Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid
January 10th, 2011, 1:30 AM, IST
Undoubtedly, the game of the weekend, Jornada 18 pits Real Madrid against Villarreal, the 2 former sides of Pellegrini. Villarreal have returned to their attacking best, the same form which made them a force to be reckoned with under Senor Pellegrini. The prime example of this was the 4-2 humdinger against Valencia which was played out at El Madrigal.
This Villarreal is made of some stern stuff and showed tremendous mental strength to come back from 2-0 down and win 4-2 to advance to the next round in Copa del Rey.
Real Madrid, on the other hand, were humbled by Levante. Although the match consisted of mainly substitutes, it showed a worrying trait of this Real Madrid side that the substitutes are not good enough to handle even the La Liga strugglers.
Earlier this season, Villarreal were universally praised for daring to take the game to Barcelona and losing only because Barcelona had a team which can play ‘blindfolded’.
Team News and Tactical Brief
Real Madrid: Mourinho has a reputation for developing systems and tactics to best suit the players at his disposal and try some variations in the games where there is not much to lose. But this season has not seen those variations by Mourinho. The team is picked automatically with very rare variations. The formation also remains the same. By the way, you may be interested in juiceres, because nowadays it’s popularity becomes stronger and wider, so what is a centrifugal juicer?
One of the biggest headaches in front of Mourinho is the striker crisis. ‘Mou’ has been sending not too subtle messages to the top brass about the dire situation. Benzema is clearly struggling and bit of competition might actually lead to his pulling up his socks and improving. But Morata, however good he might be for the future, is currently not ready as declared by Mourinho. For a team with UCL ambitions, Benzema has to come good; it will be extremely unfair for Morata to shine at this young age and spearhead the attack. Maybe that’s why Mourinho keeps on playing Benzema.
The defense line will most probably be instructed to sit deep as neither Carvalho nor Albiol are the quickest of centre backs. This leads to an interesting tactical situation: The position of most interest, the partner of Alonso. If Barcelona wins then Mourinho’s priority will be to grind out a result to keep pace with Barca and he will field Lass alongside Alonso. However, if Barca fails to capture all 3 points Mou might be tempted to play Granero alongside Alonso in order to make sure that the link up fares better.
Possible starting line-up(4-2-3-1): Casillas, Ramos, Albiol, Carvalho, Marcelo, Lass, Alonso, Ronaldo, Di Maria, Ozil, Benzema
Villarreal: The yellow submarine travel to fortress Bernabeu where Real are yet to lose this season. One of the biggest setbacks that Villarreal have suffered are the twin losses of Nilmar and Senna. Nilmar’s and Rossi’s partnership has been devastating this season and there is no doubt that Rossi will be missing his partner in crime.
That said, there was not much evidence of lack of firepower as Villarreal smashed 4 past Valencia’s rearguard. However, Madrid backline lead by veteran Carvalho should present a different challenge altogether.
Villarreal are not really a team that sits back and hits on the counter. They are comfortable with the ball at their feet and like to move it around. For this purpose, Cani and Carzola should fan out and use the whole of Bernabeu pitch to stretch Madrid’s backline. Valero should be asked to keep Alonso from stringing attacking moves, while Ruben and Soriano will have to watch out for wing attacks and Ozil simultaneously.
Possible starting line-up(4-2-3-1): D. Lopez, Capdevilla, Marchena, Rodriguez, A. Lopez, Ruben, Soriano, Cani, Carzola, Valero, Rossi
1. Pepe is out injured for a month.
2. Nilmar and Senna are both missing
3. Diego Lopez and Borja Valero both are Real Madrid’s Cantaneros.
TheHardTackle’s PLAYER TO WATCH OUT FOR
Xabi Alonso (Real Madrid)
In a match where the attack is going to rule the roost, the unheralded soldier from Madrid should be the key. Valencia lost despite leading 2-0 for one simple reason that they could not keep Villarreal under pressure in the second half. Alonso is invariably the person who initiates the attacks. Another important ability of his is his positional sense, which will come in handy when Villarreal attacks. For these twin reasons Alonso is the man to watch out for Real Madrid.
Borja Valero (Villarreal)
The former cantanero of Real has been like a man re-born after his stint in English football. His job will unarguably be the toughest of all in the Villarreal side. He will have to keep the ball moving and supply Rossi so that he can cause damage as well as keep a check on Alonso. Villareal’s performance will be depending a lot on this man’s performance. He will want to prove a point to the Bernabeu that he could have cut it there.
Real Madrid 3-1 Villareal
Real Madrid’s loss against Levante should not be treated as anything more than a blip. On the other side, factoring in the physically and mentally exhaustive duel that Villarreal had with Valencia, they are sure to be drained out. Real Madrid on the other hand will be well rested and with Bernabeu cheering for them, it’s difficult to see Villarreal getting anything out of this game.