Alright, looks like Mou will deploy another “B-side” against a Zaragoza side that will be hard pressed to give up many points this late in the relegation battle. Hopefully today’s match will be a nice break up from the debacle that was the first leg of the CL semis. MADRID MADRID MADRID
Casillas, Dudek, Adan
Carvalho, Pepe, Sergio Ramos, Marcelo, Arbeloa, Garay, Nacho
Granero, Kaka, Canales, Di Maria, Ozil, Juanfran
Adebayor, Higuain, Benzema
Are you fed up? Because I am. We lost. They whine. We kill. They cheat. We dive. I have had enough. Clearly making two teams play that hate each other so much, so often, is NOT a good idea. Its so dirty, so cheap, it is not even football anymore. I for one, cannot wait for Tuesday to come and go by. Maybe I won’t have said this had we won, Maybe I still might have, but the point is, my footballing appetite is saturated. Just in case anyone has forgotten, we do play Real Zaragoza tomorrow.
So you all know it by now. UEFA have decided to open up a case for the game that took place on wednesday. Here is what the UEFA website said:
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Boy oh boy. So much to say. So little time and space to say it. Well, I have a lot of space but probably not enough time. We all watched the game, or mmmm, whatever you call what took place on the field. Did anyone enjoy it? Well, if you did, then you are a fan of wrestling and theatre more so than football. It was as if you were watching a theatre performance about two gangs who are fighting and whoever hit the ground more gets more points. In the end, what won the game was bad defending from Marcelo, slow reaction from Albiol and genius from a little Argentine. Before we break down what happened into pieces, congrats to Barcelona on the win, and more than anything, for Messi who won the game for them.
This is it folks. When we set out this season, we had humble aims. A challenge to the league title, a better performance in the cup and a high point of Champions League semis was considered to be the benchmark for a good season. Liga is a bit of a toughie, we won the Copa against Barca and now face them again in the semis. They might be injury hit, and the confidence meter might ever so slightly be in our favour. But come kickoff, all that will not matter. The team that wants it most will win. Join us for the liveblog. Slight reminder that there will be only 25 available slots. So if you are only going to read the liveblog, please prefix an R to your name. And advanced apologies to all who cannot be added later once the limit is reached. I sign off with a quote from one of my favourite movies based on sport, Glory Road — ‘Its not about talent, its about heart. They are not going to give anything to you. You gotta go out there and take it!’ Let’s do this Blancos!
This is where we fight! This is where they die!
Here we are kids. We are past the half way line and going into the part that matters most. To say we have come out surperior in the first half is, as the stats show, spot on. To say our players gave it their all? Spot On. To say our hearts have aged 10 years? Spot on. To say we are proud of our team? Spot on! To say we pulled the underdog story and won? Spot on. To say we are now the favorites? Foolish i say. Foolish.
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As you all probably, I am very active on Twitter. The beauty about Twitter is you tend to get to know a lot of people you have never met, and maybe even never will meet in real life. So you get to interact with several people with different opinion. One such person I have come across is Jose Antonio who goes by the name @Galapago555 on twitter. It helps that he is as bilingual as it gets, and when the Spanish is too fast for my L-board comprehension, the English comes as a blessing. One day I decided to prepare a list of questions as a written interview for him because I was curious about a thing or two, and will now publish them so y’all can have a pleasant read before the heart attack inducing CL Clasicos.
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Well I’m glad the starting XI took plenty of ibuprofen and drank a lot of water to quickly recover from any sort of cup hangover that may have been lingering at the onset of the kickoff. Granted, only two from the Cup victory over Barca were in the starting lineup (that’s nine changes for all you non-math majors). Many were concerned that Valencia, a team looking to solidify their third place on the table and a European birth, would simply roll over the Madrid B-team. Simply put, the Madrid 2nd string played Valencia off the pitch, for about 80 minutes, but more on that later. It was a big game for many on the Madrid side. Higuaín was looking to reestablish himself as the go to man to lead the line. Benzema was looking to show that he too is just a capable front man. Kaka’ wanted to show that he was worth his gigantic price tag. Boys like Canales and young Nacho Fernandez were simply showing Mou that they had the chops to be role players for the Whites when called up. And I’ll tell you, they all delivered. But first, here are the match stats:
Valencia // Real Madrid
22(8) Shots (on Goal) 14(8)
7 Fouls 19
11 Corner Kicks 7
1 Offsides 3
63% Time of Possession 37%
1 Yellow Cards 0
0 Red Cards 0
2 Saves 5
Madrid came out with a quasi 4-4-2 with Benz and Pipa at the top with Kaka’, Lass, Pirata, and Canales behind them and Nacho, Albiol, Carvalho, and Garay across the back. Casillas of course tended the net. The Whites (or Whites and Blacks as they were in a mixed kit for the match) played with no real wide players and looked for Kaka’, Canales, and Pipita to provide the width when they could. The lineup, as the score sheet denotes, was lethal although it was against a Valencia side that lacked a lot of bite and lacked even more defense. The first goal came at the 23′ mark, just three minutes after KB9 rattled the post from about 15 feet out. Gonzalo got freed on the right wing and slotted a beautiful teasing low ball across the box to Benz. Valencia keeper Guaita left his line and dove in a futile attempt to parry the cross, but failed and allowed Karim to pick his spot and slam the ball past a last ditch defender. The vision from Gonzalo was nothing short of superb and the patience displayed by Benz was clinical. Madrid punished the Valencia high line time and time again with diagonal play.
Gonzalo got himself on the score sheet with some industrious play following a poor first touch from an over the top ball. After knocking the ball too far from his feet and failing to out run Mathieu, Pipita caught the defender and leapt all over a mis-touch and fired the ball into the back of the net. Pipita’s first touch and pace weren’t as crisp as what we may have been used to a year ago, but he did labor and fight for the ball, which is something a lot of players coming off of injuries may fear doing.
Kaka’ got in on the action on a simple setup from Higuaín on a quick counter, the Argentine once again displaying his passing prowess. Three minutes later Kaka’ returned the favor on a similar counter and Gonzalo was able to net a tap in he was much more accustomed to. The attacking trio of Benz, Pipa, and Kaka’ seemed unstoppable and probably gave Mou a headache as he was already thinking about his starting XI for Wednesday’s clash. All three of their performances on the day warranted a starting slot, but would they fit in to the system Mou has planned? Only time will tell…(forgive the cliché)
The prowess of those three should not take away from the performances of the rest of the squad on the pitch, not in the slightest. Canales and Granero orchestrated the midfield wonderfully and did a great job holding up the ball as well as launching counters. However, as the stats above show, Madrid lacked a lot of possession, even for an away game against a visibly weaker side. I’m not saying that Madrid needs to kick the ball between the center backs for an hour to boost the stat, but they do need to do a better job of maintaining the ball and playing a possession type game, it can’t be all counter attacks. Nacho Fernandez at the back shut down the lethal Pablo Hernandez all dame long and really looked like a bright star in the cantera. He wasn’t even playing at his preferred CB role, which only makes his performance even more enticing. Hopefully Mou will give him more chances to prove himself in the future.
The onset of the second half saw more of the same with Gonzalo scoring yet again to bag his hat trick and claim the match ball at the end of the match. It was supplied once again by Kaka’ as he tip toed around the defense to the touch line and slammed a low cross between three Valencia defenders to the feet of Pipita. Kaka’ bagged one more after nutmegging Stankevicius inside the box and curling his effort around Guaita, but only after Soldado netted a close range effort. Valencia managed two more late goals from Jonas and Jordi Alba late to make it 6-3, but only after Madrid had clearly switched off and were content with their performance by about the 80′ mark.
Madrid utilized three subs on the day, the first was Xabi Alonso for Canales in the 62′ and the secondly shortly thereafter in the 67′ as Ronaldo was brought on for Higuaín. You would think that the introduction of these two would be the last thing Valencia would want to see (and it probably was), but the production from these two stalwarts was quite underwhelming to say the least. Xabi seemed to really lack any sort of crispness in his passing and seemed relatively lethargic trotting around the midfield, clearly still suffering from a midweek hangover. Ronaldo, on the other hand, seemed genuinely disinterested in the match entirely. Ronnie failed to track back, something Higuaín did plenty of, and was often caught casually strolling around the center circle. Granted the match was well in hand, but it was not a performance that many Madridistas would be proud of. A little bit of hustle or willingness to maintain the scoreline for Iker’s sake would have been appreciated, but CR7 was not having it. I will say that an injury in a match like this leading up to the clash Wednesday would be the last thing Madrid would want, so here’s hoping that Cris was just saving himself. The last sub was the red headed step child Peter Lion in the 75′ for Ezekiel Garay. It was good to see Mou still remembers his name and is able to call him up to be introduced by the fourth official.
Despite the late slacking off and some disinterest from some of our regular leaders, it was a good victory for Madrid. It showed the world that we have the best complete squad in the world as our number two’s are able to dispatch the third place team. This does, however, shine a gigantic spotlight on the disparity between the two top dogs and the rest of La Liga. It is nice that Madrid have not much to fear when it comes to gaining European birth’s year in and year out and only have one club to compete for league honors, but one has to wonder if playing weak sides week in and week out won’t have an adverse effect down the line. I won’t open a debate as to what league is the best top to bottom (although it was hilarious to see Arsenal fall to the mighty Wanderers earlier today) because I don’t want to take away what was accomplished on the field. The attacking options for Mou have only been bolstered and all I can say is that it will be an interesting tie. Hala Madrid
The pasillo looks amazing! As for MOTM, i will go with Pipita. He scored 3, assisted 2 (haters who say he doesn’t provide for his teammates can rethink some stuff) and he was making constant runs. Not only that, but his work ethic was great running all over the pitch. It’s safe to say, PIPITA IS BACK! My second MOTM would go for Kaka. An assist and a wonderfully taken goal. The third would go to Iker for making some amazing saves. And finally, a big thumbs up for Nacho Fernandez for making his debut in style. He handled Pablo Hernandez wonderfully well.
Well this fixture seems to lack any real bite or grit as past encounters have at the Mestalla, especially coming off the heels of a cup win against FC “We didn’t really care anyway.” I know many are hoping just as I am that Mou rests some key players ahead of the titanic first leg of the CL semis on Wednesday. I personally would like to see Benz and Pipita get some playing time as well as Canales and Garay. Benz and Pipita need to get their legs back before they can be battle ready and we all know the talent that Canales and Garay have that needs to be nurtured. So here’s to some bench players getting some deserved playing time.
Casillas, Adan, Dudek
Albiol, Garay, Pepe, Carvalho, Marcelo, Nacho Fernandez
Lass, Ozil, Xabi Alonso, Kaka, Pedro Leon, Canales, Granero, Juanfran
Cristiano Ronaldo, Benzema, Higuain