soccernet blog
Real Madrid CF
April 26, 2012
Posted by Nicholas Rigg on 04/26/2012

What a week. A famous victory at the Camp Nou, all-but sealing La Liga for Madrid on the home turf of their bitter rivals on the Saturday. Penalty shoot-out heartache at the Bernabeu in the semi-finals of the Champions League four days later. The ups and downs of football. The emotion. It's why we love the game.

After presenting my analysis from the weekend victory at Barca I'd hoped to be coming on here looking forward to a potential double, a potential trip to Bavaria to see what could have been billed as the most exciting Champions League final to date. A European Clasico. Barcelona against Madrid on arguably the biggest stage in world club football. Enter Chelsea. Enter Bayern. Exit Barca. Exit Madrid.

April 22, 2012
Posted by Nicholas Rigg on 04/22/2012

There were celebrations at the Cibeles late on Saturday night. Not quite en masse, not with an all-white open-top bus as its climax and not with the Liga trophy being presented to thousands upon thousands of Madridistas. A dress rehearsal for a full-on party in the Spanish capital at the famed Plaza de Cibeles in a few weeks? Probably.

Sami Khedira and Cristiano Ronaldo gave Madridistas reason enough to wave all-white flags from car windows and to gather in song at the Plaza famed for Madrid lifting trophies at the end of fruitful campaigns. A 2-1 victory at the Camp Nou - fully deserved, and stretching the gap at the top of the table to seven points with four games of the league season to go - meant Madridistas partied harder than usual on a Saturday night.

There were Cibeles celebrations last season when Madrid won the Copa del Rey, against Barcelona. It's been almost four years since Los Blancos have been able to do the same for a league title. That honour has fallen to Catalonia for the last three seasons but Madrid are, finally, on the cusp of wrestling back the honour of being Spain's top club.

April 20, 2012
Posted by Nicholas Rigg on 04/20/2012

Did you know there's an El Clasico this weekend?

Of course you did, and it's a pretty big one as it goes. When is a Clasico never a big one? Just the La Liga title pretty much riding on this one, just to add to that usual Barcelona-Real Madrid rivalry. Expect fireworks, expect Messi magic, expect hard challenges, expect brilliant football, expect touchline controversy, expect the unexpected.

Madrid lead Barca by four points at the top of the table going into Saturday night's massive clash at the Camp Nou. Victory for Pep and his boys is a must if they're to overhaul Los Blancos at the top of La Liga and stop Mourinho's men bagging a first title since 2008. For Madrid to avoid defeat would be a massive step towards the title, and there's where the problem lies. Shut up shop? All out defend? Or go for it? How does Jose approach arguably the most important Clasico match since taking charge at the Bernabeu?

April 16, 2012
Posted by Nicholas Rigg on 04/16/2012

Won: 8. Drawn: 1. Lost 0.

A record Real Madrid would be proud of. A record any team would be proud of. A record not held by Los Blancos, but held by Bayern Munich in their home head-to-heads between the two European giants going into the Champions League semi-final first leg at the Allianz Arena.

People, Mourinho included, say not to look too much into past records. I tend not to. Circumstances change and squads change. The Champions League duel will probably be like no other between the clubs in recent times. Still, that's one hell of a record to have against Real Madrid. Although Barcelona currently have the bragging rights over Madrid in head-to-head meetings of late, and Lyon edged a recent European duel, few have ever held such a dominance over the club that's won Europe's most prestigious trophy more times than any other.

• Bayern blog: It's only an insignificant football match

It's quite a record, and it shows just what Madrid will be up against in Bavaria. It's a match well worthy of a Champions League semi-final, it's mouthwatering.

April 13, 2012
Posted by Nicholas Rigg on 04/13/2012

Remember Sir Alex Ferguson's 'squeeky bum time' I referred to in my last article before El Derbi? The sense of tension that comes with an end-of-season run in? You felt it when Falcao levelled for Atleti at the Vicente Calderon on Wednesday night didn't you? Go on, admit it. For 13 minutes at least, squeeky bum time made its presence felt amongst Madridistas.

Cristiano Ronaldo knew we all felt it, and he did something about it. Boy did he do something about it. A cracker of a goal to put Los Blancos back in control, after his first cracker had opened the scoring. A hat-trick, his seventh of the season, his 40th Liga goal of the season, helped Madrid to victory and restored their four-point gap at the top of the Primera Division. Jose Callejon added a fourth for good measure.

April 10, 2012
Posted by Nicholas Rigg on 04/10/2012

There's a famous saying in the English Premier League when it gets to this, the 'business end' of the season. It comes courtesy of Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, and it's 'squeeky bum time'. Used to describe the pressure that comes with a title run-in, it's a phrase that's now rolled out whenever the season edges closer to its conclusion.

It's a phrase that became new to Manchester City when chasing bitter rivals United for the Premier League crown this season, and it's a phrase that could well be adapted to the title chase in La Liga this season, for both Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola.

No matter how big the club, how close the contest at the top of the league - 'squeeky bum time' is for everyone. It was coined by one of the greatest football managers of all time in Ferguson, and at one of the biggest clubs in the world in Manchester United, after all. Nobody can get away from it.

April 1, 2012
Posted by Nicholas Rigg on 04/01/2012

Problems? What problems? The last time I updated the blog Madrid had been held to consecutive draws, had seen their lead at the top of La Liga cut from ten points to six, and had blanked out media coverage. Oh, and they'd announced plans to build their very own island, too. Just your average drama-packed week at the Bernabeu, then.

Eight days later? Six points from six, one foot firmly in the semi-finals of the Champions League, 13 goals for, two against, Madrid back in front of the media and Jose Mourinho saying he isn't going anywhere, despite press reports linking him with what now seems a monthly return to the Premier League - this time with Manchester City.

Things are all rosy again at the Santiago Bernabeu.