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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Brazil 2-0 México: The elegant gentleman strikes again

Brazil faced Mexico with awareness. Juan Carlos Osorio is a master of the unpredictable, and his mutant team is able to show different faces in the field. What never changes is the velocity with which they exchange passes and positions.

México came with high pressing commanded by the trident Lozano-Chicharito-Vela. It gave Brazil a hard time for the initial 20 minutes, especially because they inverted sides when attacking, with many diagonal balls. However, Thiago Silva and Miranda stood steadily through the storm, and when it stopped, it became clear that the match was about Brazil getting the spot in the quarterfinals.

That made an Argentinian on Twitter write this funny conclusion after half an hour:

“México is that poor guy that fell in love with his friend but never dares to tell her. His sneaking attempts are in vain, he knows he can’t make it, yet never surrenders, while Brazil is this elegant gentleman who conquers her only by smiling.”

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Serbia 0-2 Brazil: From conductor Coutinho to infiltrator Paulinho

From Costa Rica to Serbia, Brazil lived some tension. Douglas Costa, the game-changer in the previous match, suffered with an injured thigh and could not be aligned in Moscow. Coach Tite had to put on the same line-up from the first match – an XI that needed more balance, insofar as this team tends towards the left flank.

What the Brazilian coach could have never expected was the backache of Marcelo, which froze his moves early in the game. He was replaced by Atlético de Madrid’s Filipe Luís, who is a more defensive fullback. Regarding Serbia, the main Brazilian concerns were the high crosses to Aleksandr Mitrović and the average height of the team, especially compared to the right fullback Fagner, who’s a short guy at 1.68m.

The screenplay was quite close to the one we saw against Switzerland, with Brazil’s sparkling moves intimidating the Serbian defence. Later on, after Marcelo’s exit, it took some time for the Canarinhos to regain enthusiasm. However, there were no extreme risks run in that period. Discretely, Philippe Coutinho took the baton, conducting the build-up, even though he made many mistakes while dribbling: he got the 3rd place in Twelve’s error ranking.

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Brazil 2-0 Costa Rica: Douglas Costa adds up to a collective power

As a deep defending team, Costa Rica went into the match against Brazil showing enormous respect: a tight five-men line denying all spaces, plus a holding midfield quartet, cautious enough to block the left, to where the Canarinhos pended again.

In the first 30 minutes, Neymar was wide open on the left flank, but closer to the box than in the previous match, running after elevated balls that came from Marcelo and Casemiro and trying to cross the ball. The Brazilian ace entered the field with a far more collective sense, giving the impression that he had absorbed the criticism after the Switzerland game well. He suffered less fouls (only three) and fortunately got rid of the hideous ramen haircut from the last match too.

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Brazil 1-1 Switzerland: Neymar needs to do more

Brazil’s attacking power is all about the left. The Canarinhos debut in the World Cup 2018 could have been a celebration of the associative football that Marcelo, Philippe Coutinho and Neymar can play on that side. But only being successful in the first 20 minutes also means that Tite’s squad is unbalanced and kind of predictable, if someone could label that sparkling trio as such.

Whenever Brazil holds the ball, the natural compass of the defensive line and the holding midfielders is to find Coutinho and Marcelo, who scored the highest sum of points in Twelve’s ratings.

When some force of destiny pushed the play to the right, Willian experienced again the solitude brought in the last friendlies by the company of the unimaginative Danilo. The Manchester City man replaced the injured Dani Alves, who did not make to the World Cup. The Chelsea arrow will dribble and cross, with a flare of the legendary Garrincha in his intentions; nevertheless, it never gets quite dangerous enough, as Swiss goalkeeper Sommer may tell you. But this is the pessimistic take.

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