The Ongoing Dilemma of Barcelona’s Center-Back Situation

BarcelonaUpon Pep Guardiola’s appointment as Barcelona manager in 2008, the club embarked on a new challenge, and history was written in the four years that followed. Guardiola became the most decorated manager in the history of his beloved club, obliterating opponents week in week out, breaking records that stood for years, and playing a scintillating style of football that left spectators worldwide in awe.

At the end of the 2012-13 season Guardiola stepped down, and his trustworthy assistant Tito Vilanova was chosen to take charge of his dynasty. Lately, Tito had to unwillingly resign due to a cancer relapse, leaving behind a team made up of some of the most talented players in recent years. Between Guardiola and Tito, Barcelona’s football defined an era. Their style of play was labeled Tiki-Taka by some, and a modern version of “total football” by others. But regardless of the name, no one can argue against the fact that Barcelona managed to capture the hearts of cules all over the world.

In his four seasons in charge, Guardiola implemented a high pressure system that enabled his team to win the ball back in the opposition’s area, thus rendering the rival team’s attacking threat to a minimal level. In addition to that, Pep emphasized on having superior ball possession in order to limit and control the opponents’ influence. By doing so, his team managed to only concede 55, 39, 36, and 48 in the seasons between 2008-09 and 2011-12 respectively.

When Guardiola took his much-debated sabbatical, Rosell’s decision to appoint Vilanova stemmed from the thought of keeping the same philosophy going, and the majestically played football flowing, since Tito was his predecessor’s effective right hand man. It’s only normal to assume that he would have grasped every bit of his methods, but unfortunately, this did not seem to be the case.

Tito’s Barcelona managed to scandalously concede a sum of 66 goals in 60 games. This 1.1 goal/game rate is much larger the 0.88, 0.66, 0.60, and 0.75 rates achieved under Guardiola’s guidance, which simply implies that things have not been running as smoothly as they should be. A thorough analysis of some of Barcelona’s games shows that the previously implemented defensive strategies were completely missing as of late: no intense pressing, no versatility or effective ball possession.

The result was a team susceptible to counter attacks and dead ball situations. Spartak Moscow, Sevilla, Mallorca, Malaga, Real Madrid, Deportivo, and PSG managed to score two or more goals against Barcelona, while Bayern completely demolished them, exposing a defense that has been suffering for too long. As a result, Tito and his sporting director Zubizareta promised club supporters a world-class center back to solve the team’s defensive shortcomings and deputize for the aging Carles Puyol. So what has happened since then?

Upon the conclusion of European competitions, transfer rumors started to surface, and almost every top defender was linked to Barcelona. Marquinhos, Thiago Silva, David Luiz, Laurent Koscielny, Thomas Vermaelen, Daniel Agger, Mattheus Doria, Inigo Martinez, Raphael Varane, Eliaquim Mangala, Mats Hummels, Jeremy Mathieu, Branislav Ivanovic, Adil Rami, and recently Santiago Vergini were some of the names associated with plugging the gap at Barcelona’s defense.

BarcelonaOf all the mentioned names, only few were realistic targets; players that have the capability to function in a not-so-easy Barcelona system and that are practically followed by the Catalan club. Thiago Silva was deemed “untransferable,” PSG’s president even went as far as threatening to hijack Lionel Messi if Barcelona continue to pursue his Brazilian defender.

Marquinhos was labeled an “interesting talent” by Zubizareta, but Barcelona was not given a chance to negotiate his transfer as he was snapped up by PSG. David Luiz and Branislav Ivanovic were automatically retained and declared fundamental to team’s plan by Mourinho. Hummels was seen as a similar type of player to Pique. Where does this leave Barcelona in their hunt?

Before delving into names, the manager (now Gerardo Martino) will have to address the functionality of the team in terms of pressing, a more balanced structure, and turning possession into creativity and goals, as was the case under Guardiola’s management. Then the issue of who will be insignificant. Pep’s team managed to dominate several games with a makeshift defense, some of which were finals (Champions League to be particular), simply because the team functioned in a certain way that capitalizes on its qualities while covering up its deficiencies.

Last season in particular, Barcelona were susceptible to defensive exposure because they failed to come up with any new tactics, always playing the same way, and teams can sit down and work out exactly how they can prepare their team to beat them. Jupp Heynckes stated before the semi final game against this team that he knew exactly what each of the Barcelona players would do, and he worked out exactly how to neutralize the threat.

Mourinho also had the luxury of trial and error games to sort out his tactics. In the end, he sacrificed his midfield, crowded his defense, and left a couple of his very fast players upfront to inflict menace on Barcelona’s defense. Whomever the defender, be it Puyol, Pique, Mascherano or any other world class player that will be signed, if the team functionality is not set up in a way to protect the team’s defense, then the Catalan club will suffer like they did last season.

Now Fontas joined Celta Vigo, Abidal  and Muniesa were released, and Puyol is not getting any younger, so Barcelona have to sign a player to compete with Mascherano, Pique, and Bartra for a center back position. But what should be noted is that the issue of the name is not as important as the team strategy as a whole.

There is absolutely no need to splash the cash just to cover up administrative and technical blunders. Papers worldwide scramble daily to fill the pages, and while some stories are clearly garbage, others are based on some inside information, so Barcelona should avoid dipping in an inflated market just for the sake of spending. After all, Rosell claims that the sole focus of his board is to reduce the financial dampening that Laporta put his club in.

Written by Hassan Chakroun

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Barcelona Unveil Gerardo Martino as New Manager

Gerardo MartinoMany were left in shock last week as the heir to Pep Guardiola’s throne, Tito Vilanova, announced his decision to resign as manager of Barcelona after just one season in charge. In the 2012-13 season, the 44-year-old led Barcelona to win back the La Liga title from Real Madrid, who won it in the previous year. The reason stated by Vilanova for choosing to step down was his battle with cancer, having already suffered from it twice in the last few years and most recently in late last year. Thankfully, both times his treatment was successful, and many around the world are hoping this will again be the case for the man who joined Barcelona in 2007.

Seeing as Barcelona are one of the biggest clubs in world football, the job as manager is obviously very prestigious and highly coveted in Catalonia. Many names were listed as possible contenders to succeed Vilanova, such as Guus Hiddink and Andre Villas-Boas, however many people were quick to distance themselves from the post. After big names such as Villas-Boas and Jupp Heynckes ruled themselves out of the running, all the signs seemed to be pointing towards former Real Madrid and Chelsea manager Guus Hiddink as the new manager at Camp Nou.

The Dutchman turned speculation up a notch earlier this week when he resigned from his job as manager of Anzhi Makhachkala after just over a year in charge. He was replaced by former Manchester United assistant manager Rene Meulensteen, but all the talk was about whether this resignation signaled Hiddink’s appointment was set to be confirmed by the Spanish club.

However, this was not the case. Less than a day on from the news that Hiddink had resigned from his job, Barcelona announced the appointment of Argentinian Gerardo Martino as the successor to Vilanova. This was a shock appointment to many, given the names that had originally been linked with the job and also because most football fans know very little about the 50-year-old.

There’s no doubt that the man who takes over at a club like Barcelona, a club that have such a rich culture of winning trophies, that the manager also has to be a winner too. To the untrained eye, this would rule Martino out of the running for the job. However, a bit of research shows that in the last 11 years, he has won 5 league titles with three teams in two different countries, as well as winning an award for South American Coach of the Year in 2007.

Some people will be worried that Martino, despite his success in South America, may not be able to challenge for domestic titles in Europe too. However, we have to accept that in most countries it is very difficult to win the league, unless it is one of the few that are dominated by one or two teams. An example of such a league is Scotland, where Celtic and Rangers have been the two biggest challengers for a long time now, and this fact will always be difficult to break up.

The leagues that Martino has managed so far in his career haven’t been like this. Argentina’s league is very wide open with several teams that could challenge for the title each year. This means it was a challenge for Martino to triumph last month with Newell’s Old Boys, and deserves credit.

Gerardo MartinoIn Paraguay, Martino won titles with two different clubs - showing it wasn’t just luck - and he genuinely does have the consistency to challenge in different leagues and at different teams. He even won three of them consecutively - twice with Libertad and one with Cerro Porteño between 2002 and 2004 - and he also won the top division again with Libertad in 2006 after a spell with Colon.

These five league titles show that Martino knows how to win trophies and that he has valuable experience which could prove a huge advantage at Camp Nou with all those fans watching. Both Barcelona and their fierce rivals Real Madrid will now start the new season with new managers after both Tito Vilanova and Jose Mourinho left their respective clubs in the last few weeks. It will be interesting to see how Martino and Ancelotti do at their new clubs, as both have won lots of silverware so far in their career and are also very experienced.

Whenever a new manager takes over at a big club, there is always a worry about whether they will be able to handle the attitudes of the big players, and often this can be the downfall of the new man. We saw it in 2011 at Chelsea, where Andre Villas-Boas lost it in the dressing room and failed at the club as a result. It’s never nice to see this happen to a manager, but it could be even more of a risk at the Nou Camp under Martino, as he won’t have handled players anywhere near the level of the ones playing in Catalonia.

Thankfully, this looks like it will not be the case for the Argentine. Even just days into the job, Barcelona’s key player Lionel Messi has come out and voiced his support for his compatriot. Messi has been an integral part of Barcelona’s side for years now, and if Martino has him onside, it won’t be long before the rest of the squad follows suit in their support for the new manager too. Should this happen, it could certainly have a dramatic effect on how well Martino does at his new club, and could be the deciding factor in league titles over the next few years, during the reign of Martino.

It’s vital for Martino’s early success at Barça that he claims the La Liga title this season, at the very least, alongside the Copa Del Rey. This would convince doubting fans that he can win with the club, and win them over to have the majority of the club behind him. He also needs to be a serious challenger for the Champions League, but with the new-found success at Bayern Munich, it could be difficult at this early stage.

I do feel that the criticism some have laid onto Martino since his appointment is unjustified. However, it’s because he’s relatively unknown as manager in Europe. Had he been a manager over here before people would be a lot more supportive of the new man, and I hope it won’t take him too long to win them over.

There is, however, always that chance that he may not succeed in Europe, which would be a shame, although the chance of this happening is minimal. The senior staff at Barcelona know what they’re doing, and they won’t have messed about in appointing Vilanova’s replacement. They will certainly feel that they’ve got the right replacement, and I’m sure there’ll be many football fans watching him try to prove them right.

Written by Ben Warner

Barcelona Manager Tito Vilanova Resigns Due to Cancer Relapse

Tito VilanovaBill Shankly, Liverpool’s legendary manager, half-jokingly once said:

“Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.”

Die hard football fans might agree with the much revered Shankly, and if twitter was active back in the 1960s, a lot of people would’ve retweeted, favorited, and commented on his strong statement. But when it comes to one’s health, which is the real life and death issue, football and everything else becomes secondary.

No doubt it has been a tough summer for Barcelona fans all over the world. Guardiola’s public spat with Tito Vilanova and Sandro Rosell, along with Thiago’s detrimental departure and the controversial fee paid for Neymar have surely taken a toll on all cules. And now, Tito’s cancer relapse devastatingly left us thinking about everything but football. In one season Vilanova managed to achieve a club record of 100 League points, in addition to the best start in the history of La Liga; 14 wins and 1 draw in the first 15 games. A lot of people might argue about his tactical awareness, or his ability to fill the big void left by his friend, Pep Guardiola.

But no one can ever doubt his love for football, his club, and it’s players, and now unwillingly he has to stop doing what he loves and take a step away from whom he loves and concentrate on his treatment. Coaching at the highest level and cancer treatment do not go along. Football demands a lot, demands that might consume all his resources, and resources that are needed by his body to win this monumental battle. Speaking to the press yesterday, and after announcing Tito’s imminent departure, club president Sandro Rosell said:

“Life goes on. Obviously this is a hard blow to take, but Barca has suffered many blows in our history and we have always come through. This will be no different. I am asking you all for understanding. Think first about the people involved and then the club. I want to ask you for maximum respect for him and his family.”

Tito VilanovaA brief and meaningful message, not only for the media, but to the whole world of football. Respect and solidarity should be shown to a man who is only 44 years of age, but with the burden of fighting a malignant cancer on his shoulders. Messages of support arrived from all over the world. Abidal, Messi, Muniesa, Thiago, Pau Gasol, Llorente, Negredo, Falcao, Mata, Deulofeu, Gary Lineker, Reina, Blatter, Cazorla, and Morata all sent their best wishes for our courageous manager. Even clubs such as Milan, Bilbao, Real Madrid, and Chelsea offered unity with what Tito is about to face.

One thing is certain now, Tito will be replaced as head coach of Barcelona. Many names have been circulating in the media since Rosell’s unwelcome announcement yesterday, but nothing formal has been announced. Whomever is announced as Barca coach should be gifted the support, confidence, and belief of all Barcelona supporters in order for the club to move forward and overcome this emotional shock, at least for the time being.

Many cules will cry, but there should be a great deal of resolve and calmness to accompany Tito in his ongoing battle. Let’s think of him as a winner, a fighter, a down-to-earth individual who will conquer this fight. Sorrow and despair are demoralizing, but not everlasting.

Written by Hassan Chakroun

Is Tito Vilanova to Blame for Barcelona’s Defensive Issues this Season?

Tito VilanovaWe’ve gone from one extreme to another; the most successful start to a season in the club’s history to one of the most humiliating endings to a Champions League campaign for many years. It’s fair to say that this season has been full of the most extraordinary highs and lows and, but we’re now La Liga champions so that incredible beginning to the season has finally got its rewards.

And deservedly so. With just two defeats in La Liga this season there’s no doubt that despite some questionable performances at times and an almost non-existent defense, that Barcelona were the best team in the league. But it hasn’t come without great difficulty. Barcelona won the league despite not winning a Clasico this season and that has to be a sore point for Cules everywhere. No one likes losing a Clasico, and after Barca had been so dominant in the fixture for the last few years, dealing with defeat to Jose Mourinho and his men is just not acceptable to some people.

So is it Tito’s fault that we lost the Clasicos? We didn’t lose the first one, on October 7, despite our defense having been at its most fragile in months. We managed a 2-2 draw with a rampant Cristiano Ronaldo scoring two, but the ever-reliable Lionel Messi making sure the scores were even by the end. The 2-1 defeat to Real at the Bernabeu in the second league Clasico was much more difficult to comprehend; Real had a few of their star players benched, including Ronaldo, so defeat to them when the odds appeared to be in our favor was tough to swallow.

I don’t think anyone needs reminding of the Copa Del Rey games either. At the time of the back to back defeats to Real (in the Copa Del Rey at the Camp Nou and then the second league match), Tito was in the middle of intense cancer treatment and was in New York. Despite many people suggesting it was Tito making the decisions from America and not Jordi Roura, it’s extremely difficult to understand exactly how much control Tito would have had. The point of him being in New York was to receive specialist treatment to save his life, not for him to instruct the team, so I doubt he would have had quite as much control as some people suggest.

However, even if he did, it was extremely tough for him to have any say in what to do once the games started. It would have been left almost entirely up to Roura to decide the substitutions, which tactical decisions needed to be made, and this was a problem in itself. Roura has had no experience of coaching a team before this season and, whilst I don’t believe that it was all his fault, it was down to management problems that we have struggled this season; both with mistakes made regarding coaching decisions and the choices we made during last season’s transfer window.

BarcelonaWhen it comes to our defense there really is no easy solution to explain quite how appalling it has become. Certainly the defense has suffered from its fair share of injuries but it can’t be the only excuse. At times, the players simply haven’t played well enough. Gerard Pique has shown brief signs of brilliance but overall has had yet another incredibly disappointing season. Pique has been rated among the best in Europe for the last few years, but I’m beginning to think that he no longer deserves to be considered.

That, however, is up to debate and should be the subject of a separate article. Even other players who deserve much more credit for their efforts, Javier Mascherano for example, have had turbulent seasons. Mascherano has scored the most own goals this season, and also missed some important games through injury. Add to that the constant injury concerns surrounding club captain Puyol and it’s not surprising whatsoever that Barcelona have struggled so much defensively.

How much of this is down to Tito? Obviously Tito can’t be blamed for players having injuries, but there have been some questionable decisions in defense. Barcelona have frequently chosen the likes of Alex Song, Mascherano, and Adriano to play in the center back role, but there is a serious problem with this: none of them are center backs. Adriano is a winger, not a center back, and despite putting in as much effort as possible whenever he’s called upon, his defending is a weakness.

Song is very slow and unused to the center back role (although better prepared for it than Busquets for example), and the question has to be why did Barcelona spend so much money on buying a midfielder to play in the center back position and spend most of his time benched than a genuine center back? It’s an odd question considering the price Alex Song was bought for was the same price as that of Mats Hummels, the Borussia Dortmund center back Barcelona have been linked with on several occasions. Are we getting value for money?

The defense remains the most complex problem facing Tito, and some would say that he has done nothing to solve it. It has been reported that it was Tito’s decision not to buy a center back last summer, and if that was the case, then it was a very foolish decision to make in my honest opinion. Some excuses can be made for him, it was his first season as coach, but not filling an enormous hole in the defense is ultimately what has cost us the most this season. What Tito can do is learn from his mistakes and make sure that he doesn’t do the same thing again.

BarcelonaIf Barcelona fail to buy a genuine center back this summer, then Tito can be seen as the culprit with all responsibility. How can you expect to win anything when you’re allowing a weakened spot to stay weakened whilst other teams strengthen in attack? The fact that Deportivo, who were in the relegation spots at the time, were able to put 4 goals past us is a sign of just how bad things got.

It doesn’t even take a particularly strong offence, with no disrespect meant to Deportivo, to really hurt Barcelona and it’s something that has to be stopped. If Barca want to stay at the top (and with the emergence of Bayern Munich and the recent change in Clasico results that seems unlikely) then something has to be done about it. If not now then when? Wait until we have a completely trophyless season for them to do something? Wait until we lose a Clasico 5-0? As soon as a problem presents itself it’s there to be fixed as and when it happened, not waiting for it to get worse, and for me that was the biggest mistake Tito made all season.

But what did Tito get right? No doubt that some of his decisions later on in the season were dubious at best and even some of the earlier ones, despite such a tremendous start, were baffling. None more so than his decision to delegate David Villa a regular spot on the bench. As Spain’s number one top goalscorer and a reputation as one of the best strikers in Europe, Tito’s decision to lose Villa far less frequently than his talent deserves not only raised important questions about what Tito was up to at the time, particularly when the team struggled for goals, but also increased the dependency we have on Lionel Messi.

The Messi dependency, despite us being fortunate enough to have a player capable of scoring an enormous amount of goals, is dangerous. What happens if Messi gets a major injury and is sidelined for several months? Every team has a player they rely upon more than most, but Barcelona can’t afford the level of dependency they’ve had on Messi. As cruel as this may seem, it’s about FC Barcelona, not FC Messi, and it’s time we started looking for other options and sharing the spotlight a little bit more.

Lionel MessiOf course that’s probably not entirely Tito’s fault. David aside, no one could have guessed that both Pedro and Alexis would choose the exact same season to go completely off form. Pedro has been out of form since almost the beginning of the season and this one is more than a little forgettable for the star. Alexis, on the other hand, despite some real blunders in front of goal, has recently improved enough for me to think that perhaps his season wasn’t a washout and there is still something we can gain from keeping Alexis. Even when he wasn’t able to score, his ability to drag defenders wide, create distractions for other players to sneak in and score and then use his pace to get back and help out the defense was remarkable at times. Alexis is, in my honest opinion, one of the most underrated yet most hardworking players at Barcelona and deserves a lot more credit than he gets.

But apart from the players being off form, could Tito be blamed for the lack of time he dedicated to the youngsters? Yes! Tito barely gave any time at all to the likes of Martin Montoya, Marc Bartra, and Cristian Tello. Was this a mistake? Clearly it was. Dani Alves was badly off form and injury-prone at the beginning of the season, and ever since, hasn’t been brilliant at times and Montoya has impressed when called upon.

In smaller games (or even the bigger ones as he shone during the Clasicos) Montoya should have been given the chance so Alves could get some rest and Montoya could show the skills that will one day lead to him becoming our first-choice right back. When Montoya has been called upon in some games it has usually been in the place of left back Jordi Alba which shows just how versatile a player he is. Montoya is a valuable asset and will one day become Spain’s number one right back. It’s time to help him gain more experience, more trust and develop before he decides that.

Written by Liberty AliHasan Al

Comparison of the Influence Pep Guardiola and Tito Vilanova Have Had on Barcelona

Pep Guardiola and Tito VilanovaNow, in the lights of these current occurrences, most spectators are calling the need for reevaluating Tito’s impact on the team and comparing it to that of Pep’s. Both current coach and ex-coach have shown the exact same philosophy, possession, tiki-taka, and lots of Dani crosses. With both coaches proving worthy of managing this team, it has gone to my attention that most fans are stating that Tito contains the less direct style of play and Pep was more of a slow build-up type of guy. That calls for some tactical chat, don’t you think? Starting off with the current Barca.

Ever since Abidal got diagnosed with cancer, the team has changed its wing action completely. Barcelona used to play the usual Dani-Pique-Puyol-Abidal, leaving one full back that hits the right wing and supports the attack, and one full-back to sit at the back and keep things tight. Now, the current Barca uses the same back-line, but with Alba playing the role of left-back instead of the unfit Abidal.

This full-back duo of Alba and Dani might sound all great, but it has its many disadvantages. Logically speaking, having two full-backs with a very offensive and attacking mindset play at the same team would really cause a stir, as a flank is always exploited. Some might recommend Busquets occasionally dropping at the back, but that would only work if Abidal was still present, since Alba is too offensive of a player to stay back.

This also meant that the center-backs cannot make any runs, since there will always be a player missing at the back, and since there isn’t a full-back, that makes it double the trouble. Don’t want to be vague about it, but tactics aren’t rocket science; sometimes they are more straightforward thank you think. Defense isn’t lacking names or individual players, it just simply does not work together and will never handle transitions well.

BarcelonaTito has worked well with absences though. A major point that goes to him is that he introduced the idea of allowing opponents the room to attack, therefore giving Barca more room to build up attacks and finding more space at the opponents back-line. That’s exactly why Tito is usually seen as the more direct coach, because he does allow the opponent more time on the ball but tries to be more effective in the final third. Although Tito hasn’t proven anything yet, he has shown that he can add to this team even when the squad is need of depth.

Now for Pep, it was always a different case. After the first 3 years of domestic and European glory, he went on to the fourth with the daring confidence that he could rotate as much as he possibly wanted to. At a time where Barcelona’s tactics started to get off as a bit predictable, he thrived to change the formations and try to squeeze the best out of an already close-to-perfect Barcelona. That included the (4-1-4-1) formation used at the 3-1 hammering in the Santiago, or the occasional (3-4-3) that was usually played against La Liga opponents in the Camp Nou.

It really gave a new perspective to the team of how to unlock and break back-lines without having to change the philosophy. All those formations had one thing in common, and that was its failure to handle transitions on one of the flanks. Barcelona started to get a bit defensively vulnerable and were forced to always score 2-3 goals (or sometimes even more!) to ensure a victory.

Regardless of the depressing side of that era, now to focus on the good. Even though Pep and Tito seem to work in an extremely similar way, they both have different viewpoints on how to break free from pressure and attack a compacted back-line. Tito, as mentioned previously, prefers letting the opponent play some football and attacking the team; this would usually give the team more free spaces to attack when the ball is intercepted, for example the (4-2-4) at the start of the season against Sociedad.

Tito VilanovaPep, on the other hand, never liked to give away the ball. Unlike his personality, he was extremely greedy with ball possession and liked to have as much of it as possible. Pep used triangular formations nearly every game and always tried to bring forth the concept of total football, or outnumbering your opponent all around the pitch. Pep used to make the players work in groups of threes, much like magnets; whenever Xavi got the ball he’d drag 2 others with him and slowly pass the ball deep into the oppositions area just to look for an opening.

That my friends, is how Pep tried to play his football, using compactness and making all the players stick very close together to create space. He never believed in putting a Real Madrid, and always thrived on putting the midfield in control of the defense and attack. As for the current form the team is in, it is in no way a surprise.

The team isn’t divided, nor collapsing, but it has no sort of tactical supervision preventing it from playing like it did last night or the week before against Milan. Any coach would have known that we needed to add in a winger to stretch out the pitch that night at the San Siro, but we didn’t have Tito and we could not blame Roura for something he tried his best at. After-all, Roura is no tactician and he is trying his best. It’s a phase the team needs to go through without their coach, but hoping for a good retaliation phase after Tito is back and hopefully for good this time.

Written by Hasan Al

Real Madrid Suffering Worst Start in Over a Decade

Real Madrid’s fourth league match against Sevilla ended in utter defeat on Saturday, when an early goal was able to deprive them of yet another win. They are currently 8 points behind the league leaders, Barcelona, who they were able to top just weeks before in their fight for the Supercup. Madrid’s defeat put them in 10th place on the La Liga table, while Sevilla rose to 3rd. This is their worst start to La Liga since the 2001-02 season.

Just 69 seconds after the start of the game, Piotr Trochowski managed to deliver the only goal of the match against the already downcast Real Madrid. He evaded Di Maria and headed an unstoppable high ball into the net after a corner kick. Madrid was lucky to dodge a red card though, when Higuain committed a pretty nasty foul against Navarro. Madrid failed to respond to the goal in the remainder of the 1st half; both of Ronaldo’s chances were saved by Sevilla goalkeeper Andres Palop.

“Right now I have no team. We are a team without concentration. At halftime, I changed two players and wanted to change six,” a frustrated Jose Mourinho said at the start of the second half. Karim Benzema and Luka Modric ran out on the pitch to replace Angel Di Maria and Mesut Özil in the hopes that the fresh players would change the course of the game.

Unfortunately for Madrid, the substitutes made no impact. Madrid had a few decent chances and were lucky enough that Negredo failed to double Sevilla’s lead when a fairly straightforward shot went just off target.

Following the game, Mourino congratulated Sevilla with their victory and said that Madrid got the prize they deserved. “For Sevilla, every ball was the last one in their life. They played with perfect aggression in everything. They wanted to play quickly, move the ball quickly. My team did it against Barcelona, and haven’t done it in any other game.”

As if they weren’t upset enough with their loss, arch-rivals Barcelona topped Getafe with a score of 4-1 on the same day, awarding them their 4th straight win and a total of 12 points on the La Liga table.

Adriano Correia began Barcelona’s series of goals after awarding them a 1-0 lead in the 32nd minute. Messi added another 2 goals to their lead after being substituted in the 59th minute, the first of which was a penalty and the second one coming in just 4 minutes. Villa, who was also substituted in, topped it off with a goal at the start of stoppage time.

“The most important thing is we have 12 points from 12, we tried to control the game and we could have scored a few more. We’ll see tomorrow how long Puyol will be out, it’s a problem, he gives us a lot of organisation at the back and is very important for us.” said Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova.

There has also been speculation from the media that Cristiano Ronaldo may be searching for a better contract and wants to leave Real Madrid. He feels that he has not earned the respect he deserves from his teammates or his fans.

Written by FutbolPulse