Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Sinking the Submarine


For Stretches of the Match: We played some great Attacking Football as a TEAM. And that REALLY got Madridisimo Fantasizing. 'Ilusion' is what Florentino Perez likes to call it.
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When I woke up on monday morning from a very deep slumber, the very first thing that I saw was the clock: it read 7:00. In a split second, I shot out of bed realizing that I had failed to wake up to the 4am alarm clock setting I had set for myself to see Real Madrid's match vs. Villarreal. I hopped onto my PC to check the score: 6-2. We Massacred them! and I missed it yet again (I missed seeing my Merengues put Zaragoza to the sword) last December too. MISSING out on seeing my beloved Real Madrid shrug off the pressure from the Lyon fallout in the days prior to the match... what a miserable way to start the week.
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So I spent last night watching the replay of the game online (the Singapore broadcasters aren't very hot on La Liga due to their EPL fixation)... and here are my thoughts:
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1.) Why is Marcelo still playing at left back? Is Pellegrini trying to prove a point? Perhaps in wins like this, there is the mindset that it can conceal this clear defect in our lineup and tactics. In the long rin however, against the big teams.... or even just the better teams.... especially those whose offensive game plan is to attack through the flanks, this weakness will end up becoming exposed yet again.
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I'd also like to say that this is not fair to Marcelo, who is a tremendous asset on the left side of the pitch with his pace, his dribbling, his workrate... and even in the efficiency/economy of his movements (I've yet to see him 'over-elaborate' during possession). Let me make this very clear to all: I think Marcelo is a good player and I'm happy to know that he's signed an extension, I just do not want to see him playing Left Back for Real Madrid EVER again.
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2.) It was clear that everytime we raced to a 2 goal lead, our propensity to lower our level of play and surrender the initiative during the match never fails to rear its ugly head again. In last Sunday's match, we took a 2 goal lead twice.... both times followed by an extraordinary drop in the level of our play. This is unacceptable. This will get us killed in the Champions League especially. We fell asleep against Milan in the Champions League after taking the lead and did the same without even scoring after 15 minutes against Lyon. The same happened with plenty of our victories in La Lige. This is not a good sign. Manuel Pellegrini, his coaching staff... even Manuel Pardeza and Jorge Valdano need to have a close look at this and drill it into the heads of the players: the match is 90 minutes long... not merely the time it takes for us to take the lead.
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3.) Let us not be over-euphoric about this match over the scoreline: 2 of the goals were penalties, 1 was a free kick (which it can be said, were awarded rather generously). And as I've mentioned above, we gave Villarreal a lifeline one too many times.
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An image we all remember this match by: Villarreal was helpless to stop Ronaldo: who, for the first time this season, made us play better as a team.
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4.) Cristiano Ronaldo was indeed the Man of the Match by a mile. His free kick to score the opening goal was amazing and he was all over the pitch today: involved in practically every goal we scored. Perhaps he deserved a hat trick and perhaps not... I'm happy nevertheless that he is being recognized and praised now despite scoring 'merely' 1 out of Madrid's 6 goals: the praises are a message to him from Madridisimo that even without the goals, his contribution to the team was very important. I'm happy that he ultimately allowed Xabi Alonso to score his debut goal for Real Madrid but still cannot get used to (or tolerate) his petulant reaction at giving the chance for his teammate to score.
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I wish to point out however that in long stretches of this game, he played in the wings and was incredibly effective: forcing Villarreal's midfield and defense open for our guys to overrun them. This is a tactical variant that perhaps Pellegrini ought to consider more. My props to him as well for the gesture to support his hometown in light of their flooding tragedy.
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5.) A big part of the reason why Villarreal were able to gain control of the match during certain patches of the game (particularly after we scored our first 2 goals) was due to our midfield's inability to seize control of their zone. Lass seemed to have done nothing but foul players all night while Granero continues to blow hot and cold. this is yet another worrying, but seemingly unnoticed bit of information on last Sunday's match that is being masked by the emphatic scoreline.
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6.) It makes me feel REALLY good to see our very own Pipita Higuain gunning to become Pichichi. the boy who grew up in front of our very eyes now has his name next to David Villa, Leo Messi and our very own Castrol Boy. Let me also point out another name in the Pichichi rankings who could be wearing the white shirt today: tied with Cristiano Ronaldo with 12 La Liga goals so far: Roberto Soldado. We're all still cheering for you 'Soldier'!
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7.) Are we EVER going to see Raul score again?
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Seeing Kaka in AC Milan made me say: 'Shit, I wish he played for Madrid?' These days, I find myself saying 'Where's the guy from Milan?'
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8.) I notice that Kaka seems reluctant to turn on those jets in his legs that made him so famous and so great in AC Milan. Too many times have we seen this season Kaka latch onto a ball played into space for him, only for him to race to it and stop to turn another direction instead of using his legendary accelleration to zip past his defender and attack the goal. Is this his hernia/groin injury? It's a worrying point to note that the Bernabeu seems to have picked up on as well as the Brazilian was also subject to a few jeers last Sunday. In this regard, it relieves me to see an on-the-up Rafa Van Der Vaart put pressure on Kaka not only to get Ricky to get his act going, but also for us to have another potent option in case the Brazilian's stale form or in case his hernia injury acts up.
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9.) For the number 9 item, I wish to call on the name of one of the greatest '9's of all time: Ronaldo: who has announced his retirement at the end of next season. He was the footballer whom I followed accross 2 World Cup campaigns and into Real Madrid that cultivated the love I have for this club. Beyond the Transvestites, the Beer Belly and the endless list of vices is the greatest goal scorer of all time. We wish him well. I pray that the day may come when he can step onto the pitch of the Bernabeu once again to be applauded. Despite all he has done to make me despise him back then, I would happily applaud him with all of Madridisimo.

Friday, February 19, 2010

2010-02-17: Real Madrid Talk Podcast

 

 
In this week's podcast, we had a full crew: Adam Bader of Real Madrid Talk, Kevin Walker of La Liga Weekly and Corey of Real Madrid - The Offside... we also had a special guest: Isaiah from Barcelona Football Blog.
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The discussions we had prior to, during the recording and intermission for this podcast turned out to be a wonderful opportunity to blow off steam over the Great Gerland Disaster: we also looked back to last week's Xerez match and looked forward to this weekend's Villarreal game at the Bernabeu.
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We also took this chance to grill Isaiah on the goings on at the Camp Nou... and if you're wondering what that noise in the background was all about: it was the intense chatbox banter that went on behind the scenes between the Madridistas and the lone Cule.
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I hope everyone enjoys listening to this one just as we did recording it.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Not Again!!!


Lyon were all over us: They out-muscled, out-fought and out worked us last night... What ever happened to our pride? Our fighting spirit?
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Tim Stannard’s La Liga Loca column was a great defeated “I’ll drink to that!” moment for me this morning (after witnessing our absolutely horrendous performance last Tuesday night in the Champions League). He seemed to have written his column before the match itself link to article here):
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Madrid ready for their annual knock-out round
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“We’re going to show that we're Real Madrid,” growled a mean and moody Esteban Granero from betwixt the pages of Tuesday’s Marca.
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La Liga Loca is assuming the grungy midfielder doesn’t mean “by getting dumped out of the Champions League at the first knock-out stages” – as has happened in each of the past five seasons.
It’s February folks, so once again it’s “this year, The Tenth is ours!” time in the Madridista press - a perennial campaign that has been fairly short-lived thanks to the interventions of Juventus, Arsenal, Bayern, Roma and Liverpool.
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But this time everything will be different…”
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No, it wasn't different.... not at all. With barely enough time to enjoy the fact that an injury-ravaged Barca gave up 3 points this weekend (brining their La Liga lead down to 2), we find ourselves in a very familiar position once again. It is a position that seems to be a default mode setting for everyone in the club in the past 5 years: First elimination round of the Champions League: and we're shitting our pants once again... losing 0-1 and facing the prospect of elimination in a tournament that too many Real Madrid fans have claimed as 'our tournament'. Gosh, today, that statement is so fricking old-fashioned... embarrassingly dated.
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With all due respect to Olympique Lyonnais (whom I salute for their great performance last night), We're not exactly talking about Fabio Capello's Juventus here... or a Thierry Henry in-his-peak-led Arsenal (complete with an 'overlap' with the Cesc Fabregas era)... or perennial favorites Bayern Munich... (forget Roma we choked big time in that one)... or a Liverpool squad that zipped to second place in the EPL last season. This was a Lyon side that I had described in our last podcast as being sort of in that part of a cycle following a an era marked by a remarkable 7-consecutive League Titles. This was a Lyon side that had lost their BEST player to US (who now warms our bench!)... This was a Lyon side struggling with its identity and consistency... This was a Lyon side, who despite being clearly a very good team, we, Real Madrid, who spent a fortune on the world's best players last summer... are supposed to beat! But we didn't. We choked.
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That's a big problem.
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Choking is a big problem because it is my belief that choking is a symptom of lack of character. For a club with the stature, money and players that Real Madrid have, beating Xerez 5-0 or 0-3 is something to be expected. Then again, to beat teams like Lyon (with all due respect to their stature) is also to be expected. With all the talk and wetdreams in the past (perhaps till today) from the likes of Florentino Perez to come up with a 'European Superleague'... I find myself asking the question: Should we even consider that to be a good idea considering how terrible we've been in facing the best. Ditto for those like Lyon that are just thereabout but ot quite yet.
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Lyon outmuscled us, outworked us and out fought us... they outright outplayed us. They swarmed us in midfield, frustrated us as we attacked... and hit us on the counter repeatedly. Yes, yes... Makoun's goal wasn't exactly a counter, it was perhaps even a semi-Hail Mary shot... it doesn't however, disguise the fact that we played poorly. Prior to recording this week's podcast, Isaiah of Barcafootball Blog commented during our pre-recording discussion that we played the first 15 minutes with complete domination... only to fall asleep for the remaining 75 minutes: how can any team expect to do this agaist a side that has been in the Champions League for the last decade?
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Madrid Press Madness: They have started the fingerpointing game. Thankfully, most of Madridisimo are level-headed enough to think that ALL are at fault
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Once again, let me call out the Madrid press for being a total shitter in this situation: acting like lunatics going through an uncontrollable menopausal moodswing: endlessly and pointlessly looking for someone to finger. I'm not even sure what sinister question they posed to Kaka (who had a few good moments charging down the left wing in the second half), that got the normally level-headed, shy and humble Brazilian go 'Don't Blame Me'... oh yes... it was actually the Spanish Press who decided to take his statements out of context to make him sound like a 'washing-my-hands' loser by deciding to make that one line as the headline for the news item (where he simply wished to highlight that the entire group was accountable and not one individual). AS continued with the blame game by posting a survey on their site asking 'who's to blame?' with the choices being: The Team, Pellegrini, The Whole Lot or Lyon (i.e. they were just to good). Thankfully, most of Madridisimo are level-headed enough to think that all are at fault... an opinion that this Madridista shares. Let's go through the lot:
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Common Sense
I would like to pose a question to Manuel Pellegrini: With a fit Garay.... what shitty thing did you eat for breakfast that you still believe that Marcelo is capable of playing at Left Back? Has it not been established countless times that this guy is NOT capable of playing at this position (despite his own delusions that he's a left back... perhaps he hangs with Diego?). When Lyon's starting XI flashed on my computer screen, it showed a 5-man midfield spread accross the entire width of the pitch: Claude Puel is not a genius by a long stretch of the imagination, but it became absolutely common sense that left back #12 was the weak point of our defense. And boy did he go to town with that idea in the first half... Govou just skinned him. Over and over again. I was happy the Marcelo left flank nightmare was over by halftime. A really good article/commenrtary on the subejct of Pellegrini's tactics was written by Goal.com's Sulmaan Ahmad can be found here
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A Dreadful Defensive Display
Our pre-podcast recording discussions on the defensive display had Corey from the Real Madrid Offside come up with the 'prostitute's legs wide open' metaphor (a fitting one) to describe the ridiculous number of shots and passes that were weaved right through Albiol's legs: most of them by Lisandro Lopez who ran and fought his socks off in a display worthy of the ovation he recieved from the Stade Gerland.
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With the culprit of the poor performance clearly coming from the 3-man midfield that drowned because of Lyon's 5-man midfield mob: it makes me scratch my head why our defensive line never bothered to move up to:
1.) close the gaping HOLE that was left between our line of overrun midfield players and the defense
2.) serve as a passing outlet / inlet to reset plays if our midfield guys can't manage to get the ball to our attackers.
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The Lyon onslaught was so overwhelming that we actually even saw Iker Casillas shitting his pants and putting on a nervy performance. Apart from the sequence we all remember where he cleared the ball, or rather, passed it right to Lisandro Lopez for a goal-scoring opportunity, a review of the goal also brings out the question: Did he not look to be a bit off his line during the sequence that led to the goal (with a row of defenders in front of him).
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Attack
With a drowned midfield our attack was sterile, discombobulated... even laugable. Pipita didn't show up until his narrow angled shot at Lloris' goal and looked to be in shock at how the French Defenders seemed to be able to keep up with him. His existence in the match left me broken hearted. The readers of this blog surely know of how much I adore him for his qualities in big games and his character. His no show last Tuesday is a big, big dissappointment.
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The reactions on Kaka have been mixed: we have all seen him grow and re-develop in the past few games with evidence suggesting that he's on his way back to being in his 'Milan form'. Despite his largely anonymous first half where we all remember his repeated failed passes, his lost balls from failed charging/dribbling attempts towards the Lyon game: his second half attacks, sometimes against 3-4 Lyon defenders acquits him somewhat in my book.
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But while the Madrid press are saying bullshit like 'Only Cristiano played Decently' statements (likely due to his number of shots on target): My frustration with Cristiano Castrol Boy Ronaldo is currently in full flow. I have long believed (and continue to do so now) that the only way he will ever justify his ridiculous salary and 96-million Euro pricetag is to DUPLICATE or BETTER the feats of Don Alfredo. And to play a Champions League elimination round as if it was a stepover contest is not the way to do it.
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To Cristiano Ronaldo: This is not 'Dancing with the Stars'. This is the Champions League.
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'What the fuck are you doing!?!?!' I was yelling at the top of my lungs at 4am in the morning at the sight of his pointless juggling tricks in front of the Lyon defenders that mostly resulted in an ordinary pass after allowing the Lyon defense to settle in their positions or a flick to a teammate that didn't go quite where the ball needed to go... or worse: straight to a Lyon defender. If he is truly to be the man to get the team to buck up by his example on and off the pitch, then he must use his clearly unparalleled talent and take the game by the scruff of the neck to slit the throats of the opposition the way we've seen him to so many times.
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And perhaps it's his way to re-build the confidence of his teammates and the fans... but I find myself very irritated by the fact that his rightfully irate postgame soundbites were followed by an arrogant prediction of a 3 goal win. I do not consider this to be the appropriate declaration after getting your ass handed to you in front of the world. We should really stop it with the soundbite game and just fight and win.
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What frustrates me as much as worries me at this point is our inability to win against the big teams. Perhaps we can go and call out wins such as the ones we had against Villarreal and Valencia at the El Madrigal and the Mestalla respectively... but the opposite side of the spectrum is much more compelling: Barcelona, Sevilla, Milan and now Lyon as well. There are 3 big fixtures coming in the next month: Villarreal, Sevilla in La Liga and the second leg tie against Lyon. All of them in the Bernabeu - a place that has, in the last 10 years developed into a lethal double-edged sword for us. It is time to rise to the occassion: there are now just 2 points between us and a Barcelona side whose treatment room and suspension list is getting filled up... a perfect opportunity if there was ever any. And now, handicapped with our 1-0 loss, we face a Lyon team that stands in the way of La Decima without the suspended Xabi Alonso (I'd be happy to forget about Marcelo for the mean time, lest Pellegrini gets tempted to use him again as a left back). It's time to show the quality we told the world last Tuesday Night that we have a massive shortage of: Character.
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If we are truly the elite team we believe (and wish) we are, having a good (perhaps even 'decent' will do) record against the big teams is paramount... it is and will be the testament of our worth as a team and to the character (not just the talent) of those who wear the white shirt. If we fail yet again, then we'll be headed right down the infaous path that we dread so much: to be proven as the bunch of circus clowns the naysayers out there are saying we are.
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Our legacy and our history deserve better.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

2010-02-13: Xerez 0 - Real Madrid 3

Before I post my anger-filled thoughts on what happened last night (at the Stade De Gerland in Lyon).... here are the goal highlights of our 0-3 win against Xerez that got us all excited as Barca's lead of 5 points had been cut down to 2...
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My thoughts of misery and frustration over the Lyon game are to follow...
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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Gorosito Pitch

All of Madridisimo Celebrates Arbeloa's First Goal
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Well, so much for the 0-4 Dai was expecting / hoping for. I wouldn’t go as far as calling the performance as dishonorable though. If anything, despite the possibility which opened up for Manuel Pellegrini to get flak for choosing to field his first choice squad (after injuries, I mean), I’m happy that it wasn’t made a fuss about now that we are looking at a 2 point gap vs. Barca following their loss to Atletico which followed a match that didn’t turn out to be the cakewalk that most people expected.

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It wasn’t a cakewalk indeed. How could it have been with the state of the Xerez pitch looking as bad as Gorosito’s (the Xerez Coach) hair??? How a team in the first Division of a League that counts the 9-time European Cup winners and the current best team in the world among its ranks can have a stadium in such bad shape is beyond me. Not only is it ugly to watch a game in such a terrible pitch, but it is also dangerous for the players to be playing full steam in such conditions…. Regardless of whether they are the relegation fodder players of Xerez or the Billionaire Hotshots of Madrid. I had half-jokingly told myself during the match: for the state of the pitch alone, Xerez SHOULD be relegated.
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Thoughts of Players Past
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As every follower of La Liga had predicted, Xerez played with a park the bus strategy, massing their players in front of their penalty box and swarmed the spaces of the Real Madrid midfield. This resulted in nothing more than a series of sporadic midfield exchanges for Real Madrid at midfield… with the most dangerous offensive plays coming from the repeated balls being sent in by Esteban Granero (not that they were that effective in the first place, given the players we had). As this endless pattern repeated itself over and over again during the first half, I began to think of 2 things:
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1.) Where’s Guti when you need him? (I know I’m no fan… but what the heck… the guy’s got his attitude in check and he’s in good form) In the middle of that first half orgy of football mindless rambling We REALLY needed that killer through ball to get to our strikers.
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2.) The number 17. That was the number of Ruud Van Nistelrooy or Alvaro Negredo during the preseason… a few of those balls sent in by Granero would probably have created a chance or 2 had we had one of what used to be our ex-targetmen in that penalty box….
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All that is water under the bridge now though… so I guess it’s touché.
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Arbeloa’s Cherry
As the referee blew his whistle for halftime, flashes of the 0-0 at Sporting Guijon ran through my mind. Is this going to be one of those matches that will make us conclude ‘Oh Real Madrid aren’t very good at breaking down organized defenses… like Barcelona can’ all over again… that is until Alvaro Arbeloa showed up to pop Xerez’s Cherry to pop his own to make it 0-1. It was a goal that had me pumping my fists in the air so hard that I stiffened by fat-covered arm muscles so much that they became sore. I was happy to see the canterano score: for all the talk of players playing well or not for Real Madrid, too little has been said about him despite the week-in, week out consistent performances holding his own on defense, coupled with his no-frills but solid contributions to support the attack. His goal came from a typical Arbeloa run down the right flank… with a touch of a diagonal run, perhaps in his bid to find the non-existent open striker in the box… culminating with a simple poke into the goal. 0-1 and the game was wide open for us.
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The Beginnings of a Bro-Mance

Kaka & Castrol Boy: Feel the Love!

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In the last several weeks, talk about what a supposed disappointment Kaka has been has escalated to a level that jeers were heard at the Bernabeu as he left the pitch during substitutions. In the last 2-3 games however (against Deportivo and Espanyol), we began to see glimpses of the Kaka of Milan: acceleration with the ball (though not as often as we used to see), marauding runs, strikes from distance (some of which were inches close), dangerous balls into the box and even goals (yes, ‘paocher’s goals’ count too)… I’m not keen to speculate on the reason why his form has been off: be it his adjustment to Real Madrid’s evolving style of play (from Pellegrinis’ 4-2-2-2 to his current 4-3-2-1) or injury… or perhaps even the CR96-related mental blackouts that every member of the team suffers from (I’m referring to how Real Madrid plays better as a team without Castrol Boy).
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Whatever the reasons may be…. What happened after Arbeloa’s opening goal probably got Florentino Perez reaching down his pocket for his celphone, texting his press officer, texting his press officer ‘Are you seeing this!?!?!? Take this down! Tell the world ALL about it!”
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Just like that joint interview with the UEFA Champions League Magazine show, where the 2 new galacticos were patting each other’s backs as ‘the best I’ve ever played with’ and ‘the best I’ve ever played against’… we saw some of that Portuguese-speaking chemistry turn into a romance after the world saw Kaka serve 2 delicious passes on a silver platter for Cristiano to score… the show was complete with a funny hand gesture between the 2 mega-signings complete ending with Kaka jumping on Cristiano for a Bro-mantic hug (cue in memories of cheerleader girlfriends being lifted by their American Football qu (cue in memories of cheerleader girlfriends being lifted by their American Football quarterback romantic interests as seen in a gazillion of those American teen movies).
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In all seriousness, they were plays that every Madridista (including this one) was happy to witness. One thought though: they should include Pipita to make it a Threesome.
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Now… let’s all march on to Lyon with a Bag Full of hopes.
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Finally, I’d like to wish all the readers of Madridista Mac (and all of Madridisimo) a Happy Lunar New Year (a.k.a. Chinese New Year).

Friday, February 12, 2010

2010-02-10: Real Madrid Talk Podcast

Kevin, Corey and I get together to talk Real Madrid once again... we touched on Xerez this weekend and looked forward to Lyon.. on the way, we discussed the re-emergence of Guti and marvelled at our very own 'El Pirata' Granero.... Enjoy!


Thursday, February 11, 2010

2009-02-06: Real Madrid 3 - Espanyol 0


To the few readers and followers of Madridista Mac out there. My apologies for disappearing this weekend. I'm happy to announce to all some great news for me on a personal level: I am getting married this May. It will be on the 23rd... and I'm hoping for bliss BEFORE my wedding be seeing my beloved Merengues raise La Decima the night before. To prepare for the wedding however, I was required last weekend to attend a Wedding-Preparation Spiritual Retreat for couples with the future Mrs. Madridista Mac (a Liverpool fan... I'm still working on converting her to Madridisimo)... resulting in my missing of the Espanyol Match.
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I did see the replay though... Normally, I wouldn't write anything with these highlight postings, but followers like Dai, Upawan, Siddarth & Deepak lit something insdie me to write a little something this time (Thanks Guys!). Dai even commented on the match:
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"Well, we ran over Espanyol without much difficulties, but it was bad news that Benzema ended up a virgin. He should have confirmed his value and washed away any doubts (mainly of the press).
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Now he's injured he'll have to start all over again next time. And Pipita (who scored a GREAT goal with just a few minutes played) has returned to claim his crown back, as well as CR9, who is back again to crush some skulls. And Xerez shouldn't be a hard nut to crack, so anything below 0-4 should be considered dishonorable.
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I want to see good performances by Granero and Xabi, who have been a good couple in the latest matches, and I'm hoping Kaká keeps advancing in his quest to regain God's favors.
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Hope all is well with Madridista Mac and that we'll keep on enjoying his great reviews!"
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Well, regarding match, I'd like to say that the midfield looked REALLY good. The combination of Guti, Granero & Xabi Alonso (all-Spanish!) worked wonders.... surprisingly even without Lass to play the role ball winner. They pressured the ball when we didn't have it at Espanyol's side of the pitch, while they made great use of their passing abilities to keep control of the game for us, and kept piercing the opposing defense with their passes to the forwards. Width was well provided by Marcelo and Arbeloa. I'd have to say though that this is not a lineup that can withstand an attack by a top level La Liga or European team (e.g. Valencia, Sevilla, Lyon, etc.). I'm happy to see Pellegrini have the balls to try it though. Of the midfield, Guti played well, so did Xabi Alonso.... plaudits however have to go to Granero who spent the entire game sending dangerous balls into Espanyol's box, 2 of which led to goals. Pirata's re-emergence in this team has been a wonderful breath of fresh air to Madridisimo.
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Looking forward to Xerez, I wouldn't want to go as far as expecting an 0-4... I am however looking forward to a comfortable win that can see us try out our Canteranos to allow our guys a rest in preparation for the Lyon game this Tuesday - a match I look forward to nervously.
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In other news... an Ex-Junkie Diego Maradona, who managed to avoid the sack over his shambolic World Cup qualifying campaign hit out at Jorge Valdano for his lack of 'Patriotism'....
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Diego intends to use the stick to locate his brain
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'“We [Argentina] have a huge rival,” he said. “Real Madrid and Jorge Valdano! They practically ruined [Gabriel] Heinze, he wanted to clear [Fernando] Gago out and now [Gonzalo] Higuain must be next because he is scoring more goals than [Karim] Benzema and [Cristiano] Ronaldo together... I had a good relationship with him [Valdano], but the fact that an Argentine could hold back another Argentine sounds disgusting to me."
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Perhaps Maradona's Love for Lady Gago makes him blind to the fact that the SUPPOSED Defensive Midfielder can neither tackle or pass... Ditto for Heinze. By blaming Real Madrid for Heinze's fall from grace, maybe he should play Leo Messi at Left Back & Kun Aguero at the Center of Defense...? perhaps he's afraid Pipita will lose his place because he thinks Higuain is a Goalkeeper??? If anyone is interested in playing for Real Stupido FC (coached by Diego Maradona), please let me know...
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So what does this loser want? Affirmative Action in Real Madrid? For Argentines? In a club based in the capital of Spain? Valdano might be short on Patriotism, but Maradona seems to be REALLY short of Common Sense... Let this serve as a lesson to all: Say no to Drugs!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Blunting the R(i)azor


Guti's Reaction to Benzema's 2nd and Real's third goal to seal the victory: It was very obvious he WANTED this win badly.


Cuts & Bruises
I looked toward the past weekend with absolute dread as I thought about the idea of going to a ground where we, for almost 20 years now, experienced our annual ritual of getting our heads chopped off (by the R(i)azor.... apologies for the corny word play, I couldn't resist it). The experience wasn't much helped by the fact that we were travelling without our unjustly critically-panned Super Striker (Pipita Higuain), our midfield pitbull (Lass) - a critical ingredient to any kind victory in a midfield war of attrition (the kind Depor are known for given their penchant for 1-0 victories)... and of course, our defensive super spider (Pepe). Nevermind that the subs were out too: our post-galactico super striker Ruud Van Horseface now wears '22' for Hamburg SV, and though Diarra V1.0 may be back from the African Cup of Nations (congrats to Egypt for the 3-peat by the way), he is still nursing an injury as was Garay. Ditto for Van Der Vaart. Heck, Even Lady Gago was injured (oh how my heart aches at the loss of 18m over Man City’s supposed failed last gasp attempt at him)!
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Too much Castrol
Things weren’t helped at all by the petulant actions of Cristiano ‘Castrol Boy’ Ronaldo, who broke the nose of a Malaga player and was screaming injustice to the heavens while on his knees at the Bernabeu. The situation wasn’t helped by the fact that the Madrid press and the Real Madrid hierarchy spent the entire week cranking up the propaganda machine crying foul and calling for justice. The ridiculous-ness of the situation reached its zenith when Leo Messi has turned by the Madrid press into Villarato’s icon of injustice. What Madness!
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Let me lay my opinion on the matter straight (I know the subject has expired a bit): Ronaldo’s elbow to the face was a foul. It’s been a yellow card in some instances and a red in others. There are those who naturally get away with it due to one circumstance or another… either of the possibilities is something we’ve all seen before (no foul, a foul, a yellow or a red). To say that ‘this ain’t fair’ is one thing: to crucify the entire refereeing profession or the federation for it, while dragging in a player who ‘got away with it’ (why is it his fault that it wasn’t called?) into the mix is just way too much. And while I understand the moves to appeal, to have Real Madrid’s top honchos (I’m looking at you Valdano & Butragueno), the Coach (Pellegrini and his ‘envy’ speech) and player (Sergio Ramos) hark endlessly about the subject and the notion of injustice is just preposterous.
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Real Madrid are a Football Club, they are a club that’s supposed to promote through the actions of those affiliated to it, conduct becoming of a sportsman. To accept punishment for a red card that we had seen many times would have been the right thing to do. Sure, we could have said that the punishment is harsh or what not… but to rant a bout fairness and justice: that’s another thing altogether.
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Pellegrini's Lineup
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Without the Garay on defense, Lass at midfield and Castrol Boy & Pipita up front, Pellegrini cobbled together what he had left and assembled his jigsaw puzzle to look like:
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-----------Casillas-------------
Arbeloa-Ramos-Albiol-Marcelo
Granero-Xabi Alonso-Guti
----------- Kaka -------------
------- Raul-Benzema --------

The squad was so thin that we even needed to draft a slew of Castilla players into the squad. Just to come up with an 18-man squad!
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I wish to rant however against how the Real Madrid press have gone out to bas Manuel Pellegrini for not using a single Canterano in the match: attacking him for his lack of trust and so forth. My answer to that is: with an 8 point gap staring him in the face against Barcelona, while playing on a ‘cursed’ stadium, last weekend’s match was no time to take gambles. And while it would have been nice to see the night capped off with a Canterano appearance, it was not a necessity as this Madridista was happy to just see the Curse of La Coruna finally come to an end.
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Tactics
The performance the team put in was just absolutely exquisite. I hypothesize that because of all three men sitting behind Kaka were true midfielders (as opposed to one of them being a ‘faux-winger’: Marcelo), keeping hold of the shape and the position at that part of the pitch was much more effective. Perhaps it also works against a team like Depor, that by having no real ‘destroyer’ on the pitch a la Lass, and instead, having 3 midfielders all who can pass well (this is assuming Guti’s having a good day): then dominating the midfield was that much easier. It allowed us to move our ‘dragnet’ further up the pitch, winning balls and putting pressure on them on their third of the pitch. It was nice to the ‘dragnet’ moved high up the pitch again, towards the final third at the opponent’s third: they bring back good memories of our late 2009-performances that seemed to be absent in the few games which we had played so far this year.
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Performances.
All in all the three midfielders played well. Granero facilitated the fluidity of the team’s passing game as well as offered mobility and positioning. Xabi Alonso on the other hand played the role of the unheralded hero in this game: it was a masterclass performance in ball movement, with simple passes, clever ball distribution and great anticipation for interceptions. I wish to say that in the aftermath of this match, it is sad that too little attention and credit has been given to the Basque.
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The arguable Man-of-the-Match however has been Guti. I won’t talk at length too mucn anymore at the brilliance of his ‘Taconazo’: it was sublime beyond words. But more importantly, Guti showed us the Guti we start every game as fans hoping would turn up. No shenanigans, no petulance: just his mind in the game and busy figuring out ways to slice open the defense with that amazing vision and those raking passes. It was indeed the kind of performance that if repeated, merited the attention of Vicente Del Bosque. Whether this is the once-in-a-season Guti performance to make our jaws drop (as suggested by Dai in the previous post’s comments section remains to be seen. This Madridista shares his apprehension after seeing this sort of things too many times. If anything, perhaps we fans should count ourselves lucky that either the stars have aligned or that Pellegrini has scheduled this once-in-a-season showing to coincide with this incredibly important match. Genius or Luck? What’s the difference anyway?
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I’d also like to give a pat on the back to the much-maligned (and thus far, perhaps rightfully so) Kaka: who put on a good showing, making his menacing runs and providing us with some form of evidence that the player that led AC Milan to that Champions League triumph is still somewhere trapped inside and is keen to come out.
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Above all, I send my plaudits to one Karim Benzema. I read an article that suggested that all this talk about Ronaldo’s red card, kept the unpleasant spotlight on this seemingly timid 22-year old away… allowing him to keep his head down and concentrate on proving himself in what might be the last chance he gets to as a starter in this streak of games as El Pipita is supposedly scheduled to make his return in the coming match. The Frenchman finished both his chances not just with aplomb, but with the kind of calm, precise and clinical finishing that the great strikers have. The 2 goals are most definitely a huge help to his confidence… and should the decision to let Pipita slowly come back into the starting XI come, there’s now much more confidence and a better feel of things for the young Frenchman to get his and Real Madrid’s momentum going.
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Apologies
I’d like to offer my apologies to all who follow this blog for the inactivity these last few weeks: things on the personal front have been quite busy these past few weeks and will continue onto the weekend where I will miss this weekend’s match. As I type this entry in an airport lounge, I wish Madridisimo a juicy victory this coming weekend vs. Espanyol. More activity next week!