Saturday, November 28, 2009

Pre-El Clasico Thoughts








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Perhaps to continue the train of thought from what I had just mentioned in my earlier blog entry (Killer Instinct), Barcelona (or this particular Barcelona side rather) do not fall anywhere near the category of Zurich or Racing… and not even to the current Milan (emerging from their ‘slumber’) side. Against them tomorrow, we will need to summon the best individual and team performance(s) as well as tactical effectiveness on top of 90 minutes of pure Killer Instinct from our team. This doesn’t necessarily mean a full on attack, but 90+ minutes of pure and absolute concentration and game awareness.
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As I’ve mentioned in the podcast posted below, I do not think or expect for us to step onto the Camp Nou pitch and give take the fight to them. I am expecting and hoping for a clever tactical plan that will allow us to effectively absorb their one-touch possession football on key points of the pitch; which can allow us open avenues to hit them on the counter. This season, the players that we have are far more suited to play with this game plan.
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One defense, we have a fit Pepe (albeit likely to be partnered with a 2nd-choice Garay, coming in for the likely-injured Albiol), Sergio Ramos (who was given cover by Lass during the Zurich game, in a clever tactical move by Pellegrini) and the usually defensively-disciplined Arbeloa: a clear upgrade from our backline in last year’s equivalent fixture.
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We continue to have Lass Diarra who will now partner with Xabi Alonso at the Center of the pitch: making for a combination of players who are both technically gifted, have the combative ability to by physical to win balls and finally with Xabi Alonso around: the vision and the ball distribution capacity to funnel out balls to initiate counter-attacking maneuvers. The big difference will of course be the attack, where it is obvious that we have an across-the-board upgrade.
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The biggest difference between Juande Ramos’ and Manuel Pellegrini’s side between last season however, will be on attack. The Chilean has already made the bold decision to place Raul on his rightful place on the team based on ability and form (on the bench). Due to Cristiano’s injury, we have thus far seen Marcelo play the role of ‘faux-winger’ on the left side with Kaka playing his natural role behind the striker/s. Pipita Higuain has also been given his rightful place in the Starting XI and has been making his statement ‘Damn Right! I deserve to be here!’ with his goal scoring form. His presence on the pitch, as opposed to Raul has also made the 35m-Euro signing Karim Benzema look better and more comfortable.
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With this lineup, Manuel Pellegrini can sleep tonight knowing that once that single counterattacking opportunity that leaves one of our players one-on-one with Valdez comes up, the Man-in-White charging the Catalan ‘keeper would likely be one of either Higuain, Benzema, Kaka or Cristiano Ronaldo instead of Miguel Palanca or Royston Drenthe.
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In the end though, I am not bold enough to predict a win at this point given how truly awesome this Barca team is at the moment. We still have the guns however to get to them and to walk away from this match able to prove that we can stand toe-to-toe with them and send the warning out that we WILL get them.

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