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Real Madrid CF
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.

The first thing to say is congratulations, Bayern. A deserved victory over the two legs. Typical German efficiency, coupled with power, resilience, belief, skill and plenty more over the two legs. The fallout from the defeat from the Madrid camp was relatively muted. It was relatively muted from Mourinho too, the 'Special One', the man looking to win the Champions League for a third time with a third different club. Why? Because there was little to argue with over both games. A first-leg goal Mourinho disputed as being offside for the Germans, but one he accepted. That was it. A surefire sign the Bavarians deserved all they got.

The Germans had 20 shots to Madrid's 15 at the Bernabeu, and 55 per cent of the ball. Some great chances, too. Arjen Robben just after Ronaldo's opener from the penalty spot, Frank Ribery not long after. Mario Gomez spurned a hat-trick of chances, all very decent, all capable of ending the match before the shoot-out.

Madrid looked tired. Physically and mentally. Mourinho made sure he mentioned that post-match, and many looked at it as an excuse. But it's a valid point. So much went into Saturday night's Clasico in Catalonia for both sides, mentally and physically. Pretty much a title-deciding game between two of the fiercest rivals in world football. Both sides fielded strong sides and both suffered in the Champions League just days later.

In contrast, both Bayern and Chelsea rested their core of players for their weekend domestic fixtures. Chelsea despite still needing to claim a top-four spot for Champions League football next season, Bayern with the Bundesliga heading safely to Dortmund. At Bremen on Saturday Robben, Gomez, Frank Ribery, Jerome Boateng, Toni Kroos and David Alaba were all rested.

It told, especially in the second half. While Los Blancos, and Bayern, tightened up defensively in the second half - Madrid not to allow Bayern what would have been a crucial second away goal - tiredness still crept in. Ronaldo looked as though he was going to collapse through exhaustion when the referee blew the whistle on normal time. A tough match indeed, but that tough? Or a knock-on from Saturday at the Camp Nou?

Excuses or not, Madrid could find nobody to blame for their defending on Wednesday night. I mentioned before the threat of Robben and Ribery before the first leg. Not only two of the best wingers in world football (even though Robben does, more than often, cut inside), but two of the best wingers playing against Madrid's problem area - full-back. Philipp Lahm enjoyed getting the better of Fabio Coentrao at the Allianz Arena to lay on Munich's winning goal in the first leg - although admittedly the Madrid centre-backs didn't do their jobs in defending the cross. Coentrao was the man culled from the second leg, with Marcelo taking his place. You know, the Marcelo widely known for his defensive abilities? (I hope the sarcasm comes across well).

The Brazilian left-back (or is that left winger?) is usually a hot topic of debate by users on my Twitter page. For my money, he needs to be replaced and can't be trusted playing at full-back. Fine, use him as a squad player out wide on the wing, he did some great attacking play against Munich, but not in defence. He was partly at fault for Bayern's goal. Ploughing forward with the attackers left Sami Khedira plugging his gap at left-back, which in-turn left Bayern able to capitalise on only Xabi Alonso marshalling the midfield. It'd happened before that point, with Alonso being dragged all over the park and Munich able to exploit the gaps. This time it was crucial in allowing Munich in and they eventually scored from the spot.

For the negatives thrown at Marcelo, I have to pay him credit for his role in Madrid's second goal, even though it was minor. Taking up his attacking position on the left caught the attention of Lahm, who was in two minds as to whether to stick with Ronaldo or move out to Marcelo. One pass later and he'd made the wrong move - Ronaldo was in for his second.

Arbeloa was far from convincing at right-back and Pepe and Ramos, although really impressive in the first half of the season, have fallen short of what Madrid needs as a centre-back pairing if they're to lift that Champions League trophy for a tenth time. The Madrid of the last decade, although entertaining, has failed tom focus fully on bringing together a solid defensive unit, opting instead on 'Galactico' attackers with the expense of the back-line. With the current riches in Madrid's attacking line-up, surely this summer more than ever, especially with Mourinho at the helm, improving the defence will be a priority.

There was still a chance for Madrid to book their place in Munich via the shoot-out. Some say it's a lottery, down to luck. While it's clearly not as fair as deciding the game over 90 minutes and/or extra-time, there's more than an element of luck to it. Ultimately, it seemed the weight of the world was on each man who stepped forward in the all white, in stark contrast to Bayern. That number ten weighing heavily on Ronaldo, Kaka and Ramos. They couldn't handle the pressure. Manuel Neuer looked like a man possessed in goal, making top saves to deny both Ronaldo and Kaka in fairness, while Ramos...well.

So that famous old trophy that Madrid so miss and so crave will be absent from the Bernabeu for yet another season. La Decima, as it's known in Spain. The trophy Mourinho was charged with winning more than any other. They're getting closer. Shockingly, Madrid hadn't even passed the quarter-final stage for a number of years before the 'Special One' arrived. Last year a semi-final defeat against the all-conquering Barca. This season in a penalty shoot-out defeat against a side who'll be many favourites to now win the competition.

It's little consolation with the defeat still raw, but Madrid can look back on this season as one of real progress. A La Liga title, surely, a victory over Barcelona in their own back yard and record breaking goals. Officially soon to be crowned the best team in Spain, overhauling the Catalans. Los Blancos still have lessons to learn, as was evident on Wednesday night, and at the Allianz Arena, and hopefully they'll learn those for next season - when La Decima will, finally, come for Madrid.

The title can be sewn up as early as this weekend, in fact. Victory over Sevilla at the Bernabeu, in an early Sunday morning kick-off, coupled with defeat for Barca in the Spanish capital at Rayo Vallecano would see Madrid be crowned La Liga champions. Imagine that, Madrid wrapping up three points just a few hours before seeing Pep's boys slip-up and hand Los Blancos the title just a matter of miles from Sol, at Rayo. Madridistas forgetting Wednesday's woes and partying at Cibeles while Barca are still in the city. A nice tonic, I'd imagine.

Hala Madrid!

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Posted by Gruia on 04/27/2012

First of all, respect for Bayern Munich! Mourinho will take the double next year, mark my words.

Some transfer suggestions:

Kaka (he'll never go back to his old self, as sad as I am to say it)
Altintop, Lassana Diarra (squad players, scarcely used)
Coentrao (seems completely lost in big games)

Kevin Prince Boateng (this guy is a bull, it's the type of midfielder that inspires grit and determination)
Ashley Cole (impeccable at left-back, defends like a man possessed, still has two good years left in him)
Antonio Valencia (Real has nobody who can put a decent cross in the box while running at full speed; is 26 years old and also tracks back to defend)

Basically, Real has too many flashy players and too few workhorses. Balance is everything !

Also, if Prince would be unavailable to fill the void left by an eventual Kaka exit, I nominate Callejon instead. That boy is fantastic and deserves a regular spot in the starting line-up. He could grow to be even better than Prince.

Posted by Bill on 04/27/2012

Nick, I thoroughly enjoy reading you blog! As a Madrid fan all the way in Huntsville, Alabama I have spend countless hours reading articles on Real Madrid. I can honestly say that you are one of my favorite blogs/articles to read. I can feel your passion for Madrid but your also very honest and "Real" in your approach to the team. I am very disappointed in the Champions League exit but I believe that the game against Barcelona took a lot out of the team. I think this is the time of the season where we miss players like Nuri Sahin where he has been injured almost all season and its hard to trust him in huge games against teams like Barcelona and Bayern Munich. I hope to see him make huge strides in the team next season. Also against the bigger teams do you think Ramos should move back to right back and Mourinho bring in an Albiol or Varane to play in the heart of defense? I just feel as if that would make Madrid slightly better in defense. Should we buy a center back during the summer?

Posted by zain on 04/27/2012

Give Mourinho another year,& I expect him to win the CL than.
Btw well written.

Posted by Kushan on 04/27/2012

Last year it was Copa Del Rey, this year La Liga..... Next year Champions League! Amen!

Mourinho leaves for Man Utd after that!

Posted by bryte on 04/27/2012

Nick,I remember admitting here, even before the classico,that Madrid do deserve to win the "la liga" title this season.But i was surprised Mourinho and his men couldn't qualify for the final.Why?..Because this is a team many Madrid fans will want us to instantaneously believe are currently the best after defeating a very fatigued Barcelona at the Camp Nou ...Madrid's defence,like Barca's,needs re-enforcement and until that is taken care of,shocks like wednesday's at the Bernabeu will be inevitable..i do wish Tito the best of luck upon his appointment n wish Guardiola the best of lucks in his career....long live Spanish Football!

Posted by bozz on 04/27/2012

Can anyone explain to me why on earth Ramos was taking one of the PKs? What about Higuain? Ramos is good in the air, but it was obvious that he was going to blast it as hard as he could based on how aggressively he plays.

I'm ecstatic that RM beat Barca and is probably going to win the league, but this loss HURT.

Posted by Brett on 04/27/2012

Good work as usual Nick. First off, congrats to Bayern, they earned this.

48 hours later, I still have the same concerns that I did on Wed:

1. Mou's tactics - Say what you will about fatigue, but how can you not take a more positive approach at home in the 2nd leg of a UCL Semi? Real can field 2 world class sides, and yet the only change from the past two matches was Marcelo for Coentrao?! Maybe the changes should have come at Camp Nou, either way, it was always a big ask for the 11 who played 300 minutes in a week's time.

2. Repeating my Tweet from Wed, Varane is the answer at CB. He has all the tools to play against teams who keep the ball on the ground or bruisers in the air. Ramos just doesn't have the discipline to play regularly at CB and is often a bit heavy footed against quicker opposition. Pepe...? Don't get me started.

3. Continuity is starting to bear fruit. No shopping spree this summer, just a quality CB, otherwise leave the the squad be.

Hala Madrid!

Posted by Gabriel Meza on 04/27/2012

@Gruia yea i agree madrid needs to make some smart transfers this summer but i dont agree with the players you selected to buy however.
kaka (yea i agree he's older now injury prone and not much of an asset anymore)
lass, altintop, carvalho, (old, useless)
thiago silva (young and a very mature defender shift ramos back to rb and i believe his contract is up this summer)

i still have faith in coentrao as he did a pretty good job in the latest clasico. i believe with a solid center back like silva madrids backline can be considered the best in europe.

Posted by Chris on 04/28/2012

Hi Nick, you want Marcelo to be sold? You do realize he is just 23? What happened to being patient with young players? This has been the bane for Real Madrid over the years. You mentioned Ashley Cole, do you think he would have been the player he is today if Wenger did not show faith in him?
Marcelo has improved over the years and there's reason to believe he'll get better. Look at all the successful clubs, they didn't solve their problems by always changing personnel, they stuck to their squad, Sir Alex stuck with Evans, Nani, etc, Wenger stuck with Gibbs, Cesc, etc. Even Pep stuck with Xavi, yes Xavi. He wasn't the player he is now 6 years ago, but now he is arguably the best MF in the world.
I guess you were one of the persons who wanted Casillas sold when he lost form around 2003/2004
The good thing is that your preferences have no effect on what the club is going to do, as I am very sure Mourinho isn't going to replace Marcelo.
Nice blog as usual and fair analysis of the match!

Posted by Chris on 04/28/2012

Brett, you said you were surprised with Madrid's approach in the bayern game. Obviously, you haven't been watching madrid regularly, cos if you have, you would have noticed that Mou's Madrid wasn't built to dominate possesion; they are a counter attacking team. I'm not here to argue for/against madrid's style but the truth is that there wasn't anything surprising about the tactics to any madrid follower.
Madrid lost simply due to luck(it was a penalty shootout, remember) and fatigue due to the classico.
During the weekend before the game, bayern had the luxury of resting 8 players since they were already out of the title race, while madrid played Barca, the best team in the world, a game where they had less than 30% possesion and had to chase the ball for 90 mins.
The players were noticeably tired.
The el classico also affected the first leg of the bayern game as it was evident the team slowed down after the equaliser, with an eye on the forth coming clasico.
You also talked about having a deep squad, but irrespective of how deep a squad is, a coach knows his first XI, and you expect him to play his first XI in big games like el clasico and champions league semi final; they were simply unlucky that the three games were consecutive.
For those criticizing Ramos (I'm looking at you, Bozz, he had already scored a PK this season. Higuain, who you mentioned, was in line to take the fifth penalty- which wasn't to be
I also think its unwise to criticize players who miss during a shootout, it takes a lot of heart to accept to take a pk, and whatever happens, the player shouldn't be condemned.
Many madridistas are already throwing around names of players they feel would improve the team, always remember that money doesn't solve everything; sometimes, all you need is a little more patience and the team'll come good.

Posted by MegaMan712 on 04/29/2012

Changes for next season: #1. need a world-class rb, albiol isn't good enough. Kyle Walker(tottenham) would be a good choice. #2. cement Sahin a place in midfield with Alonso, the two of them could run midfield like boss's. and #3. idc if he's worldclass, get rid of Pepe. he gives rm a bad image, varane should get more minutes as well...anyone else?

Posted by Gruia on 04/30/2012

You're right, Gabriel, Thiago Silva would be fantastic. I completely forgot about him. :)

Posted by Khoo Kyaw San on 04/30/2012

If I were Mou, I would sell Kaka, Diarra, Higuin, Arbeloa, and try to buy Tiago Silva, Aguero, Tevez, Vidic, David Luiz.
Sheer luck does not carry one very far. BM will surely get defeated at their home by Chelsea, the toughest team in the world.

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