Friday, November 26, 2010

El Clasico 101

Let's Fight!
Okay this isnt a match preview written in glowing terms about the hallowed status of Real Madrid or Barcelona. If you intended to read such a thing, you can do so here (Real Madrid)..or here (Barcelona). Be advised that they are viewpoints written by fans of the respective clubs, and as such may be biased. If you do want a neutral viewpoint, you can also try this. However if you can take sarcasm and criticism you are the right place.

El Clasico 101 is the basic El Clasico guide for dummies. This guide will tell you what El Clasico means, and everything you need to know so that you can watch the match on Monday night having armed yourself with some worthless titbits from this post which will serve you no more than scandalize some fan of either club. So let us begin...

Real Madrid (noun) - is the name of Spain's biggest and most successful football club. They are also famous for owning their own private plane, amongst other things, and they hold the distinct record of top three record breaking transfers in the world of football (1st - Cristiano Ronaldo, 2nd - Kaka, 3rd - Zinedine Zidane). They're also the world's most hated football club and lately are coached by a manager who specializes in using 100% of his brains during football matches and talking out of his ass off the pitch.

FC Barcelona (noun) - is the name of Catalunya's biggest and most successful football club. They do not like themselves to be identified as Spanish, but unfortunately, Catalonia is a an autonomous region which is still part of Spain, which means they've forever had to carry the indistinction of being Spain's second largest and second most successful club. This complex leads them to have tremendous self-importance, which is why they're the self-proclaimed "People's club" whose fanbase includes distinguished personalities like the Pope himself.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Nutmegs, Backpasses & Rollerballs

APTW loves Spanish Football. All those little tricks, tweaks, nutmegs, and back passes (literally off the back) is what makes Football down in the Iberian peninsula so much more attractive than in other parts of the world. So coming back to last weekend, APTW takes the time to run over yet another triple bomb…

Villareal vs Athletic Bilbao

Villareal celebrate after a comprehensive victory against Athletico Bilbao
Athletic Bilbao is probably the only team in La Liga which can compare with an English club’s lack of imagination. They play a thuggish variant of hoofball and the way the match started, you could be forgiven into thinking that it was an English side playing the game. The match kicked off with Iraola hoofing the ball up to Llorente who is a solid “English” forward and his hold up play was so great that if the ensuing build up was just as good Athletic could’ve been a goal up in 12 seconds. It was therefore no surprise that within 5 minutes, Bilbao found themselves a goal up in true English fashion. A looping cross in from the left flank found Llorente unmarked in the box and he headed it in past Diego Lopez; no questions asked. But that was about the only time Bilbao did something noteworthy apart from hacking and kicking the Submariners in the entire match.

Hit & Miss?
The yellow painted Madrigal spurred the home team on and almost immediately Villareal almost equalized through Rossi; once, twice and thrice, all in the space of 10 minutes. It was however, Nilmar who actually equalized for the Yellow Submarines as he scored a goal almost reminiscent of Llorente’s. Rossi got into the act soon after, making another hat-trick of misses before Cazorla scored Villareal’s second of the night just before the stroke of half time. Following a bad gaffe between Iraizoz and Ustaritz, Santi Cazorla latched on to the ball which was happily bobbing around in no man’s land and slotted past Iraizoz sending the Madrigal into different shades of yellow and the visiting Basque fans into various shades of crimson.

The second half started predictably with Rossi making hash out of three other oppurtunities. For APTW, at this point in time, it was safe to think that Rossi wouldn’t score even in a whore house that night, but on the stroke of the 80th minute, after missing nearly nine good chances, Rossi finally scored on the football pitch from a text book counter attack. The fans seemed even more relieved about the goal than Rossi himself. Then, just as these things happen, deep into injury time, following another swift counter attack, Cazorla fed a majestic through ball to Rossi who buried it for his second of the night. Not that his opinions ever amount to much (as evident above), but APTW felt that had the match gone on, Rossi could’ve got a hat-trick easily.

Getafe vs FC Barcelona

Playing Rollerball!
With the two big teams from Madrid set out to battle in a couple of hours, Madrid’s 3rd biggest team welcomed Catalunya’s biggest team at the Coliseum Alfonso Perez. The match started out as expected with Barcelona domination possession, Getafe sitting back and using a counter attack approach to score fast goals. As the first half aged, Barcelona started running riot with Villa hitting a shot over the crossbar, Villa caught offside, Messi and Pedro both coming close with ex-Real Madrid Castilla goal keeper Jordi Codina making saves to deny the latter two. There was only so much he could do as in yet another build-up, Alves toe poked the ball to Villa who faked a shot, did a roll on all four limbs with the entire Getafe backline behind him and slid a quick pass onto the onrushing Messi’s path who slotted it in neatly at Codina’s near post for Barca’s first goal. For want of summing up Villa’s move in one word, APTW will settle with calling that pass “Roller-Ball”. So sublime was the move from such a sublime player that even the Madrid based crowd had to applaud. Messi soon returned the favor to Villa who scored for Barca’s second, the game essentially over at that point.

The match continued in a similar pattern in the second half as well and Getafe’s hopelessness was summed up in Barcelona’s third goal. Codina passed the ball to Cata Diaz who was dispossessed by Messi, who then laid the ball off for Pedro to score his first and a simple third goal for Barcelona. That seemed to be curtains; but then Pique got his marching orders after being booked for handling the ball inside the penalty area (Pique had already picked up a yellow earlier for an untidy challenge). Manu scored from the ensuing penalty and Getafe decided to press on the man advantage. But they self pawned when they introduced Arizmendi. The best chances of the second half fell to Arizmendi, but let’s face it – he’s no Villa, hell he’s not even Rossi – so APTW was not surprised that he made a complete mess of all the chances he got. The clock soon wound down to full time and Barcelona finished the match 0-3 winners.

Real Madrid vs Atletico Madrid

Carvalho reacts after scoring Real Madrid's 1st goal
In what was the last match of the night, Real Madrid hosted cross town rivals Atletico Madrid at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu with a giant banner proclaiming “Estos Es Madrid” (This is Madrid), probably a symbolic reference meaning “This is the true Madrid” or “This is Real Madrid where you do not win”. Whatever its implications, the giant banner would’ve surely been intimidating for the Rojiblancos who started out the match in their standard 4-4-2 formation.

Blood, Sweat, Tears & Goal
Real Madrid dominated possession early on with a Khedira goal rightly called offside, and within 10 minutes duly went ahead when Di Maria slipped in a ball which took a slight deflection off Ujfalusi before Carvalho – yes you heard it right; it was Carvalho – latched on to it and slotted it beautifully past David de Gea in the goal. Five minutes later, Filipe Luis took Ronaldo down just outside the box and the referee duly awarded the free kick after submitting to the linesman and Ronaldo’s cute crying puppy face, having ignored the challenge before. De Gea had positioned the wall incorrectly and this fact was not lost out on Ozil who kept his shot low and had the ball curve into the far post for Madrid’s second. The match there on was interesting in patches, since it became a midfield struggle with both teams pressing intensively for the ball. Jose Antonio Reyes had few good moments as he finked his way through Madrid’s defence for a couple of shots, one which went slightly over the bar, and one which Casillas parried away with a fine save. At the other end, Madrid had their own set of shots with Ronaldo, Di Maria and Higuain all coming close.

The second half began and continued in much the same way as the first. Mid-way through the second half Ozil latched on to a pass from Ramos on the left flank, turned Simao inside out, dodged Suarez and nutmegged Filipe Luis, before carrying the ball and feeding to Ronaldo who shot straight at De Gea. Ronaldo soon had his own share of show boating to entertain the crowd with when he backpassed – literally passed the ball with his back – to Alonso who crossed it in deep to the far post. Ramos, unmarked, powered a header from 2 yards out which went wide. Ronaldo then sent in a lobbed ball to Higuain who struck a sweet, lethal volley that left De Gea’s post rattling. Diego Forlan did the same thing at the other hand, leaving Casillas’ post rattling. As the half wore on, Benzema came on for Higuain, and while his link up play with Ronaldo and Marcelo was a treat to watch, it did not result in any more goals.

…Real Madrid are now top of the table with 26 points, highest number of goals scored and least conceded. Barcelona trail them by a point, while Villareal are third trailing the leader by 3 points.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Adios to a Player. Ola to a Coach

Adios to a Player. Ola to a Coach
Ever so often you see players you know are destined to be legends in the sport. Ruben De La Red was such a player, a player who epitomized self-confidence, talent and skill. He was sold to Getafe by the Calderon (mis)management, who thankfully had the foresight to include a buy-back clause in his sale. As was expected, he impressed everyone, especially in Euro 2008 when he scored a couple of crackers and Real Madrid finally took notice of the gem they had let go.

So, he was finally bought back by Real Madrid, and having risen from Real's youth ranks, the lad fit into the system like a glove. However sometimes, the effect of an entity's past actions are laden down on it in interest and that is what happened with Real Madrid. They lost DLR to a syncope he suffered while playing against Real Union in a Copa Del Rey Match

Two years passed since then, and despite extensive medical tests, nothing conclusive was ever found. So that he doesnt risk a case like Dani Jarque happening, the club's medical department advised De La Red to give up football for good. Today, at the age of 25 which would've been his break through year, Ruben De La Red announced his retirement from football. Today has been a sad day for all the madridistas around the world knowing that Ruben will never play in the white of Real Madrid again. They however know that he'll always be a part of the club hierarchy in a coaching facility, and would like to see him take the club to unprecedented heights as a coach.

Ruben De la Red's Press Conference:

"I am starting a very exciting stage in my carreer. I wish to send my support to all those players out there whose careers were also cut short. I am also very grateful to all the people who have supported me since I fainted. I've fought against this in vain and doctors advised me to stop. I always dreamt of becoming a football player and to be successful at this club, which is the greatest in the world. Real Madrid has watched me grow since I joined the Under-10 side and now it sees me retire from the game. I want to become a coach now. I may have a problem in my heart, but it still beats for Madridismo."

"I am very excited and anxious to start this new stage in my career thanks to the Club. I will be able to continue to work at a place I regard as my home. I will try to learn the skills of a coach and I will give my all to be successful. I am very excited and will be eternally grateful to the Club. I've been watching football from a different perspective for quite some time now, while at the same time I've been preparing for this new stage. Real Madrid are currently one of the strongest teams in Europe."

"I would like to eventually coach a great team like Real Madrid, but I really aspire to be satisfied with myself. I want to reach the elite some day."

"Jose Mourinho was very aware of my situation since day one and he was very clear when he spoke to me. He told me he counted on me if I was able to play, but if that wasn't the case, he said he would be delighted to have me in his staff."

"I've had many great moments. I took a very important step as a player when I was coached by Quique Sanchez Flores on the Under-19 side. I also fondly remember when Castilla were promoted with me on the team and the spectacular season Getafe had when I was there. That's my fondest memory because it allowed me to be called-up by the Spanish national team, with whom I ended up winning the Euro 2008. I then returned to the club that's marked my whole life."

Jorge Valdano on Ruben:

"This day marks a turning point in Ruben's life. He ends his career as a player to focus all his passion for this sport on training. He is, from today, a part of Real Madrid's Coaching Staff snd will start learning about what we do and how we come about it. He will also be part of Mourinho's 'lab', in which every game is rigorously prepared. The objective is for Ruben to learn skills in order to apply them to whatever team he ends up being assigned to. He's gone through all of the different teams the Club has and he will use that experience to continue to be a part of the world of football."

Press conference credit: RealMadrid Official Website

Oppurtunities, Offsides & Orgasmou

Real Madrid celebrate after scoring their 700th goal in Europe
An AC Milan vs Real Madrid encounter is always special, even before the ball is kicked, because it is the coming together of European Royalties. To put things into perspective, they have a mind boggling 28 European trophies between them – enough for any trophy cabinet curator to have a nightmare maintaining them – and the 2nd leg played out last night lived up to the pre-match media hype. The match was significant because of two reasons:
  1. Real Madrid have never won at the San Siro, and with The Special One in charge (who incidentally used the same ground as home for the other Milan, the treble winners Inter Milan, and has never lost there), they had a chance to break the jinx
  2. Allegri finally seemed to have seen sense and benched Clarence Seedorf in favor of Kevin Prince Boateng. With Abbiati, Pato and Silva back in the squad, Milan could boast that they were full strength this time round, so there was going to be no room for excuses

The match started predictably with Real Madrid dominating possession and blooding Milan with sucker punches. To say that Real Madrid deserved to be two goals up by the 30th minute is no overstatement either as Los Blancos peppered the Milan goal. Higuain latched on to a ball by Ozil early in the half and drilled a shot to the far post through four static Milan defenders. Abbiati scrambled and saved what would otherwise have been a very fine goal. As the first half aged, Madrid started turning the screws tight, with Sergio Ramos sending in a cross almost from the goal line to Higuain who headed it in perfectly, only for Pirlo to head it off the line; the ball landed to Di Maria who unleashed a volley, which Pirlo again headed out to safety off the line. As the half wore on, the urgency dimmed a bit, but Madrid’s brightest spark Di Maria latched on to a loose ball, went on a typical marauding run before picking out Higuain and feeding in a majestic through ball to the striker, who announced his real arrival on the European scene by scoring past Abbiati to the far post for Real Madrid’s 700th goal in European tournaments.

Higuain writes his name into the Elite List
What Irony that Higuain, who some sect of fans dub as a failure on the European scene, now joins an elite list of players who’ve scored milestone goals for Real Madrid in Europe (Miguel Munoz - 1st, Di Stefano -100th , Puskas – 200th, Jensen – 300th, Losada – 400th, Guti – 500th, Beckham – 600th)


AC Milan looked to hit Madrid on the counter, but were not too successful seeing as the Real Madrid defensive line played high up the park and the forwards duly got caught offside. Ibrahamovic performed his disappearing act in Europe once more and Pato was a disappointment as well, but that was more due to the fact that Marcelo and Carvalho doubled up on him exceedingly well. AC Milan’s change came in the form of Inzaghi, the man identified by Mourinho as the danger man for Real and it was no surprise why Mourinho felt so, because Inzaghi scored two goals, the first one through combined gaffes by Pepe (who went to ground easily in a big game once again) and Casillas who misread Ibra’s cross and made a big mess out of it allowing Inzaghi to ghost in and score a header. Inzaghi’s second goal came from an offside position, which in the linesman quite inexplicably decided not to flag down, thereby cementing the popular phrase “Inzaghi was born and will die offside”


Finding themselves a goal down despite dominating the entire match, Madrid looked out of ideas, out of inspiration and out of time. That is when Jose Mourinho worked his magic once more. Now APTW is very fair when it comes to awarding credit. The particular change which Mourinho made (replacing the erroneous Pepe with Benzema), was a tactic which Mourinho had seemingly borrowed from Pep Guardiola (re: Atletico Madrid vs Barcelona). What Guardiola did then was push up Alves into a LWM position with Busquets dropping back into the remaining three man defence to restore parity with the number four. It was in effect a 3-4-3 which became a 4-3-3 when Barcelona were without the ball. A similar approach was used by Mourinho who took off a centre back and put in a forward who likes to drift in from the flanks. He then took off Higuain who was the lone reference high up the pitch, and put in Pedro Leon a right winger. The players were moved on the field like chess pieces, with Madrid’s 4-2-3-1 becoming a 3-4-3 in attack and a 4-3-3 in defence.

Khedira moved deeper to sit ahead of the 3 defenders and sometimes dropped even deeper to compensate for the 4th man. Ramos (just like Puyol in Pep’s setup), is primarily a RB who can play center back and he did just that. Ronaldo moved from the left flank into the centre of the attacking trident, with Di Maria moving to his preferred left flank. Benzema took up the right side of the attacking trident, Ozil moved from his advanced playmaking role into the deep playmaking role, while Alonso moved deep and slightly off to the left, to compensate further for the reduced man in defence. Pedro Leon on the other hand was given full freedom to utilize the right flank and co-ordinate with Benzema, thereby utilizing both players with fresh legs against the tired legs of Milan. This tactical change worked wonders, as Benzema took the ball outside Milan’s box and opened himself to unleash a shot. Pedro Leon meanwhile had moved high up the park, almost as a targetman, and just as Benzema opened himself to take his shot, Leon made his run. Benzema spotted him and made an inside pass to Leon who slotted it between Abbiati’s legs for the equalizer with 30 seconds to go, stunning the San Siro into pin drop silence.

Super Subs
He may not be a Zidane or a Maradona, but Pedro Leon certainly has the mentality to be one. There are not many people who come on as a substitute and score the winner with 30 seconds to go in a ground as intimidating as the San Siro. Gattuso who was subbed for Seedorf couldn’t believe his eyes, while Inzaghi (having flashed the number 69 after scoring in a dig to Raul) had that look by which one can surmise that he must’ve wished Abbiati was never born.

...All in all, the match was one of the most entertaining matches APTW has seen, and mainly because of the sheer aura that both the teams have. Real Madrid should’ve won the match had they taken their chances well, but in retrospect, a draw is a very fair result. Props to Howard Webb for letting the game go on, instead of being a whistle happy ref.
Related Posts with Thumbnails