Week 21 Observations – Anything You Can Do…

Another week in La Liga brings another routine victory for each of the big two and yet more scoring exploits from their two main protagonists seemingly locked into a constant game of “Anything you can do, I can do better”.

Real Madrid began the day with a 4-0 victory over Getafe with Ronaldo scoring a hat trick. His goal scoring feat was later surpassed when Messi helped himself to four goals during a 5-1 demolition of Osasuna.

Both benefitted from decisions that were favourable at key points in the game.

Real Madrid 4 Getafe  0

Luis Garcia’s Getafe side have now gone nine games in all competitions without a win. With games against Deportivo, Celta Vigo and Mallorca coming up, El Geta must pick up points to prevent the slide down the table taking them dangerously close to the relegation zone.

Madrid finds its self in something of a quandary. Trailing Barcelona by 15 points in the league, their title is all but lost with nearly half the season remaining. Motivation becomes an issue for the squad as their focus shifts towards the two remaining prizes which they can win; the Copa del Rey and the Champions League. It’s not that simple though. Mediocre league form cannot be transformed overnight to a level sufficient to win the real prize, la decima. It’s an issue that the team as a whole need to address.

The first half was almost instantly forgettable. Getafe hinted at offering something in attack, particularly on quick transitions with Essien not being the most mobile and Modric caught further upfield. Without Khedira or Alonso starting, the midfield looked weak and demonstrated both players worth to the side. The visitors played some neat football but Adan in goal was never properly tested by the sporadic Getafe attacks.

The game changed in the second half with the opening goal being controversial. Whilst it is clear that Carvalho’s arm caught Moya in goal, the keeper really should have done better than to drop the ball enabling Ramos to poke home the opener. Having sad that, it was a foul.

Getafe were then complicit in their own downfall to an extent. Following a corner, Khedira won the ball in his own penalty area and 12 seconds later Ronaldo scored. Castro then conceded possession at the halfway line and 9 seconds later Ronaldo scoed his second and the sides third. There was no patient build up play. Instead, Madrid ruthlessly took advantage of their opponents weakness during a transitional phase. With Madrid, your corner kick is their attacking opportunity.

The final goal followed the award of a penalty which could possibly be called soft but the challenge on Modric was still foolish. The Madrid move was instigated by Moya needlessly attempting a quick throw out which was easily intercepted and fed back into the penalty area.

A harsh 4-0 defeat for a Getafe side who contributed to their own downfall after a first half performance which offered a degree of optimism. Their compact shape and sound defending undone by both individual and collective errors.

Three clean sheets in a row in the league now for Madrid  following a poor run in the preceding four games when they conceded 10 league goals. If the performances, with the exception of the Valencia game, in the league have been inconsistent, Mourinho will at least be content with the clinical nature of the attack just now with nine goals in two games.

 

Barcelona 5 Osasuna 1

Jose Luis Mendilibar took his Osasuna side to the Camp Nou, scene of their 8-0 humbling last season, on Sunday evening. This time around, maybe things would be different. Osasuna arrived with the 4th best defence in La Liga and goalkeeper Andres Fernandez sitting second in the Zamora.  The defensive solidity masks attacking problems that has seen Osasuna fall into the relegation zone with the worst goalscoring record in La Liga.

Real Sociedad had demonstrated a workrate allied to ability to beat Barcelona 3-2 at the Anoeta last week and Osasuna would adopt the same ethic by pressing Barcelona early to stop them building from the back. The high defensive line also pushed Barcelona back and made them begin constructing moves much deeper than they would prefer. Mendilibar had spoken prior to the game about Osasuna playing the way they “normally do” in reference to the lack of a clear plan by any team to defeat Barcelona.

The issue for Mendilibar is that high pressing is not matched with short passing to retain possession when they win the ball back. Osasuna prefer a very direct and vertical style of play. They lack the technical quality of La Real.  With that in mind, Mendilibar opted to start with Joseba Llorente as the central striker. Llorente does not offer the greatest level of mobility but he is able compete aerially and offer a central reference point for the team, something that the style of play dictates.

The normal high defensive line and aggressive pressing from a Mendilibar team was identifiable as Osasuna pushed Barcelona back in the opening minutes, recording more possession than their illustrious hosts in the opening minutes of the game. The warning signs were evident for Osasuna however. With a high press, the team tried to stay fairly narrow. There was ample space between the high defensive line and Fernandez in goal to exploit. Thiago failed to collect a pass early on but a David Villa run onto a through ball led to Fernandez coming off his line. The keeper’s clearance was poor but when Xavi collected the ball there was no immediate danger. There was no shot on goal for the diminutive midfielder and Fernandez recovered his position. Xavi was able to beat his opponent and weight a perfect ball to Messi to open the scoring. Many players would have attempted an audacious shot in such circumstances and wasted the opportunity.

Osasuna continued to push high, seeking to impose their style of play on the game and also aware that adopting a defensive gameplan would most likely be their undoing. An equaliser came via a long range effort from Loe. Barcelona failed to adequately clear their lines and the Frenchman moved onto the ball freely.

Any semblance of hope which arrived with the equaliser was soon removed with the award of a harsh penalty for handball against Arribas. A second yellow card was given to the defender and the 10 men would soon trail 2-1 when Messi scored from the spot. The game ended as a contest just before half time when Dani Alves made a forward run to receive a pass, cutting back for Pedro to score. Alves was offside when the pass was made but it was a ball that Barcelona were increasingly looking for.

The second half focussed on damage limitation with Messi scoring two further goals as Barcelona cantered to a 5-1 victory. As important as that was the opportunity to remove Xavi from the action after 66 mins and provide him with much needed rest ahead of a key period in the season starting with the first leg clasico in the Copa del Rey on Wednesday evening.

Two victories ahead of Wednesday’s meeting at the Bernabeu. With injuries and suspensions, it may well be a patched up Madrid side that takes the field. Both sides will need to lift their game if they wish to gain a first leg advantage.

 

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