Monday, March 7, 2011

Old Futbol Buffet--Juventus v AC Milan

So my football extravaganza did not go exactly as planned. The original plan was to watch the first half of FCB/Zaragoza, then Juventus/AC Milan, followed by the second half of Atletico Madrid/Villarreal.

After going to the gym and doing my errands, I went to Claddagh’s. As soon as I got there, something did not feel right. First of all I was tired. I usually arrive jacked up to watch some footy, but Saturday I was just blah. Second, it was a little busier than I expected. Usually Saturday afternoons in between the lunch and dinner rushes, things are relatively low key. Third, I didn’t reserve a TV as soon as I got there. Saturday was the big MSU/UM basketball game, and by the time I had checked twitter, Facebook and soccer scores, each TV was getting primed for the basketball game.

So I had my one beer and went into the office to get ready for the game. I tried to take a nap but that didn’t work, so I opened up ESPN3 for the Juventus game and settled in. The first half was energetic if lacking in quality. Krasic was up for it for the Bianconeri but failed to deliver the final ball. Melo was running around and putting in a good shift, with Marchisio wearing his invisibility cloak. As for the Rossoneri, Ibra missed a great early chance and Cassano, who was very lively, squandered a fantastic opportunity after skinning most of the Juve back line. The opening stanza ended scoreless, but each team giving a decent accounting of themselves.

I then switched over to the last 15 minutes of the FCB game at the Camp Nou. Keita had put the Blaugrana up just before half time. Based on checks of my twitter feed, it was typical Barcelona domination, with a couple of quality chances from Zaragoza. By the time I tuned in, the bus was firmly parked by the visitors and damage control was in full effect. Villa came on as a sub and really stepped up the game for the hosts. A second goal wouldn’t come, but three vital points pushes FCB ten points clear of Real Madrid and now all eyes will be on the Camp Nou for the potentially epic return leg against Arsenal.

Back the Juventus game. I really should have taken a nap for the second half. The game was pretty scrappy, with Juventus not offering very much. The energy level was down and neither team could really turn the screw. Then Gattuso somehow created a relatively weak shot for himself just outside the box which beat Buffon. Game over. The subs did not come off for Del Neri and the black and whites slumped to their third straight defeat. Forget the Champions League. They will be lucky to make the Europa League.

This season has been exhilarating, disheartening, frustrating, and optimistic all at the same time. With a rebuilt squad, expectations had to be in check, but an away win against Milan and an away draw against Inter showed the possibility of a strong squad. But too many lost points to average or worse teams revealed a maddening inconsistency. The defense has been all over the place, the midfield can only consist of four players and the forward line has been a cluster since Quags went down. I should have known it could get worse before it got better, but I really thought a top six finish was reasonable. Now, I really don’t know how bad it can get. Surely Palermo will get there act together and keep us out. I’m more worried about Catania catching Juventus and sending them closer to the bottom half then making Europe.

Del Neri’s position has to be in some doubt. I wouldn’t mind him getting a second season. He has shown that with the correct players healthy and motivated, this team is top 6. The problem is that the main 11 are either not healthy or not motivated. Surely some depth or quality must be brought in this summer, but it is the motivation that I am most worried about. These players cannot just show up for the big teams, and coast/underperfrom against the minnows and strugglers. That is where titles are won. Look at Inter and Manchester United over the last couple of years. They beat who they are supposed to. United loses the mini-table every year but hasn’t lost to Wigan in their last 15 matches or something.

After the full time whistle, I posted this tweet—Juventus: not entertaining, not winning. even victories r stressful these days, w/ losses sickeningly disappointing & familiar. #nextyear—then packed up my computer and went home. Didn’t even bother with the final La Liga game. Instead took a nap and got some stuff done around the house. So my day did not come off as I had hoped. Win some, lose some.

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