Posted by hiphopmama on December 12, 2008
Real Madrid makes the daunting trip to the Camp Nou tomorrow struggling to impart some semblance of order to their season against a Barcelona side displaying utter dominance in La Liga. Against any normal team experiencing Real’s current run of form and injury list, Barça would be virtually assured of a comfortable victory. However, with the contentious rivalry at stake and the symbolic importance of this match-up, you have to figure Real will be playing like their season depends on it and will have a decent shot at a good result because of it.
That said, Barça are still odds-on favorites to win the game, especially in front of their home fans, and any tactical analysis points to an easy victory for the Catalans. With the ridiculous number of Real Madrid players struggling with injuries and suspensions to be served by Robben and Marcelo, the Merengues are really up against it even in terms of fielding a squad of their usual caliber. Based on their play midweek against Zenit in the Champions League and available players, it seems likely that Michel Salgado will have the unenviable task of tracking Lionel Messi around on the right flank. While Salgado has a great tactical sense and plenty of experience in big games, there is no way he has the pace to keep up with Messi and will need every bit of help he can get to keep him under wraps. The rest of the back line is likely to be filled out by Cannavaro, Sergio Ramos, and Metzelder in some formation with Gago, Guti, Van der Vaart, and Drenthe in midfield. And of course Raul and Higuain up front.
For their part, Barça’s lineup is likely to look something like this: Valdes; Alves, Marquez, Puyol, Abidal; Xavi, Yaya, Hleb; Messi, Eto’o, Henry. There’s not much to say about this group – it pretty much speaks for itself. This general assortment of guys has been kicking ass with no need to even take names all season long, and I expect nothing less this weekend. Xavi will, as always, be central (no pun intended) to the Barcelona attack, and Messi will probably be free to run wild all over the pitch, although with Salgado at left back he might be content to stay on the right. Henry is coming off an incredible hat trick – three goals all taken on one touch – in Barça’s 4-0 romp over Valencia last weekend. Gago will have a lot of work to do to protect a Real back line that has looked as porous as SpongeBob this year, and Hleb (or possibly Keita or Gudjohnsen) will surely look to stretch the Madrid defense and create space for the three forwards.
In particular, Gago will have to keep Xavi off the ball as much as possible to limit his ability to initiate the attack. Gago is a capable player, but I doubt he has the wherewithal to snuff out Xavi or the help from his team to effectively patrol the midfield. Yaya will have a similar role to play in stopping Guti from engineering Madrid’s offense, but I foresee more success for the younger Toure. I don’t think Guti has the ingenuity of Xavi, but more importantly, Guti has fewer real threats around him that Barça has to watch out for, which will allow them to zero in on him.
In the end, I think Messi will run rampant and Alves will be a constant thorn in Real’s side, while Raul will continue his good form and Higuain will have another solid game, but all three Barça strikers will hurt Madrid and get the win for the cules. Prediction: Barcelona wins fairly easily, 3-1, and earns further breathing room at the top of the table.
Posted in soccer | Tagged: abidal, barcelona, cannavaro, dani alves, drenthe, el clasico, eto'o, gago, guti, henry, higuain, hleb, messi, metzelder, michel salgado, primera liga, puyol, rafael marquez, raul, real madrid, sergio ramos, van der vaart, victor valdes, xavi, yaya toure | 1 Comment »
Posted by hiphopmama on October 28, 2008
Barcelona continue to outpace Real Madrid, amassing La Liga’s best goal total and jumping to second place in the standings, one point behind Valencia and leading Madrid by goal differential (+17 vs. +11). Both teams are currently sitting on 19 points, but Barca have looked much more convincing in their wins, trouncing opponents and winning fewer nail-biters. Plus, they have not allowed nearly as many sloppy goals from the opposition which, of all factors, bodes particularly well for the Blaugrana.
All five goals in this one were scored in the first half, with Eto’o netting a hat trick and additional goals from Henry and Dani Alves. They were all beautiful goals, built from typical one-touch Barca play. Messi in particular ran all over the defense, creating puncturing lines and creating gaps and then slotting back a pass right in front of goal. In looking back at the stat line, I’m surprised to be reminded that he didn’t score once during this game, because he was primarily responsible for a number of the goals. Alves got his first goal of the campaign off a free kick pretty straight away, a number of yards outside the area. The surface was slippery – as they kept on reminding us – and his well-taken shot broke through and skidded away from the keeper to nestle in the back of the net.
Another impressive performance from Barca. Pep Guardiola really seems to have taken them to the next level, or, perhaps, back to that old level they were familiar with.
Posted in soccer | Tagged: almeria, barcelona, dani alves, eto'o, henry, messi, pep guardiola, primera liga, real madrid, scores, valencia | Leave a Comment »
Posted by hiphopmama on October 6, 2008
What. A. Match. I thought the 6-1 scoreline against Sporting Gijon was impressive, but this one trumped even that. Three goals in the first ten minutes. Five in the first half hour. A brilliant strike by Henry for the sixth. Messi running wild. A gorgeous bit of control and power by Eto’o. Gorgeous. That’s all I can say.
Poor Atletico never had a chance. They were missing lots of key players – Maniche, Sabrosa, Forlan, Seitaridis, Castro – but I don’t think it would have made a difference. Barce were out to make a statement, and Atletico were the unwitting victims. The storyline wasn’t hurt by the match-up of Messi and Aguero, two Argentine strikers playing at the top of their games. It must have been a factor in Messi’s unceasing aggression, as he essentially showed who was the superior player.
Rafa Marquez scored on a perfect deflected header off a free kick by – who else – Xavi in the 8th minute. Shortly thereafter, Messi took one of his patented, unstoppable runs into the box, where Ujfalusi brought him down, and Eto’o converted the penalty. The next goal was bizarre. Barcelona were awarded a free kick just outside the area, and with Coupet still setting up the wall, Messi curled the ball into the net. The Atletico players were furious, as the referee hadn’t done his official “go-ahead-and-take-the-kick” business, but credit Messi for seizing the opportunity, I guess. Maxi Rodriguez momentarily made it look like a match when he scored on a beautiful strike from the edge of the box, but five minutes later Eto’o stretched the lead back to three goals on easily his best goal of the season. He controlled a long pass into the box beautifully, maneuvered left and then right, and put the ball past Coupet effortlessly. Gudjohnsen got in on the act by slotting home a rebound of Iniesta’s shot in the 28th minute, making for a 5-1 halftime lead. The pace slowed way down in the second half, but Henry kept it interesting when he drove a low strike through the area and past Coupet for Barca’s sixth goal of the match.
This is how Barcelona should be playing every game, and under Guardiola I believe they’re fairly likely to keep up with the blistering pace. They’re challenging for balls, running all over the pitch, and generally playing like enthused little kids out there. They seem re-energized on both the offensive and defensive sides, with Puyol even coming forward on the right hand side to take part in the festivities. They are currently in fourth place – behind Valencia, Villarreal, and Sevilla, and ahead of rivals Real Madrid on goal differential. I was predicting three in a row for Real, but Barca is making me question that. It’ll be interesting to see how the season plays out.
Here are all of the game’s many goals, for your viewing pleasure.
Posted in soccer | Tagged: atletico madrid, barcelona, eto'o, gudjohnsen, henry, kun aguero, maxi rodriguez, messi, primera liga, rafael marquez | Leave a Comment »
Posted by hiphopmama on September 29, 2008
This was another one with this scoreline that went down to the wire. Espanyol grabbed an early lead when Coro scored in the 20th minute off a spilled ball from Valdes, who had a pretty good case for being impeded despite the no-call. Barca absolutely dominated possession the whole way through (especially after Espanyol’s Nene was sent off in the 45th minute) but were unable to come up with an equalizer until the 84th minute, when Thierry Henry initially lost then retrieved a great long ball by Xavi. The rest of the game was played fast and furious by Barcelona, who had seemingly interminable opportunities go wayward. Finally, well into stoppage time (which was screwy after some fan disturbances temporarily postponed the match in the second half), Eto’o went down in the area and was awarded a penalty against Pareja. Messi casually put it away, and Barca went away with all three points, somewhat surprisingly. It was a controversial call, to be sure, especially in this Catalan derby, the last such match to be played in Espanyol’s Estadio Montjuic.
Posted in soccer | Tagged: barcelona, coro, espanyol, henry, messi, montjuic, primera liga, valdes | Leave a Comment »