Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Aftershocks


UEFA technically have no Evidence. But if this does happen, our Champions League Campaign will be in Technically a LOT of Danger.
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Playing Cards And Going Bust
Checking my e-mail while half-asleep this morning, I discovered through Muna’s comments in my previous post that UEFA has fired their salt salvo and landed it right smack at the center of Real Madrid’s open wound: Mourinho, for his late-game, yellow-card inducing antics will be suspended for the next 2 Champions League games for Real Madrid. Casillas, Dudek, Xabi Alonso and Sergio Ramos, along with the club were given fines too. The most painful punishment for the club would of course be Mourinho’s 2-game suspension as I’m sure that the fines can be easily taken care of by the fat paychecks of the players.
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This 2-game ban (which will likely be a Stadium Ban, not the joke of a “suspension” Mourinho received for his Copa Del Rey tussle with the referee) will include, apart from the meaningless Auxerre clash, the first leg of the Round of 16 match: the away leg. After the match and Mourinho’s Card-Playing antics, I worried:
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“...In the end, this clearly-obvious plan to ‘complete the cycle’ can backfire against Mourinho and the club as all it takes is an attention-seeking, self-righteous clown with some clout to come forward and insist on a retrospective punishment for the 'guilty'...”
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UEFA has (cleverly) hit us where it really hurts, denying us the chance for the manager to be present at the exact part of the Champions League where we have chronically failed miserably at for as long as I can remember. Their justification makes perfect sense too: if Mourinho did this because he felt that the Auxerre match was academic, then suspending him for that would’ve made no sense: making the 2-match ban logical.
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I’m not sure what strings can be pulled in the appeal process (we’ve got 3 Days) to get a ‘discount’ but we all (including Mourinho!) better pray we can get it. The ramifications could be fatal: because while many of us are level-headed enough not to expect to raise La Decima this season, we all expect (and rightly so) to get past the last 16.
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Yellow Cards and Red Cards are not Playing Cards. Mourinho tried to play Black Jack with them and now we’ve gone bust. Shit.
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Pipita’s Injury
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Football Fans Know Better
Are We Really Comfortable with This? (Benzema as our Main Striker)
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And just when getting raped 5-0 at the Camp Nou and getting Mourinho a 2-match Champions League Ban was bad enough, here comes more: Reports are now indicating that Gonzalo ‘Pipita’ Higuain might not just be niggled, but that he may need surgery and will miss a huge chunk of the season.
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With the not-yet-up-to-par Benzema as our only striking alternative, we face the prospect of going a long distance this season with only 1 striker… one who happens to still be a project.
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Football Fans Know Better
The much-criticized 'Trivote' (used away against Auxerre) yielded an 0-1 win for Madrid. I do think it's got much potential in making us an effective offensive team as well. (we can use Granero in Lass' place too for a more attack-minded approach)
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Mourinho will now need to show us his true powers (the same ones that went missing last Monday) to make the neither-living-nor-dead (i.e. Zombie) Karim Benzema come back to life and show us the player that made many of us (including me) fantasize about seeing him in a Real Madrid shirt, when he strutted his stuff during his glory days for Lyon. Otherwise, Mourinho might have to look to his bench in search for alternatives (i.e. CR7 up front): Pedro Leon as a winger to keep the 4-2-3-1? Granero behind CR7 with Ozil moving to the wing (to prove me wrong that he’s really flexible)? Or a 4-3-3 with Lass at midfield?

Football Fans Know Better
Will Mourinho give them a chance? The young Canales and the talented Granero are both talented enough to be in the starting XI. They are short of confidence though and Mourinho seems short on confidence on the both of them too
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A Pipita injury might also mean that Madrid might need to consider their options in the winter transfer window. With a month to go before it opens, it would be prudent to explore the options, however limited they might be at this time of the year (AS has even mooted the possibility of brining Werder Bremen's Hugo Almeida in... he's cup tied by the way).
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Sometimes, when things go wrong, they REALLY go wrong.
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Facing Valencia
Given all of this, we face Valencia on Saturday amid much pondering on how the Bernabeu will respond to our team… or an even more pertinent question: how will the team respond to the Bernabeu and against a Valencia side, who have shown some pretty good mettle thus far in La Liga. They also will have 2 players who would be happy to stab our hearts with goals for allowing them to slip out of the cantera: Juan Mata and Roberto Soldado.
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We will be facing Los Che’s eager attacking players without the suspended Ricardo Carvalho (yellow card accumulation) and Sergio Ramos (insanity). Luckily, our defensive line, unlike our forward line, is stocked nicely with capable subs with the more-than-capable Raul Albiol and Alvaro Arbeloa ready to step in.
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Here’s another Card-alert to note however: Xabi Alonso and Sami Khedira are both on 4 yellow cards.
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Waxing Lyrical, Waxing Philosophical
Despite the fact that last Monday was probably Mourinho’s most catastrophic failure as an on-the-pitch tactician, much of his post-match statements made sense and seemed to lay the ground work for the way out of the grave that we’ve dug ourselves into:
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"… It wasn’t one of those defeats that leave a bad taste in your mouth because we didn’t deserve to lose or because the referee performed badly or because the ball hit the post. One team played as well as it could and the other played badly. It is a deserving win and a deserving defeat, which makes it easy to swallow."
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Living in an EPL-crazy town, I’ve watched Mourinho wax lyrical about how fabulously his team played even after a loss or after an utterly unconvincing 1-0 win. His post-match statements however surprised me in its humility, and peaceful acceptace of how poor we were and how great Barca was… despite the rest of the world preferring to focus on his ‘we were not humiliated’ statement and mindlessly called it denial.
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"I hope this does not affect the players psychologically. I told them exactly that. That the championship didn’t end today. Who knows if we will return to this stadium again this season? Last year I lost here with Inter and a few months later we returned, qualified for the Champions League final and they got stuck at home watching it on television. We must have character. I always tell players that they have reason to cry with joy after winning important matches. You cannot cry when you concede four or five goals. You must be anxious to return to work and win the next match… "
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Mourinho, known for his ability to get into the minds of his players to set their heads straight will have a dressing room filled with players whose brains have been turned into mashed potato following last Monday’s massacre. That the players are all very young, is also a huge factor as it is likely that much of these youngsters’ confidence has been sucked out of them. Mourinho will have to do his best work in the coming weeks to recover the team’s ‘lost innocence’… and will need to spend the weeks after turning this group of weeping puppies into a pack of depraved, blood-thirsty wolves.
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And by the way… to do that… he needs us (Madridistimo) too.

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