Some thoughts on FC Barcelona’s style, one that yielded trophy-filled substance

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When Barcelona brushed aside Manchester United last year, claiming its second Champions League title in three years, I wrote about hyperbole.

I wrote in my blog about journalists’ over dependence on it. They are prone to it the way excited teenagers are prone to drama, admittedly. It’s part of the journalistic condition; we like to feel that we are living in, and writing about, history in the making.

All that said, I truly felt that Barcelona FC’s recent version, under Pep Guardiola’s masterful watch, must surely have been among the top individual clubs of all time.

To see what they did that 2011 day (pictured) to Sir Alex Ferguson’s might men was breathtaking. Remember, this outstanding Manchester United assembly had just won another English Premier League title, crowned champions in an association so many consider the globe’s best. And yet, the loss to Barcelona looked like varsity vs. JV on the schoolyard.

I wrote that Barcelona, guided majestically by Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Leo Messi, were absolutely playing a different game – and quite a beautiful one.

When elements of substance and style come together so seamlessly, so effectively, something truly enlightened is going on.

See, there’s that hyperbole I talked about. But I believe it’s justified in this case.

The entire side’s ability to create space and maintain the tidiest of control is like none I’ve ever seen. Their overall tactical awareness and individual attention to spacing and efficient movement off the ball is sublime. Their passing precision (giving the ball to the correct foot, for instance, at just the right moment) is utterly enlightened. Their footwork is perennially bright and active. And consider that the level of fitness required for that pressing game is something most of can’t fathom.

That’s what I wrote on my blog a year ago.

This year’s Barcelona? Something was clearly missing, a knife’s edge gone dull. Still, what Guardiola built over four years shouldn’t be diminished. The blessedness of substance meeting style never should be.

UCL Playoff Wrap: Liverpool, Sporting CP, CSKA advance to group stage

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It was another memorable European night for Liverpool in front of the Kop at Anfield.

Lifted by three goals in the opening 21 minutes, the Reds cruised to a 4-2 win over Hoffenheim 1899 in the second leg of the UEFA Champions League playoff stage Wednesday evening. With the win, Liverpool returns to the Champions League group stage for the first time since the 2014-2015 season.

[ MORE: Champions League scores ]

Sadio Mane set up Emre Can twice and both Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino chipped in with goals of their own to lead Liverpool to victory. After Can’s double and Salah’s goal gave Liverpool a three-goal lead, Hoffenheim’s Julian Nagelsmann brought Mark Uth off the bench onto the field and he promptly scored in the 28th minute to draw within two.

Firmino again put Liverpool ahead by three goals with a goal into an open net in the 63rd minute. Hoffenheim recorded a consolation goal in the 79th minute through Sandro Wagner but Liverpool was resolute and held on for victory.

Liverpool, and the rest of the winning clubs, will learn their fates for the group stage on Thursday.

Here’s a look at the rest of the Champions League playoff scores:

Slavia Prague 0-0 APOEL (APOEL advances 2-0 on aggregate)

FC Copenhagen 2-1 Qarabag FK (Qarabag advances on away goals, 2-2 on aggregate)

FCSB (Steaua București) 1-5 Sporting CP (Sporting CP advances 5-1 on aggregate)

CSKA Moscow 2-0 BSC Young Boys (CSKA advances on aggregate, 3-0)

VIDEO: A sneak peek of Everton’s Europa League journey – Part 2

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In Part 2 of Everton Unseen, European football returns to Goodison Park as Everton host MFK Ruzomberok in the qualifying round of the Europa League.

Click play on the video below to get a feel for how Goodison Park will be in the second leg of the Europa League in Part 2 of this videos series.

[ MORE: Live Europa League scores

[ WATCH: Part 1 of Everton Unseen ] 

http://www.nbcsports.com/video/everton-unseen-part-2-everton-host-mfk-ruzomberok-europa-league

FIFA to send in emergency team to run Cameroon football

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ZURICH (AP) FIFA says it is sending in an emergency management team to run the troubled Cameroon football federation.

The panel to be appointed by FIFA and the Confederation of African Football (CAF) will oversee elections by next March to replace disputed polls in 2015 for the Cameroon federation board.

FIFA’s intervention comes amid speculation Cameroon could be stripped of hosting the next African Cup of Nations in June-July 2019.

CAF President Ahmad this month cast doubt on Cameroon’s ability to prepare for the expanded 24-team tournament.

FIFA says Wednesday it acted after “recent failed attempts … to reconcile the football stakeholders in Cameroon and overcome the current impasse.”

Transfer Roundup: Tottenham complete signing of Sanchez, Clucas joins Swansea

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Tottenham reportedly broke the bank for its first transfer of the summer.

The North London club confirmed that it had completed a transfer with Ajax for defender Davinson Sanchez after the Colombian international passed a medical. According to The Telegraph, the deal is worth around $54 million, a club record. The deal is subject to acquisition of Sanchez’s work permit but given the transfer fee and him being in Colombia’s squad, it’s likely a mere formality at this point.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

The 21-year-old defender brings speed and strength to Tottenham’s backline as well as a year of seasoning in the Eredivisie, which features plenty of attacking talent. Sanchez will battle with Eric Dier, Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen for a place in Spurs’ three-man backline.

It’s a risk moving to a new club a year ahead of the World Cup, but Sanchez is hoping that with appearances in the UEFA Champions League and Premier League up for grabs, he can do well enough to keep his place in the Colombia National Team squad.

Here’s some more transfer news from across England:

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