Andy Mitten

  • Barca fans show their love to try to keep Guardiola

    Pep Guardiola Pep Guardiola There were only seven minutes left on the Camp Nou scoreboard during Sunday's 5-1 rout over Valencia when Barça fans aired a song that is far from usual.

    "Guardiola, Guardiola, Guardiola," they hollered from the sud o del nord. It didn't sound quite right, like the word had too many syllables. The usual chants of "Messi, Messi, Messi" or "Xavi, Xavi, Xavi" are easier on the tongue, but the Barça fans wanted — needed - to make their point to their brilliant coach. Needed to show him that they love him.

    Guardiola had looked tense and distracted. Despite his side coming from behind to win 5-1 and

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  • Villarreal set for a renaissance

    You can walk from one side of Villarreal to the other in 25 minutes. From the tiny, two platform, train station to the sprawling CF Villarreal's cuidad deportivo, fitted around fields growing oranges, on the other. You walk past the town's solitary hotel and by houses clad in ceramics so garish they'd work as a set for Balamory. They're a reminder of the main local industry and the reason why Villarreal benefactor Fernando Roig made his money.

    The tallest building in the town of 51,000 is the new stand which is used to house away fans at the El Madrigal stadium. It towers over the rest of the

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  • Atletico get a kick out of Simeone

    Diego Simeone, new Atletico Madrid boss

    Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone rose from the bench to urge his team forward in the final minutes of Sunday's league game at home to Valencia. Atleti's Argentinian new chief was hoping to see his side register a fourth successive win to continue their surge up the league table. No winner came, but there was a sixth consecutive clean sheet, more evidence that the man famously kicked by David Beckham in France '98 has sorted out their defence.

    Fans of Spain's third best supported club (average crowd 41,105 last season) have long learnt to expect the unexpected. Their club has been renowned

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  • Minnows Mirandes one shock away from Europe

    MirandesThe red and black scarves of CD Mirandes fans stood out sharply against the blue and white lights of Espanyol's Cornella-El Prat stadium on a freezing January night.

    The fans posed for photos like those on a first trip to Wembley. Their team, who play in Spain's regional third tier, had exceeded all expectations by reaching the quarter-final of the Copa del Rey. Not only that, they'd done it by eliminating Primera Division sides Racing Santander and Villarreal plus Logrones, Linense and Amorebieta in the early rounds.

    Now, 2,000 fans - more than their average home gate - had made the five-hour

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  • Why Madrid fans remain so restless

    Real Madrid concede against Barcelona

    The taxi driver curses as his cab nudges through the post-match traffic on Madrid's grandest avenue. The giant shell of Santiago Bernabéu slips away behind, empty but for 800 delirious Barcelona fans.

    "Cristiano is only here for the money," says the driver in a monotone which echoes what's being said in animated voices on radio. "He's not Madrid. He only cares about himself or that girl who can't keep her clothes on."

    You might be surprised to hear criticisms of the world's second best player from Madrid fans. Criticism for the team's top scorer, the star of the top of the league team, the

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  • Seville derby stokes passion like no other

    Sevilla and Betis produce heated encountersThe 2,500 travelling fans will meet near the Sanchez Pizjuan stadium for the two-mile walk south to the district of Heliopolis. Police will watch as they gather by the beautiful mosaic which dominates the street outside a stadium traditionally favoured by the Spanish national side. The mosaic depicts the Sevilla club crest in the centre and it's surrounded by 60 crests of major clubs in Spain and world football who've visited the club.

    Police, in vans and on horseback, will give the signal when they are ready to go and the long procession will start towards the home of their city rivals, Real

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  • The shame of Spanish football

    "One started it and then others followed, pockets of fans making monkey noises whenever Daniel Alves touched the ball. It was by no means the majority, but it was clearly audible. Some were mimicking a monkey, many of them were laughing. They only did it with Alves, not Eric Abidal, a black Barca player.

    "I was angry and asked them what they were doing. Some of them laughed and said it was only a bit of fun. Those closest to me stopped when they saw me object."

    Those were the words from a friend who is an Espanyol season ticket holder. I was on the opposite side of the stadium and knew

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  • Welcome to Barcelona’s other club

    Espanyol's Estadi Cornella-El PratLet's take a trip to the Catalan derby between Espanyol and Barcelona, a journey you won't be aware of if you watch the televised game. The two teams meet on Sunday night in one of the most pernicious games in Spain. The fans hate each other and the relationship between the two clubs is far from diplomatic.

    The journey starts three hours before the match at Placa Espanya, close to the tourist sights of Montjuic, the dancing fountains and Espanyol's Olympic Stadium home between 1997-2009. Most of the camera-clicking tourists will ask the same question — just who are all these people in blue and

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  • La Liga review of the year

    Lionel Messi clasps the Champions League trophy in MayMoment of the year
    Barcelona winning the Champions League at Wembley after again outclassing Manchester United in the final.

    Team of the year: Barcelona
    Pep Guardiola's side continued to dominate both domestic and European football. They amassed a staggering five trophies in the calendar year, beating Real Madrid to the Spanish league and Super Cup but losing out to Mourinho's side in the Copa del Rey final. That was a rare blip in a year in which they outplayed United just as they outclassed Porto in the final of the European Super Cup and Santos in the Club World Cup. This Barca line-up can

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  • La Liga’s forgotten giants

    Rome has the Colosseum, Athens the Panathenaic stadium which hosted the first modern Olympics.

    Both are uncovered stone built arenas that bake in the Mediterranean sun, and which staged some of the greatest spectacles of the ancient world.

    Valencia has a more impressive construction than both. Like the others, it's open and multi-tiered, except it's far bigger. The Panathenaic still seats 45,000 and the Colosseum could hold 50,000. Valencia's Nou Mestalla holds even more, except Valencia's arena isn't a Roman relic, but a modern day edifice which started rising from the ground in 2006, only

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