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 April 28, 2009
Valencia 2-2 Barcelona
0-1 Messi, 24′
1-1 Maduro, 43′
2-1 Pablo, 45′
2-2 Henry, 85′
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?
Posted in soccer | Tagged: barcelona, cesar, el clasico, higuain, juande ramos, marcelo, messi, metzelder, palop, pep guardiola, pepe, primera liga, raul, real madrid, robben, sevilla, thierry henry, valencia, van nistelrooy, wesley sneijder | Leave a Comment »
Posted by hiphopmama on February 3, 2009
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.
Posted in soccer | Tagged: highlights, higuain, iker casillas, jose barkero, juan pablo colinas, numancia, primera liga, raul, real madrid, robben, scores | 1 Comment »
Posted by hiphopmama on January 14, 2009
Mallorca 0-3 Real Madrid
- 0-1 Robben, 3′
- 0-2 Raul, 17′
- 0-3 Sergio Ramos, 66′
It was only Mallorca, a slumping team that was missing a few key players due to suspensions. Their injury list is still replete with all-star caliber players (as if that meant anything in a European football context – bear with me). And they still sit woefully behind Barça in La Liga standings.
Yet even with all that, there has been a certain transformation of the squad since Juande Ramos took over. Other than that stinging loss to their Catalan rivals at the Camp Nou, Real Madrid has not lost a game under the new coach and, what’s more, they haven’t even conceded a goal, beating Zenit 3-0 in Champions League, Valencia 1-0, and Mallorca 3-0. That is quite a statistic from a team that had looked abysmal in defense under Schuster. It helps that players like Pepe and Cannavaro are starting to come back from injury, but that is far from the whole story. The team as a whole just looked more composed in the new system, holding their lines better and playing better positional defense than any we had seen previously in the season. Bringing in Lassana Diarra has helped considerably, and so has his partnership with Gago in central midfield, effectively shielding a back line that has looked susceptible this year. Oh, and Iker Casillas looks superhuman again. One of the Real Madrid bloggers made the point that Schuster had to go if for no other reason than because the porous defense was causing Casillas to slip from his best-in-the-world form. With Ramos at the helm, he is once again San Iker, making world-class saves routinely and maintaining all those clean sheets Real has accumulated.
With the three consecutive wins, and the 3-all Valencia-Villarreal draw, Real Madrid now magically sits in second place, ahead of Sevilla on goal differential and eight points adrift of league leaders Barcelona. With reinforcements coming in the form of new signings and players returning from injuries, it’s hard to believe they won’t continue to pour it on. The question I have is how long will the honeymoon last? It’s like with a new pitcher in baseball – at some point, the other teams are going to catch up with what you’re doing and devise a way to deal with the onslaught. That isn’t quite as true when you can dish out ever increasing amounts of money to improve your team, but the other well equipped teams will eventually pick them apart and at least slow them down, and then we will see how Ramos counters.
In the meantime, Raul just keeps creeping up on Di Stefano…
Highlights, set to some absurd background music:
Posted in soccer | Tagged: barcelona, bernd schuster, cannavaro, di stefano, gago, highlights, iker casillas, juande ramos, lassana diarra, mallorca, pepe, primera liga, raul, real madrid, robben, scores, sergio ramos, sevilla, valencia, villarreal | Leave a Comment »
Posted by hiphopmama on December 10, 2008
- 1-0 Raul, 25′
- 2-0 Robben, 50′
- 3-0 Raul, 57′
So Schuster was finally sacked and – wait for it – Juande Ramos, fresh off his firing from Tottenham, was hired as his replacement. Word is that the Porn Star knew Real were in talks with Ramos, which may explain his volatile behavior of late. On second thought, he’s always been good for some off the wall comments, so it was all in character after all.
All that matters for the team now, though, is that they got a win under the new coach, and a convincing one at that. Sure, they were just playing Zenit in a game with no real consequences, but that is exactly the kind of scenario that found Madrid lacking so many times already this year. It wasn’t a flawless victory, but neither was it as nervy as many of their other wins have been.
To start, I liked the lineup Ramos fielded, considering all the injury problems: Dudek; Salgado, Ramos, Cannavaro, Marcelo; Gago, Guti, Robben, Van der Vaart; Raul, Higuain. Getting Robben back made all the difference in the world, as he showed his ability to spark the offense and facilitate the play going forward. All three goals were a result of the interplay between Robben and Raul, who became the Champions League all-time leading scorer with 64 goals. The first was due to a mistake by the Zenit goalie, who didn’t properly handle a cross by Robben and left it for Raul to clean it up by tapping it past him and into the goal. Raul returned the favor by feeding Robben for a beautiful chip shot on the second. And Raul topped even that by nonchalantly chipping the keeper with his left foot off yet another ball from Robben. The first was fortuitous, but the last two were things of beauty and showed how much Real have missed having a winger of Robben’s quality. Now if he could only stay healthy…
Juve drew 0-0 with BATE, so they finish top of the group on goal differential. All the groups are so stacked with quality teams in both first and second place that it should make little difference going into the knock-out stages.
It was an important win for Los Blancos under the new coach, especially going into the match-up with Barcelona this weekend. As Schuster so bluntly acknowledged, they are clear underdogs, but with Real you never know. It’s not going to turn their sputtering season around immediately, but it could be the start of better things. Still, I’m not holding my breath.
Posted in soccer | Tagged: bernd schuster, champions league, juande ramos, raul, real madrid, robben, scores, zenit st. petersburg | Leave a Comment »
Posted by hiphopmama on September 25, 2008
Barcelona 3 – 2 Real Betis
- Eto’o and Messi combined beautifully for Barca’s two first half goals, which Eto’o scored within a few minutes of each other. Betis were much more aggressive in the second half and found the back of the net on goals by Monzon and Jose Mari, only to see Gudjohnsen loft one over goalkeeper Casto to put Barcelona ahead for good.
Real Madrid 7 – 1 Sporting Gijon
- A Van der Vaart hat trick and a double for Raul contributed to the seven goal effort by Real. After watching Barcelona stomp Sporting Gijon 6-1 over the weekend, Real Madrid upped the ante at the Bernabeu Wednesday. Real sported a re-tooled lineup, with Torres, Marcelo, Robben, and Higuain starting the match, but once they found their groove they were unstoppable (like those Citizen Eco-Drive watches). Sporting’s Kike Mateo did get one back in the 54th minute to prevent the goose egg, but with 61% of the possession, Real was in control throughout. Oh, and Higuain and Robben got the other two goals. Hard to keep track of them all.
Here are the rest of Wednesday’s results:
Osasuna 0 – 0 Deportivo La Coruna
Villarreal 2 – 0 Racing Santander
Getafe 1 – 2 Atletico Madrid
Sevilla FC 2 – 0 Espanyol
Posted in soccer | Tagged: barcelona, eto'o, gudjohnsen, higuain, jose mari, messi, primera liga, raul, real betis, real madrid, robben, sporting gijon, van der vaart | Leave a Comment »