Clasicomagadon is over! We are now out of the cup, and lucky for us, after the game tomorrow, the players get to rest without a midweek game for the first time in weeks. A welcome change I’m sure as the players will be getting ready for a couple of tough games which include a trip to Russia in the CL. The next game however, on paper, should be an easy one. We beat Zaragoza in the opening game of the league and we beat them hard. It looked in that game as if Real Madrid, and Ozil in particular, had picked up right where they left off at the end of the year. If memory serves me right, Ozil dished out 3 assists that game.
It’s always a different story though after you beat a team so badly. They are bound to learn from their mistakes and try to make the encounter a harder one for the whites. Lest us forgets, this is the same team that beat us last year, albeit with a not so full squad. It will be interesting to see how we move on from the past two Clasico matches. We saw two completely different tactics. I’ll go out on a limb here and say: We all want to see Clasico 2 tactics more than Clasico one. Possibly our best game vs Barcelona, that was only marred by lack of finishing from a usually very reliable finisher in Higuain, and the lack of luck (Ozil’s shot). Let me take this time to leave a few words about the Clasico, that will have a reflection on the game in general.
Many people took this chance to aim their shot guns at the head of Pipita and pull the trigger. Yes, Pipita should have bagged at least one of those chances he got. But does that mean he is rubbish and should be sold for Tevez? Absolutely not. Statistics say that he is the most efficient striker in europe, averaging around a goal every 60 minutes. Against Barcelona at the moment, I would probably use Benzema instead of him, yes. But that’s mostly because Benzema has the close control that Pipita doesn’t have that’s needed against Barcelona. (And FYI, what a beast Benzema has become! Let’s hope his confidence stays at an all time high). And that is the beauty of the squad right now. We probably have the two most inform strikers (aside from RVP) in the world right now, and each one offers something different. You have build up play and close control from Benzema, and off the ball movement and playing off the defender from Pipita. Lest us not forget, without Pipita, the team would be only two points behind Barcelona, as his heroics in the game vs Mallorca kept us in the game.
What a transformation this player is having. Coming into the clasico, i was worried about his attitude, as it had been below par for a couple of weeks, but that all changed. Extremely disciplined and playing a left midfielder role that tracks back was absolutely a joy to watch. You can feel that this is a player that wanted to win it for the club and is willing to sacrifice for the clubs betterment. I’m really baffled how Barcelona supporters still hate this kid. Out of the 22 players that take the field, I doubt there is one player that is more capable of coming out of that mess proud. No fouling, no diving, no complaining. He was out there with one thing on his mind, and that’s to play football. For that, a hats off my friend.
Why Ozil Is Finally Finding Form
This game vs Barcelona is by far one of Ozil’s best performances. And oddly enough, it came with him shifting most to the right, something that we noted before he can’t do so well. The answer to this is a tactical one, and goes back to the role of Ronaldo as a left midfielder. With the team set up to play with Ozil as a focal point, as opposed to Ronaldo or Alonso as it was before, the best was being brought out of Ozil. Given the free role to roam forward at will, and having to defend against Abidal, Barcelona’s most limited defender, Ozil was finally getting the service and freedom he needs.
Of course, this needs someone else to cover that defensive work. Kaka worked hard, but it seems his legs can’t last the full 45 minutes of top work let alone the full 90 minutes against Barcelona. This is where Ronaldo though had to work hard, tracking back and covering for Dani Alves. All this extra effort that Ronaldo was making in defense was repaid by Ozil in attack, as he held the ball up very well and rotated it perfectly waiting for Ronaldo to get back up field and making the runs. We all know that unless Ronaldo is trying to take on Pique, he has been failing at the dribbling aspect of the game. But you know what’s fast than a Ronaldo with the ball? Ronaldo without the ball. And this is how you see Ronaldo cutting inside and making the run for Ozil to spot. But Ozil shined most in the second half, when he didn’t have to drop deep as much to get the ball…
Granero Granero Granero
And that was largely due to Granero. Look at this guy, going from the player that can barely get a couple of minutes under his belt to the player that is starting against Athletic Bilbao and playing 40 minutes vs Barcelona and impressing in both. Going from almost leaving the club and being called labeled as “not good enough” to a player that seems to be fitting in perfectly in the squad. I won’t say much about him, as his performance on the pitch, especially compared to that of Lass, has been remarkable. I will leave you with two things he said after the game:
In response to the question: Now that you are knocked out, do you feel like there is a difference between RM and Barcelona? Granero responded:
Yes, a 5 point difference
And then he went on to say after the last game:
We don’t teach football to anyone. But tonight we’ve been superiors to the best team in the world.”
The above being a direct reply to Xavi who always rambles on about what is the correct way to play football. Epic.
Zaragoza and Beyond
So the above leaves me with a lot of questions. What will be our approach for the next clasico? Will the club persist in using Ozil as the focal point of the team and will Ronaldo be willing to continue making concessions and continue his impressive work rate? Will the return of Di Maria finally lead to him playing on his original right flank and will we see a shift in Ronaldo’s position? The asnwers won’t be against Zaragoza, since fatigue will be playing a role there. But it will be interesting to see how all this develops. One last question before i put the players called up: Does this mean Granero will be getting more time on the pitch and Mourinho will finally find a place for Sahin on the team? Feel free to answer these questions as i ponder them myself. Till then, here is the called up list to the game, and as soon as our friends at RZFans.net put their preview up, i will link it to this one. Till then, Hala Madrid!!
Goalkeepers: Casillas, Adan, Jesus
Defenders: Marcelo, Varane, Albiol, Arbeloa, Pepe, Coentrao, Carvalho
Midfielders: Lass, Alonso, Ozil, Callejon, Sahin, Granero, Kaka, Altintop
Forwards: Cristiano, Benzema and Higuain