Friday, April 29, 2011

A Match that No One Wanted...Or Won - Part II

There is certainly no Love left anymore

To read the first part of this article which discusses the talking points (or the lack of talking points) in the UEFA Champions League semi-final 1st leg between Real Madrid and Barcelona, click here

A lot of things have been called into say since the match ended; for example Mourinho’s defensive tactics playing at home. Mourinho has never cared for that particular aspect, except the final result, and to be fair, Another Prick In The Wall would consider any tactics laid down by either Guardiola or Mourinho as the words from the Gospel, given their glittering resumes. There’s nothing to suggest that had the red card not changed the course of the match, Mourinho’s team would not have won 1-0. The question here is that of taste, and the blog feels that Madridistas worldwide should not moan considering they knew what their club had signed up for when they hired Mourinho.

A Match that No One Wanted...Or Won - Part I

Los Putos Amos

Way back in early 2011, when Real Madrid & Barcelona both made it to the finals of the Copa Del Rey, the world was already frothing at its mouth with the prospect of seeing the two biggest institutions, wickedly termed as “Cantera y Cartera” going head to head in April, twice, in a matter of four days. A Real Madrid vs Barcelona encounter was, has always been a victory for the beautiful game. Not just because of the amount of crowd it pulls in worldwide but simply because any of the matches played between these two sides usually have 2-3 players in the reckoning for the Balon D’Or (now FIFA World Player of the Year) award taking each other on. This season almost the entire elite list of 10 players was going to take the field for this match, twice over. A collection of stars, no a galaxy of superstars, all on that odd square of green, ready to battle it out for the game. Then in the UCL, Real Madrid dispatched Lyon & Tottenham Hotspurs imposing their character in this tournament and earning the favorites tag; Barcelona made it against Arsenal under controversial circumstances, dispatched Shakhtar with utter dominance over two legs to set up a titanic two legged semi final; Real Madrid facing Barcelona two more times. Fixture creators in La Liga strive to ensure that the two Real Madrid vs Barcelona league matches often have enough time between them simply because of the nature of the match, and its general aftermath. So, more often than not, it is the second El Clasico that generally decides the title, given how much of a two horse race the league is. Yet while the league encounters were kept pole apart, some weird quirk of destiny ruled that Real and Barca would be now playing each other four times in just under 3 weeks. And if the world was frothing at its mouth earlier, now it was positively drooling. Everyone wanted to have a piece of the action, be a part of the great movement, be associated with the mother of all encounters; four times over. So it started; players and managers steering clear of making any untoward statements that might be misinterpreted, reading bland one liners respecting their opponent, undoubtedly handed to them by their respective club’s PR departments.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Reyes Del Copa

Champions of Spain
In this blog’s awfully short living memory, there hasn’t been an occasion before when the Copa Del Rey final has been received with such fanfare. Consequently, the blog wonders if it is only because of the big two or is it because the final signaled a prospective end to the hegemony of arguably the best side in world football today.

While people in Catalunya have been fairly attentive to the Copa Del Rey (Cup of Kings) over the years – if only because for them winning it symbolizes yet another victory over the “establishment” – for clubs like Ahtletic Bilbao, a derision towards the capital combined with the fact that there’s only so much their “homegrown players only” policy can do, the Kings Cup has been the only tournament they could be realistically realistic about. Compare that with the view from the capital, where the tournament has been often labeled as a Mickey Mouse Cup, a trophy so derided, that in recent years it has been looked upon as nothing more than a scrap for the rest of the pack to feed upon. Madridistas worldwide are already forlorn given the decade long drought of the beloved UEFA Champions League, a trophy Real Madrid considers synonymous with the tradition of the club itself. The drought of the Copa Del Rey has been longer, 17 years to be precise, and included embarrassments such as the 4-3 (agg.) defeat to Real Union and the 4-1 (agg.) defeat to Alcorcon, both clubs placed in the third tier of Spanish football. For this reason alone, they have been the butt of several jokes in recent years, one from the Spanish Prime Minister himself. But save for Iker Casillas, no one (at least those under the media spotlight anyway) at Madrid; has ever expressed their desire to win this particular tournament. Then came one man, and then it all changed.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Super Pepe salvages battle, Super Pep wins war

Much Better than the Hasta El Final mosaic. Simple and Terrifying
As the final whistle rang out on the first of four Clasicos; three things were certainto this blog: Barcelona had finally sealed their third consecutive league, Real Madrid proved that the remaining matches were going to be anything but a foregone conclusion and Mourinho had learnt from his mistakes. The previous five clasicos had a common pattern. Madrid started the game well, then lost the midfield battle to Xavi, Iniesta and co. and over a period of 90 minutes, slowly slumped to a point of no return. In fact, APTW almost had half a mind to give this one a miss given the fact that Mourinho had given up on the league already and given the latest string of results, the clasico has been one of the easiest matches of the calendar for Barcelona.

Going into this match, Barcelona had already effectively won the league given the sheer quality of their team and the 8 point gap with seven games to go. If you might’ve read any talk from Madrid in the vein of “we will fight for the league till its mathematically impossible” be assured that it was absolute hogwash. Mourinho had given up on the league the night his nine year old record was broken. Since then he’s been preparing for the cup tournaments, trying different formations and strategies as he seeks to banish the Barca ghost once and for all. A small blueprint of that was seen in the first clasico on Saturday as Madrid took to the field with a 4-1-4-1 formation. The blog feels that brownie points are in order since it was right in its judgement about the formation Mourinho would set his team out to play in the tactical preview. The 4-1-4-1 that Mourinho had his team play had Carvalho and Albiol in the center with Ramos and Marcelo in the wider areas. Pepe deputized as a destroyer, sitting just behind the midfield duo of Alonso and Khedira, while Di Maria and Ronaldo played as straight wingers. The formation was a classic Mourinho formation and for once, Madrid countered Barcelona’s strength in the midfield by going level on number of players in that particular area of the field. On the other hand, Barcelona played their standard 4-3-3 formation, the surprise being Puyol making the starting elven. The blog feels that Pep might have rushed in Puyol for the crucial first encounter and may yet regret his decision if Puyol fails to make the starting 11 come Wednesday for the Copa Del Rey final.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Tactical Talks ahead of El Clasico

Following the whacky preview in this article, Another Prick In The Wall now takes a look at the tactical battles that will pan out in the upcoming El Clasico miniseries. When one talks about tactics, it’s only natural to think of Jose Mourinho. It’s also easy for most level headed people to dismiss Barcelona as having just one tactic: Attack, Attack & Attack. Even Pep Guardiola is a proponent of this “apparent” belief. What most people do not realize that this is a tactic in itself. Most teams know that Barca will always seek to maintain possession of the ball, gain it when they lose it by extensive possession and will attack for all the 90 minutes. However, what is unseen are the little tactical modifications that Pep goes about with every 2-3 matches depending on the opposition.

The battle between Real Madrid on Barcelona on three different fronts necessitates a need for tactical innovation, an ability to manage and motivate resources and an urge to remain focused despite a stumble or two. This is exactly where Jose Mourinho & Pep Guardiola excel. This article attempts to take a look into the different formations that can be utilized in course of the four matches.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

El Cuatro

El Gran Clasico x 4
The uninitiated can have a quick look-in into this article which explains the basic concept of the mother of all matches; known simply as El Clasico – The Classic. Every single one of them has been a case of heart break for either one sect of fans, or both. And we’re at that point in time when we’ll watch four of these matches in a gap of four weeks. El Cuatro – The Four. The Four Matches, played by the same two teams, with the same set of players in different competition; truly a smorgasbord of footballing talent, excitement, heartache (cardiac arrest in some cases), passion and tears.

Monday, April 11, 2011

La Liga: A Storm Brewing...

Back to Scoring Ways
 The big news in Marca today is that Messi, who is often a pain in most opposition's backsides, has a persistent pain in his own backside in the form of his ever bumbling brother who's once again in the news for 8 shots fired by an unidentified stranger outside his house. While this may not be a reason for Messi to have eerily lost his goal scoring form for about the same time as Ronaldo was injured, it certainly was not an impetus for the two shots he fired and made stick against strugglers Almeria (which goes on to mean that Ronaldo's return to injury might probably be the motivational factor). Joan Gasfart, er Gaspart, the scandal and debt ridden ex-president of Barca (Ah those were the times) has set the tone for the upcoming Mad April by claiming that if he was still the Barca president, he would've predicted a 14-0 scoreline in favor of his beloved Barca and not apologized after pressure from media based in the capital, unlike Rossel. But then again, as we all know, had Gaspart still been president, Barca would've, in all probability, been playing in the Europa League at this very moment. Meanwhile down in the sun soaked, beach blessed shores of the ever victimized Barcelona, Sporting Director Zubizarreta continued waxing more about Barcelona's infallible style. Busquets, not to be undone, has prioritized the Champions League in stark contrast to his coach who, aside from continuing to sample new hair therapy products and wistfully wishing a move away from the high pressure cauldron of the Camp Nou, prioritized the league a few weeks back. That certainly didn't reflect in the team's performance, eking out only a 2-1 victory against rock bottom Almeria, after going a goal down in the first half with the first of Barca's two goals coming from a soft penalty (Villarato anyone?). The fans of Almeria would've finally recognized the unshakeable truth that after some years in the glam sham, their club is once again destined for the gloom bloom of the Segunda. They have to, since they let one of Barcelona's midgets score a header past them despite having players beating their opposition for size.

Related Posts with Thumbnails