Saturday 13 December 2008

Match discussion: Madrid

This evening at 10 pm bt,
Barcelona plays the fifteenth league game of the season against Real Madrid.

You can read an extensive preview of the game here and here .

Before (what are your expectations, what's your prediction, what should be the line-up,...), during and after the match, you can comment on the game here.


from two hours before until two hours after the game you can join a match chat

(read more

Everyone except Iniesta and Milito in Madrid list

Barcelona manager Josep Guardiola has earlier today announced the list of 18 players for the fifteenth league game of the season against Real Madrid this evening at 10 pm.

The list
Valdés, Pinto, Jorquera,
Alves, Piqué, Márquez, Puyol, Cáceres, Abidal, Sylvinho,
Xavi, Víctor Sánchez, Touré, Busquets, Keita, Gudjohnsen,
Messi, Pedro, Eto'o, Bojan, Henry, Hleb,

With the exception of Iniesta and Milito, who are not available because of an injury, all the first team players are included in the list. This means that four players (one goalkeeper and three field players) will still have to drop from the list in the coming hours.

After this morning's training session, the players had a lunch together. They now have the afternoon off and are expected back at the Camp Nou at 8:15 pm.

Final deal on Busquets renewal

Spanish news agency EFE claims that a final agreement on the contract renewal midfielder and Spanish youth international Sergio Busquets (20) has been reached during a meeting on Thursday between Barcelona general director of football Raül Sanllehí and Josep Maria Orobitg, the agent of the player (read more here).

Busquets, whose current B-team contract expires at the end of this season, will renew his contract until 2013.

With the deal being totally agreed upon, the only thing left is the signature, which will take place once Barcelona sports director Txiki Begiristain will have returned from Japan where he is standing by his sick brother.

Barcelona president Joan Laporta and Sanllehí are expected to travel at the end of next week to Japan where FIFA is holding a meeting on 19 and 20 December. This will enable them to personally explain Begiristain the details of the contract that has been negotiated with Busquets.

Busquets' agent Josep Maria Orobitg has confirmed the renewal deal to Catalan radio station Ona FM when leaving Thursday's meeting. Orobitg said that Busquets will sign a five-year contract with an emphasis on the incentives and the progress the player will make. The new contract would include a buyout clause of 80 million euro°. The agreement would be made public next week.

Read more:
Principal agreement on Busquets renewal
Juventus and Arsenal monitor Busquets talks
Deal on Busquets renewal imminent

Deco: "You should be on top from the first minute"

Former Barcelona player Deco gave an interview to Catalan sports paper El Mundo Deportivo.

You will watch the clasico?
Of course, I wouldn't want to miss this game. Chelsea is only playing on Sunday, against West Ham, so I have prepared everyting to enjoy the game.

You remember the last clasico?
How could I forget that one, with everyting that has been said and written about it! I didn't play because of a suspension, there was the tribute to the champions and the defeat. Those games and those results have an impact on you and hurt because of the historical rivalry between the teams and the fans.

This year a football revenge is needed.
Yes, but before thinking about scoring many goals like some people in the entourage have been doing, the first thing Barcelona has to do is win the game and put Real Madrid at twelve points. That will hurt enough, that will make the crisis in Madrid even bigger. Everybody should be aware that winning the Liga is the important thing, more than scoring a lot of goals tonight. If the two things are possible, the better, but it shouldn't be an obsession.

But you always said it's beter to score five than four gaols against Madrid.
Yes, undoubtedly, but the team has to go out there and play like they have been doing so far this season, which is brilliant. Without an obsession to score five goals in fifteen minutes. If they play at their level, no one should doubt that Barcelona will defeat Madrid clearly. They should come out with an extra pressure, they just have to play like they have done until now. The objective is to win.

But when Barcelona won 0-3 at the Bernabeu, you were angry in the dressingroom because you didn't score five...
It's a different thing. If you have the game in your hand, if you create more chances, you shouldn't hold back, and if you can score half a dozen of goals against Real Madrid, that will go in the history books. You have to think that they sure would do it, if they had the chance. The year of the 0-3 we let them escape alive, they were wounded and we were trying to do things too nice.

What do you think about Madrid?
They're going through problems that remind me ours. Well, I'm referring to Barça during the last two years, when I was part of the team. There are a lot of things coming together and it's not only about sporting problems. Everything that happens around the club has an impact on the pitch. But I'm in the world of football for many years now and it's not a good thing to be overconfident or underestimate a team like Madrid. A clasico is always a very open game and you have to be on top from the first minute, very concentrated, totally focused on the game. Any distraction or lowering of the pressure could have bad consequences. I like to hear Guardiola and how he is setting a line so that nobody loses focus or is overconfident.

This was the second and last part of this interview. You can read the first part here:

Deco: "Every 20 years you have a player like Leo"

Live Match Chat: FC Barcelona - Real Madrid

(original post by OmarX)

Have you ever sat infront of your TV or computer while you were watching a FC Barcelona game and hoped you could share your excitement, feelings, and opinions with other fans LIVE as it happens?

We are proud to present you the new FC Barcelona Match Chat. Now you will be able to communicate before, during and after the match. The chat will be available from two hours before until two hours after the match. In the future this could turn into a 24/7 chat.

The chat is designed to be very user friendly and just requires you to enter your desired nickname and join (no registration required!). It is open to everyone, therefore make sure to invite your friends and spread the message. If you encounter any troubles or difficulties please put them here in the comments section or contact omarx in the chatroom.

To make all this work, we're setting up a moderator's system. Until that's in place, please keep in mind the following basic rules:

- on the public chat the main language is English

- you can hold private conversations by using the appropriate button you find below at the right of your screen
(mark the person you want to have a private talk with and click the button)

See you there!

Chat Link:

FC Barcelona - Real Madrid

(Saturday 13 December 2008 @ 22:00 barcelona time)

Chat starts around 20:00 - 8 pm

Ex-Barça: Ronaldo to Corinthians

Former Barcelona forward Ronaldo (32) has yesterday been officially presented as new player of Brazilian club Corinthians, where he signed a one-year contract.

Ronaldo, who is still recovering from a knee injury, had been without a club since his contract with AC Milan expires this summer (read more

Arriving from Dutch club PSV Eindhoven in the summer of 1996, Ronaldo played one season for Barcelona. After renewal negotiations failed, the Brazilian striker left in 1997 for Italian club Inter Milan.

With Barcelona, Ronaldo won one Spanish super cup in 1996, one Spanish cup in 1997 and one European cup winner's cup in 1997.

Read more:
Ex-Barça: Rivaldo to Bunyodkor
Barcelona following Brazilian striker Dentinho
Ex-Barça: Gerard without a club

Xavi: "If I were a fan, I'd be enjoying this team"

Barcelona player Xavi gave an interview to Catalan newspaper La Vanguardía.

Is there a reason why the fans aren't filling the stadium?
I think that it might be because of the economic crisis, and also because of the scheduling of games because all the games are televised. To play any better than we're currently playing is difficult, and we have plenty of reason for fans to come...

You can't play better?
No, it's not that, I'm saying that the football that Pep is giving is fantastic for the team. There's offense, pressure, teamwork with movements and circulation of the ball. If I were a fan, I'd be enjoying this.

How much does Guardiola contribute in your growth as a player?
A lot. It's funny, because people wanted me to "face" him and match him playing wise, yet he has always been helping me. He helped boost myself in many ways. He likes me very much and he told me that. We have a good relationship, we're not friends and we won't have dinner together, but we have a good harmony. I also like him very much and I have a soft spot for him because he has always helped me. Maybe the comparisons between us helped because I always had to push myself. I'm hot-headed, but I always push myself. His presence has always helped. When I leave training I leave with an illusion, with some brutal energy, something that I owe to him.

This hasn't happened before?
It's just that ambitions were refreshed and in the past two years, they were a bit lost because there wasn't such a level of demand. With Pep, Barca wins a lot because he's a good person and loves the club.

Was it difficult to shine individually while the team had two bad seasons?
It was hard because you want both the team and yourself personally to do good. When you play incredibly and you don't feel happy it's because there are no titles and it was all for nothing. On the contrary, in the Euro, feeling involved, doing a good job and winning.... that's the best. It's what we have to do this year.

Will this team be doing that all year?
It's hard, because every year you have two or three weeks that you spend badly. It hasn't happened yet and we'll do what we can to prevent it, and hopefully we don't have to suffer, but the dynamic that we've had is incredible because we're into the game since the first minute.

Which squad do you look up to?
The Barca "dream team". Everybody played marvelously. I saw how Eusebio and Amor thought, the ones that didn't think too hard, or Pep and Bakero. It was solid football, like "bam-bam". Nobody slowed it down. Only Laudrup, and that was when the stadium stood up and watched. You enjoyed those European nights. That football mentality was impressive.

In the Copa del Rey, Guardiola wanted the most difficult rival possible and you got it. What about the Champions League?
In the Euro we saw that we won defeating Italy, Russia, and Germany. Almost all of those were once world champions and and that has a lot of merit. If we get Chelsea, then I guess that's how things will be.

It feels like there is no team that can overcome Barca.
Our philosophy has made us better than our rivals, but only until now. We play hard in any stadium, we pressure, and we don't allow ourselves to slip.

There's not long until the clash with Real Madrid. Do you understand what's happening with them?
Yes. What happens is that we're doing very well. It's like a pendulum, because they aren't doing too bad. They're only nine points away. It's more of an instinct in which it's natural to compare the two teams, but be aware that Madrid hasn't sunk and we shouldn't think of them as dead because they are just as good recovering.

Translated by: AL

This is the second and last part of this interview. Read the first part here:

Xavi: "I owe everything to my teammates"

Friday 12 December 2008

El Clasico, the essence of Spanish football

In part one, “El Clasico, what’s beyond the ball” (Here) we created the environment to live while watching the game, but we must not forget that it is a football game after all, and here we are in the second part trying to analyze el clasico the essence of Spanish football! (El clasico results since 1902 here).

If the belief that Spanish football is a jailbird of destined cycles, then its easy to explain why things are going all the way wrong for Real Madrid after two fruitful seasons domestically. But is it really the unjust of destiny?

Peter F. Drucker said once: “There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all”. I believe this saying describes painfully – for a Real Madrid fan – the board performance before the beginning of the season, as I mentioned many times through debates with Real Madrid fans, instead of moving directly after the end of last season, selling Diarra, Saviola and other junk members and buying De Rossi, Villa and Silva – before Euro 2008 of course! – they preferred instead to run after an elution called Cristiano Ronaldo, who in the best scenarios would offer the same level of performance as Robinho, believe it or not but that’s how I see it in my humble point of view. They were welling to pay to seal this deal what may cost more than the first scenario I mentioned, where you get a world class defensive midfielder, a wing and a striker who are already adapted to shine in La Liga.

They ended up unsettling the squad, losing Robinho, and instead of trying to keep the youth wingers - like Mata for instance - they lost Guerrero, and bought copies to what they have already. Opposing the coach requests of at least buying a striker to cover Nistelrooy position keeping in mind the medical reports already mentioned last season that his previous injury will most likely bounce back.

Calderon played his cards in a smart way, the first scapegoat was the coach, and of course he still have one last shield in his Football director if things didn’t click after appointing Ramos as a new coach.

Schuster may not be a creative coach, he is more a systematic one, but you cant blame him if you didn’t offer him all what he requested, injuries also played a bad role, even though there will always be a doubt that the excess of injuries may be a result of poor pre-season preparations, ask us Barcelona fans, we know it best.

Now a new coach is behind the wheels, was it a smart idea?

I believe Schuster expired and lost his flame, it was obvious recently. Ramos may cast some doubts over his abilities to work under pressure, but he is no doubt a tactical master, so you can expect lot of tactical players to enter his orbit of transfer targets, so I hope if Hernanes who was elected as the most complete player in Brazil recently, if he is that good its better for Txiki that he already sealed a first option agreement or else he will have to pay back for his countless visits to Brazil last summer, we expect that he did more than playing beach volley!

We must not forget the purchase of Klaas Jan-Huntelaar, a news that will give a psychological boost for Madrid, even though I think -again- Real Madrid’s board behaved in a very disrespectful way pulling him to appear for a presentation when he is not only under contract to his current club, he is also their captain. I am aware that they needed a moral boost but I expected them to handle the stick from the middle, announcing the signing but waiting till January for presentation, it seems like Calderon is keeping no friends for Madrid.

Back to Juande Ramos, he started his adventure with Madrid making a very smart decision, playing his best selection against Zenit, Real Madrid fans may criticize that approach knowing that this is not a game they need and it was better to rest players for the Saturday clash, which is understandable, but for Ramos he was aware that driving his guys to the Camp Nou after a win against Zenit is better than dragging them trailing a defeat against Sevilla, he put the mental factor ahead of the physical concerns, now you can argue how smart that is, but the man has a point.

So can we consider this Ramos start as a sign of better days will come? Or as Robert Lowell said: “If we see light at the end of the tunnel, it’s the light of the oncoming train.”

It’s definitely a very hard task to make a guess; it’s not even easy for him to make up his mind. I don’t expect a radical change that will reshape the selection skeleton and elements, it’s too early for that, or may be too late if we are talking about planning for the Clasico, so he will be more focused on requesting specific missions from each and every player, rather than creating a system and asking his players to apply.

Big teams usually try to play their own game and dictate it on the opponent, its unlikely that Real Madrid will seek that this weekend, because that needs time to mature and gel, Ramos will customize his strategy based on a SWAT analysis he make on Barcelona. It will be more surgical than inspirational, and in that prospect I say, if we ended up watching a boring game with slow tempo, then I will praise Ramos.

My selection is – and I will explain why I think this selection suits this game:

Casillas, Salgado (RB), Ramos (CB), Canavaro (CB), Torres (LB), Gago (DM), Garcia (DM), Guti (AM/M), Drenthe(LW), Raul (ST), Higuain (RF).

The back line: I simply can’t find more reliable options between the players available.
Midfield: I predicted Garcia because Madrid coach may hand him the responsibility of applying tight man marking on Messi specially when he cut inside, while Drenthe assist Torres closing the right flank, this may avoid the big mess Messi cause when he move on a free role. This approach can stabilize both defense positioning and midfield concentration. So Gago monitor Xavi and Guti assist him in front of the back line when the team take a defense positioning, Raul drop back to take a play maker role behind the dynamic Higuain who position themselves in a space for a counter attack. I think Drenthe involvement on the left wing will also earn the team a defensive return keeping Alves busy in the back instead of moving forward, that’s if he can really achieve what both Sevilla thruoughAdriano and Valencia through Mata failed to achieve, and here the absence of Robben hurts.

(Click the Image for Animated presentation, Loading time Depend on your Internet connection quality)

There is a possibility that Guti takes Garcia place while Van der Vaart take the playmaking role, but I don’t think this will be as efficient, beside its always better to keep a valuable card on the bench so you don’t put all your eggs in one basket and lose the minimum ability to change the game direction thru substitutes.

Also, Juande may decide starting Van der Vaart instead of drenthe applying a 4-2-2-2 tactical structure where he defend creating crowd, and attack launching strikes but then he will lose a player with pace -Drenthe- for a slow player, I don’t see it fruitful.

Real Madrid players will have all the motivation they need for this game, new coach, uninspiring predictions and lot of injuries. This means that if they lost, it’s reasonable, if they won - God forbids - then that’s a Victory!

Gene Mauch said: “Losing streaks are funny. If you lose at the beginning, you get off to a bad start. If you lose in the middle of the season, you're in a slump. If you lose at the end, you're choking.”

I believe Guardiola avoided all the mentioned consequences losing in the Champions league game against Shakhtar, he played our little kids with Uncle Sylvinho baby sitting them while the lethal troops were eating popcorn and enjoying a relaxing vacation on the stands.

Not even the most optimists – like me – expected this stunning start for Barcelona in the Liga, my predictions was that they will stand and fall more often till January at least before they learn how to walk, the team need time to gel, the young coach need games to value his tactical options, and the players need to test their coach qualities -informally- before feeling settled to the new project, but here we are -again- driving football fans crazy all over the world!

Suddenly the Catalan press that complained at losing José Mourinho is falling over itself to proclaim the "Pep Team" - "Pep's Dream Boys" was that little bit too ridiculous, even for them - the greatest thing in the whole wide world ever. Even the Madrid press is impressed, Marca's Miguel Serrano declaring: "If I was a kid now, my dad would have a hell of a job stopping me supporting Barcelona. The Pep Team's too late because you can change house, job, wife, political party and even your sex, but not your football team, yet when they play it's glorious." Guardian

It’s amazing how tactical structure of the team matured and developed based on the circumstances, it feels as if it was all planed – the bad news and good news- to reach this level.

First, Guardiola seemed to consider Hleb as his first option on the left wing, he got injured, Disaster! But when Iniesta got his chance to play there – FINALLY - he stamped his name there, and we all approved, that’s it, Iniesta on the left, Eto’o as a striker and Messi on the right! Then Iniesta got injured, Ehh! And that’s when the team started to play Total football where players switch positions and reposition themselves like water sneaking between defense rocks of the opponents, having Henry beside Eto’o offered us an added value reducing the productivity and making it more difficult for the opponents to contain the threat.

With all the options Guardiola has to pick from, its even more hard to guess his choice than guessing Juande, but it seems we now have key elements in our tactical structure:

1. The three central backs structure to cover Alves movement forward.
2. Yaya is the defensive midfielder in crucial games; I never thought it will be different.
3. The midfield role assisted by Henry and Eto’o is to apply full court pressure to terminate the communication channels between the opponent forward sand the rest of the world.
4. As I mentioned before, switching positions is no more a tactic, its now a strategy, it works like Domino where Messi movement dictate Eto’o’s, Eto’o movements inspire Henry, Henry’s movement define the options for the third midfielder whether he is Keita Hleb or Gudi.
5. The key striker is defined by the structure of defense we face, the anvil and hummers we discussed before explaining how the midfield work to gain possession is also enriched by a “hook, pull out and create a gap for someone else” strategy while moving forward, simply the striker pull and shake defense but the one who score penetrate to the box from the unknown.

My selection is:
Valdes, Alves, Puyol, Marquez, Abidal, Yaya, Xavi, Gudi, Messi, Eto’o, and Henry.

(Click the Image for Animated presentation, Loading time Depend on your Internet connection quality)

The reason I picked Gudi over Keita is first that he is more fit after being benched most of the game against Shakhtar. There is another factor that may motivate Gudjohnsen, and that is the unfair treatment he suffered last season in the home clasico, after he started to hit form he was sidelined suddenly for the favor of Ronaldinho and Deco to play against Real Madrid even though they were not fit yet and in a poor form, we’ve seen it during the game.

Now knowing Guardiola, we are all certain that he will come up with a selection that catch us all by surprise, weren’t we all complaining that Barcelona last season was predictable? So don’t complain not that it is not!

One remark to be mentioned is that, the time in this game may be in Barcelona favor, which was not the case in the past games, Real Madrid will not be fit enough to play the 90 minutes on the same momentum, so it’s so important that Barcelona players do not feel in a hurry to score, let the fans live their fantasies of a dozen of goals, I will not complain if it happened, but one goal earning three points will be more than satisfying for me, the players need to keep focused this is a clasico against Real Madrid after all, and definitely nothing is certain!

I also feel that while Eto’o movement can freeze Real Madrid central backs, Messi movement making a mess, Henry and Gudi may have a vital role in this game, if penetrated to the box and positioned themselves well.

It wouldn't be a complete Preview without Stigsby statistical contribution, Thanks Stat Man, and below is the statistical report of the Clasico!

And now for all those numbers! FC Barcelona has through the time played Real Madrid 154 times, Real Madrid leading with 67 wins vs. Barcelona’s 58 and with only 29 draws. However, this weekend’s game is played at Camp Nou and if we look at the stats for home matches, the numbers are completely different. Barcelona has played Real Madrid 77 times at home, giving a total of 44 wins, 17 losses and 16 draws, meaning a winning rate of over 57%.

Looking at history barely gives us any useful information of this weekend’s match, as things can change from season to season (and don’t forget, FC Barcelona has existed since 1899!), only thing to conclude from the above mention stats is, that El Classico is far easier won at home. To get a more useful set of data we can look at the current season’s form for both teams.

Tomorrow’s match has goals written all over it, at home 71% of the matches played by Barcelona has ended with a total higher than 2.5 goals, at the same time 57% of the matches Real Madrid has played away has ended with a score higher than 2.5 goals. I’m not going to bore you all with something like Barcelona is at the top of the table, Real is at 5th etc. as everyone knows how to look at a table (I sure hope so..), but I am going to give you a small evaluation of the latest form of the two teams.

As we can see on the tables above we can see that Barcelona has 5 wins and 1 draw in the last 6 league matches and Real Madrid has 2 wins, 1 draw and 3 losses, distinctively a 2-loss league streak right now. Playing a bit with these numbers gives us a quick overview of the form of the teams.

Real Madrid is in a bad streak letting in 7 goals in the last two matches and on a 50% losing rate in the last six matches. Barcelona has shown a strong defence in the last 6 matches letting only an average of 0.3 goals in per match and only conceding every third game, this is all without sacrificing the offence giving them an average of a massive 3.3 goals per game.

It is no surprise that Barcelona is playing great football at the moment while Real Madrid is heavily influenced by their injuries. What is more interesting to look at when the teams are performing good and when they run into trouble, more precisely, when all the action happen. To focus on that I made a table showing when goals are scored (GF = Goals for) and when they are conceded (GA = Goals against).

The table is divided into 15 minute-periods giving us a six-part match overview. The data are collected from the league matches played so far this season. What is interesting too look at here is that Real Madrid has a negative outcome in the first and the last 15 minutes (More goals conceded than scored). Barcelona scores mostly in the first and the last 30 minutes, while the team concedes and scores the least goals right before and right after half time, coincidence or tactical moves by Guardiola? I’ll let you decide for yourself (and Ramzi to look out for and tell us what happens!).

The last thing I’m going to make you read this time (You should have had enough of numbers by now!) is the home form for Barcelona and the away form for Real Madrid:

The numbers above represent the outcome of the season so far. As we can see Real Madrid are fairly poor away scoring and conceding the exact same number of goals. In this case I’m simply going to leave the numbers stand for themselves as they almost say more than I can tell you here, notice the high % of clean sheets at Barcelona home though.

Above is a table showing the home and away form of the two teams, what is noticeable is that Barcelona this season actually has gathered more points away than at home, something that could prove crucial by the end of the season (Anyone remember my post about the importance of away strength?). Real Madrid has a tough time in away matches, something heavily influenced by their scoring problems in away matches with only 9 goals and a 27.3% of the total goals.

That was it for me now, by looking at the statistics we have the prospect of a high-scoring game ending ultimately with a Barcelona victory, so enjoy the match everyone!

Please welcome My friend Adam Bader
, I contacted him few days ago and invited him to share us his expectations for the game, don’t run for his head please, he is a nice guy even though he sold his soul to the wrong case :) Beside, he hosted our friend Isaiah today on his blog "Ole Ole Real Madrid", I recommend that you read it, insightfull interview. Now here is my interview with Adam:

Hi Adam, hope you has a life insurance, and welcome to Barcelona blog.

1. How do you rate Real Madrid performance this season compared to your pre season expectations?

Well, to be honest, I didn't expect us to play as badly as we have played so far this season. I think the one major factor here is injuries, but Bernd Schuster also contributed by not reacting well when we were losing and by not using different strategies. I have always liked coaches who take risks, sadly Schuster is not one of them.

2. What about Barcelona?

When Pepe was appointed as Barca's coach I didn't think he'd build a winning team because he is a young coach and doesn't have "big club" experience. However, Pepe proved me wrong by building a great team depending on players like Eto'o who was not probably wanted in the club.

In terms of performance, Barca have been smashing teams one after another. They have really been impressive this season . However, what I noticed about them is that they depend so much on Messi. I'm not sure If I'm right on this one, but if they really do depend on one player, I think it is a bad strategy, because once that key player gets injured - they'll be in trouble.

3. How do you brief the reasons of Real Madrid Crises so far?

If another club was in our situation, they wouldn't probably be in crisis. It is just that everyone demands and expects a lot from Real Madrid. We are still alive in two competitions and winning one of them is not impossible. But yes we are on the skids at the moment and the reasons are:


We have been unlucky this season - we have about seven or eight players injured - two of them out for the season. They are all key players: Ruud, Diarra, Sneijder, Pepe, Heinze, De La Red, Torres, Robben, Cannavaro & Higuain (we've recovered the last three folks)

2-We didn't go shopping in the summer:

Ramon Calderon spent the summer talking to me on the phone asking for advice (just kidding) and pursing Cristiano Ronaldo. I was absolutely against pursing a player whose club doesn't want to sell him, yet Ramon kept putting all of his efforts on Ronaldo and didn't look somewhere else.

We could have brought Huntelaar earlier in the summer or brought in a winger and a defender, but Ramon was in love with Ronaldo.

3- Schuster

First off, I'm by no means qualified or allowed to evaluate a professional coach, but from a fan point view, Schuster wasn't a superb coach as it had been hyped before he came in. He didn't learn from our mistakes. He was just stubborn and he had a very negative relationship with the press. So I'd say in addition to injures, Schuster is the other major reason we are in crisis.

4. What does it mean to be a Real Madrid fan? What does Barcelona represent for you – honestly! - ?

I don't have any bonds with Spain and I don't speak Spanish, but I'm a Real Madrid fan. My Dad finds it weird because I should have been a fan of a local Italian team, but I fell in love with Real Madrid in 2003 and have been supporting them ever since.

Being a Real Madrid fan is like being a Barcelona fan for you. I'm proud of being a fan of the biggest club in the world. However, the downside of it is that you sometimes need to deal with a lot of criticism (I wish it was constructive) from other people. It isn't a bad thing but it means that Real Madrid is in not an ordinary club.

Whenever I hear the word "Barcelona" I recognize it as that rival which hates Real Madrid so much (in footballing terms of course). It is not an ordinary club as well. It hasn't archived more than Real has, still, it is a great club that I respect so much.

5. What will be the impact of this game on the title race?

What I'm interested in: is beating Barcelona not for points but most importantly for beating Barcelona. It feels so good when that happens. However, getting the three points is vital for both teams. It would push Barcelona forward and it would help us close in as well.

I wouldn't say it would dramatically effect the title race because it is too early, but it would really help Barcelona extend the gap with Real if they won.

6. How had you received Schuster sacking and Ramos appointment?

That day, well, I had been away from my Macbook and my iPhone didn't have an Internet connection so I wasn't aware of what was going on. When I came home and got online I found that on of my friends (Kristen) had posted on my blog that Schuster was sacked and Ramos was in. I thought she was kidding but it turned out to be true.

I initially felt good that Schuster was sacked. But I thought sacking him at this point in the season was not a good decision. As for Ramos, I think he is a good coach and is certainly better than Schuster. It will be interesting to see how he'll make us play.

7. What will Ramos offer for Madrid in your opinion? Do you thing the old "coaches sacking" habit is back?

Ramos' first match as our coach was last night against Zenit. We played fantastically well and scored three goals. I loved how we played and loved how Ramos analyzed the game. It is pretty promising that Ramos was willing to play everyone on the squad but most importantly he was willing to try different tactics.

However, I hope that the "coaches sacking" habit is not back. I'm amazed at clubs like Arsenal and Man UTD, their coaches have been there probably before I was born.

8. Do you believe this is the perfect timing for this change, days before the Clasico?

Well, it depends on the purpose of change. If Calderon is hoping that Ramos will win the Champions League, he'll probably be disappointed because it is not easy to win it and what makes it worse is that we are short of players. But if Calderon is hoping that Ramos will improve the team, that could be achieved yes. Nevertheless, it is not always a good idea to sack coaches at this point in the season.

9. How do you think Madrid will approach this game, both mentally and tactically? Your favorite selection?

If Schuster was still the coach, I would say he'll lineup seven defenders because he raised the white flag before the battle even started, but now Ramos is in and so we are unpredictable.

I really don't have an idea about how Ramos will approach the game, but I hope we'll play as we did against Zenit. It is not impossible to beat Barca but it is not easy either. So It will be an interesting game....

10. Whom do you think will be decisive for Madrid in this game?

I was hoping that Robben could play but since he won't, I think everyone will be counting on Drenthe. However, if there is someone who is unpredictable then it is Guti.

11. Who are the Barcelona players you "fear" most?

Messi, but I'm confident that Cannavaro can handle him although Fabio is a center back.

12. Where do you see a weakness in Real Madrid current team where Barcelona may benefit most?

The midfield. If you guys can disallow us from holding ball possession, you'll win, because that as result would put a ton of pressure on our defense which will eventually make mistakes. But sometimes, disallowing your rival from holding ball possession is not enough and a proof is the match we won 2-0 at the Bernabeu when Capello was in charge.

If you remember, you mastered the midfield but failed to score, we were more effective upfront and could have scored more than two goals.

13. What are the weaknesses in Barcelona where you hope real Madrid take advantage of?

There are no weaknesses that I can see. But you should get a decent goalkeeper - no offense though.

14. What kind of emotions do you have for this game and what about your expectations? Result?

I dunno. I'm just kind of nervous. I have always been like that be it with Real or Italy's national team (Italy vs France in the World Cup was a crazy match, I could have died)

As for prediction, well, I really don't know. It is hard to predict the outcome of a Clasico. It is a battle, literally.

15. What will a Real Madrid fan say as a message for Barcelona members on this blog?

If you are a Barcelona fan stand tall and be proud. If you are a Real Madrid fan or a fan of any other team no matter who, stand tall and be proud. You are a part of a community that is passionate and intelligent.

Don't always disrespect other people's opinions no matter who you are. Yes you are crazy about your club, but you are not the only one. There are other fans who are fans of other clubs - just respect them (I keep telling this to my little brother, father and friends, but they don't get it !)



You’re welcome Adam, though I dont share you your "Hala"!

Now Mark Denis the administrator of "Madridista Mac" blog will drop his five cents:

1. How do you rate Real Madrid performance this season compared to your pre season expectations?

In one word: miserable. There are many factors that have led to this. They are discussed below.

2. What about Barcelona?

Barca are the best football team in the planet now. I didn't expect them to be the destroyer of football teams that they are now during the preseason given their poor showing last season and the new manager. Let's all admit it, NO ONE knew they's be THIS great: that's what makes them absolutely incredible.

3. How do you brief the reasons of Real Madrid Crises so far?

Firstly are injuries: we have an injury-depleted squad whose casualties include our most reliable goal scorer (Van Nistelrooy), our midfield rock (Diarra) and the man of the match in last year's Camp Nou El Clasico (Pepe). Let's not forget Sneijder too. The list is really long and the truth is that if it weren't for those injuries, we wouldn't be as bad as we are now (we'd still trail Barca though I think, but we wouldn't be in a crisis).

Next is the terrible work done by management in the summer. The team's needs were ignored for the embarrassing (and ultimately failed) pursuit of Cristiano Ronaldo which led to the loss of Robinho. That was REALLY stupid.

Third, is the loss of form of many of our key players: Casillas who has lost his 'sainthood', Heinze who by my reckoning was involved in about more than half the goals we conceded. Sergio Ramos is included in this list too.

Which leads us to the 4th point: could this also have been the coach's fault? I think that the answer is partly yes

4. What does it mean to be a Real Madrid fan? What does Barcelona represent for you – honestly! - ?

I have always relentlessly supported the best in whichever sport I follow. And when I began to watch football, the greatest footballer on the planet post-Maradona was playing for Madrid: Zidane. Together with Figo, Raul and later on Ronaldo: they played the most beautiful football I've ever seen in my life. They won titles too (before Florentino's disasters came to be)! So that defined Real Madrid for me: the world’s greatest players, prestige, beauty, power and titles. That said: Barcelona are the best team in football today. And there are plenty of even better teams than Madrid at the moment, particularly in England, but here I am, ever loyal to Madrid.

Barca to me on the other hand are the 'eternal rivals.' Not the 'enemy.' I am a Filipino of Chinese descent. Thus, I am not going to pretend to understand the REAL political or socio-cultural meaning of the rivalry as a Spanish Catillian or a Spanish Catalan would (my apologies if the above terms are offensive to anyone). I know of the issues and some of the historical anecdotes but I still prefer to see it from a sporting perspective: 8arca, like us are perennial contenders for the title and this history which I know of but I admit that I don’t (and will never) fully understand, makes it important for us to beat them. That said, like the big 4 of England (Man U, Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea) and Italy (Juve, Inter, Milan & Roma), I wish La Liga had more perennial contenders for the title to make La Liga even better. Barca continue to be a great club today: making them worthy rivals whom I respect and admire.

5. What will be the impact of this game on the title race?

I honestly think that the title race is over unless Real Madrid can win the match this Saturday. I’ve openly said that we Real Madrid fans must manage our expectations from this point onwards: the realistic expectation that is left for us is to go as far as possible as we can in the Champions League (beyond the first Elimination Round and hopefully up to the semis) and to qualify for the Champions League next season with a top 4 finish (hopefully 2nd). That said, I still hope for the best and for us to win all possible points remaining to fight for and I’m praying just like the rest of the Madridistas that when we are able to find our feet again, that Barca manage to stumble to give us the La Liga title this season.

6. How had you received Schuster sacking and Ramos appointment?

I am not a believer in changing managers midway through a season: I am unable to recall any team in the world who has been able to change their coach midway through a season and managed to win a title. I am not a big fan of Juande Ramos either: except for his stint at Sevilla, he has not been able to become successful in other places in which he has coached including his last stop at Tottenham, which turned out to be a disaster.

However, I really feel that the coaching change was necessary. Schuster not only has been exposed as being out of his depth as a manager, he has also lost the support of the players and did not have the support of the management in the first place. He has also had a very hostile relationship with the press: a function that the Real Madrid manager must be able to fulfill.

Despite all this, I do feel that the change was necessary because not only did Schuster seem incapable of turning things around, he also has begun to show the very dangerous preference to make matters worse, which was embodied in his statements after the Sevilla game. He has shown himself no longer as a supposed member of even a helper of the team, but as a character who was willing to antagonize it and make it worse. This cannot stand. Most of all, I would like to highlight that the genius of the deal is not about Juande Ramos but about his 6 month contract. How many clubs in the world are able to get a manager who has won 5 titles in 15 months on a caretaker basis? As a ‘tryout’? The answer: none. If he proves a failure, we’d likely have sacked Schuster anyway come June so it doesn’t make much difference. If he succeeds though, then he’d have a 6 month head start on the team heading into a summer where we allegedly have a lot of money set aside for some big signings.

7. What will Ramos offer for Madrid in your opinion? Do you thing the old "coaches sacking" habit is back?

Ramos will offer Madrid a fighting chance for a good result in the match: a stark contrast to Schuster’s immediate expectation of a loss. He gives the team the benefit of that ‘moment of grace’ that a new manager is able to bring to the club upon joining.

As for the ‘coach sacking habit’, this is something that all Madridistas wish would end. Something that have most us still reminiscing about the good old days under Del Bosque. What can we do however with a manager like Schuster? Who doesn’t’ seem to have ideas and was giving up on the team publicly. At the rate Schuster was going, it was very likely that he’d have been sacked on June anyway. To me, it’s not down to having a Manager to stick to... it’s about having the right manager to stick to. Those are 2 very different things. Whether or not Juande Ramos is the right man, we’ll need some time to find out.

8. Do you believe this is the perfect timing for this change, days before the Clasico?

On one hand, it’s ok to have dismissed Schuster at such a time, because of the reasons mentioned above. It also allows the management to hide behind the fact that new manager has just started as a reason for or a poor showing. On the flipside: what insane team would change their manager before the biggest game of the season? The answer... Real Madrid.

9. How do you think Madrid will approach this game, both mentally and tactically? Your favorite selection?

I initially thought that Ramos will be used to mark Leo Messi for the entire match. But Juande Ramos seems to have given clues to an alternative plan: play Metzelder at right back while switching Salgado to the left side to leave Cannavaro to play with Sergio Ramos in the middle (where he has shown he is better at this season than at right back). Tactically, Madrid don’t have many choices: but I expect Juande Ramos to revert to his favoured 4-4-2 system as he displayed vs. Zenit mid-week. We will see Drenthe in for the suspended Robben, which is a big drop in quality. As for the defense, that remains a mystery for me and for all.

10. Whom do you think will be decisive for Madrid in this game?

If Madrid is going to get anything out of this game, they will need decisive games from Higuain on attack and the backline on defense. Iker needs to find his magic again while the defense must somehow figure out how to do the impossible: stop Messi.

11. Who are the Barcelona players you "fear" most?

That’s an easy question: Leo Messi of course. Watching him go through a defense is like watching a hot knife slice through butter. He is the best player in the world and is the reason why Barcelona have been laying to waste every team that they are facing. There are other players to be fearful of too: Samuel Etoo whose goal scoring form has been awesome this season and Xavi, who will conduct the Barcelona orchestra. We must figure out how to make those 3 be taken out of their element if we are to stand a chance of getting a good result from this match.

12. Where do you see a weakness in Real Madrid current team where Barcelona may benefit most?

Real Madrid’s weakness is obviously their fragile backline. We’ve been conceding goals as if we were a Segunda Z team (if there is such a thing)! Our defense has been hapless. It will be even moreso when the brilliant Leo Messi comes to attack it. Juande Ramos showed a Real Madrid team with a capable defense midweek against Zenit. But things will surely be different against Barcelona. Aside from that, our midfield has plenty of times demonstrated the lack of creativity which was brought about by our lack of width. On our worst day: we have neither the ability to protect our goal nor any creativity to open up our opponent’s defense. If this happens during the El Clasico, Barcelona will wipe the pitch of the Camp Nou with our faces.

13. What are the weaknesses in Barcelona where you hope real Madrid take advantage of?

Barcelona’s weakness is their defense. I can totally imagine how a good counter attacking move can catch their defense flat footed and give us a goal. A few of those and we can get a good result already. On attack and at midfield: they’re class is above anyone else. It is completely possible for Higuain to breach the Barca defense. A moment of genius for Guti, a clever move by Raul or even a moment of brilliance from Rafa Van Der Vaart can open up the Barca defense. First things first: we’ll need to get the ball from them though.

14. What kind of emotions do you have for this game and what about your expectations? Result?

I think most Madridistas, myself included, have been managing their expectations regarding this match for the past few weeks now. The coaching change gives us a glimmer of hope. But I think our best result for us in the match would be a draw. A win would be a miracle which could very well mark a turning point for us which might bring us the League title. This is unlikely of course. But what the heck: miracles do happen. Or as in the case of football, it make just take a capricious moment of genius to get there. I wish to highlight the words of the great Alfredo Di Stefano though: it’s Barca who NEED to win, not us. As far as we are concerned, everyone expects us to lose... the pressure and the onus is on them. That might just help us.... a bit.

15. What will a Real Madrid fan say as a message for Barcelona members on this blog?

Real Madrid’s rise has always coincided with the miserable failures of Barcelona and vice versa. I pray for a time to come where both clubs can fly and go at it head to head for what will be a truly exciting duel and not merely a ‘natural circumstance’ as most have begun to accept.

Most of all, I would like to wish all Barcelona and Real Madrid fans an entertaining match that can be free of injuries, bad tempers and the like. I wish for all fans, Barcelona’s and Real Madrid’s alike to enjoy this rivalry intensely but peacefully. Good luck to both sides!

Last but not least, Gonzalo San Martin "All in white" blog says:

1. How do you rate Real Madrid performance this season compared to your pre season expectations?

My expectations were not great, despite having won last season's league title, because of the disastrous way that transfer policy was conducted over the summer, with the Cristiano Ronaldo and Robinho sagas. However, the performance has been even worse than anticipated; this is partly due to the large number of injuries (having three players miss the rest of the season by December is unprecedented) and partly because it seems clear that Bernd Schuster had no intention of staying.

2. What about Barcelona?

Honestly, I did not think Guardiola would get so much out of his players so quickly, especially considering the disastrous end to last season. Obviously this is still only December, but the signs are good.

3. How do you brief the reasons of Real Madrid Crises so far?

Pretty much the reasons I gave in the answer to question 1

4. What does it mean to be a Real Madrid fan? What does Barcelona represent for you – honestly! - ?

I can only answer this from a personal perspective. It's different for everybody and everyone has different reasons for supporting one football club or other. For me it's sort of genetic, as both my dad and grandad support Real Madrid. So it's always been there; not a day goes by when I don't check the news to see what's going on. No matter how inconsequential the game you always want them to play beautiful football (and win!). The feeling in 1998 when Real beat Juventus to win their first European Cup in 32 years is hard to describe - it's almost like I could now look my dad and grandad in the eye and tell them that I had also seen them be the best.

The way I feel about Barcelona has changed over the years. As a kid it really is a much more emotional feeling; you could always describe it as 'hate'. Now I'm much more relaxed about the whole thing, almost ambivalent. I don't think you ever lose that small feeling of joy when you see them stumble, the rivalry never goes away, but I have nothing but respect for fans who are prepared to show the same civility to me that I show them.

5. What will be the impact of this game on the title race?

It will have little or no effect from a purely points/statistical perspective. From a psychological perspective I think it could be huge (whichever way it goes)

6. How had you received Schuster sacking and Ramos appointment?

Relief that Schuster finally has gone, because his mind was clearly not on the job. On Juande, I'll reserve judgement until he's been there a few weeks. The early signs are good, but hardly enough to form an opinion.

7. What will Ramos offer for Madrid in your opinion? Do you thing the old "coaches sacking" habit is back?

I don't think that habit ever went away! I really don't know what Juande will bring. Let's wait and see.

8. Do you believe this is the perfect timing for this change, days before the Clasico?

Absolutely. I think Real Madrid could turn some things around if they manage to get any points at Barcelona.

9. How do you think Madrid will approach this game, both mentally and tactically? Your favorite selection?

Mentally, there's very little to lose, because Barcelona have been so overwhelming in recent games, and Real have been so poor. Tactically I worry that the defence is not up to scratch and a makeshift defence in the Nou Camp is a bad idea, but we have very little choice due to injuries. It's also a real shame that Robben is suspended, because he has really been on form in the past few games.

10. Whom do you think will be decisive for Madrid in this game?

Casillas will need to pick up his game if Real are to have any chance. I'm hoping Higuaín will shine, if only because he's my namesake!

11. Who are the Barcelona players you "fear" most?

Xavi. Even more than Messi, Eto'o or Henry. Neutralising him (if such a thing is possible) would have a huge impact. Puyol I think is also crucial psychologically.

12. Where do you see a weakness in Real Madrid current team where Barcelona may benefit most?

Where do I start? Like I said earlier, the defence is all over the place, and there is little link up between them and the midfield; they leave (or at least did so under Schuster) huge gaps between the lines which Barcelona would find easy to exploit.

13. What are the weaknesses in Barcelona where you hope real Madrid take advantage of?

The only one I can think of is overconfidence. Also, Barcelona are not used to coming back from behind (unlike Real), so if Real score first, they may have a chance to kill it on the counter, but really there's very little chance of that,

14. What kind of emotions do you have for this game and what about your expectations? Result?

I'm expecting to lose by a couple, and hoping for a draw. A win would be well beyond expectations.

15. What will a Real Madrid fan say as a message for Barcelona members on this blog?

The league's a marathon, not a sprint;) . See you in May!

Finally, and though its not of a great interest now that we are warming up for the Clasico, but here I post the mini league table:

Wish you a great clasico, and let the better win, you know who I mean! Enjoy the game!

Ramzi Tanani

Custom Search
Custom Search