Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Pre-Lyon Thoughts


The Bernabeu must Burn tonight vs. Lyon: Make 'em feel the heat.
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I'm not one to do previews prior to matches as I'm not as proficient at giving previews to how other teams play. To keep up with Real Madrid's matches live is hard enough for me... and they're the only club that I love enough to bother with... for the rest of the teams of the world, I actually only follow them at 'my convenience'... and by that it means, getting only to see them on highlight shows and the occasional replay. Following European Football however is not a convenient exercise given the place where I live. In this part of the world, most of the matches would be shown at un-Godly hours... and in this part of the world (Singapore), there is an irritatingly bone-headed tendency to not care about the beautiful game outside of England: the place where the beautiful game is very rarely played beautifully.
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But I'm anxious as hell... in a few hours, we will be playing the return leg of our Last 16 elimination tie vs. Olympique Lyonnais. Let’s call this an exception and if the few readers of this blog like it enough and ask me to do more, I’ll try to do it more often then…
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For the past 5 years, on this night, our dreams of 'La Decima' ended...
For the past 5 years, on this night, we branded our selves in a state of crisis...
For the past 5 years, after this night, we started a mindless faultfinding witchhunt...
For the past 5 years, after this night, a few players and a few managers sealed their fate...
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Right this very moment, I am praying that next year, those 4 lines will no longer stand. A tough task of over-turning that 1-0 result at Lyon lies at hand for my beloved Merengues and here are some thoughts:
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Absences
Reports from the Madrid Press are indicating that Real Madrid will be starting with a lineup that will look something like:
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----------- Casillas ----------
Ramos-Garay-Albiol-Arbeloa
----- Granero-Lass-Guti -----
------------ Kaka ------------
------ Ronaldo-Higuain ------
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No Marcelo (out due to yellow card accumulation) means no nightmare possibilities of seeing him at left back. No Marcelo at midfield however is a loss to the team: his pace, energy, efficient use of the ball, occasional shooting and width would have been great assets to the team especially in a situation where we REALLY need to score. No Xabi Alonso will mean that we do not have the trusty midfield organizer who can keep things ticking for us and keep the game at a rhythm and pace that we prefer.
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In their place will be the Jekyll-and-Hyde Guti who is as capable to destroying the opponent with one of this signature-laser-guided passes as he is of destroying his own side with one moment of madness. He can do this too with his overall game: by becoming the perpetual linkman and passing outlet or by choosing to go to bed on the Bernabeu Pitch in his kit in front of 80,000 people. Granero has been poor in his last few starts and has been largely anonymous in his contributions to either thwart the opposing midfield’s advances or puncture through their defense. On his day though, he can be an effective linkman, a danger with his set pieces and long range missiles as well as his balls into the box. But while many have declared their preference for Rafa Van Der Vaart to start, as much as I've grown to like the player, he just doesn't have that holistic 2-way presence we need that Granero offers: that ability to hold midfield position, keep possession and even do some 'defensive labor'. I prefer to keep him as our 'last roll of the dice' gamble instead.
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Without the 2 the need for Sergio Ramos to OWN his flank as he did against Sevilla becomes even more vital. He and Arbeloa must play 2-way football tonight: support the attack by relieving the midfield with the ball possession as needed and be smart and solid at the back to prevent counters from Lyon's wingers. Lass must get an earpiece with a one sentence recording playing into his ear for the full 90 over minutes of the match saying: No fouls in our third of the pitch… over and over and over again.
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Focus
Manuel Pellegrini has called upon his team to play tonight like they did the last 70 minutes of the Sevilla match. I say they play like the final 25 minutes of the First half and the final 35 minutes of the Second Half of the Sevilla match. That is to say, EXCLUDE the shaky unsure and out-of-focus moments of last weekend’s match. Any sort of that in tonight’s game can and will cost us very, very dearly.
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A fullback beaten to allow a cross, a central defender caught out of position, a failed clearance, a miscommunication or misreading of a dead ball situation can all prove to be fatal. We need 90 minutes of pure concentration, pure energy and pure killer instinct. On defense and on attack.
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Tonight is the time for Kaka's verticality to rip through the defense to silence his critics, for Pipita to score the Hat Trick he's been missing out on thus far this season to earn his pay raise… for Ronaldo to score a few of his ‘Tomahawks’ and much more… to justify some part of his 96m-Euro transfer fee.
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80,0011
Tonight is also the night the Bernabeu must forget that it is overrun by the prawn sandwich brigade... that they are 80,000 SUPPORTERS of Real Madrid football club, not the spoiled, petulant, we're-only-interested-if we're-winning-5-0-and-playing-sexy-football brats that they're infamously reputed as. The Bernabeu can be a vicious place for Real Madrid and their opponents alike. Whistles and boos at our own players will deflate the team even more. Tonight is the time to recreate the ambience of that match when we tried to overturn that dreadful result vs. Zaragoza in the Copa Del Rey.... The Bernabeu must by it atmosphere alone make the Frenchies shit their pants. It should by it's atmosphere convey the message: 'tonight, you guys are going to get the beating of our lives...' A beating so bad that the grandchildren of today's Lyon fans will shake in fear at the thought of a visit to Madrid. My message to those who will be blessed with the chance to be at the Bernabeu tonight is: 'Support your club Goddammit!' AS's Tomas Roncero romanticized about the idea of 80,011 against 11. It must be so tonight.
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A Battle Cry
Tonight is a night for REAL MADRID to show its character. By 'REAL MADRID', I speak of everyone who loves and cares for the club:
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-The players who must fight, play well and win as a tribute to honor the badges on they have the privilege to carry on their shirts.
-The coaching staff who must motivate the lads and shelve any plans to experiment with tactics on this Real Madrid squad who know how to win by flooding their opponents with goals.
-The management who must stop their ‘there-is-always-someONE-to-blame’ philosophy when things don’t go well. Sometimes, or rather, most of the time, crises and even successes are not down to single ingredients but due to the overall system… the overall system that they have created.
-The supporters who must learn to balance praise and criticism… and that the TRUE fans support their team during times of triumph and failure…. Through the good bad and ugly.
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Hala Madrid!

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