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Posts Tagged ‘higuain’

La Liga Talk: Modest Improvement For Madrid

Posted by hiphopmama on September 25, 2009

Game summary and analysis of the 2-0 victory away to Villarreal. Highlights below:

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That’s the Season, Folks

Posted by hiphopmama on May 2, 2009

Real Madrid 2-6 Barcelona
     1-0 Higuain, 14′
     1-1 Henry, 18′
     1-2 Puyol, 20′
     1-3 Messi, 36′
     2-3 Ramos, 56′
     2-4 Henry, 58′
     2-5 Messi, 75′
     2-6 Pique, 83′

Another clasico, another great game, but not another title for Real Madrid. That this game had any significance whatsoever speaks volumes of how the whites have turned their season around under Juande Ramos, because Barça’s early season lead should have been enough to put them definitively away long ago. Instead, the champions surged while Barça stuttered, however briefly, and suddenly the gap was four points heading into Spain’s biggest match-up.

But just as quickly, the title race was over. Higuain energized the crowd and his team’s title dreams with the game’s first strike on 14 minutes, with a header off a Sergio Ramos cross. Barça didn’t hang their heads, though, as they struck back two times in the next six minutes on goals from Henry and Puyol. Messi completed the first half romp with a third goal for Barça when Lass Diarra lost the ball to Xavi in dangerous territory and the spiky-haired Spaniard slotted Messi through. 

Real made it interesting again early in the second half, pulling within a single goal with a blazing header by Sergio Ramos after he earned the free kick that Robben sent into the box. Two minutes later, though, the margin was back to two when some more lax defending, and a failed off-side trap, saw Henry through to an on-rushing Casillas, who missed the Frenchman and watched as he lofted the ball into the back of the empty net. The last two were mere icing – Messi’s beautiful diversionary tactics at the near post and Pique’s bizarre run to the far post – and that was that. 

I won’t go into much detail, but Barcelona were by far the superior team, not just in this game but over the course of the whole season, so it was only right that they seal (just about) their La Liga title with a goal-fest against their arch rivals. Xavi facilitated absolutely everything; Henry sparked the front line; Iniesta made miracles out of nothing; and Messi was his typical brilliant self, and still the best player in the world, Ballon d’Or or no. They’re not my team, but I can recognize greatness when I see it, and they deserve all the accolades they’re getting. 

The only bone I’ll throw my Real Madrid team is their savior in net: Iker Casillas. San Iker. Saint Iker. How can you not love this man? Before Barça blew the game open, he made one incredible save after another to keep his team in the thick of things. There is no doubt in my mind that he is the best goalkeeper in the world. Not only does he make every sense he is physically capable of making – in addition to a good many he has no right to claim – he has the quickest restart and is remarkably accurate in getting the ball to the feet of his offensive players. Only Buffon comes close, but I gotta give the edge to Iker. Pure brilliance. Kinda like the Barcelona team as a whole.

p.s. Go Chelsea.

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Cuatro Puntos

Posted by hiphopmama on April 28, 2009

barca-valencia
Valencia 2-2 Barcelona
     0-1 Messi, 24′
     1-1 Maduro, 43′
     2-1 Pablo, 45′
     2-2 Henry, 85′ 

raul-metzelder-sevilla
Sevilla 2-4 Real Madrid
     1-0 Renato, 16′
     1-1 Raul, 45′
     1-2 Raul, 63′
     1-3 Raul, 66′
     2-3 Capel, 80′
     2-4 Marcelo, 90′ 

And they just keep on coming. I’ve all but written off their comeback effort multiple times this season, going on record predicting Barça’s league title and lauding Pep Guardiola’s team rehaul, but every time I check the standings the champs are still hanging uncomfortably around. They picked up two more precious points this weekend when Barça were fortunate to leave Valencia with a draw after a late equalizer from Henry while Real overcame a slow start to run rampant over a Sevilla team that was alternately breathtaking and head-shaking. 

Barcelona started in promising fashion, pouring it on Los Che and eventually breaking through with a typical Barça goal from a streaking Messi played in by a defense-drawing Iniesta. The Catalans continued their dominance right up to the end of the first half, when Valencia suddenly turned things around with two quick goals to send Barça reeling into halftime. Rather than coming out rejuvenated, as I admittedly expected, they were lackluster again and needed the full second 45 to build up the momentum to finally even the scoreline, as Henry did on 85 minutes off a corner kick spilled by Cesar. So while Guardiola got some intangible bonus points for bringing on Henry as a sub, he lost two very tangible ones in the race for the title.

Real Madrid opened their game in an entirely different manner, letting Sevilla run all over them and doing little more than look stunned for most of the first half. Then, just like Barça in the second half of their game, they started picking up steam and were able to tie the game off a Metzelder cross that Raul poked home under a charging Palop. Rejuvenated by the leveled scoreline, Real came out of halftime looking for more, which they got in the 63rd and 66th, both from Raul, who benefited greatly from Higuain’s set-up for his second and Palop’s mistake for his third. His hat trick should have been enough, but when Capel scored in the 80th Merengue fans got to nail-biting again. That is, until Marcelo sealed it with an injury time solo effort that he took his time to get just right. 

And just like that, Real were within four of the leaders going into the Clasico match-up at the Bernabeu this weekend. The first game between the two Spanish giants was Juande Ramos’ first La Liga game with Madrid, and even on such short notice he had his side performing admirably, holding onto a 0-0 draw until the very end before Barça poured two quick ones on them. Those were the only two goals Real Madrid gave up for quite a while after that as Ramos instilled a stouter defensive mindset before unleashing the full weight of his team’s offensive attack. Once the floodgates were opened, though, Real came streaming through and haven’t looked back, scoring in bunches (except in the Champions League, of course) and still managing to hold most opponents to limited opportunities. With Barcelona losing some of their luster in the weeks following their last match-up, you have to figure that this one is going to be an incredible, powder-keg of a game with both teams looking to prove a point while improving their standing in La Liga. Barça will be keen to prove that they are without a doubt the best team in Spain, if not the world, as well as to redeem themselves after a frustrating 0-0 draw against Chelsea in midweek Champions League play. Real will be hoping to shave three more points off that gap and close within one while proving that they are still a force to contend with now that they have closer to their full complement of players. Well, sort of. Van Nistelrooy is still gone for the season, Robben and Sneijder are out, and Pepe has gotten his stupid ass suspended 10 games. But none of them would argue against the fact that they are better equipped from a squad standpoint than they were in the last go-round. Should be a good one, don’t you think?

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Madrid Gains More Ground

Posted by hiphopmama on February 22, 2009

barca-espanyol

Barcelona 1-2 Espanyol

  • 0-1 De La Peña, 50′
  • 0-2 De La Peña, 54′
  • 1-2 Toure, 62′

madrid-betis

    Real Madrid 6-1 Real Betis

    • 1-0 Higuain, 7′
    • 2-0 Huntelaar, 15′
    • 3-0 Huntelaar, 24′
    • 3-1 Oliveira, 30′
    • 4-1 Raul, 36′
    • 5-1 Raul, 42′
    • 6-1 Sergio Ramos, 45′

    In a seemingly improbable turn of events, Barcelona suffered just their second loss of the season to bottom-of-the-table Espanyol in the Catalan derby, while Madrid rolled to a 6-1 victory by halftime against Betis at the Bernabeu. The result was a three-point swing and a reduction of the point gap at the top to just seven. It seems like just yesterday the lead was double digits and comfortably in Barcelona’s palms. Oh wait, that was yesterday…

    Derby games are always going to have plenty of intensity, but Barça had a particularly tough time of it against Espanyol, even at the Camp Nou. Things started promisingly enough for the blaugrana, with Barcelona controlling possession and creating a number of good chances, a couple of which were just begging to be finished off. But Espanyol were able to hang on and make to halftime with the score level.

    The first half started all wrong for Barça and continued that way, as Keita picked up a straight red card on an iffy decision by the referee. It was clearly a reckless challenge, most likely a yellow, but the red seemed a little harsh. It wasn’t two-footed and he didn’t come in exceptionally late, either. From that moment on – and well before it, really – it was a slugfest. “Chippy” doesn’t even hint at the back-and-forth that went on. For the most part it was calmly managed by the ref, but you could argue that he failed to get it fully under control fast enough. And I’m sure the Barcelona fans would say he made a number of questionable calls that went against the home side. Whatever the case, going down a man was a real blow to Barça, who had mostly controlled the game up to that point. With the man advantage, Betis finally got their act together and started counterattacking with conviction. On 50 minutes, Nene secured the ball, kept it away from two defenders, and found De La Peña with a cross, and the little Buddha headed it home past a scurrying Valdes. Valdes was personally responsible for the second goal, which happened when he horribly flubbed a pass to Pique, sending it directly to De La Peña instead. As expected, DLP immediately put it away, chipping it over Valdes who was caught (or rather, caught himself) in no-man’s land. 

    Yaya pulled one back for Barça on a gorgeous one-touch strike in the 62nd, and they looked likely to level the match multiple times after that. But that second goal just never materialized, and they lost their first match since the season opener against Numancia, leaving the door open for Real Madrid to storm through in their match.

    That game was just an old-fashioned romp over an inferior opponent. It definitely helped that Betis were spent after putting everything into their draw with Barcelona the previous week, but Real was always going to win this one. Once again the defense was solid – if not as iron-clad as in games past, conceding a goal – and the offense roamed freely. When you put in six goals in the first half, you know you have it working, and the rest of the match was just about saving face for Betis. Higuain opened the scoring after Raul won a tough header and sent it in Gonzalo’s direction. All that was left was for Higuain to slyly round the keeper and slot it home. Raul got the brace for a second straight game, and Huntelaar scored two as well, finally getting his first since signing with the club. Ramos closed out the half with a diving header off Heinze’s free kick to make it 6-1. At one point, Oliveira closed the gap to 3-1 when the Madrid defense left him in way too much space just outside the box and he burned them on a rocket from distance. He had a chance to make it 3-2 a while later when Casillas went all Valdes on us and sent a perfectly weighted pass in the Brazilian’s direction. Oliveiras wasn’t able to put his shot on target, though, and he ended up hitting the post for Betis’ last real goal-scoring opportunity. 

    For as divergent as their destinies seemed during the first half of the season, Real Madrid and Barcelona’s fates seem inextricably linked once again. It’s no surprise that Real have the only team capable of competing in the long-term with Barcelona. What is surprising is how quickly they have transformed themselves into real contenders, with plenty of help from a Barcelona team that looks, dare I say it, human. As a Lakers fan, I know how inevitable it is that great teams will go through slumps at some point during a long season, and one draw and one loss hardly qualify as panic-worthy results, but it was entirely predictable that they would have to come back down to earth at some point. The key will be how well and how quickly they can rebound from their mini-slide, and how long Madrid can continue their blazing run of form. Because when all is said and done, the title is Barça’s to lose, and even if Real play perfectly the rest of the way, they need Barcelona to drop points to have a chance. I have a hard time believing that Pep Guardiola’s team, as well coached and disciplined as they have been this season, will stumble enough to gift the title to its main rival. It at least makes for interesting viewing, since the leaders must think about the reigning champions nipping at their heels. Unlike Serie A and the Premier League, both of which look as good as decided (although good luck to Liverpool, just in case), La Liga could have a feisty finish on its hands. I sure hope so.

    Real Madrid-Real Betis highlights, to some lovely musical accompaniment:

    Barcelona-Espanyol highlights:

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    Merengues Gain Ground…Still 10 Back

    Posted by hiphopmama on February 15, 2009

    raul-record

    Sporting Gijon 0-4 Real Madrid

    • 0-1 Raul, 15′
    • 0-2 Huntelaar, 37′
    • 0-3 Marcelo, 49′
    • 0-4 Raul, 76′

    After Barcelona miraculously drew 2-2 with Real Betis, Madrid were presented with an opening, however small, in their match against Sporting Gijon. They took full advantage, never looking the timid offensive team we have seen since Juande Ramos took over. They still managed to keep a clean sheet – their seventh in eight games – but they were also attacking aggressively and efficiently, and that was without their spark plug Arjen Robben.

    Everything looked in sync today. Gago won seemingly every tackle he went for. Lass Diarra secured the midfield with him and distributed the ball nicely. Marcelo looked comfortable in midfield and began the long journey toward redemption by scoring the third goal. Huntelaar got his first for Los Blancos and displayed a deft first touch on multiple occasions. Higuain was simply marvelous with the ball at his feet, controlling it with grace and ease and finding teammates with beautiful passes from every angle. 

    And then there was Raul. Once again, as always, now and forever, he got himself in all the right places at all the right times and capitalized on the chances that resulted. “Opportunistic” is too cynical a term for someone so keenly aware of positioning and timing on the pitch, and who has performed at such a high level for so long. “Savvy” might be a closer fit but still doesn’t capture the deadly lurking quality of his runs and finishes. Whatever adjective you choose, the result was the same: Raul finally passed Alfredo Di Stefano as Real Madrid’s all time leading goal scorer with his first goal today. It came off a fierce cross by Sergio Ramos, and it took a good deal of precision to make the right contact with it on one touch and steer it past the keeper inside the right post. It was a fitting way for him to grab the record, and the team was appropriately jubilant for its captain. 

    The second was merely icing. After Huntelaar netted his first for the club and Higuain set Marcelo up for the third with a gorgeous backheel, Raul stalked around the six-yard box to clean up the mess and stab one home off the rebound from Higuain’s shot. Lafuente was under a lot of pressure but probably still should have handled it better, and when he spilled it Raul was there for the kill. 4-0 and game over, if it wasn’t already.

    This might have been the first Real Madrid game in 2009 that was actually fun to watch. It’s always nice to see them win, especially after the shaky start to the season, but they have looked mostly tentative in attack as Juande Ramos worked to shore up a mistake-prone defense. Obviously, his project worked, because Real have conceded in all of two games since he took over – 2 to Barcelona and 1 to Osasuna – and have kept eight clean sheets in ten games under the new manager. Today it appeared that he finally felt comfortable enough with the defense to unleash the offense, and a four goal onslaught was the result. Yes, it was only against Sporting Gijon, but the way they played today very few would have been able to hang with them.

    They have a tricky few games coming up, with Betis coming to town next week followed by Liverpool in Champions League play, but after facing Espanyol and Atletico Madrid in league play (and wrapping up that pesky Merseyside match-up), they have a fairly easy road to hoe: Athletic Bilbao, Almeria, Malaga, Valladolid, Recreativo, and Getafe all in a row. Plus whatever Champions League action they can earn for themselves. There are still plenty of opportunities for them to slip up in those games, but if they can stay in contact with Barça, they can at least make it interesting toward the end of the season. Do I really think they can catch up with them? Nah, probably not. Barcelona is too talented and, most importantly, too well coached to stumble as much as would be necessary. But it would be nice for them to at least have to think about it and know that SOMEONE was waiting in the wings if they should slip. With Sevilla 9 points behind Real and 19 behind Barça, Madrid is the only club that could conceivably keep pace with them and really challenge for the title. Whether or not that happens, they will have at least redeemed their season and made a statement about what to expect next year. Juande Ramos may or may not be around to steer them that far, but he has already done his job in stabilizing the team for a future run at the title. Good enough for me.

    Highlights:

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    Real’s Continued Resurgence

    Posted by hiphopmama on February 3, 2009

    All hail

    All hail

    Numancia 0-2 Real Madrid

    • 0-1 Raul, 48′
    • 0-2 Robben, 56′

    This was the game where Raul finally caught up with the illustrious Di Stefano, equaling his total of 307 goals for Real Madrid and coming one step closer to passing the legendary Argentine in the record books. It wasn’t a pretty game, or even an interesting one for that matter, but it was yet another in a long line of matches under Juande Ramos that saw the Merengues pull out a victory and keep a clean sheet despite a middling performance. If all you can ask for are results, then Ramos has certainly bolstered his credentials since joining the club, winning every match and conceding just one goal – you know, aside from that one loss to some guys from Catalonia. 

    Both goals were created by – you guessed it – Arjen Robben. For the first, Robben nimbly skipped his way through a pack of defenders and then calmly laid the ball off to Higuain on the left. Higuain’s strike was parried by the Numancia keeper, but it landed perfectly for Raul, who poked it home into the empty net before running to the sideline and pointing to the name on his jersey in recognition of the historic goal. Right place, right time yet again. The second goal, on the other hand, was Robben’s work 100%. He dribbled his way in and out of defenders, moving to the left at the edge of the penalty area before setting up a beautiful left-footed shot to beat Juan Pablo Colinas and secure all three points for Madrid. 

    Nothing much else of note happened all game. Numancia had a few chances early on and Casillas was on top of it, as always, but the second half was slim pickings for them, aside from a couples stabs taken by Barkero. Real played cautious football and were rewarded for it with the clean sheet, but without Robben’s creativity you get the sense it might have been a fruitless offensive effort. The same can be said of most of their games in 2009, as the Dutchman has been about the only spark for the team, even if he does get caught up in his own dribbling prowess and ignore open teammates from time to time. Relying so heavily on a player so prone to injury seems like a shaky endeavor, but I suppose Ramos will cross that bridge when he comes to it and keep banking on Robben’s offense until Mr. Glass breaks down again. You have to wonder what happened to the Higuain we saw early in the year, although his time on the ball has certainly diminished since Robben returned to the lineup. As long as they’re scoring enough to keep winning games, it remains pure speculation, though.

    With Sevilla’s loss to Sporting Gijon this weekend, Madrid moved solidly into the second place spot, six points clear of the third place side. Of course, Barcelona managed a hard fought victory in a game many expected them to stumble in against Racing, so Los Blancos remain twelve points back of the leaders. It seems increasingly clear that Barça are not going to slip up, at least not enough to hurt them much, and that they will hold on to win the title. But if Real Madrid can stay close enough to keep the pressure on them, they will already have salvaged the season and set themselves up nicely for next year when they will hopefully have a fully rejuvenated squad to work with. Whether or not Juande Ramos will still be at the helm remains to be seen, but since all the Arsene Wenger talk seems to be little more than a pipe dream, I imagine we’ll see more of Ramos in the near future. Not that it matters much in Madrid, but he has earned a little extra time with the way he regrouped his players after the stuttering start to the year under Schuster. Plus he doesn’t have that stupid porn ‘stache – that’s always a mitigating factor.

    Highlights:

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    Happy Transfer Window

    Posted by hiphopmama on January 1, 2009

    It’s a brand new year, which means it is also officially mercato time. Now is the hour for ridiculous and absurd speculation to spill forth from every news source, reputable or not, about the never-ending rumors concerning players’ futures with their clubs. This is the first January I’ve really paid attention to it, so I’m hella excited for what will transpire. Here are a few of my hopes, in more or less vaguery:

    • Mikel Arteta to Arsenal. Good ol’ Arseblogger has been calling for this one, and I am all in favor. I have been a fan of the Everton midfielder since I saw him drill one of the goals of the season in ’05-’06, and with Fabregas out for essentially the rest of the year, he would be a wonderful candidate to fill in for him. He is a seasoned player with plenty of Premier League experience who is great on free kicks. Unlike so many in the Arsenal squad, he would be ready to make an immediate impact, and he seems well suited to the Wenger style of play. Please make this happen, guys.
    • Some kind of defensive help at Real Madrid. They’ve already inked Diarra (the second) and Huntelaar, but neither will directly solve the defensive woes that have proven so costly this season. To be fair, they played remarkably well in their match-up with Barcelona, holding them scoreless for 80+ minutes with a limited squad, but Canna and Salgado are old, Pepe is iffy, Marcelo can’t be bothered to defend, and Heinze is shit. That leaves the always stellar Sergio Ramos and  a rejuvenated Metzelder as the only working cogs on the Madrid back line, which doesn’t bode well entering the second half of the season. I would also like to see a legitimate goal-scoring partner for Higuain up front, but I believe the offense will sort itself out if the defense can do its job at even a marginally functional level. It hasn’t been doing that so far, and you’ve seen the results.
    • Anyone non-primadonna under 30 for AC Milan. This squad is ridiculously stacked with big names that cannot or will not get the job done. Ronaldinho is an enormously talented player, but the money they shelled out for him could have been better spent elsewhere, as this season has made clear. What’s done is done, but they need to avoid sinking money into hopeless products that can’t deliver on their promise. Names like Shevchenko and Emerson sound nice, but they are well past their prime and far from productive with this team. Not that anyone wants them, but they, along with others like Dida, should be off-loaded to free up room (and money) for some younger players with less notoriety who might be persuaded to play within the team concept to achieve better results. With Kaka, Dinho, Pirlo, etc., there’s no reason some talented youngsters couldn’t shore up the side.
    • A new mentality for Chelsea. While thinking about this little wish list, I was easily able to come up with desirables for the other teams I root for, but I got stuck at Chelsea. There is clearly something amiss lately, despite the fact that they’re just 3 points back of league leaders Liverpool, but it’s not because of any major holes in the team. Essien’s injury has been the most costly, but Mikel has been a wonder as his replacement. Carvalho’s absence was painful as well, and if Scolari would have played Ivanovic in his stead more than Alex, the damage might have been more limited. Anyway, Ricky’s already making his way back into the lineup, so that’s a non-issue. (If Terry can keep his ass on the pitch, that is.) With a healthy Drogba and a surging Anelka, the strike partnership has all the makings of greatness, although recent (and not-so-recent) grumblings suggest the Ivorian may be on his way out. Bosingwa has been a revelation at right back, emerging as one of the team’s most consistent performers, and with Lampard leading the midfield there aren’t many gaps to fill. I suppose you could wish for better than Malouda on the left and perhaps find someone better to partner Anelka up front – especially if Drogba continues the histrionics – but the team’s biggest deficiency is psychological. It’s cliche at this point, but some of the old Mourinho toughness needs to come back. They were playing pretty football at the beginning of the season, building up an insane goal differential, but teams have adjusted and now they can’t pull out close victories either at home or on the road. Terry’s red card exploits surely cost them, but it’s hard to imagine them conceding the kind of painful late goal that hurt them against Fulham in years past. I’m not smart enough to know how something like this gets fixed, but if you’re being paid the big bucks to steer the ship, you better be able to figure something out, and fast. Oh, and stop playing Deco so damn much. Almost everyone else can see that he’s worthless out there. Joe Cole has no business fighting for playing time with him. Barça didn’t want him, and neither should you after this display.

    Like I said, not much in the way of specifics there aside from Arteta, but that’s all I’ve got. For serious transfer rumors, I’m sure you’re consulting a much more reputable source anyway. However you slice it, Arsenal and Real Madrid are two of the big name clubs that desperately need some reinforcements and I hope they get them. Especially the Gunners, because they are a treat to watch when firing on all cylinders, and injuries have absolutely ravaged them this season. The same is true for Madrid, but I feel less sympathy over their plight seeing as they’ve won the last two Primera Liga titles and are generally a detestable bunch. Why I continue to root for them, I have no idea, but at this point it is what it is. Best of luck to all parties in the transfer market and the rest of the season.

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    Thoughts Ahead of El Clásico

    Posted by hiphopmama on December 12, 2008

    el clasico

    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.

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    Good News, Bad News For Real Madrid

    Posted by hiphopmama on November 24, 2008

    After running some tests in his office, a doctor returns and tells his patient, “I have some bad news and some worse news. Which do you want first?”

    “How bout the worse news?” the patient asks.

    “You have cancer,” the doctor says.

    “Wow, that’s horrible. So what’s the bad news?”

    “You have Alzheimer’s,” the doctor informs him.

    “Well,” the patient responds, “at least I don’t have cancer!”

    The situation isn’t nearly so dire for Real Madrid, but the whole “good news/bad news” thing always reminds me of it and it’s funny. So there you go.

    As for Los Blancos, here’s the good news. They beat Recreativo, although just barely, at the Bernabeu this weekend, while Barcelona was held to a tie against Getafe. Combined with Valencia’s 0-0 draw with Sevilla and Villarreal’s 3-0 loss to Valladolid, this week’s fixtures saw them jump to second place in the table, just three points behind Barça. It was the first glimpse of sunshine Madrid have seen in some time, after consecutive losses to Juventus in the Champions League and a mediocre run of form in La Liga, including last week’s loss to Valladolid. Sneijder’s brilliant (and deflected) strike in the first half was enough to secure all three points, but Real escaped by the skin of their teeth in a nervy home match.

    And the bad news? Higuaín left the game after suffering what looked to be a serious injury to his left leg. The way he pulled up had GolTV’s always emotional announcers pondering a possibly season-ending knock, but fortunately it has turned out to be no more than a severe ankle sprain. It will prevent him from traveling with the team to Belarus this week to face BATE in a crucial Champions League match. After those two losses to Juve, they find themselves in need of some good results to ensure their qualification for the knock-out stage. This doesn’t even include the recent injury news that saw Van Nistelrooy undergo season-ending surgery and Cannavaro sustain a groin injury. Real have officially become the most injury-stricken team in the Primera, with the tally currently at 20. 

    In an interesting article at Goal.com, Cyrus C. Malek argues that Los Merengues should sign “for need, not want,” however you determine that one. He provides some convincing analysis of the team’s form the past two years and puts forward the two players he feels the side needs to pick up: Ezequiel Garay, the central defender currently on loan from Madrid to Racing Santander, and the Zenit St. Petersburg man Andrei Arshavin, whose stock rose dramatically after this year’s Euro 2008 competition. The only drawback in Arshavin’s case is the fact that he is cup-tied, having already played for Zenit in Champions League games this year. I can’t proclaim to know as much as analysts like Malek surely do, but I find his optimism about Saviola a little bit questionable, and I tend to believe Real could use one more quality striker to help them this season. Yes, Alberto Bueno has a good upside, but I can’t see basing the team’s future around him. Of course, with the news that Higuain’s injury won’t keep him out for an extended period, it may make it easier to soldier on until his return, but that assumes he will continue on the blistering pace he has set so far this season, which has him at third place in goals scored with 9, behind Samuel Eto’o (13) and David Villa (11).

    Even with all the injury woes, given Madrid’s hefty checkbook, I expect the good news to outweigh the bad come January.

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    Van Nistelrooy Done For the Year

    Posted by hiphopmama on November 14, 2008

    Ruud underwent surgery Wednesday to repair a knee injury he picked up in Real Madrid’s 2-0 loss to Juventus in Champions League play last week. The injury was to the same knee he had surgically repaired in 2000 during his stay at PSV Eindhoven. He will reportedly be out for 8-9 months, meaning that he won’t play again until next season.

    This news leaves Madrid in a bit of a bind – as much as that is possible in a team littered with talent – with only Saviola sitting on the bench to pick up the slack. Higuain has been playing exceptionally well, which will help them make it to the winter transfer window, but January can’t come fast enough for Los Blancos. Reports are already surfacing about Real’s interest in signing Manchester United forward Carlos Tevez, who has been languishing on the bench in favor of Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov. Tevez still appears to want to stay in England, but Man Utd may live to regret not having secured him with a permanent deal sooner, especially with all the competition for the striker position on the squad. 

    And now, just for kicks, here is a lovely image of Carlos Tevez as a lion. I get the context and all, but I still have to ask: why?

    tevez-lion

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