Barcelona new low, Real on a high No ratings yet.

Barcelona roller-coaster season continues with a home defeat to mediocre Real Betis. Madrid giants took the opportunity to close the gap.

12th match-day in LaLiga brought a major surprise with the Andaluzian green and white claiming all spoils at Nou Camp.

Barcelona slump

Barcelona trouble

Home game against Betis had all the necessary ingredients for an easy, Barcelona-like goal difference boosting league match with a routine win.

Midweek point against Inter in Champions League that sealed the qualification to the next phase held the mood high. Messi’s return to action after the injury upped the atmosphere additionally. And the opponent had scored a solitary goal in previous 5 away games.

What can you expect in these circumstances? Total domination in a high scoring win.

In the end that’s exactly what happened however not to the hosts liking.

Right from the start it was clear that Barca can’t create as much as would have expected. Initial apparent supremacy was cut short by Betis goal.

Defensive frailty      

After 20 minutes, in which both sides created some interesting situations in opposition’s box, Betis took the lead. And naturally in the most predictable way – counter attack.

Junior Firpo entered the box from the left and cut in onto his right foot. Sergi Roberto, not a natural defender, tried to confront him and deny shooting space, if it can be said so. However the Brazilian found enough time and space to release a shot that left no chance to Ter Stegen.

Betis celebration

If he was cutting inside you’d expect one of the center back’s to be there to watch Sergi’s back. Well, you couldn’t be more wrong.

Admittedly, Barcelona’s right back didn’t cover himself with glory on the occasion anyway some kind of back-up should be there.

Firstly, because it has to. Following defensive basics, every player has to have somebody covering his back.

Secondly, the nearest Firpo’s teammate was some 20 to 25 meters away! And between them, beside Sergi, 4(!) other Barcelona players. Four! Chasing shadows. Taking a rest. Not sure what were they doing, but surely they were not defending.

Catalan pride was never known for their defending and fans are used to see similar scenes. Therefore probably weren’t too much concerned especially as soon after had a close range sitter saved by Pau Lopez in visitor’s goal. Our time is here, probably crossed their mind.

Barca team most likely believed the same as stubbornly refused to defend!

Not an accident

Pique

As if trailing by a goal wasn’t enough of a challenge for them, the hosts time and again allowed too much space for the opposition to thrive in. Subsequent warning shots weren’t taken seriously and Betis duly doubled their advantage.

This time they didn’t even bother to pose any kind of resistance! Joaquin was left undisturbed to slot into an empty net some 6-7 meters from goal.

If Lenglet and Jordi Alba at least pretended to mark somebody, Pique and Sergi Roberto didn’t bother even that much to at least fake it.

They did, however, learn the lesson from the first goal and watched each others back. Shame that the threat was coming from somewhere else…

After the break Barcelona went all out attack and eventually scored, courtesy of a gifted penalty by Betis defence, who until that point looked very tight and organized.

Game back on, you’d think! But since blaugrana apparently decided that won’t do any sort of defending in this game the goalkeeper shouldn’t be any exception. It was a rare mistake by the usually very dependable shot-stopper.

And to make things worst the goal came only a couple of minutes after Barcelona reduced the deficit. 71st minute, 1-3, but still a lot to come.

Till the last minute lack of the very minimum of concentration and attention on both sides helped to make it an entertaining, high-scoring and dramatic match.

Messi not enough

Messi scored two goals, had a few of trademark runs throughout the match and some decent shots but even he can’t make up for a collective black-out.

Messi vs Betis

One of the stand-out members of the team and Catalonia in general, Pique, had a lapse of concentration that lasted for some 95 minutes. On several occasions was recalled from the manager but ultimately didn’t help.

Barcelona’s performances and particularly results this season oscillate from great, like the mauling of Real Madrid and Inter, to ridiculous, like defeats to Leganes and Betis.

Since it’s not an isolated incident it makes you wonder what to expect when the crucial part of the season arrives. What kind of Barcelona will we see against top European sides in international competition and in domestic season-defining trips to Madrid?

Betis will cherish the 3-4 victory in one of the most iconic stadiums in the world for a very long time. And rightfully so.

Real Madrid’s resurrection

Benzema scoring

Since Santi Solari took over the reins Real Madrid started to score goals and stopped conceding them. True, opposition faced in the last few weeks was far from world class but in September and October anyone could take the famous scalp.

This weekend’s trip to Vigo was pointed out as the trickiest fixture at the beginning of the short tenure.

But since Benzema remembered that he’s a top notch striker and found his shooting boots, Celta couldn’t prove too big of an obstacle.

Even if in the end the hosts had more possession and provided some attacking threat Real’s win was just and deserved.

Solari has been offered to guide the team further on, as expected, due to result  tendency overturned and lack of quality alternatives. Hopefully he’ll make the best of it and build a reputation as a manager. But don’t expect any Zidane effect.

Catching up

After the disastrous clasico defeat title challenge looked unrealistic. Both in terms of performances and point gap.

However, if Real continues to improve his game and Barcelona keeps blowing hot and cold we could be in for a very interesting season.

Solari satisfied

Especially with Sevilla and Atletico Madrid, both winning by minimal margin this weekend, not giving up.

And Deportivo Alaves and Espanyol still hanging in there. Surely not title contenders but potential party-breakers for somebody.

Elsewhere

Surprises also elsewhere, beside in Barcelona, as Valencia, 4th Spanish team in the CL this season, won away to Getafe. Strange to hear, I agree, but it’s only second league victory for Los Che.

Somewhat expected visitor’s triumph in Valencia where Real Sociedad, best league record on the road, won against high-flying Levante. The Valencia outfit, nicknamed the frogs, have an indifferent home record but still sit in 8th place with just 3 point shy of Real Madrid.

Barcelona’s lack of defensive stability this season has been one of the talking points. If they don’t find a solution quickly Madrid giants and possibly also Sevilla will soon overtake the lead.

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Solari Santiago – the cure? No ratings yet.

Santiago Solari took the reins as Real Madrid manager after the club released Julien Lopetegui the day after the El Clasico debacle.

The inevitable thing happened. Real Madrid appointed new manager after disastrous September and October. Julien Lopetegui was shown the door and Santiago Hernan Solari took his place. Born October 7 1976 in Rosario, Argentina, Solari is a familiar face at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Solari the player

I’m sure by now all football lovers learned his history as a player and as a manager in Real’s youth teams. Extremely talented and smart player, Solari managed to find a lot of playing space in the Galactico era beginning of the century.

By now you all refreshed your memory with his success and the part he played in the goal of the century scored by his predecessor in the hot-seat.

You’ve also read that after over 200 games played for the Madrid giant he headed to Internazionale Milan and spent there 3 years. He won 3 scudetti in Italy however he wasn’t as influential as he was in Madrid.

After the European experience he went back home to River Plate, the club that lunched him in professional football. After a single season he went North to Mexico and eventually ended his playing career in Uruguay with Penarol.

Personally, I have fond memories of him as a player. To tell you the truth I always bought him on Football Manager. A left winger with a lot of creativity, precise crossing and dazzling dribbling abilities but also responsible and not afraid to take the responsibility and shoot when given the opportunity.

You could see that he understands the game and what managers demand from him. He wasn’t publicly exposed as some of his teammates however in terms of football intelligence, class and talent he was rightfully part of that group of players that beside aforementioned Zidane included the likes of Ronaldo, Figo, Raul, Roberto Carlos et al.

Solari

What to expect?

 

It’s hard to predict what to expect from him as a Madrid interim manager.

Solari’s record as a youth team manager is a mixed bag. He didn’t set the league on fire, didn’t achieve headline-grabbing results and didn’t have to deal with international superstars that have no issues in telling the manager to shut up.

For all comparison drawn with Zidane I see some big differences between their coaching paths.

Solari Zidane

Not Zidane

For once, Zidane was Ancelotti’s deputy for a couple of seasons. Daily worked alongside the manager mostly renewed for his human abilities. Ancelotti is a great tactician, proved it on more then a few occasions, however his ability to establish a close relationship with the players and thus getting the best out of them is probably his distinguished quality.

Zinedine had the chance to observe the master at work for a very long time and being an intelligent person picked up some important tips.

Solari has been the club as manager at youth level long enough to learn from both however not on daily basis.

Secondly, Zidane won literally everything as a player. When somebody walks into the Merengue dressing room and wants to be heard needs to have something that back-up his words. Who can have more backing then Zidane?

As said Solari spent 5 years at Madrid and played an important role in the team’s success but was never the standout personality of the team. Collected only 11 caps for Argentina and never won greatest individual prizes.

Thirdly, the Frenchman inherited the squad from a highly unpopular manager among the squad. Getting the team on your side wasn’t that hard.

The Argentinian is succeeding a manager who had a good portion of the team on his side. Lopetegui was even presented to Perez as possible substitution for Zidane by captain Ramos and other Spanish national team players.

Fourthly, Zidane had Ronaldo in the squad. That’s an easy 50 goals per campaign. And the whole team was hungry for success.

Solari is inheriting a team that has unbelievable trouble to score goals. Real is having a lot of shots on goal but can’t seem to hit the net. And doesn’t have a player with 50 goals. Neither 2 of 25.

What are Solari’s chances?

Within the next 2 weeks Real has to nominate the new full time manager, according to La Liga rules.

In these 2 weeks Real will play in Spanish Cup against lower league Melilla, league match against Real Valladolid, CL clash with Victoria Plzen and a tricky visit to Celta Vigo. Even if his team win all of these matches nothing extraordinary would happen.

However, not everything is lost in advance and Santiago has a few aces up his sleeve.

Competition

One of them is that currently available coaches are publicly being discredited by most representative players. Conte has been given for granted however Ramos lately gave significant statements that could prevent Perez from pursuing the Italian.

Conte

Plus Conte has legal issues to solve with Chelsea before he can take over at another club. And his overall requests are quite demanding.

Arsene Wenger is free and could sign immediately but he’s not much of an upgrade from Conte in terms of managing style. Just ask Robin Van Persie why he left Arsenal for Manchester United.

Wenger

Other candidates being mentioned in the media lately (Maurizio Pochettino, Roberto Martinez and even Jose Mourinho) have valid contracts with other employers and having them released so soon isn’t possible. Or at least very hard.

Therefore if Solari manages to avoid embarrassing results in the next few weeks, produces acceptable football style and wins, he might get a chance to see out the season.

Vinicius Junior

Beside lack of valuable alternatives another ace in his sleeve could be Vinicius Junior. The young Brazilian attacker has been overlooked by Lopetegui. Since there isn’t anybody who’s scoring goals a bet on the summer acquisition can’t make things any worse. The youngster certainly has the ability to play on this level and could prove a hit. Validating an investment is always a good thing.

Sentence

He’s been thrown at the deep end but he’s familiar with the environment, expectations and knows how things work at the club.

Had the chance to follow closely, as a player and also manager at the club, how to treat superstars and squeeze out the best of them. He has to learn extremely fast how to apply the knowledge.

Solari 2

His predecessor didn’t set a high standard, squad has a lot of quality and experience, has a prodigy to count upon and the market isn’t offering anything outstanding that can be appointed quickly. And also the opposition he’ll be facing in the trial period isn’t extraordinary so he has a chance to bring home some points.

All in all Solari just might earn the right to manage the team till end of the season. I’m not expecting any Zidane effect but a decent campaign. And if Perez throws in a valuable player or two in January, who knows, we could be surprised.

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