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Thursday Kickoff: Barcelona takes first leg, Spector solid in upset win, and more


In a game filled with attacking superstars, it was a pair of gritty defenders that decided the latest edition of El Clasico.

Carles Puyol and Eric Abidal turned around a 1-0 halftime deficit as Barcelona defeated eternal rivals Real Madrid, 2-1, at the Estadio Bernabeu in the first leg of the quarterfinals of the Copa del Rey Wednesday. Cristiano Ronaldo opened the scoring for Los Blancos, only for Barcelona's waves of pressure to wear down the Madrid defense over the course of the match.

The game played out in eerily similar fashion to the two teams' last meeting, on December 10 in league play. In that match, Karim Benzema put Madrid up a goal in the opening minute, only for his team to welt under pressure en route to a 3-1 win for Barcelona.

The result gives the Blaugranes a massive advantage heading into next week's second leg at Camp Nou, where even a draw will do for the hosts. Los Blancos will need to defeat Barcelona in their own stadium for the first time since 2007 if they hope to advance.

With the win, Barcelona drew level with Madrid in all-time head-to-head victories in competitive matches. Each team has now defeated the other 86 times, with 45 draws.

Here are some other stories to get your day started:


American defender Jonathan Spector went the full 90 minutes and contributed to a clean sheet as Birmingham shocked Premier League side Wolverhampton in an FA Cup third round replay on Wednesday.

Spector almost put visiting Birmingham up at the end of the first half but his long-range shot went just wide of the post. His team eventually got on the board in the 74th minte through Wade Elliot, and they managed to hold on to reach the round of 32.

Spector played at right back throughout the match, a position he has much experience with on the U.S. national team. He has been deployed throughout the backline during his time at Birmingham, who he joined last year.


On the same day that he watched his team fall 2-1 to Barcelona from the substitute's bench, Real Madrid playmaker Kaka was linked by Italian press to French team PSG. Late Wednesday, he denied those reports and expressed his committment to Real Madrid.

PSG has been extremely active in the transfer market over the last calendar year, and with new coach Carlo Ancelotti leading the way, a move for Kaka seemed logical. Kaka flourished under Ancelotti during their time at AC Milan, leading them to a league title in 2004 and a Champions League trophy in 2007. The Brazilian has struggled mightily to retain that form since joining Madrid in 2009.


Despite being offered a massive raise, Manchester City midfielder Nigel de Jong apparently isn't satisfied and City have decided to unload him at the end of this season.

De Jong was reportedly offered around $150,000 per week to remain at City, or roughly $8 million a year. That's compared to his current salary of $6 million per year, but de Jong wants more. He refused the contract extension on Wednesday, leading City to decide to sell him.

The Dutch midfielder, known for his rash tackles and a memorable kung-fu kick on Spanish midfielder Xabi Alonso in the 2010 World Cup final, has lost his place in the City starting lineup, as coach Roberto Mancini has favored Gareth Barry and Yaya Toure in midfield instead.


What did you think of Barcelona's come-from-behind win in the Copa del Rey? Did you catch Spector's FA Cup performance? Do you see Kaka getting sold this January? Is De Jong worth as much as he thinks he is?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. Spector played RB, but he used it as a springboard to get forward and play in the middle. Often he drifted into the midfield and the midfielder drifted back to cover.. he’d carry the ball into the middle and distribute and take his time getting back.

    I’ve always liked his skill.. he just needs to find the best way to capitalize what he’s got.

  2. Excited about Cisse as a Newcastle fan myself. Just trying to imagine once they get clicking how many goals we can score. With Cabaye and Tiote policing the midfield, and HBA seeming to come into form, the sky is the limit. Knock on wood we stay healthy though.

  3. WT eff are you talking about?!

    Altintop SHUT DOWN (for the most part) Iniesta and also got forward well, nearly assising on header by Benzema. Most consistent player on the night along with Carvahlo and Casillas.

  4. he accepted the blame. his crap formation backfired. at least he’ll have no choice but to attack at the Nou. even winning 1-0 won’t put them through. a 2-0 win is needed (or a similar variation).

  5. i agree. CR actually showed up to play and was by far Madrid’s best player. Mou really screwed Madrid over by playing three defensive minded mids. there was no connect to the three strikers. Ozil or Kaka were SORELY missing. also, Altintop at RB just didn’t make any sense. and he didn’t play very well on defense. going forward, he was pretty good. but i think Pepe should have been at CB, Ramos at RB and Marcelo at LB.

    As for Pepe, as a Madrid fan, I can’t stand him anymore. I’m over his B/S.

  6. Sorry K Bone, DeJong is all about playing time. I don’t think this was about $$ at all. It will be interesting to see how much City want for him. Seeing as they have been unable to move Tevez, will this be another case of them overspending so badly that they can’t sell him off?

  7. Nothing about Newcastle signing Papiss Cisse? 2nd top scorer in the Bundesliga last year, brilliant signing. Can’t wait to see him and Ba together when they get back from ACoN.

    First two Ameobis, now two Dembas!

  8. Re: “…whiney Mourinho who will surely find another excuse for his failures.”

    I was surprised to read this quote in a British paper:
    Mourinho accepted the blame. “Victory has many fathers, defeat has just one – and that’s me,” he said.

  9. John, just so you know, biff has a promotion pending to Major.

    No offense to our fine Navy boys … “Major Obvious” just seems a bit more a propos than “Admiral Obvious.”

  10. Pepe is a disgrace to the game- I’m not saying he’s the only one either.. I’m an RM fan, but things like that just ruin it for me…

  11. Pepe is a punk. So is whiney Mourinho who will surely find another excuse for his failures. And the reason that the games seem to play out the same way is that RM’s plan is effective as long as their players can exert the amount of mental and physical energy needed to keep up the defensive pressure on Barca. That is why they are effective in the first 20 minutes because they are fresh. But no one can keep that up for 90 minutes so they begin to tire from endlessly chasing Barca and after 40 minutes they are done.

  12. I’m not sure what De Jong is thinking. Obviously City can afford to pay him that much, but if he’s going to demand that kind of money at other clubs, he’s going to be in for a surprise. I feel like only at City can you sit the bench and then be offered a raise, and then have the balls to counter with an even bigger raise. I think he took a gamble and now he may be hurting. I would imagine City will want a sizeable transfer fee as well…

  13. “Pepe has skills and can defend really well, but his antiques are a disgrace to the game ”

    And your ANTICS are a disgrace to spellcheck. Well done.

  14. I agree with your post. PePe is a mental midget and he let’s xavi and messi get in his head every game. But he isnt the only one. The whole team is full of mental midgets. As soon they are under the gun they crack. As soon as Puyal scored it was over they panicked and it all fell apart. Not sure if that’s a coaching issue but it happens everytime they play Barca.

  15. Barca is a superior team, but I actually thought that this game was much closer than the last one. If Real does not allow Puyol that free header of a corner kick, the outcome could have been diffferent. Having said that, Barca had a much better second half than Real and had most of the chances. Also, Ronaldo came ready to play and looked like a man on a mission, having two good sliding tackles in the first ten minutes of the game, before scoring a nice goal. Pepe is a punk and I am glad that Mourinho took him out. Pepe has skills and can defend really well, but his antiques are a disgrace to the game – he should have been sent off after stepping on Messi’s hand. Messi did not have a great game by his standards until his sublime pass to Abidal. Iniesta, Xavi, Fabergas and Sanchez played really well.

  16. USMNT fans may not like him but De Jong is a player who will be in demand. In the EPL I would think Liverpool, Arsenal, and even Man U could use an enforcer like De Jong. He will end up with a top team. I doubt he is leaving over money so he won’t end up in China or Qatar or some place people only go for the money. He will go to a Champions League contender for more PT.

  17. Let’s not forget that De Jong also is well known for breaking Stuart Holden’s leg during a “friendly” USMNT-Netherlands match in March 2010.


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