Monday, November 7, 2011

[Exclusive] Twitter Q. & A. With Real Madrid Castilla's Alex Fernandez

Hola Madridistas, I apologize for our continued absence due to all of us having school or college, don't think that's going to change any time soon. But, we do have something for you, it's not the full thing that we were hoping for but something is better than nothing, right?

Pamela and I (mostly Pamela) run a fanpage of sorts of our academy's midfield genius—Alex Fernandez, the handle of that twitter account is @AlexFdez8Fans. Alex (@AlexFdez8) himself has been following that account since the first day. Hope you will too.

Anyways we decided to ask Alex a few questions about his Madridista memories, how it's been playing for Real Madrid, training with the first team etc etc.

Sadly he had to take permission from Real Madrid before answering our questions, and Real Madrid denied him permission, but he still agreed to answer to two of our questions because he had agreed to answer our questions before and he wanted to keep his word. He's such a nice guy, here's what he sent us:

"Hola, perdon por no haberte contestado pero tenia que pedirle permiso al club,me han dicho que no puedo responderte a tus preguntas. Te puedo contestar solo dos preguntas,eligelas y mandamelas.Un beso,gracias y lo siento."

We gave it a lot of thought and picked two questions out of fifteen where we thought he didn't need to be diplomatic and he could answer with his heart. Here's what Alex had to say:

Spanish [Original]:

Q.: ¿Cual es tu primera memoria del primer equipo cuando crecias? ¿Y quien era tu idolo en esos tiempos?

Alex Fernandez: Mi primera memoria era el Madrid campeon de champions en glasgow y el gol de Zidane es lo q mejor recuerdo de mi infancia como Madridista. Mi idolo siempre fue Fernando Redondo pero ahora Xabi alonso o Steven Gerrard.

Q.: De no haber escogido del futbol, que otra carrera le hubiera interesado? 

 Alex Fernandez: Algun otro deporte.

English [Translated]:

Q.  What is your best memory of the first team when you were growing up? Who did you look up to as a role model?

Alex Fernandez: My best memory as a Madridista is the one when Real Madrid won the Champions League in Glasgow and also Zidane's goal (against Bayer Leverkusen). Fernando Redondo has always been my idol, out of the players playing currently I admire Xabi Alonso and Steven Gerrard the most.

 Q. If you hadn't chosen football, what would you be doing?

Alex Fernandez: Playing some other sport.

Well there you have it, like I said before, it's not much, but it is something. We were expecting sort of a spicy answer from Alex regarding what he would be if not a footballer haha, but still we are extremely thankful of Alex for answering our questions. Hope this doesn't land him into any sort of trouble. 

Also we would like to thank @Galapago555 or Mr. Turtle or Señor Tortuga as we all call him for all the translations he has done for this post, all this could not have been possible without him. As they say in Spanish, Señor Tortuga eres un crack!
We wish Alex all the luck in the world may he have a bright, trophy laden career with Real Madrid. Hala Madrid!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Super Copa: Real Madrid-FC Barcelona: First Leg Preview

The Super Copa is very close at hand. League winners—Barcelona, will be facing current Copa Del Rey champions—Real Madrid, in a two-legged tie of the Spanish Super Cup. So far, both teams have completed rather contrasting pre-season tours/friendlies; with Real Madrid winning all seven of the matches as opposed to Barca's 3 wins out of six. The Catalans looked far from impressive during said pre-season friendlies, with most of their first team players, either out injured, or resting from the Copa America.

Real Madrid, on the other hand, had a perfect pre-season, and Mourinho's men looked all but ready to start off the new season. Playing time was properly distributed among the whole team that was called up for the pre-season tour, barring the injured Nuri Sahin, and a lot of goals were scored. Real Madrid scored 27 goals in 7 games, while conceding 5. Not bad.

However, the pre-season forms of both teams don't say too much of what to expect from both teams as the season commences, because as stated earlier, Barcelona were with most of their first team players, and Real Madrid didn't face the toughest of opponents during their voyage. So whatever game plan Mourinho has going into these games should be independent of what form the Catalans were in, during pre-season.

Without further ado, let's look at the starting lineup I think will be used come Sunday. Let me preface this by saying that I do not expect us to go all out in this game. I say this because, one of the many things we achieved last season was a good defensive structure against Barca. One that they found difficult to break down no matter how many passes they strung together. So I expect us to maintain that structure, but what has to change is the way we handle the ball when we are in possession.

The Champions league Semi-final 1st leg from last season was a typical example of what we should not do (when in possession) this time around. Last season we depended on kicking the ball up to the forwards without linking up play from the midfield. Needless to say it failed woefully.

What I expect this time around are build ups. Pep Guarliola's men press aggressively, so build ups must be quick, and direct. It's easier said than done, but we should at least try. But as always, don't expect us to win the possession battle. Enough said, now to the starting 11:

GK: Iker Casillas: I don't think I need to explain why I've chosen him. First choice goal keeper, captain, and best keeper in the world; these things speak for themselves.

RB: Alvaro Arbeloa: If recent reports, have been anything to go by, then Sergio Ramos will probably miss the first leg of this tie. In his absence, we have an able-bodied back up in Alvaro Arbeloa. The Spaniard is tactically astute, and has a very high concentration level on the pitch. Mourinho never shied away from singing his praises, and they were well deserved too. One of his drawbacks, however, is his reluctance to attack and we can be rest assured he won't be attacking a lot against Barcelona.

CBs: Pepe & Ricardo Carvalho: I think Pepe is going to be playing at centre back this time around, mostly because with Sergio out, we would have to throw Raul Albiol into the fray. Seeing as Albiol doesn't have the full confidence of the coach, Pepe will have to play in defense. His obvious partner would be Carvalho. The 33 year old centre back, is sure to start this game.

LB: Marcelo: The Brazilian full-back has matured (football-wise) a lot over the past one or two years. He went from the player most Madridistas didn't want to have on their team in the big games, to one of the most important players for team. He could easily be rated the best attacking left back in the world, now, and with good reason too. He scored our last goal against Barca, in the Camp Nou, and while it wasn't enough to see us through o the final of the Champions league, that goal must have given him some confidence, on an individual level, at least. He still has the tendency to lose concentration every now and them, but whatever he lacks defensively, he makes up for, going forward. A definite start for him. 

DMs: Sami Khedira and Xabi Alonso: The best player on our team is Ronaldo, but our most important player, is Xabi Alonso, without a doubt. Barring some weird happenings, Alosno is sure to start this game. His calmness on the ball, coupled with his pin point passing, are enough to seal a spot for him in the starting 11, come Sunday. In fact, how well we play, will depend (to a certain extent) on how well the Spaniard plays.

Sami Khedira is going to be a lot more involved in our attacks this season. Judging from our pre-season friendlies, he's going to be playing higher up the pitch than Xabi Alonso, which means, he'd be more involved in goals; scoring, and assisting. I see him starting on Sunday, especially with Lass out of the team, and Nuri Sahin still injured. He will play a huge role in how well we pressure Barcelona high up the pitch. 

RW/DM: Fabio Coentrao: The big question is: Who will start, Di Maria, or Coentrao? In my opinion, Coentrao will be starting this game. Why? Because with the Portuguese, we kill two birds with one stone. Seeing as he can play in the middle and on the wings, he could slot into the middle and form a trivote with Sami and Alonso when we defend, switch to the wings, to provide some width when we defend. On paper, it's a brilliant idea, but whether it can be properly executed, is an answer that can only be made available to us, on the field. If this happens, then it's safe to say, Fabio Coentrao will be a very important part of this team, come Sunday; even more important that Alonso. His work ethic will be tested, and his tactical discipline too. Will he be caught out of position often? Can he keep up with the constant movements of the Pep Guardiola's men? It's a tough task, but the 30 million price tag would be a steal, if he can pull this off. 

CAM/CM: Mesut Ozil: I expect the German to start this match ahead of Kaka, for the obvious fact that he's currently the better of the two. He has had a strong pre-season, and thanks to the German National team coach, Joachim Loew, he was rested during the week, while most of his teammates were on international duty. He links up well with the attackers, and is very comfortable on the ball. I do not see why he shouldn't start this game.

LW: Cristiano Ronaldo: The highest goal scorer in one season in la liga's entire history, looks set to start this game. Ronaldo had a good pre-season, scoring 7 goals in 7 games. He has continued with his scoring form from last season, and would probably be the first name on the team sheet, going into this game. 

ST: Karim Benzema: To be honest, I do not think Benzema should start against Barcelona. Yes he has been in good form as of late, but his style of play might not suit the game we would have to play against Barcelona. With him, we need a lot of possession; something we won't have too much of against Barca.

But how do you reward somebody who has worked so hard to make the starting 11 this season, and has done so well during the pre-season friendlies, so much that he is the the highest goal scorer with 8 goals in 7 games? You reward him by trusting him in games that count. His first real test this season will come in the form of a home match against Barcelona. I Hope he passes in flying colours, because if he does well, the whole team does well.

It could be argued that playing him will be a mistake, but (in my honest opinion) it is a mistake that must be made. I think he should start on Sunday, at least.


Well that's it folks. This is the lineup that I think will work against Barcelona, but as cliched as this may sound, it is still the truth; "Nothing is for sure in football". I expect a cautious game from us regardless of who starts for Barca, because let's face, this is not a matter of "will power", it's about what has to be done. Like I said, we've established one thing against Barca, and that's our defense, so we cannot just throw all that away because we look like favorites after a more "impressive" run of pre-season friendlies. That's a misleading theory, to say the least. We must take one step at a time, if we're going to eventually supersede Barcelona.

Hala Madrid!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Pablo Sarabia Joins Getafe: The Complete Story

Pablo Sarabia is considered to be one of the most talented and promising players in Real Madrid's youth ranks. He is so highly-regarded that scouts from all over Europe attended several Castilla games this season to watch him play.

Clubs such as Arsenal, Benfica, Braga, Barcelona, Manchester United and many more were keeping a close eye on him. His agent had admitted that Arsenal, along with a couple of Italian outfits, had expressed an interest, and that Real Madrid were aware of that, but he later stated that Sarabia wants to triumph at Madrid.

Pablo joined La Fabrica as a 13-year-old in 2004, moving up through the youth ranks over the years, until he made his professional debut in the Segunda B against Alcorcon with Real Madrid Castilla in 2009. He improved immensely under Alberto Toril who was promoted from Juvenil A's coach to Castilla's in the second half of the 2010-2011 season.

With Castilla, Sarabia made 49 appearances and scored 15 goals. He made his first-team debut last season in a 4-0 win over Auxerre at the Bernabeu in the group stages of the Champions League after coming on for Cristiano Ronaldo. On his debut, he looked comfortable, didn't get lost chasing the ball or forget orders and also showed some great passing and dribbling abilities, all signs of his maturity despite only being a teenager with very little high-level experience.

On Sunday, July 3, Real Madrid officially announced the departure of Pablo Sarabia. In a brief statement, the official announcement reports that an agreement has been reached with Getafe, reserving the right to buy him back:

Real Madrid C. F. and Getafe C. F. have reached an agreement for the transfer of RM Castilla player Pablo Sarabia. Real Madrid CF reserves the right to repurchase the footballer.

Sarabia had a contract with Real Madrid until the summer of 2013; however Real Madrid cashed in on him for a reported €3 million, also inserting a buy-back clause in the deal. The buy-back clause can only be activated after he completes 2 years of his 5-year-contract with Getafe.

There's a lot that can be written on the complexity of the issue of non-usage of Real's cantera graduates, but most of the problem primarily lies at the doorstep of Florentino Perez and his over-the-top 'I know it all' tendency.

Also, Mourinho is under pressure to deliver and taking risks with youngsters is certainly not included in his plans. No matter how hard he tries to make fans think he cares about developing our youngsters, he doesn't, which is unfortunate because this generation of La Fabrica players is the best in years, and I, along with many other Madridistas, would hate to see what happened to Mata and Parejo happen to them.

However, I don’t think this will be the case with Sarabia. In recent years, we've had De La Red, Granero and Parejo leave to Getafe and come back at a later date, under similar circumstances to Sarabia's move. De La Red and Granero were able to make it back and Sarabia will be hoping to do the same.

With Getafe, Sarabia will get plenty of playing time in the Primera. This will give him the opportunity and time to fully develop. He has all the raw talent and ability. Playing regularly at such a high level will aid him by providing him the confidence and experience he needs. Hopefully, he will impress Perez and Mourinho (or whoever is the manager when Sarabia starts dazzling), and we’ll see him wearing the white shirt again.

Good luck, Pablo!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Keeping It Real—Why Promoting a Canterano Might Backfire

Joselu: Scored on debut
"Ten youth teamers debut this season"Just as the last match of the season in Liga BBVA had ended for Real Madrid with a 8-1 victory over Almeria; Real Madrid's official site ran a post with the above mentioned headline, to remind us all of the greatness of Jose Mourinho—the big risk taker who despite having the pressure of winning every trophy invested in not two or three but TEN youth teamers.

What Real Madrid's official site wanted to convey didn't sit well with me, this post of ten youth teamers debuting was a way to please the fans who have been wanting to see the youth teamers with the first team, wanting to see another Raul, another Casillas, another De La Red; this post reminded me of what these debuts meant for Jose Mourinho—another way to please the fans.

I won't deny it, never have, never will—I'm not the biggest Jose Mourinho fan (but still I'm glad he is continuing with the team because he marked an amazing season with the club.). So there, you can use this against me, say that my hate for Jose Mourinho is the reason I see this as a way to please the fans. But you can't change the facts, can you?

Juan Carlos, Mateos, Antonio Adan, Pablo Sarabia, Alvaro Morata, Alex Fernandez, Nacho Fernandez, Tomas Mejias, Jesus and Joselu made their debuts for the first team this season according to the post, but lets not count Alex Fernandez because all he got was a little above 30 seconds at Racing and not single touch of the ball. So that means only nine canteranos properly debuted this season.

What makes me question Jose Mourinho's actions, and say that all these debuts were just to please the fans is because out of these nine, only two players have made more than one appearance—Adan and Nacho. Not counting Morata as despite the Levante tie in Copa del Rey being dead and buried, he only got a substitute appearance.

Sarabia: Impressive on debut
Had Mourinho been genuinely interested in using them, surely more canteranos would have gotten more than one appearance and Nacho wouldn't have been the only outfield player to get a start and play a full game; especially when Pablo Sarabia impressed in the 30 minutes he got to play against Auxerre and has been performing brilliantly for the Castilla week in and week out.

Many of these canteranos in the beginning got in the team because of Jose Mourinho's helplessness. Mateos was given a professional contract at the start of the season because, Pepe and Garay were out injured, and there was no back up in central defense.

Adan got a start because Casillas wasn't called up for the game and Dudek broke his jaw, then later Dudek's injury saw Adan make more appearances. I think you catch my drift, by the end of the season, Mourinho had realized what the impact a canterano appearance makes on the fans, still Nacho's start was more due to suspensions.

I'm not saying, I'm not thankful of Mourinho to start so many canteranos, but I'm not particularly thrilled about their future if they were used as a tool to make the fans happy. The last player to get promoted to the first team was Mateos, he was loaned out to AEK Athens in the January transfer window. I'm sure had he stayed here longer, he wouldn't have notched up 90 minutes in a season.

Talking about Mateos isn't fair, because surely there was no way he would have started over Carvalho, Pepe, Garay or Albiol. But we can definitely use Sergio Canales as an example; Canales was supposed to be going on loan this season before Jose Mourinho himself requested to keep him with the squad for the season.

We all saw what happened with him. If Sergio Canales—who had a decent season in La Liga before joining, wasn't trusted by Mourinho to get enough minutes, I don't see a way how the canteranos who play in Segunda B can gain his trust if they are promoted.

The way that Jose Mourinho has acted, promoting the canteranos is not an option that will be any good for the canteranos, because once they get promoted officially they are no longer eligible to play for Real Madrid Castilla, which will mean they're most likely to notch up 300 minutes a season at most, if they're lucky enough.

Will they be used like Higuain?
I won't complain about the canteranos getting 300 minutes if they are sent in crunch situations, like Gonzalo Higuain was when he was new at Real Madrid, during the time when the scores were level or when Real Madrid were behind; he was sent in to get a goal, get a result; that is positive reinforcement for a young player.

But how the things have gone so far, these 300 minutes will most likely come when the game's result is beyond doubt; which will hardly help build any character, they'll never be ready for the first team like this. It's better they stick with the Castilla or join another La Liga club with a buy-back clause, because that is a strategy that seems to be working.

I feel that I am being a little too harsh on Jose Mourinho, it's not exactly his complete fault that he doesn't trust the canteranos, it's a little too hard to put the blame on him when you know what kind of pressure to succeed is on him.

The man who has to be blamed for this is none other than Florentino Perez, had he not sacked Vicente Del Bosque, there wouldn't have been a period of instability at the club, and the managers would have taken the risk to give chances to canteranos.

Hala Madrid!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Wolfsgang Stark & FC Barcelona: Pre-Match Team Meeting

"Go! Get HIM!
 If you are following me on Twitter, you probably know that I ran a sting operation to get my hands on the "exclusive" Barcelona pre-match & post-match team talk, and am going to publish it as 2 part post. Our reporter was in Catalonia a few days before the match, and this is EXACTLY what he saw and heard.

Location: Ciutat Esportiva Joan Gamper

(Pep Guardiola is rejoining the team huddle after a phone call, Pep looks pleased with himself, and starts talking with the Barcelona players.)

Pep: Just got of the phone with Michel (Platini), he had called to say he was sorry about picking the Portuguese referee without asking us first, and he was saying he would do just about anything to make it up.

Puyol: *growling like a caveman in approval*

Valdes: Has he made arrangements so we can play our game?

Pep: Yes, he has, our "special player" would be arriving to train with us soon, jejeje. Pique what are you doing? Hang up the phone and come back, we are talking here.

Pique: I was just telling Shakira to get a nose job, a bigger nose would be so much more sexy, don't you think? It looked so good on Ibra.

Pep: Didn't I tell you we don't take his name here, he broke my heart. Anyways, all of you do your stretching, then we'll start the practice with a little diving followed by some face-clutching till our friend drops by. By the way where's Villa, I don't see him.

Xavi: He's with Ramos and Arbeloa, they sent me a text saying he got drunk last night and they had to pick him up, and he's with them, they even sent me a photo, look.

Pep: He isn't their teammate, it's your duty; did you go pick David up? What did you tell them?

Xavi: I told them we are the only team that wants to play football.

Pep: ..........

Xavi: I'll go pick him up.

[Xavi leaves to get Villa while the team continue their training, they take turns diving, clutching their face and ganging up on a person, who our reporter assumes is supposed to be the referee.]

[Some time passes, our reporter notices a grown German man wearing a Lionel Messi kit reach the gates of Ciutat Esportiva Joan Gamper and is stopped by the security and is being thrown out when Pep Gaurdiola notices the man and intercepts. Apparently the security guards were throwing him out because they had banned him from the premises for stalking Lionel Messi during training.]

Pep: Wow, you came a lot earlier than expected, were you close by? And why were the security people stopping you from entering.

Wolfsgang Stark: Yes, I was near Messi's hom.....I was close by. By the way where's Lionel Messi, he's like the best player EVER, I want to meet him. I don't know man, they did that the last time I was here too, I was just going to the player's shower after the training to meet Messi, that's all, I still don't get why they threw me out.  Now when am I getting to meet Messi?

Pep: Umm...........yeah, I can't figure it out'll be meeting Messi soon enough, when we'll talk game strategy in a while.

Wolfsgang Stark: OH MY GOD! OH MY GOD! OH MY GOD! REALLY?!

Pep: .............yeah.

[Pep and Wolfsgang Stark oversee the training (video), Xavi and Villa join the group, Pep and Stark wait for them to finish "practice" before they start the discussion.]

Pep: Okay, huddle up people, here's the "special player" I was talking about.

Puyol: *sniffs Wolfsgang Stark*

Wolfsgang Stark: Hi Leo! I am your biggest fan, can you sign my shirt, my shorts, anything?!

Pep: Can we focus?

Wolfsgang Stark: Alright. *whispers* I love you Leo.

Pep: Can I call you Wolf? Okay Wolf, as Platini might have already told you, to play our beautiful game of football, we have some special requirements that only you can provide. *winks* Aside from those we require shorter grass to play, but those bastards in Madrid just won't cut the grass, and that's why we only drew in the league, see:

Xavi: We were the only team that wanted to play football, but couldn't because of the jungle, you need to help us save people's lives, and also save the game of football Wolfgang!

Wolfsgang Stark: I'll be glad to help the team of  Leo, do you want to me get rid of Pepe? He got all over in the face of Leo, he needs to pay for his actions.

Pep: Good, good, you already know what to do, less work for me. Excellent.

Wolfsgang Stark: Can I get Messi's shirt right now?

Messi: *runs away*

[They are all sent to the showers, Wolfgang Stark follows Lionel Messi.]

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Real Madrid-Barcelona: El Clasico (1/4): Points Worth Noting

Pepe to Messi: "Are you crazy?"
Last night Jose Mourinho's Real Madrid brought an end to the winning streak of Pep Gaurdiola's Borecelona....err....Barcelona in El Clasico as well as their streak away from home.

Jose Mourinho's men fought hard, were the better team, created the better chances despite being "outpassed" and "outpossessed," earned themselves a draw with 10 men on the field. It didn't help that the referee was, as usual against them. This draw as stated by Marca's headline, "feels like a win".

There are always many match reviews available on the internet of such games and it's always better to do something different, so that's why I have decided to discuss point by point the things that happened in the match which were worth discussing.

Barcelona's Football is as Negative as it Can Get

Barcelona had 76% possession of the ball according to ESPN Soccernet, and as far as I remember the commentator repeatedly reminding how Barcelona had completed more than twice the number of passes than Real Madrid while having an orgasm. The bias of Mediapro's commentator didn't enable him to watch the match properly as he was praising Barcelona for playing square balls and back passes while lined up at the half-line unable to create anything worthwhile except for a good showing for number of passes completed.

Keeping possession while attacking is 'good attacking football', but keeping possession for the sake of not giving it to the opposition should be considered as a negative tactic, just like taking the ball to the flag or rolling in defense is, people need to get rid of their bias towards FC Barcelona.

The Trivote Worked Wonders/Pepe is Amazing in Midfield

Bassam of Real Madrid Offside and I have had a discussion about using the trivote many time, we had Granero as our choice with Khedira and Xabi Alonso, but after Granero was suspended both of us had agreed on Pepe as the third man in the trivote over Lass; Lass got injured we got our wish, and it turns out what we wanted was the right thing all along. We wanted Real Madrid to close down spaces, press high up the field and not give time to Barcelona's midfielders time to pick out passes that can open up defenses. Pepe did just that; he hounded the Catalan midfielders down, won tackles in the middle of the park, and helped start many of Real Madrid's attack; hands down the best player on the field.

The trivote should be used again in the remaining Clasicos without any change or bringing in Lass, Lass just isn't the same as Pepe. Pepe's much more cleaner and disciplined than Lass.

Dani Alves & Adriano Were Kept Quiet

After watching a few Barcelona games, I had realized how important Dani Alves is for Barcelona. When going forward, Dani Alves always bombs up the field making dangerous runs, getting into good positions and getting involved in many attacking plays with quick one-two passing. Due to the compact shape of Real Madrid and breaking quickly on the counters, Dani Alves didn't venture forward in attack too much and that made it one less player to deal with while defending. Not only Alves, the left-back Adriano didn't make many attacking runs either.

 Full-Backs Can't Be Red Carded

Yes, that's right, according to the fourth-official in the game, full backs can't be red-carded. In the press-conference after the game, Jose was talking about how Alves should have been red-carded for a second bookable offense when he brought down Marcelo in the box conceding a penalty and that's when he said:

 "I asked the fourth official why there wasn't a second yellow and he told me it's because he's a full-back."

All these times, all these times when Sergio Ramos got red carded, all he had to say was, "I'm a full-back b****!" and he would have stayed on, I ask for the Spanish FA and the UEFA to apologize to Sergio Ramos for giving him red cards in La Liga, Copa del Ray and Champions League.

Neither Ozil Nor Di Maria Should Start The Next Clasico

Both Di Maria and Mesut Ozil have been immense for Real Madrid this season but none of them are suitable to start the El Clasico just yet. Di Maria has got the nerves and Ozil is not someone who can keep up the same intensity over the 90 minutes.

Last night Di Maria's touch and control deserted him many a times, the same Di Maria would have latched on to those similar balls and would have tore up the defense of some other team but he just couldn't keep the ball close to him and always ran into trouble. Di Maria just isn't ready mentally.

Ozil was brilliant when he came on last night, dribbling past defenders, passing the ball well, getting involved in the play. The problem with Ozil starting is that in order to last the 90 minutes he will stop pressing in attack and will not track back, and the success we had in shutting out Barcelona's midfield was the fact that everyone put in their defensive shifts properly, even Cristiano Ronaldo was tracking back helping in defense many times. If Ozil switches off we have a problem.

Picking someone to start out of the two is a little difficult, so I'll just go ahead and put the weirdest idea in your head about starting Benzema and Higuain along with Cristiano Ronaldo

But as far as Jose Mourinho goes, I know he'll start Ozil. Won't be a bad idea if Ozil does a complete job and puts in 60-70 minutes and then Di Maria comes on in his place as an impact substitute.

 I nearly predicted the correct line-up (The mistake I made was picking Higuain over Benzema) nearly 12 hours before the game on Twitter, let's wait and see if I predicted the correct line-up this time as well. Best of luck to the players for the remaining Clasicos! Hala Madrid!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Should Real Madrid Give Any Priority To La Liga? [Guest Post]

Note: The following post was supposed to be done as a debate post but Saheli (@riverscollide) did such a wonderful job writing this I decided it was better to publish it as her post, keep in mind this was supposed to published on Sunday April 3, I screwed up and delayed the post.


Last night I observed the difference between my mentality of a Madridista and the mentality of a Cricket Fan. With Real Madrid, I've always adopted an 'it ain't over till the fat lady sings' attitude and with the latter, it has always been 'oh crap, India is going to lose' even before the start of the second innings. The way things unfolded last night, I’m beginning to think a swap of mentalities is in order.

Needless to say, Real Madrid's performance was quite dreadful, with Adebayor being the biggest flop of the day as he missed countless chances. Subsequently, Barcelona’s 1-0 win away at El Madrigal means that they're now eight before ahead of us with eight games left to play in the league. Mathematically Barcelona are still not champions, but a conversation with Deepak made me think, is it time to give up on the league and focus instead on the Champions League and the Copa del Rey final instead?

For Madrid, April is a make-it or break-it month with six extremely crucial games left to play. We will first host Tottenham on 5 April for the first leg of the UEFA Champions League quarter finals. Next, we will travel to San Mames to play Athletic Bilbao in the league, followed by the return leg of the UCL at White Hart Lane. Following that, there will be two intense encounters with Barcelona – once at the Bernabeu, and once at the Mestalla for the Copa del Rey final. The month then rounds off with an away trip to the Mestalla to face Valencia.

Out of the three competitions, realistically we have a chance of winning two. At this juncture, it is safe to assume the outcome of La Liga is out of our hands: it is Barcelona's title to lose. Based on last night's display, we realise exactly how much we miss Xabi Alonso's creative spark in the midfield. We have played and won without Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo, but last night was a testament to our lack of creativity in the midfield. Perhaps creativity is a wrong choice of word; rather we lacked a midfielder who could control the game, like a conductor conducting an orchestra.

Real Madrid have already confirmed that Ronaldo, Marcelo and Benzema will be available for the clash against Tottenham. Gonzalo Higuain clocked in more than twenty minutes last night after being out for more than four months. So it is safe to say we will have a relatively full squad with the exception of Kaka and Gago. Now the question that arose in my conversation with Deepak is this: is it time to let go of the league and focus solely on the Champions League and the Copa del Rey?

My short answer is yes. Let me elaborate with a long one.

It is true that once we stop pursuing the league, Barcelona will be able to breathe a sigh of relief. But if the last three years have taught us anything, it is this: Pep Guardiola is a pragmatist. He will not stop pursuing the league until Barcelona have won mathematically. This will not happen in April – since Barcelona will play only three games. Right now Barcelona have 81 points, compared to Real Madrid’s 73 points. There are still 24 points up for grabs for both sides in the league.

Assuming Barcelona wins all three of their April league games, and Real Madrid lose all three, they will extend their lead by 17 points. Only then will it make them champions by the end of April – based on the assumption that Madrid has to lose all three of their league encounters. However, if Madrid doesn’t drop all nine points in April, Barcelona still have to play two more games to win the league title. Confusing? Yes. Bizarre? Ditto. Bottom line is this: it’s highly unlikely that Barcelona will be able to win the league by the end of April.

So technically, Barcelona will still be fighting on all three fronts. Whereas if Real Madrid decides to forfeit the aggressive pursuit of the League and instead focus on the Champions League and the Copa del Rey, it would mean resting key players like Ozil and Di Maria during league games.

I am not saying that we should throw away the remaining games; more on that later. Mourinho did say before the Gijon match that he can’t rest the key players because the La Liga hinged on the outcome against Sporting. Now that it is over, I think Mourinho should shift his focus onto the other two competitions. This way, our starters would have played less minutes prior to meeting Barcelona than their starters.

The counter argument is that if we lax our pursuit of the league title, Barcelona can also do the same. And yes, we know that Barcelona reserves are more than capable of winning games by themselves, like they did last night, without either Xavi or Iniesta in the squad. Compared to their second string team, I think it is safe to say, based on last night's display, our second string team sucked. We still do not have the cohesiveness that Barcelona have built up over the season.

However, we should not concern ourselves with what Barcelona will or won't do. We should focus on ensuring that our starters are in their top forms for the two (or maybe four) crucial encounters against the Catalans. Barcelona are not unbeatable and neither are they invincible. Their players tire as much as any other La Liga players. Right now, our aim should be to field a fully fit team for the games against Tottenham and the Copa del Rey final against Barcelona.

I am not suggesting that we throw away the league and let Barcelona wrap it up before April. Instead, I think this will be a perfect time to bring on the canteranos and expose them to the first team. Morata, Alex, Juan Carlos, Juanfran, Sarabia have all tasted first team action this season – and they've been on top notch form with Castilla. With Castilla's playoff position more or less secured, I’d love to see them get some playing time.

This will be a win-win situation for us: it will take the pressure off our regulars and it will also give us a glimpse of what our future is like, since it is my earnest desire that one day we will build a team around our Cantera. Apart from the Canteranos, this will be a good time see which of our reserves should stay and which of them should go: Canales, Pedro Leon, Garay etc; by playing them against Bilbao and Valencia. As for El Clasico, I expect Real to field a fully fit team since it is a matter of pride and we want to ensure a repeat of 6-2 does not happen again.

However, given that we'll be facing them again in three days, it is time to prioritise. Do we want to defend our honour at the Bernabeu or do we want to win the Copa del Rey to ensure we do not finish trophyless this season? For Barcelona it is a win-win situation – they either get to humiliate us at our own turf or they win the Copa del Rey. For us, it’s time to sort out our priorities.

To wrap it up, we can pursue the league but it might backfire terribly on us and leave us trophyless at the end of the day. Because pursuing the league means devoting resources away from Champions league and Copa del Rey to focus on something that is almost a lost cause. It is a simple division of labour – pursuing the league means Ozil, Di Maria et al will be playing more minutes, thus risking them to either fatigue or injury.

Of course this doesn’t mean that we're going to easily win our Copa del Rey and the potential Champions League Semi-final ties against Barcelona – at least we will go into the respective games with a fully fit squad.

Mourinho has beaten Barcelona before with Inter and that victory came after two group stage defeats against the Catalans. We should also keep in mind that this is the first season that these new signings and Mourinho are working together. While expectations are sky high at the Bernabeu (and sometimes quite unrealistic to be honest) and among Madridistas, as long as we put up a good fight, losing to them won't be the end of the world. My only wish is that we do not throw away the encounters like we did in November: now that was just plain embarrassing.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

April: A Stressful Month Ahead For Madridismo

April is finally here and it’s arguably the month that will make or break Real Madrid’s season. It’s hard to believe that last time Real Madrid were treble candidates was 11 years ago and that the team is in the Champions League quarter-finals for the first time in 7 years. Most Madridistas are excited at the prospect of watching Los Merengues play possibly every 3 days in April but, to be completely honest, the likelihood that we could all be seeing a psychotherapist or a cardiac specialist at the end of the month is not that low.
The Schedule:

2 April
Sporting Gijon
La Liga
5 April
Tottenham Hotspur
Champions League (quarter-finals): 1st leg
9/10 April
Athletic Bilbao
La Liga
Away (San Mamés)
13 April
Tottenham Hotspur
Champions League (quarter-finals): 2nd leg
Away (White Hart Lane) 
16-17 April
La Liga
20 April 
Copa del Rey final
Away (Mestalla)
23/24 April
La Liga
Away (Mestalla)
27 April 
Barcelona or Shakhtar Donetsk
Champions League (semi-finals): 1st leg
30 April or 1 May 
La Liga

There was a lot of fuss about a possible in strike in La Liga which would have postponed round 30 to June but thankfully, the issue is resolved. In April, Real Madrid have to play 9 games: 5 at the Bernabeu (4 if Spurs knocks them out of the Champions League) and 4 away. They will play 2 consecutive Clasicos and another one after 1 week if they reach the Champions League semi-final and Barcelona manage to knock Shakhtar out of the competition.

What could happen?

It wouldn’t be totally unrealistic to say that, at the end of the month, Real Madrid could win or lose every single competition they are in. In my opinion, this season is already a success: the players are actually playing as a team (which is really weird since we’re talking about Real Madrid), they have progressed in every competition and the home record is just fantastic.

If the team wins every match, the chances of it winning the competitions look great. Sadly, I just don’t see that happening. I mean, winning 3 Clasicos after losing the previous 5 ones sounds very far-fetched.

"I'm Flo Perez, I do whatever I want. Get over it."

The worse that can happen is that Real Madrid lose everything, Florentino Perez goes crazy and does something that hurts the team; this includes, but is not limited to: sacking Mourinho; selling all our players or trying to buy every football player on the planet, alive or dead.

You've been warned!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Real Madrid Player Ratings: Season So Far

Ratings are on a scale of 1 to 10.

  • Iker Casillas:

Our captain has been his usual reliable self. So far this season, he has conceded 28 goals and kept 25 clean sheets in all competitions. He has made some questionable decisions like his rash tackle on Jose Callejon that resulted in his sending off against Espanyol, but he has also managed some remarkable saves that helped us maintain leads and win games.

Rating: 8

  • Sergio Ramos:

Not the Sergio Ramos we have gotten used to in recent years. After coming back from the World Cup as one of Spain’s best performers, much was expected from him. To be honest, I've been disappointed in some of his performances this season. His attacking isn't as effective as it used to be, and his sense of positioning is awry following a foray forward. Gets booked for needless reckless challenges (14 yellows and 2 reds so far) & was dropped by Mourinho a few times this season. He’s been much more impressive in the games he played as a CB in. He has scored 2 goals (a penalty and a header) and is starting to look a lot better in his past few games. Let’s hope we get to see the real Ramos soon.

Rating: 6.5

  • Pepe:

A rock at the back, has contributed immensely to Real Madrid’s improved defensive record. Pepe distinguishes himself from his counterparts by his embodiment of both speed and physical prowess and there is no doubt he is one of the best center backs in the world, and this is why Perez should give him the pay raise he deserves. He has even scored a goal against Real Sociedad (deflected Cristiano’s free kick into the net). Although he has had some issues with injuries and a few forgettable and aggressive games, Pepe is in good form this season and hopefully will not let the contract talks affect his performances.

Rating: 8

  • Ricardo Carvalho:

Carvalho is in the form of his life. Although he’s 32, he can competently shore up the center defense. He’s powerful in the air, physical, combative & has superb technique. Reinforced the defense, significantly strengthened the squad and has displayed brilliant leadership skills on the pitch. He has scored 3 goals so far (including our first of the season) and is rated by many as our best summer signing. Those €8 million spent on him were nothing.

Rating: 8.5

  • Marcelo:

I always wanted Real Madrid to get rid of Marcelo but only tolerated his series of poor performances because of his age and because I hoped he would develop into someone useful for this team. This time has finally come. After an average 2009/10 season, Marcelo is having his breakout season. His tackling has drastically improved and so has his sense of positioning, but of course, he still has a lot to work on. He is paying back Mourinho’s confidence in him with defensive steel (not quite steel, but you get the point…) and terrific attacking runs.

He has scored 3 brilliant goals and assisted another 5 so far. With hard work and consistency, Marcelo will develop into the best left back in the world in a few years (he already is the best attacking fullback in the world, just needs to work on his defensive blunders).

Rating: 7.5 Overall. (Defense: 6, Attack: 8)

  • Alvaro Arbeloa:

Arbeloa’s performances this season have impressed Mourinho. As usual, pretty solid defensively but doesn't venture forward much. He scored a great goal against Ajax in the Champions League. This is what Mourinho had to say about him: "Arbeloa is the type of player that may not impress people because he is not Maradona or Zidane or another player, but when he's played he's never a 6. He is always between 7 and 9." This perfectly sums up Arbeloa as a player.

Rating: 7

  • Xabi Alonso:

The architect. He’s been a leader on the pitch. His long range passes have been second to none (he completed 58 out of his 62 attempted passes against Lyon). He sprays the ball in all directions, orchestrating the tempo of the game. He protects the back four, assists and constantly delivers dangerous set pieces. He is the fulcrum of this team. I can only think of one bad game he had this season, and that’s the one against his former team, Real Sociedad. Xabi is an indispensable player on this team.

Rating: 9

  • Sami Khedira:

Khedira was one of our summer signings. We got him for about €10 million from Stuttgart. He was said to be a good midfielder that has great stamina, a good range of passing and impressive technique on the ball. A cross between the defensive and box-to-box midfielders, he’s playing the role of the ballast in Mourinho’s system, his role is to prevent the formation from getting top heavy and ensure that the front four do not become isolated from the back six. He has great stamina.

He’s dealing well with the responsibility of shackling opposition playmakers and tracking runs from deep in order the shield the center backs from being overrun. So far, he’s been doing a decent job, nothing extraordinary; he’s still young and has a lot of time to develop into a great player. He had a great game against Atleti yesterday. I think we’ll see an improved Sami next season after he’s fully integrated with the team.

Rating: 7

  • Lassana "Lass" Diarra:

"I want to demonstrate that I can play in this team. Last year, I did not play at my best. I feel like a Madrid player and I know that with him [Mourinho] I have to fight everyday in training, because any player has his chance and that is something to take advantage of.'' This is what Lass had to say at the beginning of the season. I think he’s been doing well this season. He needs to work on his consistency though. He’s had some pretty good games. His bite in the tackle & limitless stamina make him tough for opponents, but he still makes some uncalled-for tackles in dangerous areas, which could end up hurting the team.

Rating: 6.5

  • Esteban Granero:

On the pitch, El Pirata has been level-headed and a calming influence. He is working hard for the team. He comes in to train with Castilla when the team is given days off and his intelligence and passion are well-known. In the few games he’s played this season, his passing has been sublime (he completed 50 out of the 55 he attempted against Hercules in about 70 minutes and 15/15 against Lyon), and his ball retention abilities wonderful. His work rate has been admirable and it should be noticed by anyone watching him play.

He scored the equalizer against Almeria and got us a point after coming on late in the second half. He also scored an astonishing goal against Murcia in CdR. El Pirata definitely deserves more playing time and will hopefully get some after his solid performances against Hercules and Racing.

Rating: 7.5

  • Mesut Ozil:

Ozil's €15million move to Madrid saw the club make the best signing in years. Ozil has walked off the pitch to standing ovations from the fans at the Bernabeu several times this season- a testament to his wonderful skills as a player. He manages to find his teammates on the pitch without effort, and his style and flair with the ball can be breathtaking. His control is exceptional and his creative passes can unlock any defense.

He was dealing with some fitness problems and inconsistency at the beginning of the season (couldn't manage to play a full game and faded after 70 minutes), but he has definitely improved. He has scored 10 goals, assisted 16, and created countless other scoring opportunities so far. His style of play resembles Zizou’s, and with time, Ozil can turn into a player as great as his idol.

Rating: 8.5

  • Ricardo Kaka:

After coming back from a serious injury, Kaka has failed to impress Mourinho and the fans. Madrid faithful are getting frustrated with his performances. I think Kaka's problem is that not only has he gone off the boil slightly, but it's hard to shine in team full of stars, especially when people like Cristiano are scoring goals for fun and others like Ozil are playing brilliantly.

Kaka is still a quality player, no one can doubt that. He just needs to find form again, if he'll find that at Real Madrid is another question. Would it be better to move to another club to get consistent football and become a key player in the side? I don't know, it could work for him though, and since we have 2 of the brightest young talents in world football in his position (Ozil and Canales), I think Real Madrid should cut their losses short and ship him off. This will also increase Sarabia’s chances of making it to the first team.

Rating: 5.5

  • Angel Di Maria:

Ángel was brought in from Benfica in the summer for €25 million. Lots of clubs where interested in him, but we managed to sign him. He was so highly regarded that when Simao, a talismanic Benfica captain, left the club, it was claimed that Di Maria was perfect replacement. A very skillful winger, with great dribbling skills, Di Maria has been dazzling us with his tremendous skill and pace. His work rate is fantastic – he has no problems tracking back and recovering lost balls. All he needs to do is stop diving and improve his decision-making. He sometimes lacks concentration and dwells on the ball for too long, which should improve as he gains more experience. He has scored 8 goals and assisted 18 in all competitions this season. He will be a major player in our future team.

Rating: 8

  • Cristiano Ronaldo:

A revolutionary player, a super professional, a machine. He has ambition, physicality and efficiency. His irrepressible energy, predatory instincts, passion for the game and faith in himself are the qualities that make him one of the best footballers on the planet. Shooting ability, passing accuracy, vision, pace, aerial prowess, set-play wizardry; he possesses it all.

He started out slow this season, failing to score in his first few league games, but regained top form against Deportivo where he scored a brace, and has been fantastic ever since. He has been terrorizing defenses all over Europe. He has scored 37 goals (38 according to Marca), assisted 13 (could have been a lot more if Benz wasn’t missing those easy chances at the start of the season), and is the top scorer of the team.

Even his attitude has changed this season: he has been calm, playing with a smile on his face most of the time, hasn’t been whining about referee calls not going his way, and has reduced his diving. He seems to love playing under compatriot Mourinho. He got injured after scoring a hattrick against Malaga and aggregated this injury in the derby yesterday and will be back in mid-April. Hopefully, when he comes back, we will see a fully fit Ronaldo firing on all cylinders.

Rating: 9

  • Gonzalo "Pipita" Higuain:

Before his injury, Pipita was having another great season. He scored Real Madrid’s 700th Champions League goal and had 10 goals and 3 assists in 18 games. He had cemented the poacher spot in Mourinho’s starting XI ahead of Benzema, and mastered his role: He drifts to the wings to create space for Cristiano and di Maria to drive through the middle, can hold the ball up to bring teammates into play, plays on the shoulder of the last man, which stretches the opposition defense, freeing space for the midfield to squeeze forward, and has great awareness in the box. His injury is supposed to keep him out of the field for 4 months, but his goal is to return in time for the CdR Clasico final.

Rating: 7

  • Emanuel Adebayor:

The signing of Adebayor saw Mourinho get the striker he had been wanting after Pipita’s injury (not his first choice though). Adebayor said that he already feels settled at Real Madrid. His first goal came against Sevilla in the CdR and his first league goal came in a 4-1 victory over Real Sociedad at the Bernabeu. He also scored against Racing. He’s been a decent 2nd choice striker. Real have the option to buy at the end of the season, but this relies on Adebayor’s performances which haven’t looked that sharp so far.

Rating: 6

  • Karim Benzema:

It was speculated that Benzema’s lack of form as well as poor performances were unimpressive to Mourinho and that the he could well be on his way out of Madrid in this summer’s transfer window. After Pipita’s injury, Benzema had the chance to prove he’s worthy of the White shirt, but he failed. I think he realized that he was the only real option for Mourinho since he was the only striker left on the team, and felt the pressure of having to perform week-in-week-out. The pressure of scoring goals seemed to have been thrusted upon him. His pace seemed diminished, he looked lost on the pitch, had an awful first touch, and was shorn of all the accuracy that had made him one of the most potent forwards in Europe. His confidence was shattered. One can’t help but wonder what Mourinho had to say to him after the arrival of Adebayor. He turned from zero to hero.

He has been in top form these past few weeks, netting a pivotal goal against Lyon (only 40 seconds after coming in for Adebayor in the second half), braces against Malaga, Racing Santander and Hercules, another one against Lyon in the second leg, and 1 against Atletico yesterday, taking his total tally to 21 in all competitions this season making him the team’s second top scorer.

Benzema says all this is thanks to Mourinho, but Mourinho thinks that "the main person responsible for the change is Karim himself” and says that "Zizou has worked psychologically with him several times.” If Benzema can keep this sudden gain of form going and continue to contribute with goals and assists, then he could make the summer search for a striker completely reduced to paper-talk.

Rating: 7
(Only because of his inconsistent performances in the first half of the season.)

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Injury Update: Cristiano Ronaldo Out For 10-15 Days! Okay, Everybody Remain Calm!

Real Madrid hosted former coach, Manuel Pellegrini, and his Andalusian side, Malaga, in a match where only one team showed up. A hat-trick from Cristiano Ronaldo, a brace from Karim Benzema, and singular goals from Angel Di Maria and Marcelo were enough to extend their perfect home record with a 7-0 win.

That wins means that Real Madrid still has a 100% home record. Maximum points have been collected at home. However, the win still means that they trail by seven points behind a Barcelona side that came out with a 1-0 victory over Valencia the night prior to this game.

As a side note, Manuel Pellegrini admitted after the match that he had rested some of his first team players for that game because they had played on Monday, and will host Osasuna on Sunday. Apparently, he was complaining about the same thing that somebody else had complained about just some days ago, and was almost crucified for it. It really is a "hypocritical" world we live in.

However, in all the hullabaloo that was the 7-0 thrashing, Cristiano Ronaldo had to be taken off the field and into the dressing room because of an injury he sustained when he completed his hat-trick for the night.

The team's official website then came out with an announcement this morning:

"A magnetic resonance done at Sanitas La Moraleja Hospital has determined Cristiano Ronaldo has a Grade I muscle injury on the left biceps femoris muscle. The player will miss 10-15 days. His recovery is being monitored."

This new development now means that the Portuguese will definitely be out of this Sunday's clash with Racing Santander, and could even possibly miss the second leg tie against Lyon two weeks from now. Bad news.

It doesn't come as a complete shock, however, considering how many minutes he has played this season. Jose Mourinho has put so much trust in the Portuguese winger this season, that before the match against Malaga, he had played a total of 3771 minutes out of a possible 3780 minutes in this season. He also happens to have scored 43% of the team's goals.(He has scored 28 goals his season according to Marca). That's a lot for one player, and one could have easily anticipated this injury a while ago.

That said, with or without Ronaldo, the team should be able to produce results. Now Mourinho is tasked with the duty of tweaking the squad/formation a little to adapt to Ronaldo's absence.

I'd hate to be in his shoes now, but with the number of squad members on the team (25), there should be quite a few options. He could do a like for like replacement, and give Pedro Leon a shot on the wings, or move Ozil to the wings, and slot in Kaka in the middle. Or he could switch to a 4-3-2-1 formation, and play with three central midfielders and a lone striker. He could even go for a 4-2-2-2, with Adebayor and Benzema in front.

Also, Fernando Gago has been reported to be out for three weeks due to a knock he had during training. This is particularly interesting because Lassana Diarra is suspended from the trip to Racing on Sunday, and Sami Khedira is still out due to the injury he sustained against Lyon. This leaves Xabi Alonso as our only natural defensive midfielder. The team has played with at least two holding midfielders so far this season, so this could be a game were Estaban Granero will be trusted to partner Alonso.

On the whole, we will be seeing a lot of changes to the line up in the coming week. It will be interesting to see how Jose Mourinho approaches the next few games, but I do hope Ronaldo gets back in time for Lyon match. That might just be our most important match of the season.

Speaking of Ronaldo, if you're a La Fabrica enthusiast, and want to know about our future (and hopefully better) Ronaldos, read Deepak's piece on how they've fared so far.

I would also like to welcome our newest writer, Pamela. She has agreed to help us in keeping the blog active.

As always, you can follow us on Twitter: @Muna_092 , @rmcanterano and @Pamela_.

Hala Madrid!


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Impact Of Alberto Toril On Real Madrid Castilla

After Allejandro Menendez was sacked as the manager of Real Madrid Castilla, Alberto Toril the former Real Madrid Castilla and Espanyol player was promoted from the Juvenil A to coach the Real Madrid Castilla.

That move of promoting Alberto Toril seems be the one of the wisest decision the club has made in a while, and it shows with Alberto Toril stacking up 8 wins in 8 matches.

Alberto Toril having worked with and led Pablo Sarabia, Alvaro Morata, Alex Fernandez and Daniel Carvajal to a triplet with Juvenil A, constructed the squad around them and relegated players like Pablo Gil, Raul Goni, Mandi and Raul Ruiz who were signed from other clubs by Allejandro Menendez to the bench.

Alberto Toril even promoted Victor Merchan and Denis Cheryshev to the Real Madrid Castilla, and also brings 17 year old Jese Rodriguez—who is tipped as a great talent who's style is considered a mixture of both the Ronaldos (R9 & CR7), to the Castilla sometimes for a few appearances.

The philosophy of Alberto Toril is clear, he doesn't only want to win, he wants to win in style, which is clearly visible in his last interview to after defeating Cacereño 2-0 in the last game at home. He said:
"Estoy contento con el resultado, pero hemos perdido el estilo de partidos anteriores y hay que recuperarlo."
Which loosely translates to:
"I'm happy with the result, but we lost the style of previous games and we have to recover."
People who follow me on Twitter, know that I am a self confessed Alberto Toril fan, and why shouldn't I be? The man transformed Real Madrid Castilla from a mediocre mid-table team which was rotting away in tenth, eleventh or twelfth position to a team, which is not only sitting pretty in promotion play-off places but is also looking like a prime promotion candidate.

Here's a few stats to show the magnitude of the good work Alberto Toril has done for Real Madrid Castilla since taking over.

Attacking Flair With Defensive Stability

When Alberto Toril managed only his second game, which they won 5-0; the official Real Madrid site had a line which made me chuckle, "Castilla becomes friends with the clean sheet again."

Under Menendez, the Castilla managed to score 21 goals in 19 matches where they failed to score in 7 matches. The Castilla of Alberto Toril has already outscored the Castilla of Allejandro Menendez; playing 11 fewer games, they have scored 27 goals in 8 matches.

The biggest improvement under Toril isn't the free-flowing attack, but the rock solid defense. Under Menendez, the Castilla conceded 24 goals in 19 matches and kept only 6 clean sheets (2 of them are from 0-0 draws), while under Toril the Castilla has conceded a mere 3 goals in 8 games, and have kept 5 clean sheets in 8 games, which is just one less than what Menendez managed in 19 games.

Away Games: From Toothless To Ruthless

Real Madrid Castilla under Allejandro Menendez won only 1 of their 9 away games, and drew 2 games, collecting just 5 points out of a possible 27. Under Alberto Toril, Real Madrid Castilla won 4 of their 4 away games, collecting all 12 points.

Under Allejandro Menendez, Real Madrid Castilla managed to score only 5 away goals and failed to score in 5 of their 9 away games. The turnaround in fortunes was visible from the first game as Alberto Toril's whose first game in charge was an away game to Coruxo which the Castilla won 4-1. Since then Alberto Toril's team has scored 10 goals, and have scored in every away match.

The defensive ability away from home has improved under Toril as well. Under Menendez, the Castilla conceded 14 goals in 9 games and could only manage to shut out their opponents 3 times (out of which 2 games were 0-0 draws). While under Toril, the Castilla has conceded only 1 goal in 4 games, shutting out the opposition 3 times.

Home Games: Strengthening The Fortress

Under Allejandro Menendez, the only source of points on the board for Real Madrid Castilla was home games, and despite that the home record under Menendez isn't even close to impressive, collecting just 19 from a possible 30.

In the 10 home games that Allejandro Menendez managed, Real Madrid Castilla only managed to stack up 6 wins, drawing 1 and losing 3. While Alberto Toril has managed 4 and won all of them.

The most shocking stat at home is that under Allejandro Menendez, the Castilla only scored 16 goals (failing to score on two occasions) in 10 games which is 1 less than what the Castilla has managed in just 4 games (17 goals) under Toril.

Despite Alberto Toril setting out a more attack minded team compared to Allejandro Menendez, Castilla under Toril has conceded only 2 goals (0.5 goals conceded per game) at home keeping 2 clean sheets in the process, while under Menendez the Castilla leaked goals at the rate of 1 goal per game, conceding 10 goals in 10 games, and kept only 3 clean sheets.


The change in fortune is all due to the fact that Toril promoted players from within the academy instead of signing players from other clubs like Menendez did. I have pointed it out time and again that this generation of La Fabrica which includes Carvajal, Alex, Sarabia, Morata and Jese is one of the most talented generations to come out from La Fabrica in a while, Toril having worked with them, realizes that and that's why Real Madrid Castilla is now finally playing to it's full potential.

Due to the recent results the canteranos of La Fabrica are getting noticed by everyone. And by everyone I do mean everyone, many scouts from big and small English clubs and other Spanish clubs have been spotted watching the Castilla games.

Not only this, Alvaro Morata is finally scoring the goals that Jose Mourinho ordered him to score during the winter break to get into the first team, and is now "being promised" a spot in the first team at the start of next season by Jose Mourinho. Although I still doubt the "promise" of Jose Mourinho. But on the other hand Mou is speaking about him, that means Moratito is finally grabbing his attention.

Although it may be a little to early to say, but I think with his philosophy of 'not just winning but winning with style' and ability to bond with the players (like Alex Fernandez said in his interview), Alberto Toril might just become the manager of Real Madrid's first team in the future. Boy, I sure hope so.

Hala Madrid!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Lyon - Real Madrid Champions League Review, Florentino Perez, & The Riazor

Real Madrid visited the Stade de Gerland, in Lyon, on the 22nd of February, 2011, to begin the journey of ending our round of sixteen curse. Mourinho didn't make many changes to the line ups we're already used to, but he went for a more defensive approach by dropping Marcelo and inserting Arbeloa.

Real Madrid: Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos, Ricardo Carvalho, Pepe, Alvaro Arbeloa, Sami Khedira, Xabi Alonso, Mesut Ozil, Angel Di Maria, Cristiano Ronaldo and Emmanuel Adebayor.

Lyon: Hugo Lloris, Lovren, Cris, Cissokho, Reveillere, Toulalan, Kallstrom, Cesar Delgado, Michel Bastos, Gomis and Gourcuff.

The first half was pretty lackluster, and somewhat disjointed on the path of Los Blancos. No real chances were created and no attempts made at Hugo Lloris until Angel Di Maria's long range shot in the 30th minute which was later followed by Ronaldo's freekick. Apart from those chances, the first half was all about Lyon. We had the possession, but they ran all over us each time they had the ball. They didn't have too many chances themselves, but that was partly due to the hard work of our back four. They were kept on their toes all night.

The second half saw a more lively performance from the away side. Quick passing and incisive runs that we had expected from them right from the first half; and very tight pressing each time they lost the ball. The second half also came with some gifts of pure bad luck. Cristiano Ronaldo's well taken direct free kick hit the post and narrowly missed Sergio Ramos' head, and just a few minutes after that, Serio Ramos' header went of the post, and missed the on rushing head of Ricardo Carvalho.

Mourinho then thought it necessary to make a change. He pulled off Adebayor, who happened to be having a forgettable night, and brought former Lyon striker, Karim Benzema. 40 seconds after he came in, he. along with Ozil, managed to wrestle the ball off a Lyon player (Delgado, I think) before the German controlled the ball perfectly to slot in a beautiful pass to Ronaldo who didn't need more than one touch to play in Benzema who had already made a dashing and intelligent run into the box. The French man controlled the ball like the star striker that Perez intended to buy, before slotting it home through Lloris' legs.

The crowd went wild......oh wait, no, the whole Stadium went silent, including the player who scored the goal. Benzema did not celebrate the goal out of respect for his former club (classy). The Frenchman's goal made for wonderful poetic justice because he is now the first Madrid Player to score a goal in Stade de Garland, after having called that same place his home, just over a year ago.

Another highlight of the game was Florentino Perez' reaction to the goal. The old man was obviously under a lot of pressure knowing what the fate of his team has been in that stadium in the past. After Benzema scored, he stood up with his hands in the air, then held his head (maybe he remembered where he was) then put his hands back up in the air.

I know this Sir Florentino has made a lot of mistakes in the past, but his reaction to the goal showed how much love he has for this club. In one of his interviews before the match, he admitted that he let his ego affect his judgment during his first stint as president, but that he is now a changed man. On a more unrelated not, he even hinted at the possible signing of Dani Parejo(Getafe), and Jose Callejon (Espanyol). Okay, I'm going off point.

Back to the game..... Real Madrid seemed to take their foot off the pedal after the goal(even though it was never really on the pedal in the first place), before Lyon striker, Gomis slotted home a deflected set piece play, that left him alone with Iker Casillas for the equalizer.

Before the equalizing goal for Lyon, Mourinho had taken off Mesut Ozil for Marcelo, and an injured Sami Khedira for Lassana Diarra. Apart from the play that led to Benzema's goal, Mesut Ozil did not have much more to take home from the game. He was sub par. After that goal, it was Lyon, Lyon, Lyon all the way to the final whistle.

All in all, it wasn't the kind of performance we would have expected from the team. A 1-1 draw away from home is never a bad result in the Champions league, but a win would have been much better to go home with.

Some stats revealed that the whole team ran for 110.6 kilometers with Alonso covering the most distance (11.5km). Di Maria came second with 11.13 km, Ramos third with 10.5km and Carvalho was fourth with 10.1 km.

A 0-0 scoreline in the Bernebeau will mean Real Madrid goes through; 1-1 will mean extra time/penalties, 2-2 and above will mean Lyon goes through, and of course any of the two that wins or loses will go through or go home respectively.

Ronaldo is one yellow card away from being suspended, including Raul Albiol.

Real Madrid has never been eliminated from Europe after having drawn 1-1 away from home, so there is hope, but after my pre clasico write up, about how playing on a Monday was in Real Madrid's favor, (historically speaking), and still going on to lose the way we did, I have now realised that records are meant to be broken. Whatever happened in the past does not affect what will happen against Lyon in the Bernebeau. All that matters is that we try our best to win.

The second leg will be played on the 16th of March at the Santiago Bernebeau stadium. You can only expect the stadium to be packed like it was against Sevilla in the Cope Del Rey semi final match (2nd leg), for the singular reason that it's our chance to break the curse of the round of sixteen.

Moving on, Real Madrid will face Deportivo La Coruna in the Riazor this saturday 26/02/1011. Thanks to the beauty that was Guti's backheel, we were able to break the curse of the Riazor last season. Real Madrid had never beaten Depor in the Riazor since 1992 before last season. Obviously, the stadium is a tricky one to play in, so we must paly hard to get a good win.

That's all for now. We apologise for not posting stuff as frequently as possible. There's never much time to squeeze out from my day, to write anything, and I'm sure the same is the case for Deepak. We would also welcome any guest posts we can lay our hands on. Thank you.


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Hala Madrid!


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