Posts Tagged ‘Champions League’

The Clasicos and its implication for “The Special One”

Florentino Perez paid millions to terminate Jose Mourinho’s Internazionale’s contract and acquire his services for Real Madrid last June with targets set for him to achieve. One of his major task was to help conquer Barcelona’s dominance in Spain and restore Real’s lost european pride. The first of his two primary task might not be achieved this season but he’s on course for the second.

Casting our minds back to November 29,2010 when Los Blancos visited the Camp Nou for a league fixture against their arch rival and got thrashed by an efficient and excellent Barcelona side five nil. It was Real Madrid’s biggest lost at the Camp Nou since Faria Romario’s hat-trick in January 1994 helped  Los Culés to a similar comfortable five nil victory. The special one admitted after the match,

I’ve never lost 5-0 before. It was a very deserved win and deserved loss so it’s easy to digest. It’s a punishment for a team that played very badly“.

His team have moved on after the loss and are now faced with four clasico games in the space of 18 days starting with the second leg of the league match this weekend at the Santiago Bernabeu.The Copa del Rey final in Valencia four days later is the second match in the four games series. The home and away semi final games of the UEFA Champions’ League complete the soccer fest.

We all know the rivalry between the two richest and most successful clubs in Spain and in some quarters, a political angle is induced in it with Barcelona representing the Catalan nationalism and Real Madrid representing Spanish nationalism. For the socios of both clubs, El Clasico is more than a football contest for either side.

Yes, he needs to do a lot of thinking to overcome Barcelona

Over the years, managers who lose El clasico matches most likely find themselves in the labor market in no time. Frank Rijkaard for Barcelona and Vanderlei Luxemburgo for Real Madrid have been casualties in recent times. So, it is indeed crunch time for The Special One – Winning all four matches against Barcelona may not be impossible for Real Madrid but he (Jose) would also realize that he doesn’t need to win all to achieve his aim.

According to Mourinho, only mathematicians still believe that Real Madrid can win the La Liga, so I don’t expect Los Galaticos to go all out in the league game. I feel a draw looks to be on the card here.
Switching over to Valencia (venue of the Copa del Rey final), a victory in the final will help soothe a lot of pain inflicted last November by Barcelona with the club picking its first silverware in three years. Real Madrid will crave more for Copa glory, a trophy that has eluded the capital club since 1993.
As per the Champions league, with the prospect of Wembley final at stake, Jose will have to fashion out the best strategy to conquer his opponents in the two legged affair. I have come up with two options for him.

  1. A win at home and a draw away will take his side through.
  2. With the European away goal rule, a scoreless draw at the Bernabeu and a score draw at the Camp Nou can do the REAL magic. The possibility of the latter option happening is relatively low with Madrid not renowned for being resolute when it comes to defending.

To achieve any of the above points, the team has to play a lot better than they played back in November. The quality of the squad is not in doubt, the quality of the manager is also not in doubt. Motivation to win should also not be an issue. The game being what it is should be enough motivation. Jose Mourinho is also known to bring the best out of his players. Lets not also forget the 5-0 loss, that should also act as a source of motivation for the Galacticos.

Certainly, Jose Mourinho has a lot to worry about. The El clasico games coming up are more of defining moments for Real Madrid’s season rather than a revenge mission.  Failure to achieve the desired results may have a huge impact on his future as the head coach of the nine times European champions.

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The price of a costly gamble (Abramovich, Ancelotti, Torres)

Chelsea surprised the football world when they splashed out 50 million quid on former Liverpool striker , Fernando Torres hours before the transfer window closed in January. A lot of questions centered on the break even plan by the London club with the UEFA financial fair play rule which would be implemented soon. El Nino’s acquisition was seen in many quarters as a desperate attempt of the Russian billionaire owner to land the coveted Elephant ear trophy (The UEFA Champions League trophy).

Big European nights like the one at Old Trafford in the second leg of the quarter finals were reasons for such investment. Fernando Torres form and lack of goals in the Blue shirt appears to have sunk the confidence of the Spaniard like the titanic. The inability of Carlo Ancelotti in finding the right balance to make the striker flourish has made such a massive investment look out of place. It looks more like the case of a square peg in a round hole. His decision to start the world cup winner in the second leg match raised many eyebrows just as it confirmed insinuations that the Italian is a “YES BOSS” man as it appears he may have been receiving instructions from upstairs. Fernando’s heavy touches as well as his movement on and off the ball confirmed a striker who is bereft of confidence and clearly a shadow of his old self. Carlo faltered….. 45minutes of play was enough to convince him and help ease Torres off media attack as he was replaced by an effective Drogba who brought life into the Blues attack as he tried to turn the tie on its head with his goal before Park Ji Sung put the nail into Chelsea’s coffin. The Wembley dream came to an end for the Londoners in Manchester.

Ancelotti admitted his error after the game when asked if he had made a mistake picking Torres. “Maybe. Could be,” he replied. “But I thought for a lot of time before taking this decision. I preferred to start with Fernando for this kind of game, with this kind of tactics. But Didier Drogba played very well in the second half.

For a man who was brought in with the major task of winning the elusive UEFA Champions League for the club, Ancelotti caught the look of a man with his tails between his legs throughout the match. Perhaps, if Roman Abramovich was awed by the achievement of Manchester United with his first hand experience of an European night in the stands at Old Trafford last Tuesday, he would realize that building a dynasty at any football club lies in the stability of a manager in spite of any financial support. Carlo’s expensive mistake may have triggered speculations of his exit from Stamford Bridge except the owner and the board decides to give him another chance on the grounds of his double success last season. For now, he needs to reshape his team to fit in the 50million pounds man with the aim of helping the sinking Torres raise from the ash like a phoenix.

Certainly, Ancelotti is hanging on to his job now just as he would have realized his own mistake could be a deciding factor come the end of the season.