Posts Tagged ‘ Copa del Rey ’

Old Futbol Buffet/Morbo Minute Mash Up

Last weekend was the annual church retreat for our church, so I went into the weekend telling myself that I would not check scores, that I would not plow through my usual pile of articles, that I would not blog.  Plan the work, work the plan, right.  Little did I know that the weekend I took off, everything would blow up, putting my plan at risk.

Saturday saw the top of table clash in Serie A between AC Milan and Juventus.  One concession I made for the retreat was to deck myself out in my scarf and my personalized Juve jersey, and I was able to maintain internet silence before withdrawing from the group late at night to watch the game with a Milan fan.  We made it through a disappointing (from the biaconeri point of view) first half before our internet signal became too frustrating.  I ended up reading about the game the next day and saw Matri’s equalizer late Sunday night.

Zonal Marking focused on the midfield battle during the match as well as the forward choices by Conte.  I wondered why he went Quags and Boriello up front and was frustrated when Juve players tried the play to ball to their feet, which ended up in a series of turnovers.  A change in formation and personnel got the Old Lady a point, who are still unbeaten and just might just do this.

Aaron gave his comments on the big game at Juventiknows.  He questioned the starting line-up but praised Conte for making positive changes and for the squad having the fitness to turn the match around.  I agree with him that Boriello was a strange choice and was completely outmuscled up top.  As for Bonucci, he had a ‘mare and hopefully he can turn it around for the final push.

Paolo Bandini chimed in on the controversial and entertaining match between Juventus and AC Milan, noting Milan’s dominance and Juve’s resilience.  He also noted the managerial news, with Reja staying at Lazio, Ranieri on the outs at Inter and Beretta taking charge at Cesena.

What a day I missed on Sunday.  At lunch I checked the scores and saw that Arsenal had come back from 2-0 down to crush Spurs; United had beaten Norwich late thanks to Giggsy; and that Liverpool was down to Cardiff.  And that was just inEngland.

Zonal Marking looked at the clash of formations and tactical changes made in the second half as the Gunners turned around an open match and ran out 5-2 winners over Spurs at the Emirates.  Huge three points for Arsenal and cements Spurs third place position.

Following the North London Derby was the Carling Cup Final, featuring Liverpool and Cardiff.  It was also the kick off for Mid Michigan United Watch Parties at the Lansing Claddagh, which, from responses I have gotten so far, was a rousing success.  I missed the back and forth of the match and the dramatic (and not well taken) penalties.  Scousers enjoy this second rate trophy next year when you are out of Europe again.

As for Spain, an eventual weekend saw a couple of changes in positions in the top ten and some amazing goals and performances.  I got bored during my Monday meeting at work, so I jotted down some notes.  CR7’s backheel goal, or as my friend Mike called it a donkey kick, won all three points for Real against Rayo. Valencia lost again as their poor 2012 form continues. Malaga got three vital points as they clobbered bottom of the table Zaragoza, while Levante stunned Espanyol. Barcelona beat Atletico Madrid 2-1 in a match that featured three great goals from Alves, Falcao and Messi.

Meg Ryan opened her recap of the Barcelona with this statement: one thing does not have to be questioned any longer — the dedication and strength of this team.  The Blaugrana met an organized, physical opponent, who despite not seeing much of the ball, made things difficult on the visitors.  Another sublime moment from Messi sealed the three points after an intense game which demanded the most of Pep’s men.

Looking ahead to next year (trust me I didn’t pay attention at this meeting) I see it shaping up this way:  Real Madrid will continue to be a strong presence, grinding out maximum points against everyone except Barcelona, who will be in interesting position next year in terms of fitness, depth of squad and motivation.  If Valencia can strengthen their squad and improve consistency in form (and not run over themselves with cars), I could see them pushing FCB for second next season.  Just thinking.

Los Merengues are doing exactly what Barca did last year, going on a long streak of maximum points which ensures a big enough gap for any slips in the second half of season.  Last season the Blaugrana lost early to Hercules and then went unbeaten in 30 some games to create a gap that allowed them to take the foot off the gas in the league and win the Champions League.  Real is in the midst of the same thing.  After their hiccups against Levante and Racing in rounds in 3 and 4 , they have won 19 out of 20, with the only loss coming to FCB.  This season Barcelona has dropped too many points and now the gap is unassailable.

I took a look at Valencia’s form in 2012.  In eight league game thus far, they have only won a single match, drawing four and losing three.  Seven points out 24 is not going to get it done.  In the cup competitions, however, they have five victories out of eight, with a semi-final loss to FCB in the Copa and have made the Round of 16 in the Europa League.  I guess Los Che figure third is a mortal lock so they might as well win a cup.

Sid Lowe reviewed the game between Rayo Vallecano and Real Madrid.  The hosts, loudly and proudly supported by their fans, lost out to a moment of genius, magic, absurdity from CR7, but they will continue on in a one of a kind ground and one of a kind experience.

Phil Ball examined Athletic Bilbao’s season thus far, from their improving league form under Bielsa, their run to Final of the Copa del Rey, and their match up against Manchester United in the next round of Europa League (First Leg March 8 at Old Trafford and Second Leg March 15 at San Mames).  Plus several members of the squad have been chosen for the La Furia Roja friendly and Olympic Team.  Los Leones are trending upward.

Graham Hunter put an excerpt of his book  Barca: The Making of the Greatest Team in the World up at Soccernet, choosing a story of a young Messi disobeying doctor’s orders in order to compete in a Cup Final.

It looks like the Copa del Rey will be in Madridafter all, except that it will be at the Calderon instead of the Bernabeu.  Based on Wikipedia and the Bleacher Report, Athletic Bilbao and FC Barcelona will play on May 25th.  We’ll see.

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Podcasts

The guys on World Football Phone In discussed the Arshavin transfer; the nature of how clubs are run in South America and Europe; Kerrison and Giovanni dos Santos’s positions at FC Barcelona; FCB’s style and thin squad; and third party ownership.

On Men in Blazers, Rog and Mickey recapped the FA Cup 5th round and wondered what can be done to improve the competition.  Plus they looked at the problems atChelsea and Arsenal.

The SI Soccer Roundtable panel examined Klinsmann’s line up for the Italian friendly which includes the possibility of Donovan and Dempsey playing together (foiled by Donovan’s illness) and a Champions League recap.

Dermot Corrigan (@dermotcorrigan) was on the Forza Football pod to discuss La Liga, including newcomers of the year, Barca’s away form and where Bilbao should put their focus this season.

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Jerseys

I saw this post at Football Shirts UK facebook page revealing the possible Barca home kit launch from football fashion FB page.  Simply awful.  A terrible PSG knockoff at best.  I really hope this is not the real deal.

I recently found the site Mao’s Football, and he did a Euro 2012 kits post that includes almost every jersey from each team going toPoland and Ukraine.  Fantastic work.  I’m hoping to put together a full review before tournament.

 

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Morbo Minute–Semi Final Review

In putting this post together I realized that I had an odd dynamic going on.  The competition was down to four teams, with one game a day and I missed most them.  Part of it was due to work and part was due to being sick, but it looks like I missed entertaining games.

Bilbao put a strong side in the first leg and seemed to be cruising at Mirandes, up 2-0 by halftime but the hosts pulled one back and have something to fight for at San Mames.  Did’t see how they could score twice at the Cathedral but they had made it this far.  Turns out they scored twice but gave up six.  I was able to watch the opening quarter an hour or so, by which Los Leones had put the visitors to the sword.  They eventually ran out 6-2 winners on the night and 8-3 on aggregate.  Don’t want to pat myself on the back but I did predict them to make the final.

As for Valencia v Barcelona, Los Che travelled to the Nou Camp with a shot at progressing.  From reports I read on the first leg, FCB woke up in the second half and could have put the tie to bed but a missed penalty and some poor finishing gave Valencia at least a chance.  The second leg kicked off with the Blaugrana fired up and putting Los Che under all sorts of pressure.  Fabregas scored early but the second goal would not come. Valencia were set up for the counter but couldn’t punish FCB.  In the second half, they came out in much better spirits and turned the table on the hosts.  Barca eventually regained control but the decider didn’t come until late through Xavi. Valencia then suffered a second yellow and that was that.

The date and site of the Final still have to be decided.  It depends on Barcelona’s progress in the Champions League.  If they make the Champions League Final, I believe that the Copa del Rey Final will be May 19 or 20, possibly at the Bernabeu.  If they don’t, then I heard that the Final will be May 25.  Whenever it is, should be a great game as the two most successful teams in this competition square off.

Morbo Minute–Copa Quarter Review

Second Leg

I was on the road for work for Tuesday and returned to my hotel to check scores, emails, twitter, etc.  To my shock, I read the following: Mirandes 2 Espanyol 1.  The internet was abuzz with posts and comments re: the surprising progress of the third division team.  Watching the highlights, I was stunned by the stadium, which Chris Clements wrote about on El Centrocampista.

I had picked Espanyol to win, so I was disappointed about that, but you can’t resist the story of Mirandes.  @DirtyTackle posted about club captain and leading scorer Pablo.  How about that?  Good luck against Athletic Bilbao.

Mirandes 2 Espanyol 1           (4-4 on agg; Mirandes progess on away goals rule)  Missed that one on the predictions.

I missed the Athletic Bilbao game, which was the early game on Wednesday, but it looks like they put out a full strength side and progressed thanks to their 2-0 advantage from the first game and own goal in the second leg.  Surely they will overcome Mirandes and make the final.

Real Mallorca 0 Athletic Bilbao 1      (0-3 on agg)  You are correct sir.

Then there was El Clasico part whatever.  What can you say?  Enthralling, dramatic, fantastic stuff.  I was talking to a friend right after the match.  As much as the pendulum is swinging toward kicking Mourinho to the curb, it might swing back on the players.  The Special One got everything spot on—line up, tactics and intensity—and his players didn’t deliver.  Higuain was especially poor on the night, but the team as a whole did not take their chances, FCB did and they move on.

FC Barcelona 2 Real Madrid 2 (4-3 on agg)  Bracket buster.  Had Madrid winning the whole thing.

The final match of the round was Levante hosting Valencia.  Since the visitors were up 4-1 from the first leg, I didn’t even bother making time for this match.  What a mistake.  Just kidding.  Valencia hammered Los Granotes 3-0 to progress to the semis against Barcelona.  Have to give Los Che a fighting chance as Barca are tired and injured.

Levante 0 Valencia 3      (1-7 on agg)  You are correct sir.

My predictions have gone off the rails, so now I’ll just enjoy the tournament for its own sake, and what a competition it has been thus far.

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First Leg

Tuesday was a busy day at work, with plenty to do because I took the end of the week off.  At halftime, I checked the Espanyol v Mirandes score and thought it was a typo as I read that Mirandes was up 1-0.  So I put up the game in the background and watched as Espanyol turned up the pressure on their lower league visitors (third division side who had knocked out Villarreal & Racing according to the twitter) to no avail.  In fact, things actually got worse as Pablo took advantage of a horrible mistake by Amat and scooped the ball over the keeper in a goal worthy of Messi.  The minutes ticked away and it looked like Mirandes were on the verge of a memorable victory but as coaches always say, the game lasts 90 minutes.

Espanyol scored two goals in two minutes to peg back their visitors with four minutes to go.  If that wasn’t enough, Los Pericos scored again in injury time to win the first leg 3-2 against a team dead on their feet at the end.  Mirandes will return home with away goals but will have to manufacture at least one goal to move on.

Espanyol 3 Mirandes 2

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Wednesday was spent trying to get everything done so that I could at keep at least on eye on the tenth El Clasico in 280 some days.  I didn’t watch a minute of Bilbao versus Real Mallorca, but checked the score moments before the big game kicked off and saw that Los Leones won 2-0.  Feel pretty good about their chances to progress.

Athletic Bilbao 2 Real Mallorca 0

As for the Big One, what a game.  As I tweeted to a follower during the match, the game was beyond football—morality play, art, a Greek tragedy.  Real Madrid made a small twist to the game in December, going with a triple pivot but putting CR7, Benzema and Higuain up top.  Seemed like Mou was going for pressure in the defending and middle thirds of the pitch (adding Altintop at RB and Carvalho at CB) with outlets to the superb attacking players.  The plan absolutely worked for the opening goal as Benzema played CR7 into tons of space.  Alves was caught out and a step over created the shooting chance which slid by Pinto.  FCB took charge of the game and were largely frustrated by either Real Madrid defenders, Casillas or the post.

In the second both teams had periods of control and it took a corner kick to move the game forward.  Puyol met the cross with a diving header to equalize early in the half.  With the game delicately balanced, Abidal drifted in to wide space on the left, was spotted by Messi, and chested the ball down before an exquisite outside of the foot finish. AMAZING!!

I missed the last ten minutes of the match, which looked like they were filled with fouls and substitutions.  What a game.  Just when you think Real Madrid will break through, FCB bitch slaps them.

Real Madrid 1 FC Barcelona 2

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I missed Thursday’s match betweenValencia and Levante.  Not enough hours in the day. Valencia took a major step towards a semi against one of the Big Two with a 4-1 thrashing of Levante.

Valencia 4 Levante 1

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Predictions are hanging in there.  Looks like I’ll get three of four right, but if Real Madrid crash out, that pretty much ends my bracket.

Morbo Minute–Copa del Rey Round of 16 review

In my continued effort to get stuck into the La Liga, I analyzed the draw and made predictions from the Round of 16 to the Final.

THURSDAY

The final fixtures of the round of 16 saw Copa del Rey powers Athletic Bilbao and FC Barcelona progress.

After a scoreless draw atAlbacete, Bilbao put the visitors under immediate pressure.  Munain ripped apart the Albacete rearguard with a delightful pass and Susaeta finished with precision.  Los Leones kept up the pressure but could not find the second goal.  After halftime, their dominance paid off as Albacete defended several chances before Ander blasted in from just outside the box.  The breathing space had been created and Bilbao ran out 4-0 winners.  1/1 on predictions.

I was busy watching the United debacle while FCB thrashed Osasuna 4-0 at the Nou Camp in the first leg.  The visitors had been in good form recently but a modified Blaugrana attacked crushed them.  In the second game, Pep started a team filled with youth—Thiago, Fontas,Cuenca, Sergi and Montoya—and Masch got a run as well.  I wasn’t able to watch the match (work, FCB 4-0 up, picking up my son) but followed the game on twitter.  I was saddened to read about Fontas’ injury early in the match.  Looks like his season might be over.  Osasuna took the early lead but the Blaugrana eventually recovered to win 2-1, which sets up two Clasicos in the next two weeks.  2/2 for predictions on the day.

After a slow start, I actually picked six of the eight ties correctly.  Very proud of myself and much better than my March Madness predictions.  Here are the quarterfinal ties:

Athletic Bilbaov Real Mallorca

Mirandes v Espanyol

Winners play each in the semis

Valencia v Levante

Real Madrid v FC Barcelona

Winners play each in the semis

WEDNESDAY

The return legs on Wednesday were full of goals and drama.

Levante came back home down 2-1 but turned it around as Bakero got them off and running and Los Granotes won 4-0 against Alcorcon to progress to the next round.  1/1 on predictions.

Espanyol against Cordoba had to be tie of the round.  I missed an amazing first leg—tons of chances, a Penalty/Red Card for the Espanyol GK/a GK sub/then a GK PK save sequence—which Cordoba eventually won 2-1.  But the second leg was EPIC!!  I kept tabs on the score, so when Espanyol went up early 2-0, I felt pretty confident in their progress.  Even at 3-1, I wasn’t too worried, but then Cordoba scored to make 3-2, which meant they would go through on away goals, so I found a feed and started watching.  Espanyol pressed and pressed and finally got the vital goal just minutes from time to win 4-2 on the night and 5-4 on aggregate.  Amazing noise at the Cornella-El Prat.  2/2!

The final match of the day saw Valencia travel to Sevilla up 1-0 courtesy of a poor clearance from a corner that led to the only goal–a well placed shot from Jonas.  Los Rojiblancos were all over the visitors but couldn’t score as Diego Lopez and Co. kept them out.  A couple of chances from Valencia gave Sevilla pause but they kept searching for the goal.  In the second half, Soldado split the center backs, received a great pass and then coolly finished to put Valencia firmly in control.  At this point I turned it off figured that Los Che would hold on.  Then I checked the score.  Looks like Sevilla scored twice but it wasn’t enough as Valencia progressed to play Levante.  3/3!!

So after two days, of 4 out of 6. Yeah me!!

TUESDAY

The return legs showed that I know nothing, as if you needed proof of that already.  The first game on Tuesday was Mallorca hosting Real Sociedad, with the visitors up 2-0.  In setting up my computer for the last two games of the day, I checked on the score and was confronted with a 6-1 scoreline toMallorca.  I have not read reports and seen highlights but that is quite a battering.  0/1.

Disappointed, I checked in on Racing Santander v Mirandes.  The lower division side had a 2-0 lead from the first leg but by halftime Racing had cut that in half.  I watched most of the second half, with the hosts putting pressure but never seeming to put the visitors in danger.  Then Bernando got sent off for Racing and that was that.  A penalty for Mirandes put the tie beyond reach.  0/2

The last game of the game of the day was Real Madrid travelling to Malaga.  While watching City knockout Liverpool last week, tweets came across my timeline reading Real Madrid 0 Malaga 1 and Real Madrid 0 Malaga 2.  What the what?!?  So I switched over for the second half and was greeted with a triple substitution: Ozil, Benzema and Khedira on; Callejon, Arbeloa and Kaka off.  I watched for about 20 minutes as the Evil Empire absolutely battered Pellegrini’s men.  Khedira finally scored and then an absolutely shambolic backpass let Higuain in to equalize.  I had to leave but later saw that they added a third.  In theory, Malaga could have won 1-0 to advance, but their moment had passed and they were toast. Real came out in the second leg and put this tie to bed early with a strong lineup and then a comedic goal of Taibi for Manchester United proportions. Malaga will now have to focus on the fourth spot in the league, which seems to be wide open if teams would stop tripping over themselves. 1/3  On the board!!


Morbo Minute Bonus–Pep’s Cup Runneth Over

While putting together a post for this year’s Copa del Rey, it occurred to me that Barcelona has had a phenomenal record in this competition since Pep took over. But that was just intuition, so I decided to actually look it up.

In his first year, they progressed through the tournament, never dominating until the final. I remember the semi against Mallorca when Pinto made a great penalty save to ensure progress to the final, which was a masterpiece as FCB won the treble.

Record: seven wins and two draws.

The following year, a surprising home loss to Sevilla in the round of 16 could not be completely overturned. FCB lost at the Nou Camp 2-1 and could only win 1-0 at the Sanchez Pizjuan despite battering the hosts.

Record: three wins and one loss.

Last year saw the Big Two set out to meet each other in the final as Mourinho raised the profile of the competition. The Blaugrana’s toughest test until the final was the Round of 16 tie against Athletic Bilbao. After a scoreless draw in Barcelona, a grueling 1-1 draw at San Mames was enough to progress. After that it was clear sailing, only losing to Real Betis after a 5-0 win had securing their spot in the next round. As for the final, FCB played well but were denied in extra time by a headed goal from CR7, preventing another treble.

Record: five wins, two draws, two losses.

So in three years, Pep’s record is 15 W 4 D 3 L. Not too shabby. This year they will have tough road to the final. They face Osasuna in the round of 16, which should be straightforward but next up is Real Madrid. Don’t fancy their chances. Should they make it through that tie, chances are Valencia would be up next for them. Los Che have given them everything in the last two seasons, and I imagine it would be an classic confrontation. The final could see a rematch of three years ago against Bilbao or a Barcelona Derby against Espanyol. Los Leones would be the much tougher test but FCB will have to get there first.

Morbo Minute–Copa del Rey predictions

The Copa del Rey draw has been released, and the road to the final will be at least mildly taxing for one of the Big Two.

Round of 16:
1. Mirandés – Racing Santander
2. Albacete – Athletic Bilbao
3. Alcorcón – Levante
4. Córdoba – Espanyol
5. Real Sociedad – Real Mallorca
6. Valencia – Sevilla
7. Barcelona – Osasuna
8. Real Madrid – Málaga

1st leg: January 3rd, 4th and 5th
2nd leg: January 10th, 11th and 12th

Quarterfinals:
A. Winner 4 – Winner 1 Córdoba – Espanyol – Mirandés – Racing Santander
B. Winner 8 – Winner 7 Real Madrid – Málaga – Barcelona – Osasuna
C. Winner 6 – Winner 3 Valencia – Sevilla – Alcorcón – Levante
D. Winner 2 – Winner 5 Albacete – Athletic Bilbao – Real Sociedad – Real Mallorca

1st leg: January 18th, 19th
2nd leg: January 25th, 26th

Semi-Finals:
Winner A – Winner D
Córdoba – Espanyol – Mirandés – Racing Santander – Albacete – Athletic Bilbao – Real Sociedad – Real Mallorca
Winner C – Winner B
Valencia – Sevilla – Alcorcón – Levante – Real Madrid – Málaga – Barcelona – Osasuna

1st leg: February 1st, 2nd
2nd leg: February 8th, 9th

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The top half has several Segunda teams and middle of the road Primera teams and will produce at least one supposed minnow in the final. My favorite would Athletic Bilbao out of this group. Assuming Los Leones take care of Albacete, who beat Atleti, they would then get the winner of Real Sociedad and Real Mallorca. I would favor Sociedad based on their home form, which would set up a Basque Derby in the quarters. Their earlier clash in the league was a close affair but it seems as if Bielsea’s men have improved since then. Espanyol have a real chance to progress in this competition, starting off with Cordoba, a tie in which they should be favored. My only concern for Los Periquitos would be their league fixture list which—FCB at home, Sevilla away, Granada at home and Mallorca away—which is a lot of effort in a short period of time. Next up for the Cordoba/Espanyol victor would be the winner of Mirandes and Racing. Racing are in all sorts of crisis off the field, but their performances on the field have at least stabilized. Racing have a ginormous six pointer right after the first leg against Zaragoza and might get caught looking ahead. I see Mirandes having a real chance of causing a mild upset and moving on. Regardless, Espanyol should be able to take care of whoever comes out of that tie, and, for arguments sake, I would go with Espanyol against Athletic in the semis, with Los Leones advancing to the final.

Then there is the bottom half, which includes the current top seven teams in Primera. Valencia against Sevilla should be nail-biting, assuming that Los Rojiblancos show up. Levante should be favored against Alcorcon but not sure that the thin squad can handle two tough games a week as they continue their fight to stay in Champions League positions. Los Granotes have a grueling set of league fixtures—Mallorca (h), Bilbao (a), Zaragoza (h), and Getafe (a)—that puts their progress in the competition in peril. Barcelona should dispose of Osasuna, even with minor injuries and sub strength squads. Real Madrid against Malaga will be tricky because I’m not sure how intense Malaga will be about this trophy, with Pellegrini possibly sacrificing this tie so that his team can start turning their Liga results around to assure European qualification. I predict Valencia v Levante in the quarters, but I have no idea who would win. I would guess Valencia in that match up but again both teams will have to balance league and cup concerns. The second half of January should provide us with two more Clasicos, which I think Real Madrid will take. My guess is that Real will go back to their physical approach and instead of subbing flair players, will sub physical high energy players to keep Barca from passing them to death. Start with Khedira or Lass and then sub the other one in. Maybe even bringing on Coentrao to harass Xavi, Iniesta and Busquets. Real Madrid would take care of Valencia in the semis and that would set up a final against Bilbao. Again, the defending champs would be favored over Bilbao and could win the domestic double.

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