soccernet blog
Real Madrid CF
December 28, 2011
Posted by Nicholas Rigg on 12/28/2011

It's midway through the season for Madrid...almost. It's the La Liga winter break anyway, and almost midway through the campaign. So with this is mind, it's as good a time as any to do a bit of a 'mid-term' report on Los Blancos so far. You know, the kind you always got at school and usually (in my case anyway), hid from your parents until as late as possible. 'Can do better' was my usual report, probably a bit of a kick up the behind to get me in the right gear for the 'business end' of the school year - the bit that really matters.

The 'bit that really matters' is yet to come for Jose Mourinho and his men, and although some 'kicking up the behind' may be necessary to keep Madrid's forward momentum going, there certainly isn't much of the 'can do better' on this report card. El Clasico, as usual, aside.

It's an A from me. Top of La Liga, comfortable progress in the Champions League and goals galore. The only thing preventing Madrid's report card being an A+ is the slip-up against old foes Barcelona.

December 19, 2011
Posted by Nicholas Rigg on 12/19/2011

Visit the official Real Madrid website this week and you'll see the headline: Mourinho: "We've done very well so far this season". A slightly bland assessment of the campaign, especially for a charismatic man such as Mourinho, but a level-headed and pretty much spot-on assessment nevertheless.

It's been over a week since my last blog update. A decision to let the dust settle on my post-match Clasico post more than anything. And there was plenty dust left to settle, I'm sure you'll agree. It was my intention to post an article on Ronaldo, and his poor performance against Barcelona, and to also have a look at the importance of the game against Sevilla - the final league game before the winter break.

Good job I didn't write that Ronaldo article, eh?!

December 11, 2011
Posted by Nicholas Rigg on 12/11/2011

First thing's first - well done to Barca. It pains me to say it, but after all the hype, all the good football by Madrid this season in the run up to the game, and the apparent below-par performances of the Catalans (poor away form, loss at Getafe etc.), Pep's boys last night showed Mourinho and his men (or should that 'boys' and 'men' be the other way around?) that Los Blancos still have a way to go to catch their bitter rivals. A way to go, but just how far? Not miles, going on last night's showing, and form over the season as a whole so far. Barca fans get the bragging rights, again, but they know the gap's closing, and they know that titles aren't decided in December.

That was the reaction from Guardiola, too, and rightly so. Match details aside, the reaction of both managers after the match highlighted one thing - that although psychologically Barca will have the upper hand, victory for Barca only makes the La Liga title race closer than recent seasons. The post-match press conferences were, by Clasico standards, low key from both clubs. Last night's game was always going to be more important for Barca - victory for Madrid would have put them in pole position for the title. Beating Barca and winning their game in hand would have put them a huge nine points clear - a big gap to close in what's certain to be a two-horse race. As it is now, a win for Madrid in their game in hand would see them regain top spot by three points although Barca do now have the better head-to-head record.

Barca have won the battle, but Madrid can still win the war.

December 9, 2011
Posted by Nicholas Rigg on 12/09/2011

I couldn't resist going on the Barcelona website just now to see their perspective of tomorrow's Clásico. If my internet had hands, I'd make sure they were washed twice over, don't worry about that. On a serious note, clicking on the 'El Clásico' section of their official site points you straight in the direction of Barca's memorable wins against Madrid, and it doesn't make pretty reading for Madridistas, as you'd expect. Of course, we all know history and statistics points to Los Blancos being the more successful of the two Spanish giants, something Barca fans can't argue with. The thing that strikes you is their more recent 'memorable' games - the 5-0 at the Camp Nou last season and the 6-2 at the Bernabeu in 2009.

I won't take anything away from Barca for their successes in those two games, and their trophy successes in recent seasons where they have been, unfortunately, 'top dogs' in Spanish football, in Europe and possibly, the world. What I can take from paining myself on the Barcelona official site is that tomorrow's game is huge, a possible 'tide-turner' in the bitter rivalry between Los Blancos and the Catalans.

December 7, 2011
Posted by Nicholas Rigg on 12/07/2011

El Clasico is just a few days away and, with Barcelona and Madrid having now played their respective Champions League midweek games, it's a fair time to look at just who will be lining up for both sides come 10pm at the Bernabeu this Saturday night. It's the biggest match of the La Liga season so far, no doubt, and also no doubt there will be a variety of different starting line-ups published in newspapers, on fans' forums and right here in the comments section of this blog in the build-up to the game.

• Barca blog: Clasico returns for what's left of your soul

We all love to play the role of football manager, even more so when it comes to the massive games such as these. But while it's been relatively easy to predict a successful Madrid starting XI in most of their games so far this season, domestically and in Europe, there always needs to be some extra thought put into it for El Clasico.

So here's my XI...

December 6, 2011
Posted by Nicholas Rigg on 12/06/2011

In day two of my preview ahead of Saturday's big one at the Bernabeu, I look at the key men who can make the difference for Los Blancos against their bitter rivals on the day. From defence, to midfield and attack Madrid have been superb so far this season as a team but as they say, a match such as the Clásico can be won by a moment of magic, or lost by a moment of madness.

I was keen to put my preferred starting eleven forward today, but with the Champions League game at Ajax still to be played (yes, Madrid may have breezed through their group and won it at a canter, but there's still one game left to play in Holland...), I thought it wise to wait until after it. While Jose Mourinho is expected to put a weakened team out at the Amsterdam ArenA, some first team players that are likely to be in Saturday's squad could still feature, and I wouldn't want to put the curse on anyone before the big one.

December 5, 2011
Posted by Nicholas Rigg on 12/05/2011

It's time. It's the fixture we've been waiting for since... well, since the 2011-12 La Liga fixtures were announced back in the summer. The Spanish Super Cup may have provided a fiery and freescoring match in typical Clasico fashion between Los Blancos and Barcelona (and a bit of eye gouging, too), but the league clashes are what matter most and this Saturday provides the first head-to-head of the campaign between the two Spanish giants.

Madrid host Barca at the Santiago Bernabeu in the most important La Liga match of the season so far. It'll possibly also be the most watched of the season so far, likely only to be surpassed by the return fixture at the Camp Nou, if at all. The Spanish sports press may have led with Spain's Davis Cup victory over Argentina on Sunday, but rest assured the majority of the pages from now until the big kick-off will focus firmly on the old foes ahead of this weekend's clash.

December 2, 2011
Posted by Nicholas Rigg on 12/02/2011

Sporting Gijon and their El Molinón ground have proved trickier opposition than most for Jose Mourinho since he took charge at the Bernabeu. Heck, whenever Mourinho has met Gijon and their manager, Manuel Preciado, whether it be home or away, Los Blancos have struggled, even if it's been a struggle to an eventual victory.

It'd be fair to say, even though Gijon are currently occupying a relegation spot in La Liga, that Saturday's trip to El Molinón won't be a walk in the park, in a traditionally hostile atmosphere, especially when Madrid come to town. This time, however, Los Blancos will have to do it without midfield lynchpin Xabi Alonso, who's been my player of the season so far. For me, Alonso (who's serving a one-match suspension) is a bigger loss to Madrid then any of the headline makers this season - be in Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema, Mesut Ozil or Gonzalo Higuain.