Saturday, December 12, 2009

Marching to the Mestalla


Valencia await us tomorrow in a match that will prove to be the ultimate test of character for the team. There will be no Kaka marauding the Valencia area or jetting past their stone-footed midfield and defense. We will also not have CR96 available after his 3 moments of madness against Almeria. He will have to watch the side effect of his actions last week from the television screen tomorrow night. We will be facing them with a good albeit unspectacular side instead and will have to play them straight on with good football without relying on the moments of magic that our 2 unavailable 'supercracks' can conjure up. We will be playing a top level side for the fourth time this season (the others being Sevilla, Milan twice & Barca) with the chance to finally break our duck against teams of such calibre. A win in this match without our 2 stars will be a statement to the world about our character, a massive injection of morale to the squad as well as the much-needed sense of affirmation Manuel Pellegrini needs to prove his worth as the manager of Real Madrid.
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Valencia are one of several Spanish teams that are currently falling apart financially but have managed to produce results that soothe the wounds of financial turmoil instead of rubbing salt on them. A big part of this is due to the good work of Unai Emery who will be fancying his chances to end up with 3 points knowing that the only people in Real Madrid '8' and '9' in the stadium are the minority Madrid fans in the stands. Pellegrini clearly has his work cut out for him.
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Valencia will be without David Silva but will still be headlined by El Guaje David Villa. Weeks ago, he has stated that be bears no grudges against Florentino for not letting Valencia push us around financially for the him. But with the rumor mill rife with talk of a Villa switch to Madrid added to his first statements of willingness to move abroad will have the world in attention and him extra motivated. Though it would be Raul Albiol who will know him best having spent many years with him at Valencia, it will in fact be Pepe who will be tasked with tracking him and keeping up with his wily movement as well as threatening pace.

At midfield, the Asturian Ace will also be backed up by Valencia's own wonderkids Pablo Hernandez and ex-madridista Juan Mata. Marcelo, Lass will Xabi Alonso will have their work cut out for them tracking these guys. A report came out of a funny anecdote saying that Arbeloa had to use the contact lenses of Albiol during one of recent matches (not sure if it was against Marseille or Almeria) after losing it on a collision in the match. He and Albiol will need to pack an extra set: keeping track of Mata (why he isn’t wearing all white for this match is beyond me) and Joaquin surging down the wings and going from zone to zone on the pitch will require his and Sergio Ramos’ full awareness and complete concentration... and perfect eyesight.
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On ttack, with no Cristiano Ronaldo and no Kaka, I anticipate Pellegrini to continue with his tactic of switching lineups, between a diamond 4-4-2 (or a 4-3-1-2, 4-1-3-2 or 4-1-2-1-2) and a 4-5-1 (or 4-2-3-1 ‘double pivot’):
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-------------Casillas-----------
Ramos-Pepe-Albiol-Arbeloa
-Lass-Xabi Alonso-Marcelo-
------- Van Der Vaart ----------
-------Higuain-Benzema-------
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Or:
-------------Casillas-----------
Ramos-Pepe-Albiol-Arbeloa
-------Lass-Xabi Alonso-------
Higuain-----VDV-----Marcelo
------------Benzema-------------
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Having no Cristiano Ronaldo keeps this tactical set up more straightforward than it could be (where he and Pipita could switch positions as striker or winger on the counter). Van Der Vaart will continue on to play his preferred role behind the 2 strikers where we have seen him emerge and do really well as Kaka’s substitute (I can’t help but think though how things’d be like if we had Wesley Sneijder in his place instead). Benzema’s inclusion in the XI gives us a physical presence up front that we didn’t have in the past games, it will remain to be a question however whether he chooses to drop deep into midfield too much and choke it up or choose to be the menace he can be. The young Frenchman also seems to be lacking sharpness and confidence (the premature rumors of his possible summer exit don’t help at all) and needs to find and put in his A game for this one. So far this season, he’s managed to score off rebounds (Milan, Almeria), a header, a goal off a counter attack. His one other goal, as I remember is off a move where he charges the defense while dribbling the ball, then firing towards the goal: a move that is blocked by a defender 99/100 times. Hopefully we will have a Higuain in his element to pounce in on a clutch goalscoring opportunity.
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Most of all, Pellegrini will need to drill his wards on concentration for 90 minutes. Valencia are not Almeria. If we fall into our newly-acquired disease of letting our level drop after a period of time and concede goals in the process, getting back on the saddle will be no simple task... it will also likely mean paying the price of dropping points, and losing ground in our chase for Barca. We are a team without our 2 big guns heading into hostile territory. We need character.
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People liked talking about us just needing to have our 2 ‘supercracks’ back to show the world who we really are. Perhaps it’s in these moments without them that we find out just who we really are.

3 comments:

  1. Hello my friend.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFitcGWQeY8

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi! I´ve discovered your blog thanks to El Socio, and I´m pleasantly surprised with your comments and analysis. Youre doing a really good work. Keep it up!

    Greets from Spain!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hi Mr. Brown, nice of you to come by! Do come back again to share your thoughts!

    ReplyDelete