Extra Time: El Clsico Edition

Extra Time: El Clsico Edition

Often, sports are overrun with hyperbole. How many times can a game, a match or a fight be billed as the game, the match or the fight of the year, the decade or the century? Typically, we fall into the hyperbole trap when two rivals are set to square off. The bitter rivals narrative is easily understandable. Two people or teams compete to see which is best. There's a winner and a loser - only when there isn't and there's a tie, which is wholly unsatisfying. 
I preface this post with a warning on hyperbole and rivalry because what I am about to say is assuredly not hyperbole. This afternoon the two best soccer players on the planet will be on opposing sides as the two best soccer teams in the world face each other. Lionel Messi. Cristiano Ronaldo. Barcelona. Real Madrid. El Clásico.
In order to get you ready for today's Clásico I've rounded up a bunch of links covering everything from the sociopolitical implications that fuel this rivalry to a tactical breakdown of how the teams are likely to play. Vamanos...
First, beyond the rivalry this game is vitally important in the La Liga standings. Barcelona can pull to within one point of first place Madrid with a win. Each team has five league games yet to play.
Here's a nice primer on why these two clubs are such bitter rivals. The history between these two cities/regions makes our hatred of Dallas seem like child's play. There are very real social, political and economic reasons behind this rivalry.
Every great rivalry needs a villain. Enter Madrid's Pepe. Grantland's Chris Ryan writes about a player unafraid to dabble in the dark arts. Bonus, Ryan's piece includes a 4+ minute video of Pepe stepping on people, punching people and fouling people titled "Pepe - The Assassin". 

The tacticians over at Zonal Marking preview the approach, formation, team selection and tactics likely to be employed by Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola. 
Speaking of tactics, this piece dates back to Spain's triumph in the 2010 World Cup, but it's as good a read as you'll find on how Barca's 4-2-3-1 has permeated world futbol
Need a break from clicking on links and reading? Check this stunning animation from Barca's 5-0 thrashing of Madrid back in 2010...

Want even more of an artistic look at one of the main players in this match. The Classical has a fantastic hand-drawn "Focus On: Lionel 'Leo' Messi".
Continuing with a cartoonish theme, Grant Wahl has a fun interview with the colorful Ray Hudson, who along with Phil Schoen will call the game for GolTv today.
ESPN.com's Graham Hunter, who literally wrote a book on Barcelona, previews the match in light of both teams having played Champions League Semifinal fixtures midweek. 
Finally, if this game is not enough for you there's a very real chance these two teams will play each other in the Champions League finals, which Spain's national team manager contemplates here.
Artwork by Matthew Craven via The Classical

In cruel twist, former Eagle Byron Maxwell one of NFL's top corners now

In cruel twist, former Eagle Byron Maxwell one of NFL's top corners now

Remember how excited you were when the Eagles signed Byron Maxwell to a huge free-agent contract in 2015? Remember how much more excited you were this past April when the team traded Maxwell and Kiko Alonso to the Dolphins to move up five spots in the first round of the NFL draft?

Well, as it turns out, Maxwell may not have been the dog most everybody in Philadelphia seemed to think he was. At least, the sixth-year veteran is having a good enough season in Miami to boast without a hint of irony that he's the best cornerback in the league, and smart writer-types like Armando Salguero for the Miami Herald are actually buying it.

Maxwell's performance this season has him so filled with confidence, he's going right after Cardinals All-Pro cornerback Patrick Peterson for an imaginary title.

“Man, listen, if he wants to say that, he can say that. I’m pretty sure he believes that,” Maxwell said of Peterson being the best. “Just like I believe I’m the best.

“Nothing against him, he is a great cornerback. The answer depends on who you ask.”

The answer might depend who you ask, but pretty sure the only people who would respond with "Byron Maxwell" are Maxwell himself and maybe a few people in his family. I'm not even sure Maxwell's own mother would proclaim him the best corner in the NFL.

This isn't just Philly picking a bone with Maxwell either, a free-agent bust who the team couldn't wait to unload this offseason. While his attitude was questionable and he had little chance of ever living up to the six-year contract worth $63 million the Eagles gave him in the offseason, Maxwell actually got a little bit of unfair shake here. He made terrible first and last impressions, but was okay in between.

Whether he's one of the best corners in the NFL or not though, it turns out the Eagles probably could've used him this year. Leodis McKelvin is terrible, Nolan Carroll isn't much better, Ron Brooks is on injured reserve and the defense has had to ask way too much of seventh-round draft pick Jalen Mills.

It's just another example of how the Eagles improperly prepared at the position heading into this season. Trading Maxwell and then Eric Rowe to the Patriots as well — two players that accounted for 19 starts in 2015 — left the club little room for error with regard to how they filled those jobs.

The sad thing is, both Maxwell and Rowe are probably better than anything the Eagles have, and Maxwell in particular gets to go around bragging about how he's the best in the league. It's a gut punch to be certain, and amid an Eagles season increasingly filled with them.

Eagles Injury Update: Eagles hurting at wideout vs. Washington

Eagles Injury Update: Eagles hurting at wideout vs. Washington

The Eagles are a little banged up at their skill positions heading into Sunday’s game against Washington at the Linc. 

Jordan Matthews (ankle), Ryan Mathews (knee) and Dorial Green-Beckham (abdomen) are all listed as questionable. 

Right tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai (knee) is the only player who has been ruled out. 

Ryan Mathews, who has missed the past two games with an MCL sprain, was a full participant on both Wednesday and Thursday. “Today, we’re going to back [Mathews] down just a touch, so we can keep him ready to go for Sunday,” head coach Doug Pederson said on Friday morning. 

Jordan Matthews missed the Bengals game after injuring his ankle against the Packers. It was the first missed game of his career. Matthews was a limited participant on Wednesday for precautionary reasons, according to Pederson. 

“[Matthews] was great on Thursday and no setbacks,” Pederson said. “He made it through practice. We look forward to having him a good day again today.”

It seems a little more likely that Matthews and Mathews will be able to play on Sunday than Green-Beckham. 

Green-Beckham, who hurt his mid-section during the loss to the Bengals, wasn't able to practice on Wednesday or Thursday. Still, earlier in the week, Pederson said he thought DGB would be able to play this weekend. 

“He’s still on that path,” Pederson said Friday. “He worked yesterday a little bit. It’s still sore. I want to see where he’s going to be today before making a full decision on him. I don’t want to risk having a guy out there that’s not 100 percent.”

With Green-Beckham and Matthews banged up, it looks like the Eagles will go into this game with just three fully healthy wide receivers – Nelson Agholor, Bryce Treggs and Paul Turner.

Pederson said there’s no immediate plan to sign another receiver to the 53-man roster. 

So what’s the plan at wideout? The same thing the Eagles did last week. 

“Well, I’ll probably lean more on the tight ends,” Pederson said. “Trey [Burton] has kind of taken that role the last couple of weeks. Trey Burton and Zach [Ertz] and Brent [Celek]. That’d be the direction we’d go.”