The Lead

We all know the point of football is finishing first on your domestic table. Aside from all the hyperbole about the importance of the Champions League, it’s a little midweek celebration, a reason to skip work and make wildly declarative statements about the absolute value of your club/country because they beat a side from Germany with two starting players injured on away goals over two legs.

It’s still just the bit of sugar on your cereal, the cereal being the grinding, sometimes hopeless business of league fixtures.

That of course is the real reason for football: getting up early or midday on the weekend, trucking out to some godawful ground or the one pub you know will open early, and inhaling reams of fixtures like Norwich v Wigan and Getafe v Osasuna. Why? Because if the Champions League is art, domestic league football is science.

Sure, you can wiggle your way through a knockout competition against some of the best teams of last season through a fairly arbitrary draw and an equally arbitrary knockout route to the final.

But after 38 home and away fixtures against the other 19 best clubs in your nation, we’re going to know something of what your team is all about. That’s a nice sample size, big enough to make some definitive judgments about a club, but small enough that it’s prone to error and luck to make things interesting.

This year, sadly, things on the business end of the European domestic leagues just aren’t very interesting. In Spain, Barcelona are nine points clear of Atletico Madrid, and 13 points clear of Real. Bayern are 9 points ahead of Bayer Leverkusen, but 12 points in front of ostensible ‘title contenders’ Dortmund. Juventus are a far more interesting 7 points clear of Inter. Man United are in relative squeaker with Manchester City, but are still six points clear on top of the table.

Not all of these leads are unassailable, and some are down as much to objective superiority as they are to incredible shot conversion rates, a reflection in some cases (Lionel Messi) of skill beyond skill. But all of them involve an uphill climb on the part of their nearest likely challenger (France is still pretty cool, with three teams tied on 35 points on top spot, but then again, it’s Ligue 1).

It would be unwise to draw any strident conclusions from these patterns, but for narrative reasons it’s pretty much balls, despite the lies we tell ourselves about Champions League spots and relegation battles.

Canada

An in-depth look at Canadian defender Mason Trafford.

England

Balotelli takes Manchester City to tribunal over fine dispute.

“There’s no party for us, and the same for the staff. That’s how it should be.” -Newcastle manager Alan Pardew says club doesn’t deserve Christmas party.

Fellaini could face nine-match ban.

Italy

Fiorentina not interested in January signings.

Siena part ways with coach Serse Cosmi after devastating loss in Tuscan Derby.

Robinho eager to leave AC Milan in January and return to Brazil.

Bologna’s Portanova says he practiced every day despite four-month suspension.

La Liga

Abidal admits he may rule out football if it means compromising his health.

Tito Vilanova cautious despite nine-point lead.

Barcelona to sport Catalan colours on away jerseys next season.

Germany

Dortmund coach Juergen Klopp content with third-place finish entering winter break.

Schalke 04 fire coach Huub Stevens after dropping to 7th in the league.

Bit and Bobs

Counting down the best tweets of the year.

Brazil opens doors to first 2014 World Cup stadium.

Anelka nearing Shanghai exit.

South African Football Association suspends its president over match-fixing allegations.

Comments (7)

  1. I find it comical that Barca claim to be the consensus leading symbol for Catalan independance. Do people there not realize that the club benefits more than any other team in La Liga from SPANISH TV money? If Catalonia breaks off, how much money will Barca make in a Catalan league? Wanna ask Celtic how being a modern day huge club in a puny nation is working out for them? Biting the hand that feeds…

    • Agreed…if that’s the case, maybe they should institute a Catalan-only policy then? See how that works out for them.

    • If I’mma be honest…I’ve been to Barcelona and I still have no idea why the fck they want Independence…

      Like I’ve been to Bilbao and they ain’t to keen on madrid either but they’re chill tho. Seems like Catalunya want independence just for the sake of it…which is stupid lol.

  2. Fellaini gets a nine match ban…along with a few bonus’s in his contract hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha

  3. Fellaini gets a nine match ban? This game is a fucking joke.

  4. Over?, dont be daft. Granted La Liga is because its a poor league, and predictable, massive yawn. The Premiership isnt over by no means, its 6 points and that nothing. United have to go to Swansea and get something, where as City have a home banker against Reading. I seem to recall United throwing an 8 point lead away last season too?..

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