Wednesday, April 25, 2012
You are the captain of your side. You side is trying to win one of the most coveted competitions which you have never won. You are playing against one of the best sides in the history at their home ground. You have a 1-0 lead from the first leg and you just need to be sensible and determined to protect it. In this situation the chances of you kneeing your opponent at his back when the linesman is looking straight at you to hold the offside line is pretty much nonexistent, isn't it? But if your name happens to be John Terry none of the above things apply to you. But sensible is not one of the words you usually associate with John, do you? Branding what he did as stupidity will be risky because that leaves us to find new definitions for Mario Baloteli's everyday life! In fact it is good to do a research to find out whether these 2 people are related in anyway and considering John Terry's free time 'activities' it is safe to bet on a successful research.
If anything beat his on-field stupidity, it was the interview he gave after the match. A man who was stripped of the national captaincy twice, being investigated by police for racial insults and slept with his teammate's wife said that he is "not that type of a person". Really John? I seriously believe that he thinks we all have the same intellectual capacity as Wayne Bridge. The only silver lining is that Roberto De Matteo doesn't seem to be as dumb as Kenny Dalglish to lead his team out with all of them wearing 'For JT' T-shirts before the Champions League final in Munich.
Anyways, coming back to the match Chelsea got their tactics absolutely spot on and by tactics I mean parking the bus in front of goal. When you see Didier Drogba as a left back, you don't have to be a rocket scientist to know what they are going to do (To be fair to Chelsea, this happened after John Terry had that brain freeze). They came with a Double Decker bus but what stood out was Barcelona's inability to break it or fall back on Plan B. Watching the second half, it seemed like an unwritten rule in Camp Nou that everything should go through Messi and a goal scored without his touch is an inferior goal. They have to understand that a ball which is fired like hell from the right wing by Danny Alves, bounces of the shoulder of Ivanovic and falls inside to inches of goal line is still a goal. There was absolutely no wing play yesterday. Didier Drogba may still be a beast of a left back but essentially he was playing out of position. There was no initiative from Barcelona to exploit it and time and again they played it through the middle trying to find an opening. As seconds ticked by Chelsea grew familiar with it so much so that their goal machine (yes you are right, I am kidding here) more-than-50-million-worth Fernando Torres found time and space to counter attack and kill the tie. But, that goal aside, if what Torres was doing on the pitch was worth 50 million, I am worth 10000 times of that to my company. At the end, their brave resistance paid of even with a brainless captain.
When AVB, took over Chelsea at the start of the season, gloating about his 3 year 'project' there was a growing feeling that it was time for the old guard at Chelsea to hang up their boots. But, if anything, what Roberto De Matteo has shown is a willingness to include them in the scheme of things, however short term it is. You don't just throw away that experience to the sidelines over a fortnight. It may still be the last season for the likes of Terry (I hope not, who else will inspire us to produce so many adult jokes on my twitter TL?), Lampard and Drogba and this remains their last short at the European glory. Bayern or Madrid, the final is going to be battle of epic proportions. Bayern will obviously want to win it in front of their home crowd and if it is Madird, Jose Mourinho needs no second initiation to remind Abrahamovic once again that it was wrong to sack him 4 years ago. When Manchester Untied crashed out of Europe in the first round itself, I never thought I would have so much fun this season. Well, John Terry definitely had a different idea!
Sunday, April 22, 2012
El-Clasicos can't get bigger than this, with a possible exception of the potential Champions League Final at the Allianz Arena, come May 19. With the league title on the line, 4 points separating the bitter rivals, Messi and Ronaldo engaged in battles of their own, goals and red cards are almost certain, if past meetings are anything to go by. And eye pokes too if Jose Mourinho finds himself in one of those playful moods!
A win for Real Madrid and the League title will be almost certain to find its way back to Santiago Bernabeau after a 3 year gap. In fact, even a draw will suit them considering the 4 points cushion, but going to Camp Nou with a mindset and tactics for a draw is a cardinal sin. It is akin to going for a blind date with Jennifer Aniston in your worst outfit and slippers, hoping that you would nail her. It never happens that way. Jose Mourinho has never lost a league lead going into the last two months of a season but a loss against the Catalans and the Madrid players will start to feel the fear in the air.
I couldn't believe that Barcelona were 10 points behind Real Madrid less than 2 months ago because the quality of difference between the teams is not worth that many but as they say the league table never lies. Not that Barcelona were weaker than last season, far from it. But teams around are getting used to their style of play and they are coming with different tactics to derail their tika-taka, and Real Madrid were far more clinical while dealing with lower positioned teams. Still there are many who believe that, while going head to head, Barcelona are a better team than Madrid, proven by their outright and ultimately comfortable victory over Madrid earlier in the season. But the league is just not only beating your rivals twice in a year (Just ask Rafael Benitez, if you have any doubt) but beating those teams which come to your ground and put 11 defenders on the pitch. Another intriguing thing about this match is that both of these teams have got to deal with the small matter of overcoming a defeat in the first leg of the Champions league semifinal midweek. As things stand Barcelona needs to win this to stand any chance of winning the league and it is definitely Madrid's trophy to lose, considering the gap they have now. Bring it on squeaky bum time!
You know that Barcelona are in trouble when they punt a long ball down the pitch in the 8th minute of the match. Madrid looked sharper and hungrier and were rewarded with a deserved goal, however scrappy that was. Mesut Ozil was the engine room at midfield who mastered Iniesta and Alves, which not many teams in Europe can claim to have done. For once Mourinho out-mastered Guardiola and showed the world that the title pressure can get to even the best in the business. I have never seen Messi chipping at the referee in any of the games I have watched but the fact he headed straight to referee instead of the tunnel at half time spoke for itself. If anything Barcelona have always shown an ability to come back against Madrid and an intriguing second half awaits.
Ladies and Gentlemen, that is the Spanish League title done and dusted. Though there is still a mathematical chance for Barcelona to catch Real Madrid, I am ready to bet my entire saving (That is not much, for those who are thinking about to bet) on that not happening. A 7 point lead with 4 games to go with is wider than the Panama canal in footballing terms. The lasting memory from the second half is Ronaldo’s celebration at his winning goal. It politely suggested “Shut the fuck up you whining Catalans” to the 90000 thousand odd home supporters. As much as Madrid needed this victory, as much as Mourinho wanted to win in Camp Nou, I can’t help but to think that it was more important to Ronaldo as a player. Ever since he moved to Spain from Manchester United, he lived in the shadow of Messi losing individual battles, Clasicos, League titles and European titles. One more of those and an almost insurmountable mental block would have been built. I personally think that, in terms of ability both players are almost on par, but the way Barcelona play and form their tactics enhances Messi’s role and his visibility, along with the midfield masteros who provide defense splitting passes to him almost at will. It is almost impossible to think that the best team in the World failed to win their local league, but once again, the league table never lies.
In other news:
On a night in which the Spanish title race is technically over, Borussia Dortmund emphatically claims their second successive German League win. I like the competitiveness in German league but its coverage in India is horrendously poor. Neo Sports telecast gives me a feeling that I am watching a game being played in the space! It beats me how they get the camera angle and distance wrong in every match they show. In EPL I get this uneasiness only when watching Spurs at White Hart Lane where the camera position is so high. Now, is there any more twists remaining in the EPL title race? Personally I like to watch United claiming the title at the Etihad beating city. That will help to heal some of the wounds of that 6-1 defeat at OT. Everton will be tough tonight, but these are the kind of games Champions need to win when that big prize appears so near. The match is still 7 hours away but I am already starting to feel the excitement kicking in.