The El-Clasico (Collectivism v Individualism)

I just read Micheal Cox’s preview (Zonal Marking) of tonight’s El Clasico and i just thought to lend my humble opinion to such a fascinating encounter, that the world has grown to love more and more with each passing installment. Only one other club rivarly even comes close to the Real v Barca rivalry; Boca Juniors and River Plate and their clash is also a clasico; the Super Clasico.

In this period of absolute Barcelona domination, i cannot remember a Clasico in the last 3 years that Barca would be approaching as the underdogs; 3 points or technically 6 points behind on Real Madrid at this point in time in the season and with obvious distractions of the World Club Cup to come, Barca won’t like their current positions. However, reverse is the case for Real Madrid, Jose Mourinho hardly loses when the initiative is in his hands; Real look rampant, playing expansive counter attacking football. Now the difference between both teams are, Barcelona are fantastic in a team sense and the style of play expresses collectivity; Real on the other hand possess a collection of individuals that would blow any team away.

The game is quite an impressive and tantalizing prospect especially for the neutrals as a lot of fans from both teams would be biting their nails from the intensity of the action. This match would be won and lost as follows;

Which Pepe would turn up?

Depending on how Jose approaches the game, it is imperative to point out how important the Portuguese Center Back would be to Real. Would we have the strong commanding defender we know Pepe to be or would he be played in defensive midfield to pick up Messi and let the occasion get to head by getting into needless battles on the pitch and eventually get sent off. Whatever position Pepe plays he’ll be crucial, note that Ricardo Carvalho is injured, that may just swing Jose’s decision.

Will Real Defend?


A lot has been said about how Real Madrid will approach the game, because looking closely at the table; the Madrid team do not need to win this and a draw may just be enough for them, but then what’s to say Jose won’t go for the opportunity to stick one in to his big rivals, going by the the great football Real Madrid have played so far this season.

Will Barca dare go 3-4-3/3-3-1-3?


Pep Guardiola has shown this season with the squad he has that there are various combinations and variations to their play and set up. He’s played without defenders in one game employing midfielders across his back line. He’s even toyed with Cesc Fabregas as a false 9 so far this season, the variations seem endless; however, Pep won’t dare go with 3 at the back, because Real would just have a field day; Ronaldo and Di Maria on either flank would have an absolute field day. Pep/Barcelona really need to improve on their scouting and get a proper center half to compliment the injury prone pair of Pique and Puyol; a pair i understand have only had 3 starts together so far this year; a back four is expected.

How will both teams line up?


I think both teams will line up in a 4-3-3; as always Barcelona will press all over the pitch,but i do not think Real will press high up the pitch; they’d want to play to their major strength, Pace and their expansive counter attacking weapon. The personnel will be the problem, absolutely difficult to predict what’s going on in the head’s of both managers; but i’ll try.

Real Madrid : Casillas, Arbeloa, Pepe, Ramos, Marcelo, Xabi Alonso, Khedira, Lass, Ronaldo, Di Maria, Benzema.
Real will set up with 3 combative midfielders with Xabi the deeper of the three, in order to orchestrate play when Real have the ball; Real won’t defend,but won’t press high up the pitch; expect Real to set up in a 4-1-4-1 when without the ball; Ronaldo to act as the lone man in this case, to get Real on their way on a counter attack.

Barcelona:  Valdes, Alves,Abidal, Pique, Mascherano, Xavi, Iniesta, Busquets, Messi, Fabregas, Villa.
Barcelona will line up as usual, however the interesting element will be figuring out if Messi will play as a false 9 or Fabregas will occupy that position or Iniesta will be pushed forward to join the front 3. I think Messi will play wide on the right to utilize the gaps that Marcelo will leave behind and combine with Alves to good effect,but then Alves also needs to watch his back. Villa may just play central or Cesc may take the False 9 position,if Iniesta is not pushed forward.

Who needs the result more?


Barcelona need the result more, a draw would be just great for Real,but don’t expect them to play for it; it would be feisty, flowing, attractive and enjoyable. I just hope we won’t have an anti climax, Real have the resources to play great football against Barcelona, so Mourinho should give us a spectacle and not go into a shell from the first minute with instructions to commit grave bodily harm on the rather small in stature Barca players. Let’s be having it boys.

Prediction


A score draw is on the cards.

Manchester United, What’s the Problem?

We are in the month of December, a month of giving , a period to share, a time to merry and cheer; hence is it safe to say Manchester United have got the Christmas spirit and are in a very charitable mood.
I watched in horror as the mighty Manchester United were knocked out of the Champions League at the group stage by lowly Basel; this has only happened twice previously that United would not make the knock out round; of primary importance is the fact that a certain Portuguese team was involved in the most recent Group Stage upheaval of Manchester United, note to Mitchel Platini please do not group United with Benfica, to United fans if it happens again, approach with grave caution.

If i must give my honest opinion, i must say watching United recently has being quite torturous, the football has not been great, its been slow, no verve, no pace, players seem to be off peak and quite colourless. You then ask, what could be the reason or root cause for this apparent decline; bearing in mind that this is the same team that played with reckless abandon in the early months of the season, although  a lot of pundits pointed out that this new approach may just possess more harm than good for United as it left it unusually exposed at the back, based on this I will try to highlight areas or events where things went wrong or took a turn in the wrong direction.

The Arsenal and Chelsea humbling


Fresh off a great Community Shield comeback, United had discovered a new approach going forward, a buzz like never before; United were playing with unimaginable pace that if i dare to say had never been seen before, this got people thinking particularly within the United fold that they just may have achieved a means of closing the gap on Barcelona. Then came the visit of Arsenal and Chelsea to Old Trafford and the buzz reached even higher points, not that United were alien to dishing out a beating to any team, but these games were quite humiliating for their supposed close rivals, but then cracks were been noticed in the United Armour at this time going by the number of chances created by both sides on their visit to OT, especially in the Chelsea game where the defense was cut open a number of times. Remember the Torres miss? United were very vulnerable and it was only a matter of time; this was definitely a double edged sword.

Annihilation by City 

Forget about the Johnny Evans (United worst player this season) Red, City were rampant, they played with such poise,verve, passion, panache that was always associated with many United sides of time past. It was terrible to watch even from a neutral perspective. United were colourless, clueless and completely immature. Yes, the side is young, Yes, United are built on an attacking philosophy; but then it is well known that defenses win leagues. For crying out loud, some seasons back United kept clean sheets for 14 straight games;  United have built rock solid teams at the back in times past; there was no excuse for this degeneration as up until the 90th minute it was 3-1, before an almighty collapse at the back,not because they were pushing forward,but due to a total collapse in concentration and an idea of what was deemed important.

With Youth comes Naivety


Not to sound like Alan Hanson here, but the absence of experience within United’s back line are also root causes of this apparent reduction in standards. Take a trip down memory lane and recount those young United teams from the Busby Babes to Fergies Fledglings, it was always built on an experienced back line, what this achieves is the elimination of school boy type errors or David Luiz type PS3 control pad capitulations, you have a steady base from either Stepney or Schmeichel shouting their lungs out, arranging, organising the defense. Do you see De Gea or Lindergaard doing that?

Why Rotate?


Without giving any credit to Newcastle,because they are on a free fall any moment now, but what i admire about them is their consistency in selection, this may be born out of an apparent lack of squad depth, lack of money to strengthen etc, but i can assure you a nucleus of 13-14 players featuring week in week out, will improve team chemistry, bonding and a drive from others outside the fold to fight for inclusion in the team; instead of knowing that you may not have to do much and be sure that somewhere along the line the manager would pick you. Sir Alex has always rotated, infact he held an eviable record of never naming the same side for many years, but then the changes weren’t more than two and the Goalie was always constant, now you have two goalies who may have different philosophies on how they want their back four to shape up in front of them, there’s an apparent lack of Chemistry in this regard.

Will United miss Vidic?

Yes, if Evans is the only logical replacement, Rio has lost a few yards; Jones is too adventurous, Smalling has a calm head on his shoulders.

January Sales anyone?

With Vidic out for the season (based on unconfirmed reports); where? how? what areas can United strengthen? If you’d ask me January is never a good month to sign on new players; no advantage of a pre season, no one wants to sell and if they do; they want you to pay over the odds, remember Torres to Chelsea? Forlan to United?

If at all Sir Alex decides to go into the market, i think the following should be top on his radar; two full backs (Right back and Left Back); we all know Evra needs time off and Smalling is not a right back (makes you wonder why O’Shea was sold), a centre back and a holding midfielder, a proper one at that.

My Shopping list would include;
Daniel De Rossi
Giorgio Chellini (Definitely like for like replacement for Vidic, been playing at left back this season for Juve though. Plus Juve haven’t had any euro commitments; hence wont be cup tied)
Marcel Schmelzer (Should give Evra something to think about)

Just because this is January, i believe this 3 would be just fine to give United the push it needs.

The Europa League (a good omen)


I personally think playing in the Europa League is a positive for United, not because they can win it, but because it avails the club the opportunity to show the world its next line of prodigies from its Carrington conveyor belt (Pogba, Morrison and Keane). Also, the first team can use the time off to concentrate on shutting up their noisy neighbours, with little or no distractions.

Can United bounce back?

Defiantly, Yes. Sir Alex Ferguson’s strong points has been his re-engineering and regeneration, he will see this as a challenge and would be eager to bounce back real quick. Truth be told though, the squad is not good enough, but a lot has to be done about the injuries. Remember Hargreaves comments?

The squad needs to wake up and i can assure you a number of hair dryers and tea cups would be flying if they don’t get their act together ASAP.