Posts Tagged ‘Higuain’

Master Tactician Alex Ferguson comes out of the Mestalla with a 1-0 win.

I grew up in an era of attacking football. Being a Real Madrid and La Liga supporter, I had the privilege of seeing Zinedine Zidane, Luis Figo, Raul, and Ronaldo playing together and picking teams apart with no mercy; while their relinquished defence saw the ball go into their net on a few occasions. They never seemed bothered when they let in goals. Their philosophy was one that read ‘We’ll just score more goals than you’.

That same era we witnessed the ‘Super Depor’ team which had Juan Carlos Valeron, Djalminha, Mauro Silva, and Diego Tristan. It was a team that beat Milan 4-0 and reached the semi-finals of the Champions League to play another entertaining La Liga team at the time, Valencia. That era was the most dominant that La Liga has ever been in Europe and one that was pleasing to the eye. It seemed like ‘Joga Bonito’ had stamped out ‘negative football’ for good.

Football goes through phases. The era of flair and gung-ho offence is dormant for the time being. In the past year, we’ve seen defensive football emerge from it’s slumber (it was actually always there, but not everyone used it, and it wasn’t always successful).

Last season we thought Barca was unstoppable. And then we realized that the only way to beat them was to pressure them high and keep the defensive shell compact. That’s exactly what happened the two times they were conquered last season. Rubin Kazan did it in the Camp Nou in the group stages of the Champions League (ironically, they held Barca to a 1-1 draw today in similar fashion), and then Jose Mourinho came to the Camp ‘Mou’ and played some of the most unattractive yet efficient games of football I have seen to knock Barca out of the Champions League.

One month later, Vicente Del Bosque and Spain started their quest for their 1st ever World Cup trophy. La Seleccion this year is virtually Barca 2.0. It’s literally FC Barcelona plus Casillas, Ramos, Alonso, and Capdevila. The amazing thing is that Del Bosque took this team and totally changed it from the style of play that Pep Guardiola has Barca playing. He dropped Torres, and inserted a second DM -Xabi Alonso- to accompany Sergio Busquets. A simple switch that completely changes the system. Spain went from being an attacking team, to one that builds and solidifies at the back while trying to snatch a goal somewhere and then killing the game off with their possession.

Needless to say, La Roja went on to win the World Cup with a team that focused more on defensive stability than attack. This was evident as they won their last 4 games of the tournament by 1-0.

Mourinho - Impressive at the back

Jose Mourinho has Real Madrid playing more defense than they’re used to, but it seems to be working. Last night Mourinho decided to play with three defensive midfielders – Lass, Alonso, Khedira – against 17th placed Ligue 1 side Auxerre. A formation that is unheard of in Real Madrid. Mourinho’s philosophy is one that emphasizes defensive organization. To his defence -no pun intended-, Real Madrid has been playing the best defence I have ever seen them play, and although they aren’t scoring as much, I’m sure the goals will come eventually. They have to. Especially when you have Higuain, Benzema, Cristiano, Ozil, Di Maria, Pedro Leon, and Canales in attack.

My only criticism of Mourinho thus far is his obsession with playing Karim Benzema at the right wing position. It’s a position that destines Benzema to failure. He’s most lethal when he’s closest to goal, and at that position he occupies valuable space that Di Maria and Ozil could be filling. I’m sure Eto’o understands Benzema’s frustration with his comment today after his hat-trick and Inter’s 4-0 win over Werder Bremen:

“I’m happy to win as a striker after winning as a defender last season,”

And finally, a surprising ending happened at the Mestalla today as Manchester United grabbed a 1-0 win over Valencia. After literally attacking Manu for 80 minutes and coming close to scoring on several occasions, they found themselves losing the match after Manchester finally broke out of their defensive shell late to score the only goal of the game. If there ever was a ‘perfect game’, Sir Alex came pretty close today. He had United lined up fantastic defensively and Valencia found it hard to penetrate the great partnership of Ferdinand and Vidic. The more Valencia pushed, the more Manchester absorbed, and just when it looked like Valencia might score, Ferguson came up with two genius substitutions bringing on youngsters Javier Fernandez and Federico Macheda. The later was the architect who set-up Fernandez for the winning goal. It was a lovely move that can be seen here.

So what is the answer? Is a defensive approach more efficacious than an attacking approach? There is no clear answer. What’s evident is that football goes through phases and different coaches are successful with different tactics. That’s the beautiful thing about football, every team plays differently and some of the most beautiful matches can come from two teams who have completely contrasting styles of play.

Defensive football = Attacking football.

Pipita - All Smiles

Gonzalo Higuain has made a living off of tormenting La Liga teams. He was once an unkown, and rose to a player with lots of potential. And as he has finally broken in as a fixed starter for the greatest sports club on the planet, he has become a world class forward and easily one of, if not the best young player(s) in his position. This weekend again he showed his worth. Against Mallorca in the middle of a snow storm in Madrid, Higuain scored a golazo and assisted another.

Well Done Boss

I’m loving Pellegrini right now. I wasn’t too impressed with him at first  but it seems that he has finally found the right formula for this squad. His new system (4-2-3-1) has been worked to perfection. The two holding midfielders give freedom to Kaka, Ronaldo, and Van Der Vaart (who has been exceptional this year. His 2-3 week injury is unfortunate) to supply Higuain with goals. My only slight concern is that Benzema finds himfself on the bench. My hope and dream is that these two brilliant strikers can become a world class striking partnership for years to come. We desperately need Benzema to take advantage of his time off the bench.

The brilliant thing about Pelle’s sytem is that it has worked wonders for our defence. There was a time where Real Madrid’s best defence was their unbelievable offensive system. We had Zidane, Figo, Carlos, Raul and Ronaldo. It was a team that didn’t let the opposition get the ball or the chance for the opposition to even get out of their own half. We have won two CL trophies this decade with defenders like Hierro (old version), Helguera, Pavon, Ivan Campo and Karanka. And it was all due to an important offensive and possession oriented system. We are finally seeing glimpses of that again this season. The injury that was sustained to Pepe was devastating, but with all due respect to Pepe (one of the World’s best defenders), Garay and Albiol have done exceptionally well without him and the defence hasn’t lost a beat thanks to Pellegrini’s formula.

Real Madrid 2-0 Mallorca: Highlights

The Champions League has finally arrived. It was a long summer without meaningful football but that wait is over now. All 32 teams have finished playing their first match, and what an interesting matchday it was. Let’s get started.

Everyone knows Manchester Unitedare severely weakened since Ronaldo’s departure, but they did manage to hold off Besiktas in Turkey last night for a 0-1 win. Turkish fans are known to be some of the craziest in the world; and instead of highlights, I would rather post this clip of a high quality amateur video of the Besiktas fans during kick-off:

Ac Milan proved that they should always be a contender for the Champions League, no matter how much of a crisis they’re in. After all, they are the second best team of all team after Real Madrid. Milan put together an impressive display in Marseille and pulled off a 1-2. This is not AC’s best year by any means. First they lost Kaka, then got hammered by Inter in the derby 4-0. They also have a completely washed up Ronaldinho who doesn’t even start anymore, and an ageing team of Nesta, Gattusso, Pirlo, Inzaghi, Seedorf and co. It’s no secret that they will be fighting with Marseille for second place in this group, and they most definitely took a big leap towards that goal with their win last night. Inzaghi adding to his European tally with 2 goals while ex-Real Madrid defender Heinze got Marseille’s lone goal. Great atmosphere:

Real Madrid make it look easy. Well, they had a 5 minute scare against FC Zurich, but other than that, they just put it on cruise control and ate the Swiss team apart. The game was in Zurich, but it seemed like quite a few Madridista’s were in the stadium, and they overshadowed the Zurich fans for large parts of the game. 3-0 at half-time, and 5-2 the final score. Watch these highlights in full; because this Real Madrid team is unbelievably fun to watch. Oh, and look for the sexy black jerseys with no sponsors:

Atletico Madrid continue to struggle. Their trend as of late has been much of the same: lots of clear cut chances but no win to show for. Their lack of finishing has really been hurting them. A shocking 0-0 draw at home today to tiny Apoel. Check out all of the chances they had. It’s unbelievable:

Undoubtedly the most intriguing game of matchday 1 was Inter – Barcatonight. Zlatan returned to Milan while Eto’o went up against his old team mates in this clash of two giants of European football. Unfortunately, it was a bit of a snooze fest for the neutral eye as the game ended 0-0. Barca had the ball all day passing it around with plenty of possession, while Inter were forced to sit back. But at least they defended well, and Samuel and Lucio were phenomenal at the back.

Arsenal left it late tonight after a shocking start against Standard Liege:

The other scores from matchday1:

Group A
Juventus 1-1 Gir. Bordeaux
(Iaquinta 63′; Plasil 75′)
Maccabi Haifa 0-3 Bayern Munich
(Van Buyten 64′, Mueller 85′, 88′)

Group B
Besiktas 0-1 Manchester United
(Scholes 77′)
Wolfsburg 3-1 CSKA Moscow
(Grafite 36′, 41′ pen., 87′; Dzagoev 77′)

Group C
Ol. Marseille 1-2 AC Milan
(Heinze 49′; Inzaghi 28′, 75′)
FC Zürich 2-5 Real Madrid
(Margairaz 64′ pen., Aegerter 65′; C. Ronaldo 27′, 89′, Raúl 34′, Higuain 45′, Guti 90′)

Group D
Atlético Madrid 0-0 APOEL Nicosia
Chelsea 1-0 FC Porto

(Anelka 48′)

Group E
Liverpool 1-0 Debrecen
(Kuyt 45′)
Ol. Lyon 1-0 Fiorentina
(Pjanic 76′)

Group F
Dynamo Kiev 3-1 Rubin Kazan
(Yussuf 71′, Magrão 80′, Gusev 86′; Dominguez 26′)
Inter Milan 0-0 FC Barcelona

Group G
Sevilla 2-0 Unirea Urziceni
(Luís Fabiano 45′, Renato 70′)
Stuttgart 1-1 Glasgow Rangers
(Pogrebnyak 18′; Bougherra 77′)

Group H
Olympiacos 1-0 AZ Alkmaar
(Torosidis 79′)
Standard Liège 2-3 Arsenal
(Mangala 2′, Jovanovic 5′ pen.; Bendtner 45′, Vermaelen 77′, Eduardo 81′)

The biggest rivalry in all of sports history is here for the second and final time this season. This is easily the biggest Clasico in years. There is so much at stake and so much pressure on both teams. This Saturday is going to be a war, and will decide the championship. Barcelona is playing its best football in years, but make no mistake; Real Madrid is in top form and will have almost their whole team available unlike the first Clasico in Camp Nou which ended 2-0 to the Catalan side.

Squad lists:

REAL MADRID C.F.

GK:Iker Casillas, Jerzy Dudek
DF:Sergio Ramos, Miguel Torres, Fabio Cannavaro, Christoph Metzelder, Gabriel Heinze, Marcelo
MF:Arjen Robben, Dani Parejo, Fernando Gago, Lassana Diarra, Javi Garcia, Rafael Van der Vaart, Julien Faubert, Royston Drenthe
FW:Raul, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Gonzalo Higuain

Not Called:

Injured:Ruud, Mahamadou, Guti, Sneijder, De la Red
Technical decision:Salgado, Saviola, Codina
Suspended: Pepe

F.C. BARCELONA

Valdes, Jorquera, Henry, Xavi, Piqué, Iniesta, Puyol, Cáceres, Sylvinho, Bojan, Eto’o, Messi, Hleb, Alves, Abidal, Keita, Gudjohnsen, Touré and Sergio Busquets.

Not Called:

Injured: Marquez, Milito

Technical Decisions: Pinto, Pedro, Victor Sanchez.

Pepe will not be there to to keep Messi and co. in check.

 Probable line-ups:

REAL MADRID C.F. (4-4-2)

_____________Casillas

S. Ramos_Cannavaro_Metzelder_Heinze

___________Gago___Lass

Robben___________________Marcelo

________Higuain_____Raul

F.C BARCELONA (4-3-3)

________Valdes

Alves_Puyol_Pique_Abidal

__Xavi___Yaya__Keita

__Messi__Etoo_Iniesta

The Cules will want revenge from last year’s pasillo

 Madrid will be hoping that the draw against Chelsea midweek will have somewhat slowed Barca down. If we are to win this game, we have to make sure we don’t let Barca settle down into their passing game (easier said then done). I’m sure this Madrid team with the Bernabeu behind them is capable of stopping this record breaking Barcelona team. Oh how sweet it would be to beat Barca now and go on to win the league.. How sweet indeed.

Video preview:
VAMUNOS MUCHACHOS!! HALA MADRID!
VAMUNOS MUCHACHOS!! HALA MADRID!

 

 

 

 

 

 

VAMUNOS MUCHACHOS!!!