Barcelona win the Madrid derby

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Messi, closer to another La Liga title

The match:

The derby exemplified quite well why these two Madrid teams sit 10 points behind leaders Barcelona. Neither Real Madrid nor Atletico can score like they did in previous seasons, and that without major changes to their starting line-up in the summer. Their lack of goals has to do with the shape of their starters, although in the case of Real Madrid some may point to the reduced attacking alternatives from the bench now that Alvaro Morata and James Rodriguez have left.

But the fact is that the same Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema that so well interpreted the service that Real Madrid’s midfield provided last season, and the same Antoine Griezmann who looked omnipresent in the final third for Atleti just a few months ago, now look completely disconnected from the rest of their teams, unable to find an opening in 90 minutes. Continue reading “Barcelona win the Madrid derby”

Headed for a mediocre season?

Zidane needs to find a way to make this team tick

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If we analyse the three matches Real Madrid played last week — Girona, Tottenham Hotspurs, UD Las Palmas –, only two Real Madrid starters looked in decent shape. In this case, “shape” includes not only their level of fitness, but also the amount of focus they put on the game itself and their level of motivation. Continue reading “Headed for a mediocre season?”

Sour Grapes

zidane enfadado

The match:

For the first time since Zinedine Zidane took over, Real Madrid have lost two matches in a row. More than the defeats, the way in which they have happened is what should concern the French coach. This team succeeded because of their dominating midfield, but is now losing and looking completely overwhelmed because of that same midfield. Continue reading “Sour Grapes”

Time for Zidane to step up

zidane girona

If we have to judge by their performance in Girona, Real Madrid seem determined to abandon all hopes of retaining their La Liga crown well before Christmas. Of course, there’s still plenty of tournament ahead, including two head-to-head matches against leaders Barcelona, but for lack of a better description, Zinedine Zidane’s team looks almost bored with the competition this season. Continue reading “Time for Zidane to step up”

The Benzema Debate

In the overblown controversy between Gary Lineker and Zinedine Zidane over Karim Benzema’s talents (or lack thereof), some have missed the obvious. One of them is a pundit doing his job: opinions on the game, including his personal preferences about players, even if he does not watch them play that often. The other is a coach also doing his job: defending his squad no matter what, especially against any outside critics.

Debates about Benzema’s right to start for Real Madrid begin with a very misleading fact: he wears the number 9 shirt. Continue reading “The Benzema Debate”

Spain catch the Russian plane

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Watching England narrowly pip Slovenia and qualify for Russia, the night before Spain also secured their place by defeating Albania 3-0, was like watching the Grimsby youth-club disco make way for the Bolshoi Ballet. Julen Lopetegui’s Spain, refreshed and motivated by the change of coach, and with a seemingly endless cache of arms to employ on the front line, obliterated a half-decent Albanian side with a first-half display on Friday night which should rightly frighten the other feasible World Cup aspirants.   Continue reading “Spain catch the Russian plane”