Tuesday, November 30, 2010

La Liga Lowdown - Round 13

A game that is overhyped, over analyzed, over everything went to another level pre-match. Everyone, and I mean everyone, wrote a preview about what would happen between Real Madrid and Barcelona, Mourinho versus Guardiola, Ronaldo versus Messi.

Here is what I wrote a couple of weeks ago:

The dynamics of the game have changed. In 08/09, Real just tried to kick Barcelona around because of their inferior tactical and technical ability. Last year, Los Merengues improved with CR7 and Alonso and were able to keep Barca at bay and even have a go at them. This year, Real may have finally gotten it right, adding Carvalho, Khedira, and Ozil. FCB will continue to have the ball, but Mourinho doesn’t care (see Inter v FCB 2010). Messi and Co. will still have to break down Carvalho and Pepe and with Villa in shaky form, I’m not sure they can. Alonso and Khedira in the middle are a great shield for the defenders and a great platform for launching the counterattacks of Ozil, CR 7, etc, which Pique and Puyol have struggled with this term. Whatever the team and TACTICS!, I don’t see Real laying down and getting run over like the 2 previous seasons. (Boy was I wrong.)

Add to all of this, there was the hubbub about the game being played on a Monday, usually a day reserved for lackluster fixtures. A quick synopsis on this situation from Sid Lowe: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2010/writers/sid_lowe/11/15/clasico.monday/index.html

Setting the stage:

Champions League games:

Ajax 0 Real Madrid 4

Real Madrid tore apart a poor Ajax side. A great goal (layoff from Ozil to Benzema) got them off the mark and Los Meregues never looked back. Suarez couldn’t bite enough Real players to keep Martin Jol’s team in it. Mourinho rested Di Maria (came on as a sub) and Carvalho and Higuain weren’t even on the bench. Pepe was on the bench but not used.

To make it even more farcical, Alonso and Ramos got sent off at the end to clean their card slate for the knockout phase. There has been much debate on the ethics of this, but Mourinho has his eyes on the trophy with the big ears.

Panathinkos 0 FCB 3

FCB survived an early scare from Cisse, who has a normal haircut these days, and went on to win 3-0, with 2 goals from Pedro and a goal from Messi. Xavi and Pique came off early to rest for Monday, but all other big guns played the entire match

Both teams are through as group winners.

To be honest, I didn’t even look up results after CL matches. With the game being pushed back to Monday, both teams had plenty of rest.

Recent El Clasicos

19 November 2005 Real Madrid FC Barcelona 0–3 (0–1)

Ronaldinho received standing O from the Bernabeau

1 April 2006 FC Barcelona Real Madrid 1–1 (1–1)

Barcelona get a draw, go onto win league and European Cup double.

22 October 2006 Real Madrid FC Barcelona 2–0 (1–0)

10 March 2007 FC Barcelona Real Madrid 3–3 (2–2)

A sick hat trick from Messi http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=47NH1PUTkoA but not enough to keep Beckham’s Madrid from winning the title.

23 December 2007 FC Barcelona Real Madrid 0–1 (0–1)

Don’t remember a thing about this game

7 May 2008 Real Madrid FC Barcelona 4–1 (2–0)

FCB had to do the victory guard and were then hammered.

13 December 2008 FC Barcelona Real Madrid 2–0 (0–0)

Real beat the s#!^ out of FCB, who stole it late with 2 goals from Eto'o and Messi.

2 May 2009 Real Madrid FC Barcelona 2–6 (1–3)

Real scored first but were destroyed by FCB to all but win the league and the first leg of Treble

29 November 2009 FC Barcelona Real Madrid 1–0 (0–0)

Ibrahimović scored early in the second to separate a scrappy but balanced match.

10 April 2010 Real Madrid FC Barcelona 0–2 (0–1)

A quick restart led to a goal from Messi and Pedro scored a wonderful breakaway to seal the victory and the league.

Team news:

Higuain did not recover from his injury and did not play, with Benzema taking his place. That was the only major change from both teams starting line-ups.

The Standings:

1 Real Madrid 12 10 2 0 33 6 27 32

2 Barcelona 12 10 1 1 33 8 25 31

League tie breaker is head to head with the away goals rule.

29 November 2010 FC Barcelona Real Madrid 5–0 (2–0)

My brother sent me a message on facebook that read: El Clasico was El Clinico. What can be said other than FCB put on exhibition of the highest order as Real Madrid were the definition of chasing ghosts. Here are some of the game highlights:

Messi hit the post after six minutes with a delicate chip and after that FCB were off to the races. Xavi flicked in a deflection after 10 minutes. Then Pedro added a second after 20 minutes after great work from Villa. On both goals Marcelo was slow to react, and he struggled the entire match. Since he wasn’t able to add much offensively and defending is not his strong suit, his contribution was very little.

Real Madrid came into the match, but Khedira and Ozil were invisible for long stretches , and Alonso was not as sharp as usual. With about 15 minutes to go in the half, the game became very chippy as the handbags were in full effect. A ball rolled out of bounds, which Pep picked up. He didn’t give it back in a timely manner, so Ronaldo decided to touch him. Mistake. He picked up a yellow and Valdez also picked up one for running from the goal in the scuffle. Several fouls over the next couple of minutes earned cards for Villa, Messi and Pepe, and the half ended with Real visibly frustrated.

The second half started with Lass on for Ozil and the outside forwards switching positions for Real. Have to say that here the Special One got it wrong. Without a dynamic playmaker and without pressure on Xavi, Los Merengues just chased and chased and chased. Eventually Messi played in Villa (with a hint of offside) after 55 minutes, who beat Casillas. Then just moments later Messi did the same again for Villa, and, with an hour to go, it was 4-0.

The rest of the game was champagne football with FCB just toying with Madrid. Jeffren added a fifth as Bojan squared it across the face of goal and Jeffren beat Sergio Ramos to the spot. With moments left in the match Ramos finally snapped, whacking Messi and then knocking Puyol down. The next Spanish camp should be interesting.

At times during the game, the Blaugrana were absolutely mesmerizing. Once they connected more than 10 passes, Los Merengues seemed to switch off.

A couple of observations:

1. Real Madrid did not pressure Xavi and Ineista enough. They had acres of space in the middle and were able to commit defenders for combinations or spraying the ball wide. At times during the game, the Blaugrana were absolutely mesmerizing. Once they connected more than 10 passes, Los Merengues seemed to switch off. Yes Xavi creates space and is active, but surely Khedira or even Lass should have been in his shorts.

2. Real Madrid did not go at Abidal and Alves very often. Di Maria and Ronaldo switched flanks to create different match ups but didn’t go one v one enough to ask the questions. Alves will always make a mistake and Abidal had a comfortable match barring the one moment when he lost Benzema at the far post.

3. TACTICS! I didn’t understand Real’s 5-2-3 in the first half. Di Maria dropped into an outside back and Alonso and Khedira held the middle. FCB just passed to Iniesta or Xavi who time in the middle and the drew Real centrally before knocking it out wide for a 1 v 1 or a cross.

4. FCB just outwork the opposition. I guess I’m not surprised but it showed the difference between the two teams and the difference between the Treble winning Inter and the still forming Real Madrid. Madrid couldn’t be bothered and, while Di Maria would track back on occasion, he and CR7 don’t work as hard as E’too and Pandev.

5. The difference between CR7 and Messi is the team play. Messi set up goals that CRon would never think of. Yes Ronaldo can hit free kicks (narrowly missed one in this match) and can do stopovers and can create havoc, but he is so selfish it hurts the team. It’s fine against second rate opposition but against at a team of this order, every player has to be working for the team.

Rest of league

By the way, there are 18 other teams fighting for scraps.


FT Hercules 3 - 1 Levante José Rico Pérez (18,000)

FT Mallorca 2 - 0 Málaga Iberostar Estadi (13,000)

FT Racing Santander 1 - 0 Deportivo La Coruña Estadio El Sardinero (15,000)

FT Sporting Gijon 1 - 3 Real Sociedad El Molinón (20,000)

FT Athletic Bilbao 1 - 0 Osasuna San Mamés (37,000)

FT Valencia 2 - 1 Almeria Mestalla (35,000)


FT Real Zaragoza 0 - 3 Villarreal Estadio La Romareda (30,000)

FT Sevilla FC 1 - 3 Getafe Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán (40,000)

FT Atlético Madrid 2 - 3 Espanyol Vicente Calderón (53,000)


1 Barcelona 13 35

2 Real Madrid 13 32

3 Villareal 13 27

18 Malaga 13 10

19 Almeria 13 9

20 Zaragoza 13 8