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Marco’s Page

Football causes a lot of soul-searching for me. Oftentimes, I wonder what is that drew me in to this ridiculous obsession; why I’m so fascinated by the many players and clubs around the world and the fortunes of people I’ll never know. I think that one of the most seductive aspects of the beautiful game, for me, is the chance to witness history as it happens. I grew up reading books and articles about players with ability of mystical proportion: Maradona, Pelé et al and the impossible seeming exploits they managed with a ball and the world at their feet. Yet, even when watching video, these heroes of the past seem like just that – fictional heroes, drawn up by some novelist of the years before me. The opportunity to witness these acts in their contemporary context – happening, real, and in my time – is one of the things I crave and find a real beauty in.

Due to this fascination I have watched almost every FC Barçelona game in recent times because they have, as I’m sure you’re aware, the man who many believe is the greatest footballer ever to step foot on a pitch. Yet, on an ominous Tuesday night for his Catalonian giants, not even a magician like Lionel Messi could pull a rabbit out of the hat as they were crushed by Paris Saint-Germain. This is a player who, with my own eyes, I have seen so things that are wholly implausible. He is impossibly good and every time his team is struggling he somehow conjures up another spell, a supernatural force that simply doesn’t belong amid a scientific field of tactics on boards and a rush of athletes sprinting around a grass pitch. In the Parc des Princes, the hero was muted.

On these European nights, icons are made. Much has been made of the Parisians’ 4-0 drubbing – Emery’s pressing tactics, Luis Enrique’s occasionally puzzling selection, Barça’s inconsistency this term – and such academia is generally the form of analysis I particularly place interest in. However, at its core, football is about the footballers. Imperious in midfield, a stout, shaved Italian by the name of Marco Verratti orchestrated the thrashing of what was thought to be Europe’s greatest side. With every touch of the ball, he brought alive the boisterous calderon surrounding him and was relentless as helpless legends such as Andrés Iniesta, Luis Suárez, Lionel Messi and the like were oppressed by his work.

Of course, Marco did not do this alone. There could have been several nominees for man of the match and maybe some would say he was not even the most impressive player in the PSG midfield. Yet, at the end of Valentine’s day, all I could envision was the figure of the 5’5″ Italian sorcerer effortlessly weaving his way around the Parc des Princes turf beneath the beautiful Paris sky, his name forever inked into footballing history and stories that will last forever.

What to Watch: Friday, Feb 10th

Football is not just for the weekend. Teams all over Europe once again clash on this Friday evening and there are some very interesting fixtures – here are our three, picked out especially for you to keep an eye on.

LA LIGA: Espanyol (8th; 32PTS) vs Real Sociedad (5th; 32PTS) (KO 19:45)

The pick of the games on Friday evening, Real Sociedad have an opportunity to briefly surpass Atletico Madrid into 4th place in La Liga as they bravely fight the Madrid club for a Champions League qualification spot. However, it is far from an easy game as they visit the Estadi Cornellà-El Prat in Barcelona to play an in-form Espanyol side who are pushing for a Europa League spot thanks to a fantastic run of results. Espanyol have won their last three games scoring seven goals including an impressive win over title challengers Sevilla and the thrilling Pablo Piatti is in a rich vein of form. Meanwhile, the higher placed La Real have struggled to just one win in their last three – a 3-2 win at home to relegation-threatened Osasuna which makes this an extremely intriguing tie.

TURKISH SUPER LIG: Karabukspor (10th; 24PTS) vs Besiktas (1st; 44PTS) (KO 16:00)

Turkish Super Lig leaders Besiktas have hardly put a foot wrong of late, having scored nine goals in their last two league games against Alanyaspor and Konyaspor. However, they are after 19 rounds just two points clear of second place Istanbul minnows Basaksehir meaning each game is a high-pressure situation. Unfortunately for them then, they travel to the fortress that is the Dr. Necmettin Şeyhoğlu Stadium, the home of Karabukspor. Karabukspor are tenth in the table but are fourth in the home table, plundering an impressive 20 points from 10 games there in the league. They’re in the mood for home upsets, too, having beat Turkish giants Galatasaray 2-1 recently (round 18). However, Besiktas’ quality away record means they are very prepared for this tough trip, and they are equipped with quality attacking talent such as Quaresma and Tosun which makes this game very interesting.

BUNDESLIGA: Mainz (13th; 22PTS) vs FC Augsburg (10th; 24PTS) (KO 19:30)

An Augsburg side enjoying a post-winter break revival who have won their last two games including a 3-2 thriller over Werder Bremen will be buoyed for their visit to FSV Mainz 05 who have picked up just two points in their last four Bundesliga games, and are coming off a 4-0 thrashing at the hands of Julian Nagelsmann’s Hoffenheim. This one is sure to be an open game, with a confident yet somewhat unconvincing Augsburg side looking to attack a Mainz side that has conceded 35 goals in their 19 Bundesliga games. Raul Bobadilla particularly will be a threat for Augsburg after his 94th minute winner at home to Bremen, while Mainz will possibly start their new loan signing Bojan Krkic to give their team and fans a lift in this crucial game between two sides very close in the table.

OTHER GAMES:

A-League – Adelaide United vs Perth Glory (KO 08:50)

Belgian Pro League – St. Truiden vs Genk (KO 19:30)

English Championship – Sheff. Wed vs Birmingham (KO 19:45)

Ligue 1 – Bordeaux vs Paris Saint-Germain (KO 19:45)

Serie A – Napoli vs Genoa (KO 19:45)

Eredivisie – Zwolle vs Nijmegen (KO 19:00)

Primeira Liga – Benfica vs Arouca (KO 20:30)