Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Poll Results: Will Real win anything this season?

Pepe, Roberto Carlos, & the full back position...

Unfortunately, I know what Real Madrid centre defender is going through with his ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament) injury - as I have recently suffered the same pain. But in a twisted way, I would happily go back in time and have it again if it meant that Pepe could be saved from it. If this wasn't clear already, this is a massive blow to Real Madrid.

The ACL (diagram included below) is a tricky ligament, and the operation involves replacing the actual ligament tissue with a piece of tendon "borrowed" from one's thigh. In most cases, the knee is never as strong as going into the operation, and even though it is an extremely common injury in footballers, it is one of the most scarring and scaring.

Losing their best defender, and one of the best in the world's
defenders for the entire season, Real' €250 mn spend could be utterly useless if they don't act in the January Transfer Season. The centre of defence seems extremely well covered with: Albiol, Metzelder and Garay. However, the full back positions, as was the concern right at the begining of the season is the main problem. Will it have to be Brazilian veteran Roberto Carlos who returns to the Spanish capital to bring some stability back to the defence? (Did he ever do this in his 10 year spree at the club?)
Even though he has announced his move back to Brazil to play with old team mate Ronaldo; it is evident to most that a move back to Real would be too tempting to turn down for him.

Marcelo has clearly demonstrated his technical and attacking skills in midfield (when covering for injured super star Cristiano Ronaldo). Drenthe is far from being a left back, Arbeloa has proven time and time again, that he is a decent substitute - but not a starting player for Real Madrid.

Ramos is in-charge of the right wing at Real (with Cristiano's consent), but he may be required to participate in the centre of defence with Pepe absent, leaving Lassana Diarra to take over the right back position and opening up his old role to Mahmadou Diarra. That perhaps, may be the best alternative, however, will Pellegrini's engineering degree lead him to an exciting innovation avoiding a new buy in 2010?

Sunday, December 6, 2009

1-0: Zlatan

It was definitely a moral victory for Real Madrid. They probably played their best football all season, and in the toughest stadium to do so...the Nou Camp. Let's not forget that Barça did win the game 1-0 with Zlatan's third touch of the game, however no one leaving the pitch was truly dissapointed.

The game did not transcend like a classic "Clasico". Both teams left out their key strikers in their starting line ups (French international Benzema and game winning Zlatan Ibrahimovic) respectively. It was a slightly cautious approach but both teams started off playing beautiful open football. Pure Spanish football at it's best. Barça's constant and restless triangle passing and Real's more direct, perhaps slightly individualistic and fast-paced possession made it a constant battle in throughout the pitch.

This isn't the norm in such games - there is always usually something that goes wrong. And then it happened. For some reason Barcelona's honest (let's put Thierry Henry aside) players were not exactly on their best behaviour. Keita, Dani Alves and even Golden Ball winner Lionel Messi kept trying to provoke inexistant free kicks, bookings and wrongful decisions. And finally, local talent Sergio Busquets (son of former FC Barcelona's keeper - Carlos Busquets), who coincidentally must have been spending a lot of time with Henry; unprofessionally handled the ball preventing Real's counter-attack, an was rightfully booked. He had been previously been booked for a bad tackle and so was sent off leaving the reigning champions with only ten men.

By then, Real had missed three golden opportunities and Ibrahimovic had two touches on the ball, and third one was a magnificent volley that landed straight in Casillas' net. Dani Alves made the assist, and even though he had a 60 minutes of terrible crosses from his right hand side, this one was perfect. Real did not react in the most aggressive way even though Pellegrini tried to. He replaced right back Arbeloa with captain Rául, and played with three strikers: the captain, Higuaín and substitute Benzema (who came on for an unfortunate CR9).

Real were perseverant, but were not lucky enough to score an equaliser and the reigning champions, and the home side, went home with the 3 vital points. However, as Spanish sports paper "Marca" said, it was a moral victory for Real Madrid - the return leg will definitely be one to watch and a completely different story...