Real look Predictable under Lopetegui so far and, Despite long-term Preaching, Patience Hardly Lasts in the Capital: UEFA Champions League; Matchday Two

It’s important to keep things in perspective and not go overboard. Real knew what they were getting into when they appointed Julen Lopetegui, and there have been more than a couple of signs that when his system is well ingrained into Los Blancos, they may well look a cut above the rest. But so far, they’re still facing teething problems under their new boss, and following defeat to CSKA Moscow in the Champions League, have failed to score in three successive games- the first time that happened in over a decade-, an aberration by their standards.

Lopetegui, though, is keen to dispel talk of under-performance, preaching calm. ‘Ten days ago we beat Roma and weren’t so invincible’, he said post-CSKA. ‘Now, we are not so bad’. The manager’s words do possess some form of truth, but here’s some more actuality: at a club like Real Madrid, tags like ‘weren’t so invincible’ and ‘not so bad’ are almost unacceptable. Perhaps the biggest problem with Real so far isn’t that they are unconvincing or haven’t scored in three straight games, but that Real look predictable.

Real have been many things in the past; a slapdash side with very little long-term view; a well-oiled counter-attacking machine; a street-wise side with an iron will to win, among others. But never have the European champions looked predictable. Perhaps it’s due to fatigue suffered by a few players (read: Luka Modric), the arrival of a new manager that requires acclimatisation, or complacency, but there’s been very little urgency in Real’s games. The passing game will take some getting used to, and is showing signs of progress, but Real haven’t quite displayed those passing methods in really breaking down a side, they’ve never really applied any kind of earnestness in the final third with their passing game.

Then there’s the personnel being set up so far. It’s been a pattern of Los Blancos this term, when chasing a game or needing a goal, the option is to bring on Lucas Vazquez and Mariano Diaz- if they’re not already on the pitch. There’s little dynamism in the substitutions, little potential of game-changing alterations. Perhaps this is where Real missed a trick by not quite acquiring a marquee-like player after Cristiano Ronaldo, for a side that was always going to need time to fully blossom this season, having a game-changer or proven match-winner to get you past those inevitable games where you’ll lack conviction is quite an enviable feat.

In the defeat in Moscow, Real’s numbers read: 26 shots, four on target, 72% possession, 712 passes, with a 91% completion. Possession, not penetration. And the ratio of shots on target to shots show that Real are neither creating many chances, nor are they taking the little ones created. They dominated CSKA, but lacked penetration. They were just about the better team against Atletico Madrid in the derby last weekend, but it was all a bit dreary. They had possession in Seville, three days before the Atletico game, yet looked incompetent of creating anything in a 3-0 defeat.

Lopetegui said post-match that he has no doubt the goals will come, as will the wins, and he’s not wrong. But perhaps what the manager should worry about is the air of predictability when Real take to the pitch these days. If that continues, then the fear-factor dissipates, and, for all the prospects of this new Real project, that would be unacceptable.

This is still the third month of the season, so once more, it’s key to note the importance of not going overboard. There have been more than a few promising signs, and even the most infallible sides go through blips. But the problem is, Real Madrid are never like most sides.

Messi Masterpiece at Wembley

Only a minute had gone at Wembley when Lionel Messi got a pass, turned, looked up, saw Jordi Alba, and proceeded to find him with an elegant. How long did it take you to read that previous sentence? Yet Messi did all that almost at once. Two goals, many dribbles, passes, side-stepping, and the fact that he hit the same base of the post twice in three minutes with virtually the same run, almost like he took back us in time with the second effort. He’s still better at playing football than we’ll ever be at describing him play football.

Partenopei Get Going at Last

Napoli did everything right at Red Star Belgrade, except score, as the game in Serbia ended goalless. A similar theme was showing on Matchday Two, as they outplayed Liverpool, making the reds look remarkably prosaic, but couldn’t score. But salvation came in the final minute of normal time, when Lorenzo Insigne slid in Jose Callejon’s cross, to give Carlo Ancelotti’s side a win that takes them top. There’s still much time for twists and turns in Group C, but the team considered by many to be the third-best placed to qualify from this group lead the way with a third of its games played.

Elsewhere

  • At some point, Red Star goalkeeper Milan Borjan had to raise a smile, and that facial expression that asked the question ‘what else could I do’. The goalie had just been beaten by a Neymar free-kick for the second time, as the Serbians conceded six at Paris St. Germain. At least they can take solace in the fact Marko Marin got them a goal of their own, and that but for Borjan, PSG would have surely hit double figures.
  • In other circumstances, it would have been a case of Lyon’s stark inconsistency, beating Manchester City yet trailing at home to Shakhtar Donetsk. But two goals in two minutes erased a two-goal deficit, and suddenly a case of how Les Gones showed resolve to come back from the dead. Most importantly, they’re still top of Group F.
  • In this week’s Anti-Mourinho development, aren’t we glad to report that Manchester United looked tepid in a goalless draw at home to Valencia.
  • Another game, another defeat for Monaco. Leonardo Jardim has so far this season tried a 4-4-2, a 4-3-3, a 4-2-3-1, as well as a 3-4-3, all yielding little joy. Worrying times for Les Monegasques.

Results

PSV 1-2 Inter

Bayern Munich 1-1 Ajax

Lokomotiv Moscow 0-1 Schalke

Roma 5-0 Plzen

Hoffenheim 1-2 Manchester City

Juventus 3-0 Young Boys

CSKA 1-0 Real Madrid

Tottenham 2-4 Barcelona

Galatasaray 0-1 Porto

Napoli 1-0 Liverpool

Manchester United 0-0 Valencia

Atletico Madrid 3-1 Club Brugge

Lyon 2-2 Shakhtar Donetsk

PSG 6-1 Red Star Belgrade

AEK Athens 2-3 Benfica

Published in International Watch

The former Kano Pillars winger has revealed that the Eagles harbour no fear over their World Cup group stage meeting with Argentina.

Nigeria were drawn in Group D alongside Croatia, Iceland and Argentina and ahead of the meeting with the latter billed for June 26 at the Saint Petersburg Stadium, Ahmed Musa in an exclusive interview with FIFA.com said the Eagles are not petrified by the quality of the Albiceleste of Argentina and that of other countries that will be at the World Cup.

Musa scored a brace when the two sides (Nigeria and Argentina) in Brazil but a Lionel Messi’s brace and a goal from Marcus Rojo ensured the Albiceleste maintained their winning records over Nigeria – making it four wins in four meetings at the Mundial.


Musa celebrating his second goal against Argentina at the 2014 World Cup (Getty Image)

According to him, Eagles’ failure to book a place at the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations motivated the Eagles during the qualifying series and the team is well prepared to face any team at the World Cup.

“When we realised we weren’t going to make it to the Africa Cup of Nations (last year), we decided that we were going to fight for the people of Nigeria.

“It doesn’t matter who we come up against; we’ll be giving it our best shot at the World Cup.

“We’ll be trying our hardest in every match, no matter the opposition.”

He added, “We need to set our sights high. Nigeria want to do more than just get pass the group phase.

“We want to make the quarter-finals and even the semis. Why not.”

The winger who has been warned by Gernot Rohr to look for a new club to be in a good position to make the World Cup squad has been reported to have agreed a temporary deal to leave Leicester City to join former club CSKA Moscow till the end of the season.

Musa spent four seasons with CSKA Moscow – scoring 53 goals in 169 appearances for the Russian based club.


(Getty image)

He expressed hopes of making his second appearance at the World Cup – describing the World as a very important event.

“I hope I get selected. The World Cup is a vey important event for any player,” he concluded.

 

Published in Awa Football