All Balls Don’t Bounce

Completely Random Sports Non Sequiturs From A Completely Random Hip Hop Head

Posts Tagged ‘villarreal’

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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Barça Still Can’t Wrap It

Posted by hiphopmama on May 10, 2009

silva joaquin
Valencia 3-0 Real Madrid
     1-0 Mata, 28′
     2-0 Silva, 32′
     3-0 Baraja, 68′

abidal villarreal
Barcelona 3-3 Villarreal
     1-0 Keita, 11′
     1-1 Llorente, 22′
     2-1 Eto’o, 36′
     3-1 Alves, 45′
     3-2 Fernandez (pen), 78′
     3-3 Llorente, 90′

Let’s be clear. The La Liga title is still a foregone conclusion. With three games to go, Barcelona has to face Mallorca, Osasuna, and Deportivo, not exactly the Spanish Armada. Real Madrid awaits the challenges of Villarreal, Mallorca, and Osasuna, a slightly more formidable list. Real do have the advantage of playing those teams after they have been run through the ringer by Barcelona, but given the miraculous occurrences that would have to happen for Madrid to catch Barça, I don’t see anything changing in the current position of the top two. However, with the treble still on the table and two other competitions demanding their attention, it does make it interesting that Barça is forced to keep working toward complete supremacy in La Liga. 

 They couldn’t have known, but if Real could have put up a better effort against Valencia, they might have made up two of the three points they lost in last week’s Clasico blow-out. Instead, they barely even showed up and let Los Che run all over them in a similar fashion to what Barça did to them the previous week. To be fair, Real looked the likelier of the two teams to score in the opening minutes, but Mata was the one to break the deadlock on 28 minutes with a beautiful team goal. Just minutes later, David Silva doubled Valencia’s advantage by doing the unthinkable and catching out Casillas. It wasn’t quite as dramatic as all that, and it does little to hurt his claims on sainthood, but Iker dove and made it to the ball but still allowed it to trickle through. Instead of fighting back with any of the pride we thought they had, Real rolled over and died, letting Valencia pour forward and create opportunity after opportunity. Iker kept the score at least respectable, but even he could do nothing about the incredible goal Baraja put in on 68 minutes. He hit it off a volley at the edge of the box, a once in a lifetime strike, just absurd. I won’t even try to describe it because I couldn’t do it justice. Just watch the goals below:

And here’s the full highlights package:

Barcelona’s fortunes looked to be much brighter when they scored an early goal against Villarreal, as the Real Madrid loss gave them a chance to clinch the title with a win. Keita’s deflected shot put the blaugrana in front, but Llorente benefited from a rare Yaya Toure mistake to even the match. Barça triumphantly reclaimed the lead when Eto’o finished off a ping-pong session through the box, and they must have been prepping the champagne in the locker room after Alves drilled a free kick. But Villarreal wasn’t finished and spent the entirety of the second half, all the way into extra time, chipping away at that Barcelona lead, and you couldn’t feel particularly bad for them losing late in injury time after what happened at Stamford Bridge last week. The worst part of the whole deal for Barça was the damage done to their squad list in pursuit of this draw. Abidal earned himself a red card and a suspension for the Copa Del Rey final this week against Catalan rivals Athletic Bilbao, making it the second cup final he will miss. Worse, Iniesta picked up a knock that may put him out of the Champions League final and definitely rules him out of the Copa Del Rey final. The word is that he has a torn muscle in his right thigh, and it seems as if their fast and furious schedule of games is finally starting to catch up with them.

Goals:

Full highlights:

They’re not my team, but to be honest they deserve to win the treble this year and I hope they do. It was difficult to type that, but it’s true, even more so because it’s nice to see someone win while playing such beautiful football. They withstood all the negative tactics (read: Chelsea) and futile pursuits (ahem, Real Madrid), and still no one could catch them. The only team that can stand in their way at this point is Manchester United, and I hope to god Sir Alex and his minions get put in their place by the best team in world football. For once, in three weeks’ time I will be wearing the blaugrana colors. Vamos Barça.

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Two Out of Four

Posted by hiphopmama on April 15, 2009

adebayor-villarreal

Arsenal 3-0 Villarreal (Agg: 4-1)
     1-0 Walcott, 10′
     2-0 Adebayor, 60′
     3-0  Van Persie (pen), 69′

Porto 0-1 Manchester United (Agg: 2-3)
     0-1 Ronaldo, 6′ 

Of the four teams through to the Champions League semifinals, you could say that two of them came off my wish list – the two London teams, to be exact. I couldn’t be happier at Liverpool going out, except if Manyoo had bombed out as well. Instead, the always well-coiffed Cristiano Ronaldo ensured his team a place in the final four with a superb strike from 40 yards that sailed past Helton and was enough to seal the deal. Porto presented a few dangers, but they were mostly manageable and nearly all from set pieces, which Man Utd defended decently enough.

Arsenal put on a much more impressive display against Villarreal. Walcott broke the deadlock early when some weak defending saw him through, and he chipped one beautifully over the Villarreal keeper. The Spaniards never looked particularly threatening, other than the first few minutes of the second half, but after that the Gunners kicked it into another gear. Adebayor atoned for some boneheaded play with a lovely finish on the counterattack off another Fabregas pass. They topped it off with a Van Persie penalty kick on what was admittedly a dubious call made by the referee’s assistant. 

These two teams will face each other on April 29th, while Barcelona will face Chelsea the 28th, and once again we see the Premier League with three of the final four Champions League teams. Even with that numerical advantage, you have to give the edge at this point to the Spanish representative, Barcelona, who are once again on the rampage after a tiny hiccup in form in La Liga. Good luck to Chelsea in that one. As for Arsenal, they are the underdogs of the bunch, but I could see them pulling off an upset against the reigning champs, setting up a possible rematch with Barça. Just two more weeks to wait.

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That Crucial Away Goal

Posted by hiphopmama on April 7, 2009

Villarreal 1-1 Arsenal
    1-0 Senna, 10′
    1-1 Adebayor, 66′ 

As expected, this was a fun game to watch, although as an Arsenal fan the second half was much more fun than the first. Villarreal came out guns blazing and took the early advantage on a brilliant long strike from Marcos Senna, who found himself in too much space and nailed it to the back of the net. Things then went from bad to worse for the Gunners when they lost both Almunia and Gallas to injury in the first half, and they went into the break looking a little worse for wear. 

One inspirational halftime speech later, Arsenal were a different team and spent the second half pinning Villarreal back in their own half instead of vice versa. Typically, they had plenty of chances but neglected to finish them, waiting for that most brilliant of opportunities to level the scoreline. Also typical was the fashion in which it arrived, on a silver platter from Fabregas to Adebayor, who corralled with his chest it in the middle of the box, then took it on the volley, whipping a ridiculous scissor-kick past Diego Lopez.

Arsenal looked the likelier to score after that and spurned a few more clear-cut opportunities, and Villarreal almost made them pay for it. Senna hit a couple more whistlers just past the bar and the last few minutes saw the Spanish side pour forward on a number of occasions. As injury time dwindled, Arsenal struck back on the counterattack but the cross from Clichy was blocked out for the corner which ended the game. 

So the Gunners take an even scoreline and the critical away goal home to the Emirates for the second leg, and you’d have to think they’re pretty satisfied with that outcome. Having started so poorly, tying it up alone was encouraging, but getting that potential tie-breaker makes the result even more harsh from the Villarreal perspective. The Yellow Submarine (can someone please explain that nickname to me?) played a great first half and seemed poised to take their one-goal cushion with them, but Adebayor’s absurd strike one-upped Senna’s and snatched the moral, if not actual, victory away from the home team. Who would have thought, a couple months ago when Arsenal were in the midst of their slide, that they would be a rejuvenated squad getting their best players back and looking to head to the Champions League semi’s? Not I, for sure, but I will remember not to doubt them again.

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Champions League Draw Reality

Posted by hiphopmama on March 21, 2009

If you’ll recall, these were the quarterfinal match-ups I was pulling for, out of some misplaced sense of fairness to the better teams:

  • Manchester United-Villarreal
  • Barcelona-Porto
  • Liverpool-Chelsea
  • Bayern Munich-Arsenal

As it turns out, I only got one of the four match-ups right – Liverpool-Chelsea – but that doesn’t count for much given how many times those two have played in the Champions League recently (read: every year). So here are the actual match-ups as of Friday’s draw:

  • Manchester United-Porto
  • Barcelona-Bayern Munich
  • Liverpool-Chelsea
  • Villarreal-Arsenal

Aside from the Premier League quarter, the best of the bunch seems likely to be Barça vs. Bayern, which pits two teams in excellent European form against each other. Both have high-powered offenses, Bayern’s led by Luca Toni and Franck Ribery, Barça’s by Lionel Messi, Thierry Henry, and Samuel Eto’o, among others – and some solid midfield players. I see two key advantages for Barça that are likely to tip the scales. For one, Barcelona’s defense is the stronger of the two, especially if Puyol is healthy, as they can line up some combination of El Capitan, Rafa Marquez, Pique, Dani Alves, and The Ageless One Sylvinho. Abidal, the first-choice starting left back, is injured at the moment, but Sylvinho has filled in adequately for him and Bayern doesn’t have much to threaten that side with since Ribery tends to play from the middle. Which leads to the second point, namely that Bayern don’t have the tools to exploit Barça’s few weak spots. Their midfield isn’t strong enough to contend with the hefty possession command that Barça get from the likes of Yaya, Busquets, and Xavi. In the end, I believe Barcelona simply have too much for Bayern to handle at virtually every position. Not that it won’t still be a good couple of games, but I don’t see any surprises coming out of that one.

Manchester Utd drew one of the two teams they must have been eyeing and can’t be too sad to be facing Porto. Obviously, “all the teams at this stage are very good,” as everyone is required to say, but among equals, some are more equal than others. There isn’t much to discuss here – Man Utd should skate to the semis.

I’m pleasantly surprised to see Arsenal have the good fortune to draw Villarreal. No disrespect to Pellegrini and the Yellow Submarine, but when you had a chance to face Barcelona or Manchester United, Villarreal doesn’t look quite so daunting. It will still be a tough match, but even more than that, it should be fun to watch. Pellegrini’s trademark style of play will definitely look good paired up with Wenger’s, so it will be an eye-pleasing match-up at the very least.

And then there’s Liverpool-Chelsea. Was there any way this could be avoided? You just knew it was coming, whether in this round or the next. They also seem to be spoiling each other’s tea party, and this year will be no different. I’m not sure who to give the edge to here. Normally you’d have to say Liverpool, with their history in Europe and comparatively better season overall, but things are changing at Chelsea. Or at least they were until today’s lost to Tottenham, but that’s a topic for another post. Hiddink has the Blues playing tougher and with a sense of purpose, and with the Premier League essentially out of reach, the UCL takes on that much more importance for them. Same goes for Liverpool too, though, and I really don’t see them slipping up at this point. Much as I’d like to, I can’t put my money on Chelsea, although I’ll certainly be rooting for them. 

And I still don’t see anything preventing a Barcelona-Manchester United final.

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Champions League Draw Dreams

Posted by hiphopmama on March 19, 2009

You can’t really call it a prediction because it’s all based on luck, but these are the quarterfinal match-ups I’d like to see, if we were constructing it like an NCAA bracket with the strongest teams playing the, well, less strong teams. 

  • Manchester United-Villarreal
  • Barcelona-Porto
  • Liverpool-Chelsea
  • Bayern Munich-Arsenal

As a bigger fan of Arsenal and Chelsea than most of the other teams, I’d prefer to see them play the likes of Porto or Villarreal, but in terms of strict fairness, Barcelona and Manchester Utd have earned those lesser teams. I think it’s pretty obvious that those two are far and away the strongest clubs in Europe this year, although Liverpool is on their heels at the moment. I can’t make much of an argument either for or against Bayern because I don’t watch much Bundesliga action, but they have certainly looked impressive in UCL matches. 

In looking at the remaining teams, the only screwy thing that could happen – along the lines of all three Italian teams facing English opposition in the Round of 16 – would be if the four English teams were somehow kept away from each other entirely. There was plenty of talk when the draw for the last round happened about how it was a marketing dream to have more Premier League teams in the later rounds, and an even bigger boon to advertising revenues if we could get another all-England final. Personally, I think that’s a little boring. While I believe the Premier League is the strongest in Europe right now, just watching English teams duke it out seems counterproductive at the very least. If I wanted to watch Man Utd play Liverpool for high stakes…wait, I just saw that last weekend. I certainly wouldn’t sniff at a London finals match-up, but a little more diversity would definitely be a plus. It’s probably a moot point, because I really don’t see anyone beating Barcelona, at least not for a while, and the draw isn’t likely to shake out that way. For the sake of the tournament’s integrity and continued sale-ability, I hope tomorrow’s draw is less suspicious than the last one.

Anyone but United ’09!

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Champions League, Part Deux

Posted by hiphopmama on March 11, 2009

manyoo-inter

Manchester United 2-0 Inter (Agg: 2-0)

  • 1-0 Vidic, 4′
  • 2-0 Ronaldo,  49′

almunia

Roma 1-0 Arsenal, Shoot-out 6-7 (Agg: 1-1)

  • 1-0 Juan, 9′

England has the strongest league in the world. Hands down. I was hesitant to admit it for a while, especially because La Liga is my favorite to watch. But after watching Champions League action in conjunction with the individual leagues, it is essentially impossible to argue otherwise. In the two preceding years, three of the final four teams were from England (Man Utd, Chelsea, and Liverpool in both cases), and last year was an all-England final. Now, as we head into the quarterfinals, all four English teams have advanced, at the expense of Italy’s three representatives in the round of 16. Spain still has two teams alive in the competition, but only one of them – Barcelona – stands any real chance of making it all the way.

Defending champs Manchester Utd took out Italy’s last great hope and their Special coach (wonder if he knows what the connotations of that term are). While I had finally settled on Inter as the lesser of these two evils, I was not at all unhappy to see Mourinho get humbled like that. I wish it could have been at the hands of someone other than Fergie and ManYoo, but watching Inter bomb out of the Champions League with the coach they brought in specifically to get them better results in Europe was still sweet. Man Utd opened each half with a goal, which was just enough to finish off Inter. Sir Alex’s boys weren’t particularly impressive today, but they did what they had to do to beat Special Sauce and Co. Both goals came off beautifully delivered passes, the first a corner taken by Giggs and the second a chipped pass from Rooney. Ibrahimovic finally decided to show up and made some key contributions, but neither he nor Adriano could break all the way through the ManYoo defense. And the quintuple is still alive.

In the final England-Italy match-up, Arsenal carried a 1-0 home victory into Rome but watched that margin disappear on an early goal by Juan, who scored the game’s only goal in his brief return from injury Not long after leveling for Roma, he had to leave with a re-aggravated thigh injury, further depleting the Roman squad. Arsenal seemed the likelier of the two sides to score for most of the game, but they never found their way onto the scoreboard. The best chance they had came when Bendtner deflected the ball to start a lightning quick counterattack. Eboue dribbled up the right side and should have easily been able to pick out Bendtner in the middle for a straightforward tap home, but his disappointing season continued with a horrible ball that went long and ruined any chance Arsenal had of scoring for the moment. In the end it went to penalties, and Arsenal started poorly, with Eduardo’s weak shot blocked by Doni. Vucinic helped the Gunners even it up by getting a little too cute and sending one straight at Almunia with not much pace. Finally, after eight takes from either side, Tonetto stepped up and skied it over the bar, ending Roma’s hopes of any silverware this year.

We now have to wait till the 20th to find out the match-ups for the quarterfinals, which will be drawn from the following teams:

  • Bayern Munich
  • Villarreal
  • Chelsea
  • Liverpool
  • Manchester United
  • Arsenal
  • Barcelona
  • Porto

The round of 16 draw was a tad suspicious, with the Italian teams all matched up with English opposition, so the conspiracy theorists among us would probably say the broadcasters got their wish with all four English teams through. Whatever the case, I hope we get a more equitable shakedown for the quarters, preferably keeping Arsenal and Chelsea on opposite sides, since those are the last of my teams standing. Realistically, though, no one is touching either Man Utd or Barcelona, and barring an unfortunate draw, they should be the favorites to make the finals. Everyone else is a long shot at this point.

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Real Reborn

Posted by hiphopmama on January 14, 2009

real-madrid-mallorca1

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:

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Champions League Draw

Posted by hiphopmama on December 19, 2008

  • Atletico Madrid – Porto
  • Lyon – Barcelona
  • Arsenal – Roma
  • Inter – Manchester Utd
  • Real Madrid – Liverpool
  • Chelsea – Juventus
  • Villarreal – Panathinaikos
  • Sporting Lisbon – Bayern Munich

There are a few conspicuous things about these pairings. The first is the fact that the three Serie A teams drew Premier League opponents. Based on the performance of English teams in the Champions League in recent years, this wouldn’t seem to bode well for the Italians. However, looking at the match-ups individually paints a slightly better picture for the Serie A squads. Roma will take on an Arsenal team that has yet to really find its bearings this season. Unfortunately for Roma, the Gunners have played their best games against quality opponents, so that might be nullified. This has the potential to be one of the best match-ups because both teams play such open games. Juventus-Chelsea has the most back story to it, with Claudio Ranieri taking on his former team at Stamford Bridge, about which Ranieri said, “I can’t say I’m happy.” The biggest battle of all will be between Inter and Manchester United, two powerhouses currently playing well and expecting to go far in this competition. United are the reigning champions in Europe, but they are only just starting to hit their stride. Inter, on the other hand, came on like gangbusters only to slow down the slightest bit of late. This is an impossible one for me to watch because there is no one to root for. I am always looking for someone to upend Inter and their Special coach, but I cannot get myself to pull for Fergie and Ronaldo, so it will be Forza Inter in that one. 

The other noticeable thing in all this is the pairing of the non-biggies with each other. The match-ups of Atletico-Porto, Sporting-Bayern, and Villarreal-Panathinaikos all feature two teams who would be expected to fall by the wayside against the top-tier teams playing each other in the other ties. Because of how the draw came out, three of those teams will make it to the next round, while either Chelsea or Juventus, Inter or Man Utd, Real Madrid or Liverpool, Arsenal or Roma will be knocked out. It will make for a different look to the later rounds, that’s for sure.

Oh yeah, and Barcelona will play Lyon. It’s no disrespect to Lyon that it barely warrants a mention. Pretty much any opposition would elicit that reaction because of how incredible Barça have been playing. Let’s just say I don’t foresee any hicc-ups for the Catalans, although I’m sure Guardiola will convince them otherwise to ensure a good performance from his team.

As a fan of Arsenal (and secondarily Chelsea) in England and Real Madrid in Spain, I am at least satisfied with the draw. Liverpool is always a tough out in European play, but with a team that will hopefully be rejuvenated both through injury recoveries and new players, it’s a match-up Real can win. Roma is no push-over and they have been playing much better of late, but Arsenal could have faced much worse. As for Serie A, my team – AC Milan – didn’t even make it to the Champions League this year, so my only real interest there is seeing Inter lose. Except that I can’t root for Man Utd, so I’m really screwed there. In any case, it will be an incredible slate of games of which I’m sure I will only get sparing coverage. Gotta love that U.S. soccer coverage.

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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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