Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Pretend Coach

So here I am, half-disgusted-and-sick-and-tired of these El Clasicos, but also half-nervous and begging for a miracle tonight. The realist in me tells me that it's game over. But I am overcome with the desire to dream. Call it the spirit of Juanito, call it the heart of Pipita (Real Madrid's current Patron Saint for Refusing to Lose)... call it what you want. But I've spent a chunk of the day pondering how we can beat Barca tonight. 0-2 will send it to Extra Time. 0-3 or 1-3 will take us to Wembley. An 0-1 or 1-2 is a consolation victory. But a victory nonetheless which we can take with us to the offseason, along with what's left of the Copa Del Rey Trophy before a parting taunt at Barca: 'See you in the Super Copa!'. Get to Wembley or not. Real Madrid NEED a win. Someone summed it up beatutifully this afternoon (on twitter) "Tonight's game will decide if this season has been either a good one or a historic one."
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Mourinho's act of genius before all this of course was to be able to find Barca's 'Anti-christ': Pepe. But Barca apparently managed to expel their 'anti-christ' by PLAY ACTING to be Jesus at the hands of the Romans. Excuse the Blasphemy. No Pepe. No Ramos. No Khedira - these are the constraints.Now Mourinho must go to the Camp Nou, sit in a VIP box and let Karanka do the rest. His objectives are clear:
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1.) Score 2 goals AT LEAST. (TRY for 3 goals)
2.) Keep a Clean Sheet
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For objective no. 1, it is very clear that Real Madrid have the firepower for such a task. Ronaldo, Benzema, Pipita, Adebayor, Di Maria, Kaka and Ozil can take care of that (apparently our 'magnificent 7' as according to Marca, have scored 109 goals between them). On the other hand, it's objective no. 2 with our constraints that's going to be  tricky.
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4-3-3 Formation: the Cornerstone of our recent El Clasico Successes
Let's start with a very simple fact which has been ignored by most people thus far: except for the 2nd half of the Copa Del Rey (when we were fatigued) and the last 25 mins. of last week's CL tie when we were down to 10 and left with yellow card-burdened players on the pitch: we essentially had Barca where we wanted them. And the most basic principles behind this recent success can be found in Mourinho's use of the 4-3-3. The principle is simple: to use 1 or 2 of the midfield 3 as 'raiders' on defense or as carilleros to shuttle the ball forward. i.e. the use of defensive AND offensive carilleros.
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In Game 1 we used Pepe in this role and got a draw while in Game 2 we used BOTH Pepe and Khedira in this role and won the Copa Del Rey but only after surviving the opening 25 minutes of the 2nd half where Barca's renewed resolve and our tivote's fatigue kicked in.
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Tonight, while needing to attack, I'd like to propose the formation below: which makes use of the personnel in our Double Pivot formation but in a 'Trivote':
football formations
My Wannabe-Coach Moment: My current Proposed Solution for Tonight's game. What do you guys think?
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The key ideas are simple:
1. Barca's midfield is like an Earthquake. If you let them start, it will become a tsunami by the time they get to your third of the pitch. The momentum must be killed before it can begin. The momentum usually begins right smack at the center of the pitch, where Xavi and Iniesta weave magic together with Messi when he drops deep (see white dashed arrow lines): the key principle is to box them in with our 'Trivote' (see yellow rectangle).
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2. Di Maria will play as Pepe. El Fideo has always been known for his willingness to help on defense and press the opponent. On defense, his job will be like Pepe in the Copa Del Rey: to cut off the link between the Busquets the Bigot and Xavi. On attack he will become a carillero/winger: to shuttle the ball forward from midfield to either a surging Marcelo to link up with either of the front 3: just as he did with Argentina last summer.
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3. Lass will play as Khedira: He will cut off the link between Iniesta and the racist Busquets. He may shuttle the ball forward to our guys in attack but MUST REMEMBER THAT HE IS NOT ZIDANE (i.e. keep it simple).
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4. Xabi Alonso will play as he did in the Copa Del Rey: he will be the passing and positional fulcrum of the team (all the yellow dashed lines attached to him are his possingle passing channels). He is also to keep an eye on Messi if the little Master drops deep in his 'false 9' role.
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5. Ozil as part of the front 3 can drop deeper in his preferred fantasista role (to form a narrow 'rombo') and also help in closing Busquets the monkey. His presence in this role can also allow him to be the guy to close down Pique when he makes one of his wannabe-Franz-Beckenbauer runs with the ball forward. On attack, if we assume he will be coming from a deeper position, then he just might be able to make thant late run for a Lampard-esque goal/s
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6. In front, CRon and Benzema/Adebayor/Pipita can pair up but must perform the role of pressing the Barca defenders.
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7. The flanks: it will be a one-on-one Brazilian Dogfight between Marcelo and Alves. Both will probably cross swords at the middle of the pitch where they are generally stationed. Marcelo must show his maturity in balancing his attacking play to pin Alves behind and tracking his compatriot... or risk exposing his defense. If everyone does their job, Carvalho + Albiol will only either need to worry about Messi or Pedro and not both simultaneously. On the other side, Arbeloa's natural tendency to be conservative should see him play 1-on-1 vs. Villa tonight: a matchup I truly believe he can win.
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8. Substitutions: Di Maria will probably look like a starved Somalian by the 70' in this role (wait, he sort of looks like one already, haha) - Kaka or Granero can come in as a reliever. On attack, Ozil and Benzema can be replaced by Adebayor and Pipita. I quite like Pipita in these endgame situations because a player with a Kamikaze 'Banzai MotherF*cker!' personality like him might just be the guy who makes a difference while an Aerial Threat with pace and skills like Adebayor totally changes the gametime situations which the Barca defenders will face.

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