Top of the group, thank VAR

Spain struggle to draw with Morocco. Fresh ideas & legs are badly needed

The fact that Spain managed to qualify to the knockout stages of this World Cup in the first spot of their group defies all logic. Yes, they’re undefeated. Yes, they’ve scored six goals in three matches. Yes, they dominated proceedings for most of the games against their three rivals. But all those facts fail to tell the story of an embarrassing defence – both in open play and in set pieces –, and of an endless succession of touches without much intent to score, easily dealt with by their opponents. The way Spain have played, especially in the last two matches, does not look promising for the outcome of this World Cup. Continue reading “Top of the group, thank VAR”

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Could Hierro have a Zidane effect?

Preview of Spain vs Iran

Will the Spanish national team make this humble scribe eat his own words? According to the sounds I hear from their concentration hotel, they very well might.

I’m referring to my irate piece on the bizarre chain of events that ended up with Fernando Hierro on the Spanish bench for this World Cup. Among other decisions from different individuals who earned my righteous disapproval, I could not see how Hierro’s arrival could improve Spain’s chances of winning the tournament, but here we are, and it now seems like most players have warmed to the arrival of Fernando Hierro faster than could have been expected. Continue reading “Could Hierro have a Zidane effect?”

Headed for another classic

Preview of Real Madrid vs Bayern Munich

Last week, Zidane faced a real dilemma when considering his team’s starting line-up for Munich. This week, a couple of injuries have reduced his options, and therefore one can guess his formation at the Santiago Bernabeu with a very small margin of error. Continue reading “Headed for another classic”

Zidane’s dilemma

Another Champions League semifinals, another meeting between Real Madrid and Bayern Munich. Both clubs have already played 24 times in the top continental tournament, but it never gets old. So far, 12 wins for Bayern, 10 for Real Madrid and only two draws. Similarly to any other major derby, the specific circumstances of each team don’t really matter: when they play each other, nothing is off the cards.

There’s plenty of angles to discuss this matchup. An obvious one is James Rodriguez, who went from supersub under Zidane to outstanding starter under Heynckes, who is finally getting the most out of the gifted Colombian. The Germans’ need for revenge must also be part of any preview about this fixture, as Real Madrid have won at the Alliance in their last two visits, one of them in stunning fashion (4-0) back in 2014, when no other than Pep Guardiola occupied Bayern’s bench.

However, the main running subplot in this column’s humble opinion is Zidane’s dilemma regarding his tactical formation / starting xi to face the in-shape Germans. Continue reading “Zidane’s dilemma”

Ronaldo gets his pic

The Portuguese striker demolishes Juventus again

 

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No funny captions for this one. It’s the pic that will define CR7’s Real Madrid career

This was supposed to be a match review. And rest assured that you will have your match review.

However, let me talk first about the reinvention of Cristiano Ronaldo, a two-dimensional phenomenon that has seen the Portuguese striker evolve from an egocentric, dribble intensive global icon that couldn’t quite conquer the hearts of the Santiago Bernabeu into a team-first, pure number 9 — if that makes sense — that is now a Real Madrid legend. Continue reading “Ronaldo gets his pic”

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?”

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”