Tuesday, March 30, 2010

2-22-20

Xabi Alonso - When He Turns it On, We Turn it On
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2 Madrid derbies, 2 victories. Last night, we took our derby success over Atletico to 12 years. It seems that '2' was last night's magic number as Xabi Alonso (22), Alvaro Arbeloa (2) and Gonzalo Higuain (20) all found their names on the scoresheet as we romped towards victory: maintaining our pressure on Barca and our La Liga winning streak as well as our home winning streak.
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And let's be honest about it, ever since Xabi Alonso stuck his foot towards the ball, half-sliding in to score our first goal from the far post off a corner (where he scored a similar goal against Sporting), we all knew that Atletico were going to go home losers. Perhaps Guillem Balague was right in his match preview where he called Atletico as a team on its last legs and were lucky not to get murdered at the Bernabeu. Xabi Alonso was once again they key to the match and it was his increased level of play that resulted in us turning the screws on Atleti. For the second goal, he twisted, turned, feigned and then, with his body oddly contorted awkwardly, unleashed a wonder looping pass to the streaking Arbeloa who had forgotten for a moment that he was a fullback: scoring his goal as if he was a striker. It was like Liverpool in white. And just so I'm able to put it out there: Xabi Alonso was my Real Madrid Man of the Match... Alvaro Arbeloa coming in second.
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That's 2 Straight Well-played Games from Gago. Are we in the twilight zone?
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One notable discovery we'll also need to call out it this blog is the miraculous 2-game streak put in by Lady Gago who played well in these 2 Madrid derbies. Sitting deeper than Xabi Alonso, he split ball-winning and distribution duties with the '22' and facilitated ball movement quite well. With Gago in this position, Xabi Alonso found himself in a position he'd normally find himself in for La Furia Roja, anble to funnel the ball from a far more advabced position to create danger against the opposing team: a midfield variant we would do well to carry into El Classico.
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Is this yet again the 'resurrection from the dead' of a player supposedly beyond redemption at the hands of Manuel Pellegrini? If this turns out to be so, Lady Gago becoming 'Mister Gago' (as AS has so eloquently calling it), Van Der Fart returning to become Van Der Vaart, along with Puti becoming Guti again are explicit signs of the Chilean's man management skills: something I'm happy to call out and lament that the losers at Marca seem to be oblivious to.
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Signs of life from Gago bring hope to a Madrid team that will be missing Xabi Alonso's skills next week against Racing Santander... After all, it is only he who has the capacity to replicate (to a certain extent at least) the deep lying ball distribution capabilities of the Basque midfielder given that both Diarras have limited vision and passing range. Guti on the other hand won't survive 90 (decent) minutes on the pitch much less in a deep-lying position where he is expected to offer protection to the defense. Nevermind Granero who seems to be choking despite the golden opprtunity he is being handed these past several weeks as a starter.
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Meanwhile on attack, I am in shock that after their brutal attack on Pipita for not passing to Ronaldo in the Lyon game, that they seem to have been only observing the grass on the Bernabeu's pitch as Castrol Boy exposed himself as the world's biggest ball hog. Note to Castrol Boy: the best player in the world is he who wins BOTH through his sheer individual brilliance and his ability to make his team better. In the mean time, Gonzalo Higuain continues to chip away at Leo Messi's Pichichi lead...
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A word of warning to the team though: the disturbing habit which we have developed in the last 3 games (Sporting, Getafe and Atleti) of conceding cheap (opening) goals may haunt us in our coming matches. This will be particularly magnified against the likes of Barca and Valencia who have the talent not to forgive such stupidities. While I'm happy to praise Pellegrini for certain attributes of his team, it is this current characteristic of the team that I find myself raising my eyebrow on. The coach to his credit however has been calling his team out on such performances and we're all hoping they get the message very, very quickly as the Blaugrana approach in the coming weeks.
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In the meantime, we await the coming week's latest edition of 'The Apprentice: Real Madrid' as we pay a visit to Racing Santander's sardine can ('El Sardinero') to conduct 'live tryouts' for boy wonder Sergio Canales. Let's hope he does well... But not too well.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

2010-03-25: Getafe 2 - Real Madrid 4

My First Time Being Interviewed

Some weeks back, Murali Krishnan, also known in the blogosphere as 'Just Another Madridista', flattered me by asking to interview me for an interview series in his blog, Hala Madrid!! with an impressive roster of Real Madrid Bloggers which included Siddarth from Los Merengues.com as well as Corey and Bassam from Real - The Offside. It was a thoroughly enjoyable experience as Real Madrid is indeed my favorite subject of conversation. You can catch the original post here... or read the interview below.
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Hey Mark. Can you please introduce yourself to our readers?
I’m 30 years old, getting married this May (to a Liverpool Fan so you call can imagine how much stick I got from her during our elimination last season in the Champions League). I’m a Filipino of Chinese Descent living in Singapore and an Architect by profession.
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I was born and raised in Manila, Philippines – a Basketball-crazy nation: which makes my love for football and Real Madrid a sort of strange thing for someone of my nationality. I played a little bit of the sport (football) until I was about 12 then I stopped and became basketball-crazy like the rest of the country. With no natural athletic ability to speak of however, I eventually became more of an ‘armchair sports fan’: more keen to analyze tactics, strategy as an ‘outsider’.
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Sometime late in my University years however, I began the odd habit of catching replays of La Liga Matches on TV (which mostly showed Real Madrid in their galactico days)… the interest in the sport sparked again. In 2004, I left Manila for Singapore to make my Master’s Degree, arriving here at the fever-pitch state of Euro 2004. In Singapore, I found a football-crazy country to start up a true love affair with the beautiful game.
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Sadly in Singapore however, the interest on the sport has a blind obsession for English Football (EPL) and a disturbing ignorance for the things that happen beyond it. With Live La Liga games (nevermind the unGodly hours) on TV and being in the age of Internet Streaming matches however, my passing Interest with Real Madrid became true Love as well.
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Madridista Mac has become a household name in the blogosphere as far as Madridistas are concerned. How long have you been blogging?
I wouldn’t call it a household name but I’m very flattered its considered by some as that. I’ve been blogging since about 2004-2005. It started out as just a personal thing. It didn’t take long for me to realize how stupid the idea was as I asked myself the question of who am I that people would be interested with what happens in my personal life? Why would you wanna publish a ‘censored diary’ on the net anyway? hahaha…
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Madridista Mac started at about 2007 with the intention that it would only be my personal repository of youtube links to Real Madrid goals and highlights…. something for me to go back to if I wanted to recall how certain matches took place. Then every now and then I’d post a thought or 2. Sometimes people would comment and that basically served as motivation to take the blog further. I started following the blog of Corey Fiske of the Real Madrid Offside as well as the now-defunct-but-great The Real Liga. In Corey’s blog, I absolutely enjoyed the discussions and the forum: creating a much bigger buzz about Real Madrid in my head. That buzz turned into articles and commentaries which are now the posts on my blog. Not long after, I was given the opportunity to participate in the Real Madrid Talk podcast with Corey, Kevin Walker from the OwnGoalNetwork and Adam Bader of Real Madrid Talk in Ole Ole.. that just got me more motivated to keep at it.
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I still struggle with consistency given that I work in a profession where working 12-16 hours a day is normal. But I still try…
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Why did you choose Real Madrid?
There is a one word answer to that question: Zidane
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As someone who followed the sport casually (only watching the big tournaments like the World Cup), I began following the sport more closely when Ronaldo was the game’s true phenomenon. You could imagine my shock then when I watched in horror as a bald Frenchman named Zidane destroyed Brazil in the ‘98 Final. I hated him for that.
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When my passing interest in Real Madrid started, I discovered that Ronaldo and Zidane were actually teammates! It didn’t take long for me to realize that I was watching a true God of the Sport at that point. It was because of Zidane that I learned that football was about more than scoring goals (an essential thing for a basketball fan used to see 100 points scored in a game to convert to the more low-scoring game of football).
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Interestingly, I do not fit the Marketing Man’s profile of the asian football fan: they say that asian fans are loyal to the players and not the clubs. I remained loyal to Real Madrid ever since. I followed and supported Real Madrid from the last dark days of the galacticos, Calderon’s rise, his 2 La Liga titles, his fall… down to our now-annual Champions League Failures and onto today’s Florenteam.
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Which would be your most memorable and most forgettable Real Madrid moment?
Memorable Moments:
The most memorable would have to be the La Liga Campaign where we won La Liga #31 with Capello (or was that number 30?). There were some great moments then, I really loved the fighting character of that Real Madrid team (nevermind their style):
-Pipita’s winning goal vs. Espanyol
-Ruud’s clutch goals vs. Zaragosa & Barca faltering on the second to the last day
-The ‘final’ vs. Mallorca.
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There was Zizou’s last game at home vs. Villarreal… I stood and applauded him too as he made his way off the pitch. Nevermind that I was watching it on the Tele.
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And of course – The day we beat Barca 4-1 at home where the match started with their honor guard for us: a Total Feel Good Moment.
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Forgettable Moments:
-Barca’s 2 super-impressive victories against us at the Bernabeu… the first was when Ronaldinho destroyed us enroute to that 0-3… and the last one being the 2-6. Those games made me feel utter shame.
-Calderon’s Corruption Scandals and Gaffes
-Alcoronzo and last season’s similar elimination to a 3rd division side at the Copa Del Rey.
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If you were to pick an all time best Real Madrid XI, name the players who would make the cut.
—————- Casillas ——————-
Salgado-Hierro-Ramos-Roberto Carlos
——— Zidane-Makelele-Figo ————
Brazilian Ronaldo-Van Nistelrooy-Raul
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I didn’t include any players in the ‘eras’ before I started watching Real Madrid or before I started consistently watching Madrid play. That would be the reason for the absence of the likes of Don Alfredo, Puksas and our club’s endless list of legends.
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Who would be your all-time favorite Real Madrid manager and why?
Vicente Del Bosque: He kept the galactico egos under control to play sexy football and win trophies. He’s Real Madrid born and bred, too. God put him on this planet to be Real Madrid’s manager. Unfortunately, Florentino thought he was God.
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What are your thoughts on the current season?
There are of course dissappointments, bitter ones inclusing ‘Alcorconzo’ and ‘Lyonazo’.. but overall, I like how the team is shaping up and developing its style as an aggressive, offensive, high-scoring one: I love the vertical football. Looking at the bigger picture and back at my expectations at the start of the season, I honestly did not expect Champions League glory (but did expect to get past the last 16) and was even skeptical about La Liga given how good this Barcelona are… so I’m happy to see us right there with them with the chance to nick it.
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Player of the season, so far?
I have 4:
1.) Cristiano Ronaldo – His arrival as the World’s Most Expensive Player and his stellar play (and controversial behavior) has brought the eyes of the world upon Real Madrid once again His arrival put us on course to, as Florentino so eloquently said “regain our rightful place in the world again”
2.) Gonzalo Higuain – The counterpoint to Ronaldo: A Calderon signing who seemed to enter through the backdoor of Madrid in a non-descript winder transfer but now with more than 20 goals and counting. Unglamorous, sheer effort and graft and given his age when he arrived, someone I consider to be ‘half-homebred’. He’s my current favorite Real Madrid player.
3.) Xabi Alonso – It seems clear that he’s the key for us to play well as a team. Every disastrous game is marked by his absence or poor play.
4.) Sergio Ramos – Looks nothing like the sluggish, off-the-pace, reckless and careless player we saw last season. Great at Rightback thus far this season and amazing at the Center too.
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What are your thoughts on the upcoming Clasico?
A Must-Win Game. Also a Must-Win-Emphatically match. A well-played victory against Barca can exorcize the demons of Alcorconzo and Lyonazo… and cement our hold on La Liga. It will prove our team’s level of growth if we can convincingly beat a team of that level… that they are Barca and they are THIS Barca is very critical. A convincing victory against them just might allow me to see my hopes of Pellegrini retaining his job to come true. A well-played match by Kaka and Pipita will find them turning the corner in the eyes of the at-times demonic Madrid Press too!
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What about the title race for the league?
If we keep up the level of growth that we’re in, it should see us beat all those before us… and with Barca still in the Champions League, the chance for them to get distracted and drop points is a realistic possiblity: a win at El Clasico can end up winning us the title practically.
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I’ve asked everyone this question. Anyone whom you’d like to see wear the White of Real Madrid next season?
-Gonzalo Higuain – It’s been a nightmare to be a witness to all these rumors about selling him. It would be a mistake of galactically (or galactico) stupid proportions to sell him. It’s still possible at the moment though! I hope for him to sign an extension and be there to play an instrumental role to win La Decima
-A Good Left Back (can’t think of anyone at the moment) to allow Marcelo to become that winger we all claim we don’t have.
-Central Midfield help to assist / be a sub for Xabi Alonso. Guti is not a 90 minute player anymore and Granero has been dissappoiting thus far. Forget Gago while both Diarras are water carriers. If we are to sign super players, it should be at left back or in this position…. for this position, galactico-level players in mind include Cesc and Gerrard (both are mere wet dreams of course)… I love Michael Essien too.
-Alvaro Negredo. While Ronaldo is an all-around attacker, Kaka is an Attacking Midfielder, neither Pipita or Benzema are target men. We don’t have that Big Man to knock the ball up to during tricky, physical games where the opposing team bus is parked in front of their goal. Negredo is a homegrown battering ram-style striker that provides an alternative to Pipita and Benzema.
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And finally, did you enjoy this interview?
Yes! Would be happy to share my thoughts again in the future!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

2010-03-20: Real Madrid 3 - Sporting Guijon 1



What a terribly played game! I'm happy to hear that Manuel Pellegrini gave the team a bit of a dressing down in training for this performance. I'm happy with the win and the score line... and to see Xabi Alonso score... but as a team, we looked like the constipated Real Madrid of the early part of the season.
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Time to buck up! Getafe is waiting for us at the Alfonso Perez on Thursday while the Bernabeu beckons for the Madrid derby on Sunday.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

2010-03-14: Real Valladolid 1 - Real Madrid 4



Don't forget to vote for your Real Madrid Man of the Match vs. Valladolid... comment on this post if your vote goes to a player who's not on the list of choices on the left side of the page (I'm regretting my exclusion of Raul Albiol in the list right now)...
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In the meantime, do check out the Heineken Promo Video below... it's hilarious. Enjoy!
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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Vindication

A Relieving Sight: Ronaldo Celebrated his goal WITH Pipita
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Last night, Real Madrid stepped onto the pitch for the first time after Lyonazo - or rather... our catastrophic capitulation at the hands of Olympique Lyonnais. The fact that we were about to face one of the poorest sides in La Liga made no difference: we were a club and a team whose morale had been totally dismembered by our elimination from the Champions League. An elimination that unleashed the fury of sheer insanity, madness and delusions from the pundits and the press alike: the kind that could cause the club to go belly up. Thankfully, the players had other things in mind.
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The spotlight had been cast particularly on a few key people, namely:
- Manuel Pellegrini who has been brutalized unreasonably and unfairly by the Madrid-press
- Kaka, who continues to struggle in getting into the groove of things at Real Madrid. He was out for this match with an injury. I will likely write about him again very soon and will continue to hope as well that he will find some form of vindication on the pitch very soon too.
- Gonzalo Higuain who had been singled out for a lot of unfari criticism for missing his scoring chance against Lyon. He's also been taken to task not just by the public for refusing to pass the ball to football's biggest ball hog.
- Cristiano Ronaldo, who is the said ballhog who is reportedly at loggerheads with Pipita. It is also alleged that he sees Higuain as his direct rival in a race against the Argentine to be La Liga Pichichi. (Dai had posted a most revealing story in his comments on the Lyon article)
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Coming back onto the pitch after such a difficult week, the three responded very well.
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I started out being skeptical of Manuel Pellegrini. Today, I really like the fact that he's our coach. I can only pray that the management can continue feeling that way.
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Manuel Pellegrini
Last Sunday, the Chilean lined up a Starting XI of:
------------ Casillas -----------
Arbeloa-Abliol-Ramos-Marcelo
-- Lass-Xabi Alonso-Granero --
-------- Van Der Vaart --------
------- Ronaldo-Higuain -------
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His selection of this particualr line of defense leads me to hypothesize that he either doesn't fancy Garay (and prefers a quick technically gifted player like Sergio Ramos to play in Pepe's place) or he actually likes Marcelo at left back (something that would deeply change my mind about him). I'd like to believe that it's the former as the slow footed-Garay is also short on aerial ability as well as the ability to play the ball: qualities that Pepe had which enabled us to have a more coherent offensive posture during matches.
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At midfield, the availability of Xabi Alonso and his effect on the team seems to show that the most notable absence in last week's Lyon debacle was the Basque midfielder: as his presence allows Real Madrid to hold onto the ball, keep control of it and launch its attacks from a comfortable position that was far more advanced than how we played last week (where the conservative Garay often had to reset play by sending the ball back to Casillas, resulting in us having go to go through Lyon's 10 outfield players before we could even manage to get to their third of the pitch). I'd actually however like to see him give Diarra V1.0 more chances to play as his namesake Lass and even Esteban Granero have been playing very poorly as of late. His selection of Rafa Van Der Vaart over Guti as Kaka's replacement is a move that I applaud. Because while the Madrid press excitedly salivated over the prospect of Guti taking on the Brazilian's place in the Starting XI, I am of the opinion that the 34-year old is not a 90 minute player. I am also of the opinion that people like Van Der Vaart who has endured such a difficult situation but has put his head down, kept his mouth shut, trained hard and played well in his few chances deserve to be rewarded for their efforts. The exemplary manne by which he has handled his situation wins my admiration and even my apologies (fo dismissing him as a failure last season). Apart from that, the Dutchman also gives us great ball delivery, a bit of pace and extra firepower.
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Nivaldo's Stomp on Ronaldo's shin was as disgusting as the sight of Ronaldo's seemingly shaven legs
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Castrol Boy
Apart from his goal and assist to Higuain (and his involvement in Pipita's third), I would like to call out Castrol Boy for another good thing he did last Sunday: not getting sent off. Last Sunday's match took place hours after my countryman Manny Pacquiao give the cowardly Joshua Clottey a boxing lesson. It seems like the Valladolid players came into the match with the type of violent aggression that Manny did: choosing to kick Real Madrid's players instead of the ball. Castrol Boy in particular, seemed like a prime target for their kicks, tugs, out of control physicality. This included an outrageous stamp on Ronaldo's shin, leaving a ghastly mark on it that is as disgusting to me as my realization that Ronaldo shaves his legs. I have to give it to him though for not getting sent off. Perhaps it was luck that his little kick out in the first half seems to have gone unnoticed to the referee... his reaction of protesting to the referee and his incredulous reaction to the fact that they had not seen the incident was a far smarter one than kicking out or getting himself booked for taking his shirt off.
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I am surprised however that Nivaldo has not been retroactively punished for what he did especailly after replays showed that his stamp on Ronaldo's shin seems to reveal deliberate intent. His 'explanation' to the press that Ronaldo deserved it for being a showpony for doing his stepovers and trickery moves are even more ridiculous (especially given the fact that he's Brazilian!). If every player who shows technical ability 'deserves' to be kicked and stamped like he says, then perhaps we just ought to hire Taekwondo Martial Artists as footballers. I'd be happy to hire one to kick him aorund the pitch just to give him a taste of it! This guy should be suspended and fined. Then they should send him into the Amazon Jungle to go play foottie with Anacondas who'd be happy to let him know what they think of him if he tries any fancy footwork. What a loser.
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Yet another prolific goal-scoring performance for Pipita
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Pipita gets his Hat Trick
After 5 braces this season, Pipita finally got his hat trick. A terrific response to the unfair amount of stick he got from the press and even some of the fans. I nodded my head with a passion upon reading Valdano's words on his performance and the criticism he was receiving:
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"He [Higuain] has made a tremendous reaction, because he is a high class player and character. He has suffered a lot this week because we have done him an injustice. He is accused of being selfish when a striker by definition is greedy. You can not be condemned for one moment after three impeccable years,"
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My sentiments exactly! This is especially given the fact that we are essentially talking Cristiano 'I'd-rather-not-pass-because-I-only-care-about-scoring' Ronaldo here. With regards to missing that open goal in the first half, what can I say... don't all strikers, even the great ones miss chances? Perhaps not as big as the chance that came calling against Lyon, but let's all please remember that he's only 22 years old. 
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In any case, I am one happy Madridista to see him finally get his first hat trick this season... especially on a night where fellow Argentine Lionel Messi scored his own hat trick (I'd have to admit that his hat trick was far more impressive though). His finishes were clinical and had the hallmarks of a top level striker: calm, clean, precise and seemingly simple. And though possibly partly insincere, it was nevertheless good to see he and Ronaldo celebrate goals together: to have 2 of the goals involve Ronaldo. If anything, with the criticism leveled at him, perhaps it might even be possible that this might develop some degree of consciousness within Pipita & Cristiano to be more aware of the other's whereabouts on the pitch... potentially serving as a catalyst for the 2 to develop a kind of on-pitch chemistry.
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Most importantly, the game and the scoreline allowed us to keep our goal difference leadership over Barcelona. With La Liga now left as the only title to play for, and being level on points and ahead of the Barca on points, I would have to say that I agree that it is essential for us to at least start this new 'Florenteam' era with a title. Despite the fact that it is clear that there are many who are keen to throw dynamite to this team, particularly at the manager, I still say that we have started on the right track. It is clear to me that bit by bit, we are finding our feet and developing our game.... I can only hope that it is really true that Florentino has truly learned his lessons from the past. Because if he has... I'm very convinced that not long from now, Vindication will be ours.... for now though, this will have to do.
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By the way.... vote for your Real Madrid player of the Match:
Cristiano Ronaldo - 1 Goal, 1 Assist, Initiated another goal and then some...
Pipita Higuain - The Hat Trick Hero
Xabi Alonso - Showed us how badly we missed him vs. Lyon
Van Der Vaart - Great Deliveries into the box and great all-around play
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Last Week's Survery Results (Real Madrid's MOTM vs. Sevilla)
Cristiano Ronaldo - 18%
Sergio Ramos - 54%
Rafael Van Der Vaart - 36%

Saturday, March 13, 2010

2010-02-11: Real Madrid Talk Podcast



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Was not able to participate in this week's podcast... enjoy it though...  Will be joining the guys in the coming week's recording again....

Friday, March 12, 2010

2010-03-10: Real Madrid 1 - Olympique Lyonnais 1

A Nightnare to Remember
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It was all going according to plan. The Bernabeu looked fantastic and was abuzz with optimism. It seemed from the livestream that I was viewing the match from that the 'prawn sandwich brigade' didn't turn up... Or at least had tried their best 'true madridista' impersonation. In a matter of mere seconds after kickoff, Kaka was charging down the Lyon goal and forcing Hugo Lloris to a save. In 6 minutes, we were up 1-0 thanks to a visionary pass from Guti that gave Ronaldo the chance to shoot between Lloris' legs for the opening goal. I wanted to scream but decided not to awaken my aunt and cousin who had arrived almost 3 hours before (1am Singapore time). Instead, I calmly told myself '84 minutes is a lot of time to score another one'.... I even told myself that perhaps Sergio Ramos' earlier 3-0 prediction would turn out to be more matter-of-fact as opposed to the Boluda-esque arrogance that had the entire world asking him what 'chorreo' he was talking about.
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Minutes later, Pipita latched onto another Guti pass, round off the 'keeper and poke it home for 2-0 and game over only to see the ball hit the post. Things seemed to be unfolding well. The defense played a solid game and were not whistled for Garay's conservative plays to send balls back to Iker instead of taking a chance to get it to the midfield. Guti did well in passing the ball and threading them past layers of Lyon players through to our attackers. And though we should've been up 2 or 3-0 by halftime (and thus celebrate the breaking of the curse).
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5 minutes into the second half however, it became clear that the team had left something in the dressing room on their way out. We were slower, sloppier, less vertical and most importantly: more vulnerable. This is not to say however that we were awful and had our asses handed to us: just that we were less potent going forward and seemed less able in neutralizing the dangers they were creating, conceding more free kicks and corners to them. I was still convinced however that we had the upper hand despite finding myself constantly pondering the thought that any goal conceded at this point would be fatal. Not long after that, Miralem Pjanic stuck a dagger into Madridisimo's heart.
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Retrospectively, let us all not view last Wednesday night’s outcome as a result of that match alone, but as a mere portion of what was ultimately a badly played 180-minute marathon match or which we played only one hour of good football (the first 15 minutes of the first leg and the first half of last Wednesday’s match). That’s only 1/3 of the 180 minute tie we had vs. Lyon. If we were to divide the 3 goals (2-1 on aggregate) of the tie over the course of the 180 minutes of football that was played, that’s 1 goal for every hour… that’s one goal for the single hour of football that we played. A just result.
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Real Madrid’s loss to Olympique Lyonnais can surely be viewed as a failure. While I would go far enough in my defense of them to say that it’s too much to expect from them to win La Decima this season given the team’s 6-month age: I still find it unacceptable for us to be eliminated by the 3rd best team in France, whose top player is a mere bench warmer in our squad. As revealed in pieces over the past few games in this blog, the signs on the wall of our ability to get past Lyon had been written on the wall for some time: our inability to maintain the same level of focus and energy for 90 minutes as well as the innate lack of character from the team which is revealed all the time in big matches such as last Wednesday’s. I truly, truly believe that such characteristics can only be achieved not by the mere stroke of a genius supercrack signing or a wizard-like coach hiring. The last 8 years of our failures in this competition tells the story of this lesson.
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For us to learn this lesson however… we must learn, or rather, re-learn the value of humility. The value that opens our eyes and allows us to see that we need to build our squad just like every successful team does. We need to accept that a successful team does not come through the spontaneous combustion generated by 250m Euros worth of signings but through building it the old hard way: a good system, a good coach, some great players, good old chemistry, hard work and the proper amount of time. When Florentino rose to power in the halls of the Bernabeu for the second time, he had spoken about ‘learning from the lessons of the past’. As the vultures from the press and the extremists from Madridisimo circle above, now is the time to truly find out if we have learned from the lessons of the past.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Heartbreak

Real Madrid 1 - Olympique Lyonnais 1.
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This REALLY hurts... more thoughts in the next few days.

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!

Monday, March 8, 2010

2010-03-06: Real Madrid 3 - Sevilla 2


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Here are the highlights from last Saturday's winning thriller against Sevilla.
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Please vote for your Real Madrid Man of the Match on the right side of the page... and of course, say your prayers for Lyon's visit this Wednesday.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Ketchup Won’t Come Out…? Then Break the Bottle

The Boys PERFECTLY understand what this win means

In the days before last night’s 3-2 thriller of a win versus  Sevilla, Gonzalo Higuain told the world about the words of wisdom Ruud Van Gol shared with him:
"Ruud told me that goals are like a bottle of kethcup… Sometimes they don't come no matter how much you push, but later they all come out in one hit".
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Last night, the ketchup wouldn’t come out….  What did Real Madrid do? They broke the bottle.
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Last night’s 3-2 win over Sevilla bore all the hallmarks of everything that I’ve always wanted to see from my beloved merengues:
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-It was Sevilla. Sevilla are a top-level team, the kind of team Real Madrid have proven to have difficulties with, the kind of team I wish to see my Merengues beat.  They also happen to be a team whose strengths (their wing play) happened to match Real Madrid’s weaknesses… and we still managed to come out with the win.
-La Liga leadership was at stake and we seized the moment. Well… sort of.  Though we are level on points and ahead of Barcelona on goal difference on goal difference, La Liga counts leadership a bit differently: in the case of a tie on points between 2 teams: it’s the head to head record that counts, and with our Camp Nou loss to Barca last year, they still have the upper hand… being level on points and with their form dropping however, I’m hoping we rattle them enough (read: bring out the cagometro) to dropping more points to give us an edge even before the next El Clasico. While it’s great to celebrate the win, it remains critical that we do not let euphoria take over because of this as there’s still a lot of league to play. It’s good to smile and celebrate though J
-The way by which we won the match: going down 0-2 but having the character ,will, guts and fighting spirit to come back. Very impressively, we launched wave after wave after wave of attack at Sevilla that it made them look like a boxer trapped in the ropes with an endless barrage reigning down upon him, struggling to keep himself standing… only to be knocked out at just the right time.
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As I’ve anticipated, we started the match with a lineup of:
---------- Casillas ------------
Ramos-Albiol-Garay-Arbeloa
- Lass-Xabi Alonso-Marcelo -
---------- Kaka -------------
-------- CR96-Pipita --------
It was relieving to see this lineup with Marcelo at midfield despite his assurances that he’d stop Navas: With Sevilla being famous for their ability to attack you through the flanks, the more defensively astute Arbeloa was a far better alternative to face the Sevilla Super-Winger. Having Sergio Ramos guarding the other flank also gave me a much better sense of comfort especially while knowing that he's been enjoying a rich vein of form as of late. This defensive alignment tells me that Pellegrini understands quite (after all this time) well that there are certain matches where we can have Marcelo at LB, while others where he should be moved forward at a midfield position
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Starting Poorly
We started the match, particularly the first 20-25 minutes very, very poorly though. And in true Sevilla colors, they used Capel and Navas to raid us at our flanks, using their pace to run at us, crossing the ball back and forth from one wing to the other and then to the center, where the beast-like Alvaro Negredo played his role as the 6-yard box battering ram. We relinquished the goal very quickly: Garay having to help out Sevilla's right flank as Jesus Navas darted in....swinging to the left to Capel, who crossed the ball into their/our Targetman Negredo. With Albiol missing his aerial challenge for the ball, Xabi Alonso, who was helping out in the middle fluffs his tackle and pokes the ball into the net. 0-1: and I said 'Shit'. And with our attack unable to establish any sort of cohesion, that creepy 'here we go again' feeling began to grip me.
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One word to explain how Sevilla managed to keep their clean sheet in the first half: Palop
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The First Wave
Midway through the first half though, the Real Madrid we had all been accustomed to seeing began to emerge. I'd perhaps be audacious enough to say that the key men were Xabi Alonso and Sergio Ramos: the 2 Spaniards began to assert themselves resulting in a comfortable dominion of their respective spaces: the midfield and the right flank. And while Kaka wasn't able to impose his vertical game, he wasn't losing balls as we saw him do so plenty of times early this season. In fact, while perhaps people will be calling him out, I'd say that given the restrictive space he had to work with in the final third of the pitch, he did a good job distributing the ball to the surging Arbeloa and Marcelo at the flanks. Arbeloa was able to send in quite a few crosses, that were easily cleared by the Sevilla defense - and while it would be easy to have a go at him for those poor crosses, knowing that he was a natural at crossing the ball with his right foot instead of his left allowed me to be a bit more understanding of those limp crosses. It was Cristiano, however who decided that he wasn't keen to be a showpony and that he just wanted to beat Sevilla that made the difference: using his trickery efficiently to skip past 3-4 defenders and create little openings for himself to shoot. With Palop on top of his game though, Cristiano's shots as well as Marcelo's (plus Pipita's wonder volley) allowed Sevilla to keep their clean sheet. In the last 15-20 minutes of the first half, it became very clear though that Real Madrid had another gear that Sevilla didn't have.
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Freak Goal
We came out of the dressing room after halftime however down 1 gear once again... and on the 51st minute, Dragotinovic, their CENTERBACK, fired a free kick that would have been a casual save for most keepers, let alone the world's best. Who knew that the great San Iker too can sleep on the job. Completely misjudging the free kick's (and free kick-taker's?) path. It was too late by the time Casillas realized it was on it's way in: not even his acrobatic leap for a save was good enough to prevent the score from going 0-2. At that point it time, I began thinking the unthinkable: I told myself that to be behind 3 points to Barca isn't too bad anyways. Thank God the team had other things in mind.
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Pellegrini's Gamble
Down 0-2 and clearly still with the ambition to win, Pellegrini rolled the dice: what was the worst that could happen? We were already down 0-2 anyway. I agree that in a situation like last night's, there was no difference between losing 0-2 and, 0-3. With that, out came Arbeloa and Lass and in came Guti & Van Der Vaart. It was very clear that we were going for goals: as many of them as we could. It was a bold gamble that I'm happy Pellegrini took and I'm deliriously over the moon to see work out. With a midfield packed with creativity and firepower and 2 eager beaver attackers (Pipita & Cristiano) thirsty for goals, for the second time in th match, we cranked it up another gear.
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My Man of the Match: Sergio Ramos. Classy Move to Dedicate the Goal to the inmates of Valdemoro Prison. But what the hell is with that nipple fondling celebration? Disgusting.
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The Ketchup Bottle Breaks
Despite a scare down his wing with a Navas + Perotti combination play on his flank, Marcelo managed to survive the lone attack on his wing... after that, it was his charge into the Sevilla area that started chaos for them: playing a ball towards Higuain, it got deflected but not cleared... ending up on the path of a goal-hungry Cristiano Ronaldo who ruthlessly fired it home to make it 2-1. In a matter of minutes (3, I think), Sergio Ramos had made it 2-2 with a trademark header off a corner delivered by Rafa Van Der Vaart who once again put on a great performance off the bench. My jubilation from what took place was not merely out of the fact that we had finally put the game on level terms with still enough time to win it nor was it due to that ridiculous nipple-fondling goal celebration from Sergio Ramos. It was also due to the fact that Sevilla looked completely helpless to everything that was happening... as if they were merely going through the motions in facing inevitability. The looks on their faces, their reactions as well as their body language read as if they were 'Dead Men Walking' towards the gas chamber. Manolo Jimenez's comments post-match confirmed this helplessness.
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Van Der Vaart goes Mad after Scoring the winning goal. I'm very happy for the Dutchman
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It had to go down the wire however before we were finally able to get past the finish line with Van Der Vaart lunging to poke the goal home 3-2 in extra time. His reaction said it all: taking his shirt off with the look of a man whose euphoria has taken him into the very fine line between jubilation and madness. How could he not: after seeing his teammates Pipita strike the woodwork twice, one of them after receiving a trademark armor-piercing pass from Guti. Aside from them, Guti's missile from long range as well as Cristiano's shots (one of which was saved by Raul's back) had me and Madridisimo, players included screaming in anxiety of making that last dash to the finish line... scoring that 3rd goal... winning those 3 points.
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Candidates for Real Madrid Man of the Match:
Please Vote in the survey at the right side of the page on who you felt was the Real Madrid Man of the Match (my vote goes to Sergio Ramos):
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-Cristiano Ronaldo - Was dangerous the entire game and opened the floodgates with his goal to start the 'remontada'
-Van Der Vaart - The Impact Sub: 1 assist, 1 goal (including the winning goal) to cap off a great cameo
-Sergio Ramos - He OWNED his flank. Great on Defense, Great on Attack: He scored a goal too
-Xabi Alonso - When he turns it on, the entire team turns it on.
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Results of the RM MOTM in last week's victory over Tenerife:
Cristiano Ronaldo - 5%
Kaka                    - 0%
Raul                      - 0%
Gonzalo Higuain    - 84%
Iker Casillas          - 5%
Xabi Alonso          - 5%
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Warning Signs for the Lyon Match:
Despite the clearly positive outcome and image that we left in this match with, we surely left signs of bad habits that we must purge for Lyon's coming visit this Wednesday. This is a particularly precarious situation as they come into the match with a 1-0 advantage from the previous leg and any goal we concede against them counts as double as it will be an 'away goal'. We must not allow them to have the initiative during any part of the match like we allowed Sevilla to start the match last night. Further to this, any type of brain meltdown like Casillas had will surely prove to be fatal.
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Last night's win was surely great for morale: of the team and the fans. It was also a 'character win': the type of game I love to see from my Merengues. Let us all not forget however, that a 2-1 or a 3-2 will not do against Lyon on Wednesday... and if we are to avoid that, we had better start this Wednesday's match having broken the ketchup bottle in the tunnel before we even run out onto the pitch.
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Feel-Good Moment: The Bernabeu & Players Applaud Each other at the End of the Match
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A Small Anecdote
Last night, on Real Madrid's 108th anniversary, we broke a ketchup bottle open. Here's to hoping that by the end of the season, it will be Champagne bottles...

Thursday, March 4, 2010

2010-03-03: Real Madrid Talk Podcast



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In this week's podcast, we talked business & money: Real Madrid's 400m revenue and Barca's 366. We also talked about Pipita's Pay. (I'll post more on that later).... we of course talked about last week's Tenerife Match... enjoy! 

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

A Call to Arms Against the Madmen of the Madrid Press

We Should Hire AS' editorial team to be the referees of Liga BBVA.
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I’d like to highlight my deep disturbance and irritation at the Madrid-based press over 2 few things that has been going on in the Spanish Media (which consequently filter through to the world media). They both started out as mere comments and criticisms... then developed into stories... and now they are fullblown conpiracy theories with lives of their own. They're practically viruses...
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Villarato
What in God's name is this? If there are Barcelona fans out there who read this blog, I wish to tell them: I am not among those who support this this immature, mindless, paranoid and amateurish Conspiracy Theory. Seriously, 12 year old can come up with a better one.
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On one hand, you have AS who just can’t stop talking about the alleged favoritism that they claim the Spanish Federation is imposing upon Real Madrid by conspiring to have referees make decisions during matches that favor Barcelona. The way things are going, they might as well claim that there is a transmitter connected to Joan Laporta to the referees’ earpiece to allow him to dictate upon the referees the calls he prefers to see on the pitch. The conspiracy theory is as mad as it is immature. It is also disrespectful not only to Barcelona (despite them being the ‘eternal rival’, I’m level-headed enough to say it) but also to the League in which our beloved Real Madrid plays. If we do one day finally gain the leadership, how can we hold on to it while maintaining the respect of the world if the reputation of the League is left in tatters due to these stupid conspiracy theories? (If Villarato can favor Barca, why wouldn't is be possible for it for some other goofball be responsible for favoring Real Madrid?) It is also a form of disrespect to Real Madrid in another sense: because it undermines our achievements on the pitch: as if our progression from being (at times) 8 points behind Barca to the mere 2 points as we have now has been down to the extent by which alleged Villarato-Blackhand can extend itself. And with Casillas conceding what was clearly an illegal goal last Saturday against Tenerife, I fear that the circus will continue on. How Perez Burrull's outrageous performance in the Atletico-Valencia match has been tagged as a part of this Villarato conspiracy is all beyond me.
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The fact that there are incompetent referees or rather, that they too have bad matches will be part of football for a very long time. Let us criticize them for competence, not conspiracy. It does no one any good.
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This Mindless Fault-finding exercise against Manuel Pellegrini has gotten out of hand. Tomorrow, they might actually say that he's a member of the Taliban.
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The Anti-Pellegrini Campaign
On the other hand however, we have Marca who seem to be hellbent on ending the career of Manuel Pellegrini for the same reason a petulant 6 year old girl refuses to drink he milk because it’s not in a pink glass. While the Chilean is not perfect and has made his fair share of mistakes: his record for Real Madrid, which is the best in the last 15 years is undisputable. At touching distance of Barcelona, this ridiculous campaign is as counterproductive as it is an act of Megalomania (this sinister belief and/or ambition to control the club). Guillem Balague has talked about it in his La Liga preview last week, where he writes:
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"... Meanwhile, the current campaign against Real Madrid coach Manuel Pellegrini is fascinating but also disappointing. I had a chat with Florentino Perez, the club's chairman, this week and his view is that this whole episode is simply people trying to make a name for themselves, especially in newspapers, by claiming Pellegrini's head. They can say 'we got rid of the last chairman, now we've got rid of the manager'..."
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The Spanish journalist's show at Skysports (which sadly is unavailable here in Singapore), Revista De La Liga’s opinions on the matter are scaring me as it seems to suggest that we are in a path headed straight back into the chaotic management that has turned us into something of a circus to the football world.
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We must stop this.
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By the way, if oyu haven't yet.... do particpate in the poll on the right side of the page. Thanks!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

2010-02-27: Tenerife 1 - Real Madrid 5



Please join our poll on who the Real Madrid Man of the Match was for this game! (Poll is on the right side of the screen)

Monday, March 1, 2010

Firepower


Kaka, Pipita & Marcelo: the 3 South Americans played an amazing Offensive Game
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For the second straight week, Real Madrid has romped through the pitch and has put their opponents to the sword. For the second straight week, we showed that characteristic of our squad that all of Madridisimo has been drooling to see week-in and week-out, a flagrant, shameless showcase of Firepower.
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This is good news for all Madridistas especially in the wake of the scandalously poor performance at Lyon… as we look forward to the return match and host a series of top Spanish teams at the Bernabeu (with Villarreal down from our 6-goal blast and Sevilla due to arrive this weekend). With Sevilla due to fly in this weekend, and Lyon a few days later, it feels very comforting that our beloved Merengues have all strapped on their shooting boots and are in the mood for some real goal scoring action. I would like to further add: that like the Riazor (though perhaps to a lesser extent), Tenerife has been regarded as a cursed due to Real Madrid’s infamous losses of the La Liga title in that little island. Perhaps, next week, we can all once again celebrate the breaking of yet another curse: our Champions League last 16 curse that has gripped us for the last 5 years.
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Pipita Higuain: This man deserves a Pay Raise. A Big One.
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1.) Let me start by proclaiming and explaining my Man of the Match: Gonzalo ‘Pipita’ Higuain. He was my favorite Real Madrid player of last season and he is becoming my favorite current Real Madrid player, period. The Argentine scored the match’s 2 opening goals to set the tone for the match and allow us to proceed for the rest of it with both confidence and comfort. With 16 La Liga Goals, he is now right in the thick of the fight to be the league's 'Pichichi'... Let me also point out that this is 5th brace of the season. For those who watch the beautiful game with a footballer’s eye: let me point out that the 22-year old scored one goal with his left foot and another with his right. Both were well-taken and clinical finishes that are hallmarks of a top level striker.
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Sadly however, at 1.5million Euros a year, Pipita does not make the kind of money that a world-class striker playing for Real Madrid does. Neither is the 2.5million/year that seems to be on the table for him. With Raul at 6m and Castrol boy at 13m (I think)… this is a scandalous travesty. Pipita said midweek that he would earn his extension on the pitch with goals. Valdano has responded that his feats will not go unnoticed and will be rightfully rewarded. Let’s all hope that this becomes the case.
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2.) After seeing Iker Casillas commit his fair share of blunders on the pitch in the last weeks, Casillas’ cat-like reactions came alive again last Saturday: making the life of the Tenerife attackers completely miserable. I wish to bring up this point to remind all the Madridistas out there who have been enjoying the fireworks the last 2 games at the opponents’ goal, that our Saint is still alive and kicking… and that he’s… well… still Saintly.
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3.) With guests in the house for the weekend (sleeping on the Living Room Couch), I was not able to catch the match on our Big Screen TV. I had to settle with streaming the match which usually resulted in me watching the game in another language. I had the fortune of catching a UK-Skysports broadcast of it though… (much better than the English Language coverage that we have here in Singapore). In the match, the commentators spoke about Marcelo calling him ‘wonderful for strikers and a nightmare for Center halves’ after showing a replay of his wonderful maneuver to recover the ball and poke it forward to assist Higuain’s first goal… and then another replay showing a chance that his poor positioning offered to Tenerife.
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It’s been the subject of conversation here in the blog: how the backline should be shuffled given our weaknesses at left back. Let my state my opinion on Marcelo once again: he’s a good left-sided midfield player: but must never be allowed to play Left Back. Last Saturday, once again, he was very good going forward but very poor in defending. Without Arbeloa, I suppose we had no choice… once the ‘2’ is back however, the Brazilian should be pushed forward to the midfield right away.
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5.) Are we now seeing the emergence of Kaka in Real Madrid? If we were to ignore the Lyon game (where EVERYONE played poorly…. Though he had some good moments during the second half), I think we can now start tracing the improvements on Kaka’s game coming out: a much more vertical and incisive game. Apart from his runs, the ‘8’ has not been as careless with the ball as he has been early on. His passing game has also improved tremendously as exchanges between him and his teammates have helped improve the ‘construction’ of our attacks. Let’s of course not forget the 2 goals he has scored in the past 2 matches. Guillem Balague mentioned in his Skysports pre-weekend La Liga preview:
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“...Also, what's happening with Kaka? We saw the way he celebrated against Villarreal and I think it's fair to say he is not happy! It appears as though he is putting himself under too much pressure psychologically. He takes things too seriously and doesn't seem to be enjoying himself as much as Ronaldo is.”
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With his strange, attempt to do a celebration jig with Cristiano after his goal, perhaps signs of him REALLY settling in with the squad and develop that chemistry with Castrol Boy is coming along. Madridisimo looks forward to the positive outcome and what it can do for the team on the pitch.
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6.) Xabi Alonso once again played the role as the beating heart of the Madrid midfield. The Basque midfielder simplified the entire game for the midfield with his passes and allowed us to control the match. In stark contrast, Lass didn’t seem to need to tackle anyone to win balls, while Granero was rather poor. If there is one thing that horrifies me at the thought of the Lyon game: it is imagining how we will manage to cope without Xabi Alonso at midfield. My educated guess would be perhaps Guti (which might partly explain why he’s being ‘reserved’) partnered by one or 2 Diarras. A sad anecdote to last Saturday’s match was to not see him get the chance to play against his brother.
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Raul tells us: 'Count 'em!' That's 227 for '7'
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7.) Item number 7 will of course refer to ‘El Siete’ Raul: who scored his 227th goal to move to 3rd in La Liga’s all-time goalscoring table, tying Don Alfredo’s record. Appearing as a substitute, ‘El Kapitan’ turned in Van Der Vaart’s cross into the net with a seemingly-simple but technically superb flick. What a magnificent way to cap off a ‘Manita’!
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Finally, as some of you may have noticed, I've edited the layout of the site a little bit. I've changed banner at the top of the page and I've also added a poll at the right hand side of the page (sort of an experiment.... if we get enough people to vote in these polls, I plan to make them more regular). So please vote your Real Madrid Player of the Match  last Saturday... and also on what you think the outcome of our Champions League tie against Lyon will be.