Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Character

2 Critical wins in 2 matches: 1 in the Champions League, 1 in La Liga: puts us right into the thick of things and still be  in contention for 3 titles this season. An amazing display of man management by the coach, avoidance of interference by management... and above all CHARACTER by the team. If only the supporters would get in line too...
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Slaying the Black Beast of the Champions League
Lyon President Jean-Marie Aulas said we'd go for the 0-0 as if he was taunting us. Mourinho's teasing and clever reply was 'why not? A 0-0 would get us through.' And to it turned out to be 3-0 in our favor.
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The Portuguese Coach's naughty reply was of course duly followed by a Real Madrid seige in the early exchanges of the Lyon game. Despite the seige being 'fruitless' (i.e. without producing a goal) - it was nevertheless an exchange that perhaps baffled Lyon somewhat: Are Real Madrid going for our throats to get the early goal and put this thing to bed? They're playing at home after all... Or are they gonna sit back and hit us on the counter? Needless to say, Mourinho's words were probably ringing in their ears anyway: keep the aggregate score at 1-1 and you guys are going home. So Lyon duly responded with their own attacks.
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And this was Mourinho's cue. The timing of Real Madrid's hammer blow of an opening goal was perfect: it came at a time just when Lyon were getting settled into the game: taking charge of ball possession and beginning to wiggle their way through Madrid's midfield and on to our defense.
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Player No. 12
The Bernabeu have a long way to go before they can consistently match the atmosphere in football's legendary grounds like Liverpool's Anfield or even Bilbao's San Mames.
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The unlikely goalscorer and Man-of-the-Match was player No. 12. No, it was NOT the Santiago Bernabeu Crowd, whose Prawn Sandwich Brigade tendencies were still there despite the cheesy marketing campaign launched by the club weeks before. Mourinho hilariously gave them a 'uhm... not bad... they didn't put in a 90-minute performance... but I suppose they can improve in the next round' (as if to say nevermind you ass clowns, my boys did the job already anyways!).
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Player No. 12 was Marcelo. And he's got the jersey to prove it! The usually-maligned Brazilian whose improvement this season had been Mourinho's first great achievement, put in a performance of a lifetime that will make everyone think twice about snickering the next time he is compared to fellow Brazilian, fellow Left Back and Real Madrid legend + icon: Roberto Carlos - whose place he now occupies.
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Marcelo, with his now-improved sense of anticipation functions to intercept balls (using his pace) moreso than win balls once the opposing winger / fullback is in possession and bombing through. On the flipside, in the attacking front, it has not been lost on astute tactical pundits such as The Guardian and CNNSI's Jonathan Wilson and Zonal Marking's Michael Cox that the Brazilian was the major difference in Real Madrid's play between the 2 legs: where the more convervative Arbeloa played in the first leg and the attack-minded Marcelo in the second.

Players No. 14 and 24
Credit for our wonderful performance against Lyon should of course also go to players no. 14 and 24: our midfield line of Xabi Alonso and Sami Khedira. The disgusting thing though is that while the tireless Xabi Alonso who 'conducted' the operation against Lyon was duly recognized for the 11.4+ km. of ground covered, poor Sami Khedira, whom I thought did a great job in his 'utility midfield function' was panned despite his similar effort of 11.2 km. To put their efforts into context, Man-of-the-match Marcelo covered 9+ km.
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To Atletico Fans: Same Shit, Different Day
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And while Real Madrid spend midweek last week breaking the curse of Lyon and the curse of the Championls League last 16... here come our neighbors, the Mattress Makers (Colchoneros) still unable to break their own curse: 21 games and still unable to beat Real Madrid. An interesting fact is that they've yet to beat us in the 21st Century.
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Last Saturday, they had the perfect opportunity to do so and they blew it yet again. With Real Madrid still reeling from the physical and emotional fatigue brought about by the Lyon clash, Atletico not only had the physical / fitness advantage over us, they also had the benefit of an extremely hostile Vicente Calderon hurling down disgusting insults of the 'Die Ronaldo, Die!' and 'Marcelo Monkey' sort... the kind of insults that merit some form or warning / reprimand from the RFEF - but predictably didn't result in any action.
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Madrid of course were evidently tired despite the trivote... and Mourinho admitted it too 'I'm tired too...' he said... '...and I'm not even playing.' - or something to that effect as he explained his decision to opt for the much-maligned 'trivote'. Last Saturday's 'trivote' of featured Khedira and Lass in their now-familiar carrillero postions - shuttling the ball forward to the attacking 3: explaining Khedira and Lass' unusual -yet-frequent involvement in attacking moves during last Saturday's encounter. Predictably, it had to take Khedira and Lass' frequent invovlement in attacking plays for the Madrid press to give the German and the Frenchman some positive reviews.
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The opening goal just had to come from one of these forays from the Madrid carrilleros... Khedira making one of runs towards the box where he makes a Guti-esque pass to Benzema. The Frenchman, simmering with confidence used the outside of his boot to poke it over De Gea. The second goal would come in from a more typical Madrid attack: a blitzkrieg attacking move from Madrid's leftside put away by the team's second Martian, Mesut Ozil (the first one being Pepe).
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Lass' physical play vs. Atletico Madrid made him look more like a wrestler than a footballer last Saturday
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The ultimate objective of Mourinho's Trivote however was to give Madrid defensive solidity: to force Atleti's attacks down Madrid's flanks instead of through the middle where 1-2 combinations from Aguero and Forlan could hurt us. The plan worked to a Tee: not just because of Forlan's limp performance yet again (what's happened to him???) but also because Lass Diarra mistook the Calderon pitch for a wrestling ring. In the end, much of the attacking play from Atleti was coming through the flanks via ex-Real Madrid player Jose Antonio Reyes... but successfully scoring a goal via crosses from the wings to a 5'9 Aguero was really NOT going to work.
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Let me just say however, what a damn fine player Aguero is. For large portions of the match, it really did look like he was the only Atleti player who was trying... or good enough to have a try against Real Madrid at least. But who could blame Atleti with with Iker Casillas having one of those nights where the he made the Colchoneros feel completely inadequate with his 'there's-a-forcefield-in-the-Real-Madrid-goal-named-Iker' performance?
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Looking forward
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Thanks to the team's impressive display of character, we've finally managed to not only get to the Quarter Finals of the Champions League, but we've also been able to maintain the 5-point gap against Barca on a weekend where fatigue (not Atleti) could've been the banana skin that would almost push us completely out of the league title race. It's been an impressive display of character from the team.
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Perhaps we've also been rewarded by a bit of luck with our Champions League draw: with the Spurs of Tottenham next up. They're no Schalke (the easiest of the pickings) but they aren't Barca, Inter or Chelsea either. I'd have wanted to face another 'ghost from the past' (teams who've eliminated us in recent years) like Arsenal, Roma or Bayern... but they're all out of the picture by now. I'd have fancied our chances against the now-half-strength Manchester United too, not to mention Shahktar Donetsk - but what the hell, let's let Fergie and the Blues cancel each other out in the Quarters to at least ensure that only 1 English team makes the Semis should we eliminate Spurs (lest we hear that horrifyingly boring rhetoric about how oh-so-good the EPL is). Shaktar on the other hand, while being the weakest side in the last 8 on paper, might actually fancy themselves to have a go at Barcelona as they are the only team I know who can boast of 2 wins in their last 5 encounters with Barca. It'll be a sort of homecoming for Rafa Van Der Vaart, who deserves a respectful applause from the Bernabeu from the time he's spent for us. Let's hope he doesn't stick a dagger into our hearts though...
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So it's looking like we're headed for one of those dreadfully boring weekends of International Friendlies. Yuck. Perhaps if there's any consolation, it would be that we can have the injured Cristiano Ronaldo nurse his injury. It's a hilarious coincidence that he should find himself declared 'unfit' to play just as Madrid's string of big games have taken a break. I don't expect to see him play against Sporting next, next week, but I sure as hell won't be surprised to see him play 90 minutes against Spurs in the Champions League.
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Either way, break or no break, I think I speak for everyone when I say that the last week's matches have certainly given us plenty to look forward to... and plenty to hope for.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Lyon King




It's difficult to come up with an original title for this post, where all I can find myself buzzing about was this brilliantly captured phrase in today's column c/o AS' Mad Madridista Tomas Roncero.
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It's a bloody clever thing to call Benzema not just because of the fact that 1.) he's IS a former Olympique Lyonnais youth stalwart, or that 2.) we are about to face Lyon for the second leg of our Last 16 Champions league tie this Wednesday's - a game that I'm sure he is very keen to be part of. The other part of why it's brilliantly clever is that Benzema was after all the guy who the Madrid Press (or maybe Mourinho) wrongly (or rightly) referred to as the hunting cat (as compared to the more preferred hunting dog).
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Mourinho's Motivational Tactics
It is notable of course (and a fact not lost on the Madrid Press) that Mourinho has been able to get the best out of Benzema not by giving him a pat on the back and whispering to his ear and saying:
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"You're stuck with me and I'm stuck with you... let's just bloody try to make this thing work" - or something to that effect.
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Mourinho has instead decided to cook up a VERY public storm (including a spat with Director General Jorge Valdano) to bring in an additional striker that better fits his preferred mould (a more 'classic' #9). And while the rest of the world scratched their collective heads mulling the consequences of this transfer / loan move on the sulky Benzema's confidence, Mourinho non-chalantly dismissed the said concerns with his very simple (and true) explanation that the 2 strikers are not of the same type. Nevermind that it didn't take very long before we saw Adebayor send Benzema to the bench in a matter of a few games - including Benzema's supposed homecoming at the Stade Gerland.
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Somehow, the ex-Monaco man (Adebayor) and the ex-Lyon man (Benzema) really do look like they get along. It's unusual to acquire another striker to make your current one fit in better. It's worked so far though...
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What we have overlooked of course is that behind the scenes, there's been a lot of relationship-building going on in the squad behind the scenes. The arrival of Adebayor, brings yet another French-speaking player to the squad: resulting in a seemingly more calm Lassana Diarra (whom Adebayor describes as his 'brother') as well as an additional friend for the sulky Benzema (the 2 seem to genuinely get along). The outcome of course has been there for all to see.
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2 Braces in 3 games and now up to 19 goals for the season. So let's all call it as it is: This is looking like the Benzema at Lyon that had the world of football droolling over his potential. This is the Lyon King!
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Mourinho's 4-4-2
Mourinho, known in for his 4-3-3 in Chelsea that produced so many 1-0 scorelines, surprised us all 2 weekends ago in Racing Santander when he opted for an almost 'classic English' 4-4-2. 2 Strikers, 2 Central Midfielders and a man on each wing to pair up with the fullback. It was of course a massive success - prompting Mourinho to give it another try last Saturday against Hercules.
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It is interesting to note that in the era of the single striker system, there are actually still plenty of top level strikers (e.g. Rooney, Tevez, Dzeko, etc.) who are far more effective with a striker partner - and Benzema is one of them. It is now clear that he and Adebayor make a good pair. The Togolese striker at 6'3 is a towering presence at the box who can be deployed as a target man yet is still blessed with a good touch on the ball and also has impressive pace to boot. Benzema is happy of course to play behind him, make runs to open up space or go wide to help stretch the opposing defense. The other interesting point to note however is how both strikers' tendency to drop deep and help the midfield actually compensates for the 4-4-2's main weakness of conceding the numberical advantage to a team playing a 4-3-3/4-5-1/4-2-3-1.
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Along the flanks and in front of the midfielders, Ozil and Di Maria reprised their roles that saw them shape-shift Mourinho's 4-4-2, from a more 'traditional English' alignment - with the 2 playing along the flanks... to a Pellegrini/Luxemburgo-esque 4-2-2-2: as they tucked into the center of the pitch to help in the buildup play while allowing Marcelo and Arbeloa (vs. Hercules) / Ramos (vs. Racing) to provide width. Hybrid variants of this also occur or course (Di Maria on the wing with Ozil drifting inwards while a fullback provides width... or vice versa).
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Granero's recent emergence as a legitimate tactical option is wonderful news for Madridisimo
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It was at the center of midfield where the dramatic change took place between the team that faced Racing and the team that faced Hercules. Against Racing, Madrid were almost.... for the lack of a better way of calling it.... Barca-like: one touch passing, constant ball movement - resulting in a well-oiled attacking team. It was the stuff of daydreams. The culprit is of course the combination of Xabi Alonso and Esteban Granero feeding the in-form Ozil the ball for attacking plays. Granero, treated as a peripheral figure in the squad thus far this season, took his opportunity (in light of injuries to Khedira and Gago and Lass' suspension) to start with both hands. He's been singled out for praise too: from the likes of Mourinho, to Xabi Alonso. Last weekend however, with an eye towards tomorrow's big Champions League clash vs. Lyon, Xabi Alonso was rested in favor or Lassana Diarra - not only depriving Granero with 'dance partner' with whom to build up play with, but also laying the responsibility of ball distribution and 'play building' responsibilities squarely on the shoulders of the canterano. And it's not that Granero played the role poorly as to why Madrid wasn't as sparkling vs. Hercules (Champions League distractions aside) - it's simply because neither he, nor anyone I can imagine at the moment, can play the role of ball distributor and tempo-dictator (or 'conductor' to the more romantic) better than Xabi Alonso. That however isn't the main storyline of the midfield - the key story line now is that now, at this critical stage of the season, Mourinho has found yet another man in the squad to trust in El Pirata.
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The Key Plotlines: Post-Hercules, Racing & Malaga
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The Rise of the Lyon King
While it is easy to remember Karim Benzema as the 19-year old who scored 31 goals for Lyon, it is easy to forget that he left Lyon under a cloud of patchy form. Some say it was due to his modified role in the tactical system, while others chalk it down to his little battles with niggling injuries. Needless to say, while  he came to Madrid with expectations that matched his potential, these expectations however didn't quite fit in with his personality and level of maturity. His first phase in Madrid was characterized by his inability to produce both matches and on the training pitch. We, along with Mourinho will probably remember his second phase in Madrid for the added effort on the training pitch while still desperately waiting for the results to appear in actual matches. And now here we are this third phase - where we are finally seeing his efforts to improve both his workrate and his integration to the team yield results. Last Saturday's display showed us Benzema's newfound level of concentration (the first goal) as well as his sky high confidence (second goal). His recently-developed sense of camaraderie was also there to see as he looked to celebrate with Arbeloa (who assisted him for the first goal). All that's left for him to do is to look for a more appropriate celebration as his old, preferred 'sniper celebration' smacked of arrogance, whereas his current 'jumping twirl' celebration, while refreshingly childlike on one level - is actually kinda wimpy.

Benzema's old 'Sniper Goal Celebration' smacked of arrogance. His current 'Jumping Twirl Goal Celebration' though makes him look like a bloody fairy.
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So now that CR7's undoubted success is on track to be matched by Karim Benzema, thanks to the efforts of one Jose Mourinho, perhaps turning the thus-far-abject-failure that is Kaka back into the player he was at Milan isn't so out of reach.
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Mourinho's Newfound Dilemma 
From starting the season with a fixed 4-2-3-1 formation with a starting XI that essentially only relied on Arbeloa and Lass to give the team a slightly different look (Albiol was more like a contingency plan for injuries and suspensions). The current squad however has now proven itself capable of  a variety of tactical systems (from the now familiar 4-2-3-1, to the 4-4-2, to a 4-3-3 'Trivote' or even a 4-3-3 'Rombo'). The personell choices each give us a variety of tacital options too: Benzema or Adebayor or Both? CR7 + Di Maria, Ozil or all of the Above? A trivote with Xabi Alonso + Lass / Khedira / Granero? A back 4 with variations of Ramos / Pepe / Carvalho at the middle and of Ramos / Arbeloa / Marcelo at fullback.
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We've now reached a point where every personell variant of every tactical formation can give the team a totally new set of characteristics without necessarily resulting in a drop in quality. It's become a dream situation for the tactically-sophisticated Mourinho. Let us hope that this newfound dilemma can serve Mourinho in good stead.
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Some Late Thoughts on the Events of the Last Few Games:
Just when I thought that Mourinho has really crossed the line with his 'I'd never have gone to Malaga if Real Madrid fired me...' remark which intended or not, was very disrespectful to Manuel Pellegrini and to Malaga (a club, whose injection of cash and investment from new ownership has been a refreshing story for La Liga). - I never thought that it would be Pellegrini himself who would return such an ungentlemanly remark with a disgustingly unsporting coaching move. With his open admission that he essentially has his team 'lay down and die' at the Bernabeu by keeping the bulk of his best players out of the match. Despite the fact that watching a 7-0 in favor of Madrid is always enjoyable, I find it when teams deliberately choose to lay down and die. It defeats the purpose of sport and competition. And here I was hoping for good things for Malaga - Karma served them right 2 weekends ago with their last minute defeat at the hands of Osasuna.
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Apologies for falling off the radar this past week. I flew back to Manila last, last weekend and missed the 7-0 against Malaga and the 1-3 against Racing. My return to Singapore (and regular blogging) however was rudely interrupted by the flu - partially self-inflicted with my unhealthy decision to watch Arsenal's ill-fated attempt to push Barca off the Champions League catch up on Madrid's games on replay (the Malaga and Racing Game) in one night.
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Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Aftermath of our 2 Bogey Team Match Dates.

Apologies for not blogging last week. There was that odd feeling of 'bleh' emanating from last week's 2-0 vicotory over Levante that just had me feeling a bit bland. Perhaps it was out of the predictability of the result (a win), but more likely, it was because I was in breathless anticipation for last week's Champions League tie to face Lyon.
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The Levante match had all the forseeable changes we could have all predicted: Benzema starting up front, Xabi Alonso, Adebayor and even Arbeloa rested while Kaka got a run out as well (75 mins.). A predictable victory only made sweeter by Benzema and Carvalho's goals. It is an interesting fact that our starting Central Defender and our second choice striker (who's played a significant enough number of games) BOTH have 3 La Liga goals. But before we malign the cold-fish Frenchman for his defender-like La Liga goalscoring numbers, let us also remember that he has scored a respectable 13 goals (second to CR7) so far this season in all competitions - a respectable number by any standard. With 13 La Liga games to go plus the prospect of further advancement in the Champions League and a Copa Del Rey final to go, I don't see why he can't manage to hit 15-to even 20 goals in all competitions this year - respectable numbers for a 'backup striker'.
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The Beasts of Gaul Haunt Us Yet Again
While it may be viewed as something to be critical of, I personally enjoyed seeing Florentino's very human reaction to Benzema's goal against our CL bogey team Lyon.
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I know that I'm supposed to be 'content' (if that's the correct word) with the 1-1 result at the Stade Gerland last week. We finally managed to score there. Our goal scorer actually turned out to be a guy who had developed a reputation as a big game choker and was turning out to be too much of a cold fish for a Meregue fan's taste. His moment of brilliance and show of character was indeed so compelling that it just had to get our normally poised President Florentino Perez to leap out of his chair in elation. 'My Dad's human' sheepishly explained his daughter a few days later on, apologetically explaining her father's reaction to Madridisimo and the greater footballing world. She probably didn't know seeing Florentino that way actually earned him more fans.
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But Florentino's reaction aside, Gomis' late equalizer after Mourinho eventually decided to 'close shop' by sending Marcelo in (not that Marcelo actually makes for a defensive insurance policy) to give us 5 men at the back, was a real downer. It was like having your boss give you a nice fat bonus for you to  privately do your chicken dance upon hearing the news only to be told later that there was a mistake and you'd only recieve half that amount. Perhaps it was because I REALLY expected a convincing victory with this team coached by Mourinho to vanquish the ghosts of Champions League past? Conceding that late goal really smacked of the team's lack of character, poise and fortitude to protect their lead? Would I feel better if they scored first before Benzema would come on to perform his heroics?
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Don't get me wrong - I am happy (I think). I'm happy with the draw... or as they like to call it... a 'result'... I'm especially happy with the away goal too... and that it was scored by the guy too many people have already adjudged to be a flop or a lost cause. But for reasons I really can't explain - the result stirs me inside the wrong way. If anything, I'm even more dissppointed NOW that as I look back at it, the experience was one which I failed to learn the extremely important lesson on expectations: in setting them and managing them.
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The R(i)azor Cuts Yet Again
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I was among many Madridistas who were thinking that as the month of February rolled along, that fatigue would finally get to Barca after a January filled with midweek Copa Del Rey matches and a bout with Arsenal in the Champions League. With their thin squad, a few tricky matches I thought would do the job in cutting their weekly lead of 7, down to something more manageable by the time we have to face them for the Clasico at the Bernabeu. After all, losing to Arsenal and dropping points against La Liga strugglers Sporting along with a labored 2-1 win against plucky Athletic Bilbao were all signs on the wall.
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The logic wasn't wrong of course... except for the fact that Madridisimo wasn't looking at the mirror when they needed to be. The signs were on the wall for us too. Cristiano Ronaldo's scored one goal in the last few matches. Our human wrecking ball goalscorer Cristiano Ronaldo has only managed to score in a mere one game in the last 9 games (despite scoring a brace), plus the fact that we've had a series of binary-code-like scorelines which included a loss and a draw. And while we all loved to talk up how poor Barca have had to settle with a mere 19-man squad (compared to our talent-laden 25-man squad) early in the season, we've also overlooked that within that supposed argument, our very own Jose Mourinho had only opted to make use no more than 15 men among his 25-man-strong squad. If fatigue was going to get to any team, it wasn't just going to be Barca - we were prime candidates too.
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I do still hold on to my opinion that despite juggling only a handful of players in terms of playing time, that Mourinho has thus far done well with his tiny rotation policy - with my only objection being Cristiano Ronaldo playing 90 minutes of every bloody game.
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But here we are, bleeding yet again after a trip to the Riazor, a full season after breaking the curse of this wretched stadium. And judging from what transpired last Saturday, I'm inclined to believe that perhaps there is probably some stupid curse involved in this stadium indeed...
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Mourinho started the game with a few peculiar moves: Benzema up front (possibly to reward him for his performance against Lyon and to 'punish' Adebayor's anonymous performance), and Kaka in for Di Maria - pushing Ozil to the wing. At the center of the pitch, Lass was the logical replacement for the injured Khedira. On defense, Mourinho opted to be gung-ho: opting for Sergio Ramos and Marcelo over Arbeloa, likely to anticipate Depor's 'One Goalkeeper + 10 Defenders' tactical setup.
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Mourinho's flubs on his first Gamble, but not even his Re-adjustments Pay Off
Mouinho's 1st Second Half Switch Flopped: By leaving Xabi Alonso in the middle, our ability in keep possession evaporated - and it even gave Depor a few counterattacking opportunities. This type of 'Diamond' Formation seems to only work in Video Games.
Though the first half was an essentially drab encounter between the 2 sides, it was nonetheless one of the few instances where we saw Depor venture forward. By the 60th minute however, with the game at 0-0, Mourinho lived up to what he always said he would do: gamble to WIN. Sending Di Maria in for Kaka was no surprise (bringing Ozil, not the best of away game performers to his preferred position behind the striker)... the bit of a surprise however wasn't that Adebayor came into the game, but that he came into the game for Lass (I was expecting a direct swap between him and Benzema) - changing Real Madrid's shape from its familiar Double Pivot to a classic 'rombo' - not a 4-3-3-esque Rombo (with the use of Central Midfielders as Carilleros), but one which employed a single defensive midfielder (Xabi Alonso) with true wingers on each side (Ronaldo and Di Maria) and Fantasista in front of him (Ozil). Mourinho also made his first in-game attempt to utilize his 2 very different strikers: a Target Man (Adebayor), and a more mobile, withdrawn striker (Benzema).
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Mourinho's 'ultimate siege formation' - it was amazing to watch it in action. But an utter letdown to see it ultimately fail to getting us that valuable goal last Saturday at the Riazor. I don't think we've seen the last of this - and I really believe it's capable of working wonders in the future. 
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The outcome: a flop. With Xabi Alonso as the only guy able to offer a midfield presence, ball retrieval after an unsuccessful attack became laborious and even resulted in a number of counterattacking situations for Depor who at that point had essentially given up trying to score. It was of course interesting and a massive ego boost to me that not long after I had tweeted to ask Mourinho to send Granero in to help 'hold the midfield', he did exactly just that: this time sacrificing Marcelo in favor of the Canterano. His re-adjustment worked wonders tactically: pushing up the game's area of play exclusively at Depor's third of the pitch.
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It wasn't to be however. Our siege on Arranzubia's goal ultimately proved fruitless - with the Depor goalkeeper reverting to the more familiar role of goal-stopper (as opposed to his historic role as goalscorer last during the last jornada)... with the help of the goal post of course!
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The Ugly Aftermath
Let me say however that the truly ugly aftermath of this game wasn't that we are once again seven points behind Barca (which can stretch up to 10 on weekends where they play first). The ugly part of last Saturday's aftermath firstly from Madrid-press-initiated blame game which has now trained its sights on poor Kaka - insinuating (or more like boldly declaring that there's still plenty of teams out there who would love to take him on especially after he has supposedly pissed Mourinho off and that he's 'beyond salvation'). What ridiculous stuff!
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Equally ridiculous was the 'plot' which Mourinho has chosen to rant about to deflect the attention away form the players: this time graduating from the referee and then towards the RFEF people who tackle the scheduling of matches. It is as interesting and ironic of course that this rant comes ahead of our match against a Malaga side who would have had less days of rest before facing us this Thursday.
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I can only take comfort in the fact that prior to the match, interviews with Florentino Perez, Valdano and even Zidane seem to indicate that the civil war that has waged between the parties mentioned seems to have reached a sort of peace treat - and that with all that's been said, it does seem likely that for the first time in a long time, we will have ourselves a competent manager (i.e. Schuster doesn't count) who can last the summer and start next season anew for the coming league campaign - regardless of the outcome of the current La Liga campaign. Though the possibilities of raising a La Liga trophy are becoming slimmer with each passing match day, if we do reach an offseason and onto the next one whilst still talking about the same 'project' we were all discussing when this season started, given today's times - that too perhaps can be considered something to a title.
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Either way, apart from the Copa Del Rey final and what looks to be a promising Champions League campaign thus far, we're right back to the Capello-era 'all-remaning-matches-are-finals' mode when it comes to La Liga. And I suppose if there's one big comfort about this all - is that if there's one man you'd like to have on the touchline of a final - it's the guy we already have.