ago, Real Madrid are relative amateurs when compared to them and this is where they need to improve. Their so-called stars never even came close to producing anything similar to Barcelona’s eye-catching football which many other teams endeavor to play.

The Barcelona side, unlike Real Madrid, isn’t based on 11 multi-million dollar signings that have been put on the same pitch and told to “play.”. No, the majority of the Barca starting 11 comprises of players who have risen through the ranks at La Masia and slowly earned their right to play in the first team.

Thus, the Barca team formed as a result is a closely-knit bunch in which every player is keenly aware of the other’s strengths (and weaknesses).

Too bad for Real Madrid something like this can’t be bought otherwise I’m certain they’d be churning out the big bucks to try and land it. This may turn out to be the one great advantage that Barcelona have over them come the start of the new La Liga season and El Clasico, when it eventually does come around.

Another cause of concern for Barca is Real Madrid’s new tactician, Jose Mourinho. The Portuguese took over the reins of Los Blancos from Manuel Pellegrini approximately two months ago and it seems he will be looking to give the Pep Guardiola a run for his money this time around.

It was Jose who came out on top the last time the two of them locked horns in the Champions League, though it can be said his tactics in the second leg were less than inspirational.

“The Special One” has not lost at home since the 23rd of Feburary 2002, a scary statistic if you think about it. Pep Guardiola has also admitted himself that Jose has a case to be called the “Best Manager in the World.”

Thus, the biggest hurdle Barca must conquer is not any single man or a material object, it is the intellect of Jose Mourinho. Something I’m confident Joseph Guardiola and his Blaugrana are extremely capable of.

-Zain R. Mian

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*Also published on The Bleacher Report (Over 2500 views and counting)

Barca And Inter Lead UEFA Club Awards- Who Will Win Most?


Yesterday, Monday the 16th Of August saw UEFA announce their 12 nominees for the 2009/2010 European Awards. These include nominations for the Best Forward, Midfielder, Defender, Goalkeeper and of course, the overall Best European Player of the previous year. Last years winners included the likes of Edwin Van Der Sar, John Terry, Xavi Hernandez and the reigning World Player Of The Year, Lionel Messi.

This time around however, it is shocking to see that only one England-based player has made it into the elite list, Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney. Come to think of it, maybe it isn’t as shocking as it first seems if you muse over the fact that no English side made it into the Semi-Finals of the Champions League this season- a pretty rotten year for the English if you ask me.

Let’s put that aside for now though. This year 5 of the Club Award nominees are from Internazionale, followed by 4 from Barca and one each from Olympique Lyonnais and Bayern Munich, the aforementioned Rooney completing the dozen. Before we progress any further though, here is this year’s complete list of nominees:

• UEFA Best Goalkeeper of the Year
Júlio César (FC Internazionale)
Hugo Lloris (Olympique Lyonnais)
Víctor Valdés (FC Barcelona)

• UEFA Best Defender of the Year
Lúcio (FC Internazionale)
Maicon (FC Internazionale)
Gerard Piqué (FC Barcelona)

• UEFA Best Midfielder of the Year
Xavi Hernández (FC Barcelona)
Arjen Robben (FC Bayern München)
Wesley Sneijder (FC Internazionale)

• UEFA Best Forward of the Year
Lionel Messi (FC Barcelona)
Diego Milito (FC Internazionale)
Wayne Rooney (Manchester United FC)

Now if you ask me, I think Valdes doesn’t have a decent enough chance of claiming the award. Not that he’s not good (I’m a Barca Fan, mind you), it’s just that a majority of his clean-sheets are not due to his sole effort but he also needs to give his exceptional defense a great deal of credit for his achievements. Thus, I think the Goalkeeper of The Year may well go to the omnipresent Cesar or even Lyon’s Hugo Lloris. Valdes doesn’t really seem to be “in it to win it”, if you will.

Moving on, the next category i.e. the “UEFA Best Defender Of The Year” is indeed one of the most tightly contested categories this year. Featuring two legendary defenders in the form of Lucio and Maicon along with newly crowned World Champion Gerard Pique, it will be interesting to see who comes out on top. Personally, I’d prefer the latter to either of the two Brazilians (You’ve probably already guessed why). Only time will tell though which of the three gets to take the prize home to show off to mommy dearest.

Next we have the ” UEFA Best Midfielder Of The Year” category. Barcelona’s Xavi Hernandez and two ex-Madridistas, Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben form the triplet that is competing for this prestigious honour. All three nominees are exceptional, well matched players and this is probably the most open category of all- Each player has just as much chance to win it as the other. As much as I would love for Xavi to win, but Inter and Bayern Munich’s superb seasons have done him no favours and it seems it is likely that a new Midfielder Of The Year Will be crowned, most likely Wesley Sneijder.

But who will claim the “Best Forward Of The Year” I hear you say? Well to me there seems to be only one clear winner. A lad who goes by the name of Lionel Andres Messi. He will have his work cut out for him though, compatriot Diego Milito and the fiery Wayne Rooney will provide stiff competition for the young Argentine as he looks to conquer Europe once more (though on a more personal level).

Milito has 35 goals to his credit this season whereas Wazza has troubled the scoresheet 34 times. Leo on the other hand has scored a jaw-dropping 34 times in the league alone this season (something opposition defenders know all too well), tying legendary Ronaldo’s club record. Placing your money on this boy wonder should be a safe bet. Heck, he might even make it two Player Of The Year Awards in a row, something Wesley Sneijder will hope to make sure never happens.

The Gala will take place next Thursday at 17:45 CET.

  • On a seperate note, please donate to help the refugees of flood crisis in Pakistan, if you can. Click Here to do so.

-Zain R. Mian

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*Also published on The Bleacher Report

Premier League Picks: Two Games That Will Make The Difference This Week


I know it’s been quite a while since my last post (12 days, to be exact!) and so I thought I must post today! So here goes. One day from now, on the 14th of August, the Premier League kicks off. It has indeed been a very long, tiring wait but thank God football is back! (though La Liga is still a couple of weeks away) I can’t count all the boring weekend afternoons I’ve spent waiting for this day.

Alot has been going on in the British transfer window this season, some of the more notable transfers include:

  1. Joe Cole (Liverpool)
  2. Marouane Chamakh (Arsenal)
  3. Yossi Benayoun (Chelsea)
  4. Yaya Toure (Man City)
  5. David Silva (Man City)

Now that all the clubs have had enough time to pursue and sign the players they want/needed and the team squads are rested and ready the time has come to walk the walk, if you will. This will be the very first weekend of the Premier League and it is always crucial to do well in your first match of the season. Not only does a win give you a headstart over your close rivals (whether it be for the Title, European places or to escape Relegation) but it also sends out a message to opposing teams that you mean business and are not to be taken lightly.

That said, I’ve decided to pick the two games that may decide the course of the season for the teams involved. It wasn’t too difficult though as there were only a handful or so matches that could be considered marquee fixtures. So without further ado, here are my two picks:

1. Tottenham vs. Manchester City

  • Venue: White Hart Lane 
  • Time: 12:45 GMT
  • Prediction:This game promises to be a real humdinger as Harry Redknapp inspired Tottenham take on Roberto Mancini’s City. Even though these matches are usually extremely even and tense affairs, the Head-to-Head statistics narrate a more lop-sided story. City have not been able to defeat the Spurs in their last five attempts, Redknapp’s side taking the spoils each time. Manchester City though have done a great deal of consolodating in the summer through quality signings such as Yaya Toure and David Silva and are looking to snatch that crucial fourth (and final!) qualifying spot for the Champions League. Be sure to watch this one as it will be instrumental in deciding who will be playing top tier European Football next season and who will be left licking their wounds.  Predicted Score: 2-2

2. Liverpool vs. Arsenal

  • Venue: Anfield
  • Time: 16:00 GMT
  • Prediction: Undoubtedly the pick of this weekend’s matches; Liverpool vs Arsenal could be a potentially decisive season-opener for both teams as it sets the tone for the rest of the season. A win for either side gives a reassuring morale boost, a loss on the other hand could be fatal to their title hopes. Arsenal have the undisputed advantage on the Head-To-Head basis. The Gunners haven’t lost in their last 5 games against Liverpool, managing 3 wins and two draws including an Andrei Arshavin inspired 4-4 stalemate. Who will win this time around? Will it be Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal or Roy Hodgson’s Reds that defeat the opposition and earn a big win. You decide: Reply in the comments below.
  • Predicted Score: 3-2 Arsenal 

-Zain R. Mian

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Humor- What To Expect From Liverpool In The Premier League This Season?


 Hit The Bar takes a look on the lighter side of the game today as we speculate what will  become of Liverpool when the upcoming edition of the Premier League commences on the 15th of August.   

 

The Reds begin their upcoming season with a new hope, a renewed belief and an insatiable desire for victory. Fernando Torres only recently confirms his loyalty to the Club and it’s wonderful supporters, soon followed by Steven Gerrard negating the possibility of a transfer to any other club- especially Real Madrid. The squad is all prepped up and ready to give it their all, the fans are behind them a 110 percent, the owner’s are happy too- every one is convinced that this is their season!, the season that Liverpool Football Club rightfully claims the one title which has eluded them all too long- The Barclays Premier League!…  

Only, it isn’t.  

All the hype that is built up leading to the start of the new season soon meets a very anti-climatic end on the 15th Of August. Liverpool suffer  their first loss in the very first game of the season, a whopping 4-1 loss to Arsenal that leaves both Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard injured for the rest of the campaign (37 games to be exact). Pepe Reina scores the single Reds’ goal through a penalty after Torres is severely tackled and left injured in the box- by a gust of wind. No other Liverpool player is man enough to take the spot-kick.  

It happened something like this:

   

  

What? He was clearly tripped!  

Needless to say, the Reds prove to be nothing without their *STAR* players and an epic collapse ensues which sees Liverpool crash out, not just from title contention (they’ve gotten pretty used to that now, I might add) and European Football as a whole, but from the Premier League altogether! Going into the last game of the season, Liverpool need just a draw against Newcastle to secure their presence in the Premier League. Things with Liverpool though, don’t go to plan more often than not, and the Reds soon find themselves a goal behind as Newcastle take the lead early on from a Shola Ameobi strike. Liverpool are shell-shocked.  

They immediately begin the counter attack, trying ever so hard to get that one goal that could see them remain in the first division. But with the clock winding down, the players and manager begin to lose belief, seats begin to empty as fans leave the stadium, all hope seems lost. Just then, on 91′ minutes, Liverpool’s player of the season- Pepe Reina– goes on an epic run from his box, breaking through the entire Magpies’ squad before leaving a trail of defenders in his wake. The Newcastle keeper then rushes out to meet the berserk Reina at the edge of his area as he charges forward, Reina though shows supreme ball control as he majestically Rainbows the ‘keeper, leaving the open goal at his mercy.  

As he shoots, the whole of Anfield rises from its seat in unison, fans jump into the air in anticipation, up in the stands the announcer takes off his headset as he gawks at the ball coolly sliding towards goal, the entire stadium is caught in spectacular slow motion. Mouths gape open in ecstasy.  But just then, something seems to be falling out of the sky. Something big, round and… Red!.  

‘Oh no, the Beach-ball!, It’s back!’  

The cries spread around the stadium and the crowd watches in dumbfounded horror as the cheap, inflated piece of made-in-china club merchandise drops onto the pitch…right in front of goal!  

“Plonk!”, the two balls collide and the beach-ball pushes the football just around the near post, in a manner somewhat resembling a heroic last-ditch save. Liverpool are relegated and Pepe Reina is admitted to a mental asylum the next day. He is diagnosed with a chronic case of Beach-Ball induced trauma, never to play football again.  

Yeah boys, I'm back!

-The End-      

 -Zain R. Mian  

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*Also featured on: The Bleacher Report

EduarD’oh! and Other Summer Transfers


With regards to transfers and new signings etc. this has been a pretty slow summer, especially when you compare it with last year’s money-spinning transfer season. Even Real Madrid of all clubs have been relatively quiet. That said, there have been certain Big-money/Big-name signings throughout the summer break inluding the transfers of Thierry Henry, Eduardo, Joe Cole and even David Silva.

Some of these transfers will probably be good signings, especially those of Joe Cole and David Villa, but Eduardo’s move to Shakhtar is flabbergasting-to me at least. True, Marouane Chamakh might have been brought in as a replacement but I think Eduardo might have tried, perhaps, just one more season at Arsenal before moving to Shakhtar. Anyway, here’s my take on some of this summer’s marquee transfers:

Joe Cole (Chelsea to Liverpool) 

JCole

Transfer Fee: Free Transfer

This transfer is probably Liverpool’s best of the season(unless they sign Lionel Messi or something of the kind). Ever since the departure of Xabi Alonso to Madrid, the Reds failed to find a suitable replacement to take his place in midfield. Alberto Aquilani was rarely played and Mascherano can be criticised of being perhaps a bit too defensive. Joe Cole will surely be a good replacement and will hopefully, for Roy Hodgson’s sake, slide seamlessly into the first team. He may also be deployed on the wing.

Thierry Henry (Barcelona to NY Red Bulls)

THenryTransfer Fee: Undisclosed

It seems to be a win-win transfer all around, the Red Bulls land a quality player eager to rebuild his reputation from the ground up, Barcelona are finally able to release someone who was unable to quite fit into the team and Henry himself earns some valuable playing time, something that was hard to come by at Barca. Even though I still don’t think moving to the MLS is a good choice for Thierry, nevertheless he has proven me wrong so far as he showed his commitment to the Bulls in his very first match, even grabbing a goal in his first game(though he was subsituted at half-time).

Eduardo (Arsenal to Shakhtar)

EduardoTransfer Fee: £6 million

 At just £6 million, Eduardo is a steal for Shakhtar. He’s without doubt a great player in my view and I still cannot see any reason why he should wan’t to leave Arsenal. It might be his less than perfect recent form for the Gunners, Eduardo only netted twice in all of his 24 League games for Arsenal this season. The signing of Moroccan Marouane Chamakh may also have led to Eduardo feeling his services were no longer required at the North London Club, hence his transfer to Shakhtar. Only time will tell whether this was a good decision on part of the Croatian though.

 David Silva (Valencia to Manchester City)

SilvaTransfer Fee: £24 million

Undoubtedly one of the best buys of the summer so far (second only to his former team-mate,David Villa), David Silva is all  set to light up the Premier league with his quick feet, pace and long range shootin. It will be interesting to see how Roberto Mancini lines him up in Manchester City’s midfield. The only downside of this transfer is for Valencia who have lost two of their best players,not that they haven’t been fairly compensated for each. It all hinges on what they spend their new found riches on.

Yaya Toure (Barcelona to Machester City)

YayatoureTransfer Fee: £24 million

Toure transferred to Mancester City a while back after being neglected by Pep Guardiola time and time again when it came to first team football, often in favour of Sergio Busquets. Even then, Yaya Toure is still undoubtedly a good midfielder, especially if played in the holding role. No matter how Toure performs as a citizen, one thing is for sure, Barcelona have lost one of their hardest workers on the pitch, the one who did the donkey-work if you will, so Messi and Co. could weave their magic up front. 

-Zain R. Mian

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