Posted by hiphopmama on August 27, 2009
I’m not going into any detail on this, but what the hell is going on at Real Madrid right now? I celebrated when they paid top dollar for Kaka. I didn’t blink when they spent untold millions on the Coiffed One. And nary an eye was batted when supplies were further exhausted to bring in Xabi Alonso. All good players, mind you, but not too subtle or nuanced a transfer policy, don’t you think? Understandably, they were always going to have to trim some fat from a squad that was already overlarge, and credit where it’s due, they axed the first and foremost on my list, Gabriel Heinze, early on. Michel Salgado was – rather unceremoniously, in my opinion – let go despite his years of service. Makes sense, they’re both aging defenders with little role to play in the new-look squad. Huntelaar eventually made his exit as well, making his way to Milan after some good finagling. Fine, they do have a glut of strikers at this point, so someone was going to be on the outs.
Things had appeared to slow down for a while, and then BOOM – Alvaro Negredo is gone, sold to Sevilla. Yes, they have a good buy-back clause on him, but why sell him in the first place? He did brilliantly with Almeria and looked poised to help spearhead Real’s front line, for a long while into the future, yet they let him go. Ushered him out the door, more like it. Ta-ta to another canterano. Transfer speculation appeared to slow after that, with Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder looking likely to stay put. And now, what do we hear? Robben will find himself at Bayern Munich for the upcoming season, and Sneijder is to land at Inter Milan. This after I had convinced myself of their importance to the squad for this transitional year, while the new players find their way into the fold. They added the kind of depth crucial to any team hoping to contend in multiple competitions over the course of a long season. And besides that, Robben was the team’s most dangerous creative player in the games played so far with the new group, changing the landscape of the game when substituted for CRon and clicking with teammates far better than Pretty Boy did. I just don’t understand it. These are the kind of moves that will derail Real’s title hopes, especially when you consider Barça are returning essentially their whole team after winning the triplete with another year of chemistry under their belts. Until this, I thought they had a decent (if outside) chance to unseat the champions. But now, I must agree that Barcelona look all but assured to win it again. And all so Real can sign another unnecessary and overpriced superstar A YEAR FROM NOW. Ribery may be an excellent player, but he is far from an essential ingredient, and I don’t believe he is worth weakening the current squad for. Oh well, I guess. Who knows better – Florentino or me? Let’s just hope that quarter of a billion proves its worth, and soon. There will be no grace period, at least not anymore.
Posted in soccer | Tagged: alvaro negredo, barcelona, bayern munich, cristiano ronaldo, florentino perez, franck ribery, gabriel heinze, huntelaar, inter, kaka, michel salgado, primera liga, real madrid, robben, wesley sneijder, xabi alonso | Leave a Comment »
Posted by hiphopmama on November 18, 2008
Eleven rounds deep, this year’s Primera Liga is starting to take on a definite form, with a few things becoming clear about the top teams. There is a pretty clear division between the top five teams and the rest, although the league is competitive top to bottom as usual. Here are some thoughts on the season so far, with a focus on the biggies.
- No one is touching Barcelona. They have a ridiculous goal differential of +28, with more goals scored than anyone else (36 – Real Madrid is closest but still trails by 8 goals with 28) and tied for fewest allowed (8 – with Sevilla, who have only scored 18 themselves). More importantly, they are playing just as well as those numbers indicate. They started a little sluggishly, drawing with Racing Santander and losing to Numancia in their opening matches in La Liga, but they haven’t slipped up since then, winning their next nine league games. Their only mediocre showing was a 1-1 draw against FC Basel in Champions League play, but this came after beating the team 5-0 in the home fixture. I don’t see any other team in Europe playing as well as Barça are doing right now, especially if you take consistency into account. Chelsea are playing good football with a similarly spectacular goal differential, also +28, but they have suffered more slip-ups than Barcelona, particularly in their 3-1 loss to Roma in Champions League and a 0-0 defeat to Championship side Burnley on penalties in the Carling Cup. Pep Guardiola has the team playing at a higher level than anything I’ve seen in recent years from them and probably better than anyone else on the planet right now.
- Valencia and Villarreal have yet to prove they have real staying power at the top. That might be unfair considering they both currently sit ahead of Real Madrid in the standings, but it still feels true. Both suffered disappointing outcomes this week, with Valencia losing to Sporting and Villarreal settling for a draw after giving up an injury time goal against Malaga. Villarreal are still the only unbeaten team in the Primera but have five draws to go with their eleven wins. Valencia have lost two consecutive home games but are doing better than just muddling through without Spanish international David SIlva playing up front alongside Villa. Villa is carrying the goal scoring weight disproportionately, as expected, and the team will have to prove they don’t need to rely exclusively on him as the rounds continue.
- Sevilla may be tied for third, but they are not easy on the eye. They have scored far fewer goals than anyone else in the top five (a mere 18) and seem content to scrape by. In their defense, they have been without important striking options, including last year’s Pichichi runner up Luis Fabiano and Kanoute. They have been playing better their last few games after a poor run of form that included losses to Malaga and Valladolid in league play, to Ponferradina in Copa Del Rey, and to Standard Liege in the UEFA Cup. They have a tough end to the month with home matches against Barcelona and Valencia, both of which will be important in gauging how they intend to go forward.
- And finally, Real ain’t got nothin’ on Barça. Whereas Madrid have been undergoing some soul searching regarding their current coach, Barcelona are reveling in the new level of intensity under their new steward. Real has been scoring at a decent clip, although nothing like Barcelona, but the truly troubling thing has been their weakness at the back, which has been repeatedly exposed. Gabi Heinze in particular has been suspect, as has Marcelo and even Cannavaro on occasion. They have had some serious injury woes which have only worsened with the news this week of Van Nistelrooy’s season ending knee surgery, but that doesn’t account for the poor defensive performances. Given the team’s propensity to spend, a significant pick-up or two in the January transfer window seems likely. Tevez has reportedly been in their sights, as has Mario Gomez, although one might wonder whether they aren’t more in need of a stronger defensive presence or even a winger to replace Señor Vidrio, who is once again out injured. Whatever the case, their moves will play a big role in deciding how their season ends up and seeing whether they can pull off the three-peat.
Posted in soccer | Tagged: barcelona, cannavaro, carlos tevez, gabriel heinze, marcelo, mario gomez, primera liga, real madrid, sevilla, valencia, villarreal | Leave a Comment »
Posted by hiphopmama on November 11, 2008
Even without seeing Arsenal beat Man Utd (*tear*), I still got to watch a trio of fun matches this weekend, all of which hung in the balance until rather late. Without further ado…
Inter Milan 1-0 Udinese
This was a match-up of two top-of-the-table teams, with Mourinho’s boys looking to prove that they were the real deal after an embarrassing Champions League draw midweek against Anorthosis. They were also looking to stay ahead of AC Milan, who both were and are breathing down their necks. Being an AC Milan fan, I was obviously pulling for Udinese to hold them off, which they appeared to have done rather well until substitute Julio Cruz nabbed the header that secured three points for the home team in stoppage time. And I couldn’t even be mad at them in the end because it was such an exciting finish.
Lecce 1-1 AC Milan
- 0-1 Ronaldinho, 79′
- 1-1 Esposito, 90′
On the other hand, this game was frustrating. AC Milan dominated the match with over 70% possession and 21 shots, all but 3 of which were woefully off target. They had so many good chances I couldn’t even begin to list them all, although one of the most memorable saw Kaka send a one-on-one chance wide of the post after receiving a through header and beating the defender to the ball. Borriello missed his share as well too. After screaming for it to happen, they eventually brought on Pato in exchange for Flamini, and with his first touch of the ball he secured it and sent in a perfect cross which Ronaldinho nailed into the back of the net. After all the tantric teasing leading up to the goal, it was sweet satisfaction, but it didn’t last. Once again in stoppage time, a free kick to the left of the area was whipped in by Zanchetta and sent home by Esposito. Painful all around, but they’re still within one point of Inter and in second place overall.
Real Madrid 4-3 Malaga
- 0-1 Eliseu, 6
- 1-1 Higuain, 8
- 1-2 Baha, 18
- 2-2 Higuain (pen), 37
- 2-3 Apono (pen), 70′
- 3-3 Higuain, 71′
- 4-3 Higuain, 78′
This game was pure insanity. Higuain with four goals, Sergio Ramos sent off in the first half, Malaga thrice claiming the lead only to eventually lose the game off a rebound from a missed penalty. Wow. I’m not even going to try to give a run-down of all the goals (see the highlights below). They were nice but none was truly superb, except maybe Higuain’s third. What was amazing was how it all went down, with each team one-upping the other over and over again. To sum up: Guti was the architect of much of what occurred; Ramos was an idiot for nonchalantly stepping on Eliseu; Duda is a beast; Heinze is a liability; Marcelo is a bit of both; and that last penalty was pretty debatable. And of course Higuain. Like I said, he wasn’t exactly scorching them out there, except by repeatedly finding the back of the net. Sort of like Van Nistelrooy, he was always in the right place at the right time and took advantage of his opportunities. The defense looks shaky as ever, but three points is three points, as they say, and they were desperately needed.
Posted in soccer | Tagged: ac milan, apono, baha, borriello, duda, eliseu, esposito, gabriel heinze, guti, highlights, higuain, inter, julio cruz, kaka, lecce, malaga, marcelo, pato, primera liga, real madrid, ronaldinho, scores, sergio ramos, serie a, udinese, zanchetta | Leave a Comment »
Posted by hiphopmama on September 29, 2008
Madrid were able to snatch an extra two points with a stoppage time goal in Seville. Real scored first, when Van der Vaart’s free kick found Gabriel Heinze for a header at the far post in the 19th minute, and they continued to look in control until a 53rd minute red card on Marcelo gave Betis a penalty kick and one man advantage. Marcelo saw red for bringing down Jesus Capi in the area, setting up Sergio Garcia for the penalty kick. Casillas blocked it, but the rest of the Real players seemed content to watch as the ball spilled out in front of Garcia for the put-back. The replay showed a couple of Madrid players standing outside the box with their hands on their hips even as Garcia scampered onto the rebound. In the 82nd minute, Garcia was also sent off for a trip on Madrid substitute Drenthe, who was on his way to a promising counterattacking opportunity, and with both teams down to ten men Real picked up steam. Van Nistelrooy, who had been a bit of a wallflower for much of the second half, scored the winner at the beginning of stoppage time when he found himself in space and put the ball away on a pass from Robben.
All in all, a good performance for Madrid, who are now third in the table with 12 points, behind Valencia and Villarreal with 13.
Posted in soccer | Tagged: gabriel heinze, primera liga, real betis, real madrid, sergio garcia, van nistelrooy | Leave a Comment »