Real Madrid vs Sevilla

Real Madrid vs Sevilla Preview: The burden of the unbranded

Being this already a season to forget, Real Madrid will enter the field on Saturday at Santiago Bernabéu with a modest concern. A win over Sevilla guarantees the third position for Los Blancos, a place they must keep in order to make the history books less harsh about the club’s most ridiculous campaign in the last twenty years.

With the 1-0 defeat to Leganés last Wednesday, in the Copa del Rey quarterfinals, Santiago Solari’s side registered it’s 10th loss this season – ironically on the same day the eternal missing Cristiano Ronaldo conquered his first trophy in a Juventus jersey.

To find so clumsy a year, one needs to go back to 1998/1999, when they ended in second position, being beaten 12 times in La Liga. At the end of the season, coach Guus Hiddink was replaced by John Toshack. But the thing about this Real Madrid is that some triumphs are as shameful as their losses.

Everyone that saw the 2-1 win over Real Betis last Sunday is aware that Quique Setien’s side was far superior for the whole of second half, and Ceballos’s decisive free-kick in injury time was an undeserved rabbit from the top hat, to say the least. Read More

Tottenham Hotspur vs Bournemouth

Tottenham Hotspur vs Bournemouth Preview: No Showing Off Day

After crushing Everton 6-2 at Goodison Park, Tottenham Hotspur brought up a new sensation to the race. Now Mauricio Pochettino admits the title is a possibility, something he recently denied. Now he denies going to Manchester United, something he may admit within the next six months. But let’s enjoy the present.

No doubt Pochettino prefers his team with no burden on their shoulders – pretty much what we saw on Sunday, when Spurs’ fluidity outclassed Everton even in the face of a momentous disadvantage.

Spurs are no Manchester United, nor City. Nobody expects them to conquer the Premier League or the Champions League, since their expenditures in the last transfer window were not comparable to their rivals. Romantic as it may sound, Tottenham is a well-known tale about developing a way of play, instead of buying it out.

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Tottenham Hotspur vs Southampton Premier League Preview

Tottenham Hotspur vs Southampton Preview: All relief needed

North London is red now, and Tottenham’s Mauricio Pocchetino has some work to do. At the end of the clash against Arsenal, Spurs’ manager considered the 4-2 defeat a consequence of a tough week, in which Chelsea and Internazionale tasted White Hart Lane’s steel.

This seems to be a very generous response to an anthology of individual mistakes seen at the Emirates, protecting his pupils from the awful truth before meeting Barcelona in the next Champions League fixture.

One shall remember that, some days before the derby, the Argentinian manager admitted fifth placed Tottenham are not aiming for the Premier League title. Therefore, the next match at Wembley can provide all relief needed, against a stumbling and acephalous Southampton. Read More

Barcelona vs Real Madrid La Liga Preview

Barcelona vs Real Madrid: Fear and loathing at Camp Nou

Last time I wrote about Real Madrid for Twelve, one month ago, Julen Lopetegui’s squad was an exciting football machine, reinventing itself with freshness and bravery, with two re-ignited veterans, Karin Benzema and Gareth Bale, finding their way where Cristiano Ronaldo used to shine.

Then came Sevilla (3-0) and a Red October, and the dreams of a coach-oriented Real Madrid have evaporated. Now we come to the first Clásico since 2007 without the Cristiano-Messi duel, and the questions seem to multiply. Read More

Real Madrid vs Espanyol La Liga Preview

Real Madrid vs Espanyol Preview: Everybody forgets Cris

The day after Real Madrid crushed Roma in their Champions League debut, some newspapers have written dull headlines mentioning Cristiano Ronaldo’s absence. Well, amigos, just like Elsa sings in “Frozen”, it is time to let it go.

An idol will always be an idol, that’s for sure. But, collectively, Julen Lopetegui’s Real Madrid grows bolder and stronger than most of its version in recent years under Ronaldo’s baton and Zidane’s management. There is no key player now – at least, none comparable with the Portuguese in imposing fear, thus diminishing the certainty of triumphs. But there is more fluidity within the game where only sparks and individualities were expected. In the end, they shot 30 times on goal, with 11 of those on target to Olsen’s net.

Against a strong, but humane Roma, Luka Modric conducted Madrid’s victory as he’d had all his colleagues connected under GPS. The Croatian wizard played at Santiago Bernabéu as someone who wants to justify a World Cup Golden Ball that was disputable, to say the least. His engineering of passing and articulating Madrid’s offensive moves promises a new era when combined to Bale’s Boltian speed and Asensio’s humiliating skills. Read More

Athletic Bilbao vs Real Madrid

Athletic Bilbao vs Real Madrid Preview: Should this be the Case?

Right after the international break, coach Julen Lopetegui will not only have a tough match, but a tough decision to make. Against Athletic in Bilbao, should he spare Casemiro, his pressing machine, from his third match in eight days, as he played for Brazil in two friendlies in the US?

That could be a good option in order to have a solid Real Madrid XI against Roma, for the first group stage match in the Champions League. But falling twice in a year against a bitter rival at San Mamés stadium is too expensive a cost.

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Real Madrid vs Leganés

Real Madrid vs Leganés Preview: Should Marcelo evolve to left wing?

Two La Liga matches are past, and Real Madrid’s concerns are all about how long Julen Lopetegui’s independence will last. The new coach played an unimaginable XI against Girona at Montilivi stadium, giving a game to keeper Keylor Navas, Nacho and Marco Asensio, while Thibaut Courtois, Raphaël Varane and Luka Modric – respectively the World Cup’s best goalkeeper, best defender and best player – were sat on the bench. And let us not forget Vinicius Junior’s debut for Castilla, Real Madrid’s second squad, in the Third Division. This was surely not president Florentino Perez’s dreams coming true?

And definitely not Marcelo’s, as the Brazilian ace once again failed to give solidity to his flank. On his back, 18-year-old Pedro Porro found the avenue he wanted to show speed and skills. On his side Girona found their only goal, when Lozano centered to Borja García, and that raises a question: should Marcelo be kept as left full-back? Or does he need more time to recover from this troubled World Cup calendar? Read More

Real Madrid vs Getafe preview

Real Madrid vs Getafe Preview: The Pursuit of Happiness without Rockstars

Real Madrid is about dominance and rockstars. Such an ambitious side, the first to rule Europe three times in a row in the Champions League era, they may look at this season not only with lower expectations, but also with despair: never have they felt so rejected.

Cristiano Ronaldo is gone, Zidane said farewell out of the blue and the remaining players, however brilliant, are not so triumph-assuring. Unfulfilled promises of the transfer window, Neymar and Hazard, haven’t shown up and now everything seems to be falling apart for the Spanish superpower, who ended up third place in the last La Liga season.

A disappointing campaign, which allowed a 17-point abyss behind the post-Neymar Barcelona still hurts the white hearts. They will face the humble Getafe on Sunday with a team that has been just made to look very inferior by Atlético Madrid in the Uefa Supercup.

Nevertheless, it should never mean a full reconstruction. A glimpse in the squad tells us that Real Madrid is still strong in the defensive line: Carvajal, Ramos, Varane and Marcelo are a well balanced rearguard, reinforced by Casemiro’s patrolling. Kroos and Modric, MVP of the World Cup, are midfield household names and Isco is a stunning young player yet to develop his full splendor. Read More

Belgium: A mystery over De Bruyne

The Belgian candidacy looks stronger now and fairly ambitious.

After beating Brazil with a tremendous tactical move by Roberto Martínez, the Red Devils definitely flourished in Russia, their game improving match after match. The team who have been carried by Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku finally displayed the class of Kevin De Bruyne, a player deemed to find a place in Fifa’s Best three, even though he fell asleep in the first matches. At least Manchester City’s Babyface woke up against the Canarinhos and dominated the first half of the match while humiliating his City colleague, Fernandinho.

Although in the quarterfinals, the Red Devils had their problems. Belgium have a huge concentration of talent, but they struggle to find the necessary balance between attack and defence, which conceded two goals against Japan, and 26 shots to Brazil, who scored once. The Alderweireld-Kompany-Vertonghen trio, which may have the supply of Vermaelen as a line of four, is used to facing danger.

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Brazil 1-2 Belgium: Luck helps those who dare

Some defeats take time to produce a fit explanation. Within the first fifteen minutes after the Brazil 1-2 Belgium match, I wrote an article in Portuguese in which chance, especially Fernandinho’s own goal in the 13th minute, was determinant to the whole outcome of the match, notwithstanding the clever moves of Belgium’s coach, Roberto Martínez. By deploying Kevin De Bruyne in a central position in his offensive line, with Lukaku and Hazard menacing Marcelo and Fágner respectively, he found a way to stop the Brazilian build-up, which is usually concentrated on the flanks.

But that opinion seemed lame to many. The tide of counter-opinions came strong and fierce to maintain that Tite was the one to blame, being tamed in a tactical knot. He was stubborn with keeping Gabriel Jesus on the field, and took too much time to make substitutions that could neutralize the danger that came from the inside. Had Tite managed it well, they say, De Bruyne’s second goal would not have happened so easily, and Brazil could have had a chance.
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