Saturday, October 3, 2009

Heads or Tails for Football in Madrid

This past week has only served to highlight the distance between the two Madrid teams and reinforce the depressed state of Atletico Madrid. This past weekend saw Valencia and Atletico square off in a matchup from which the rojiblancos desperately needed three points. Despite Kun Aguero putting the boys from Madrid up in Mestalla in the 7th minute, goals from Pablo Hernandez (25th) and Villa (27th) put the home team up in just over a minute. The game was marked by terrible defense and a chaotic pace that was more reminiscent of feeding frenzy footage on the Discovery Channel than a football match.

A win would have been too much reward for a Valencia side that has similar failings to Atletico (weak at back, thin squad) but whose strike force is in better current form (Villa/Mata/Silva v. Kun/Forlan). Maxi evened the game out in the 92nd, and the game would go final at 2-2. Meanwhile Real Madrid still hasn't quite figured out how they play, and went into the second half tied with recently ascended Tenerife, 0-0. As is the case among the Madrid press, they rang the alarm. This team, in light of the investment made, is terrible, doesn't know how to play, and is not as good as Barca.

Nevermind that they've been together far less time and are still getting the same results as Barca, someone needed fired to hear the reactionary Madrid press tell it. Neverthless, Pellegrini subbed in Kaka and Guti, and "voila!" Benzema scored a brace in eleven minutes time (47, 58) and Kaka got his just deserts by scoring the third in the 77th minute. While the press' exasperation is expected, sometimes the irrationality of the criticisms leveled at this Madrid side call into question the profesionalism and intelligence of Madrid's press corps. Reason, it seems, is superfluous in analyzing the team. That, however, is the burden of every large side, especially one that has just spend a country's GDP in signings.

At midweek, Atletico was put to the fire by a strong Porto side that exploited Atletico's meek defense and basically eliminated the rojiblancos from Europe barring a set of surprising results against Chelsea in their next two games against the Londoners. Atletico is bottom of their group, and at best will be hoping for Europa. Real Madrid are at the head of their group, but like the weekend looked similarly inept in the first 45 against Marseille. But three pieces of brilliance from CR9, one of which resulted in Kaka converting a penalty, and the dismantling was complete.

Unlike flipping a coin, the footballing stature in Madrid seems rather predictable with Real drawing heads, and Atletico always ending up tails. This applies to both Champions League groups or the table itself, where they sit 18th with three points.

More preoccupying for Real is the loss of Cristiano Ronaldo to injury (on the midweek penalty tackle) that will keep him out of the Sevilla game. Sevilla currently sits three points behind Real and Barcelona in 3rd place, and looked impressive crushing Rangers 4-1 in Glasgow midweek and fourth place Athletic Bilbao 4-0 in San Mames last weekend. This is the first true test for a Real Madrid side that has a wonderful ability to strike and lots of "goal" as they say in Spanish, but has yet to prove that they're a footballing "machine." Sevilla on the other hand have established that they play from memory and are in fine form. Real's eighth consecutive win in all competitions, even with Ronaldo, was not guaranteed, and is less so without him. Real will have to see if it's up to the task of taking on another world class team in Sevilla. Expect alarms to go off if they lose, but an expected sigh if they win. Such is the plight of Real Madrid.

Atletico ... well I'm rather sure they'd be ecstatic to grab three points from a decent Zaragoza side and leave the bottom of the table. But smart money's on a tie if you ask me. And if so, Atletico will truly by coasting downhill without brakes. Forlan has re-signed this past week, but look for Kun Aguero to look for the door if Atletico continues on this path for the season. Indeed, it looks like another year of heads or tails in Madrid's footballing hierarchy.

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