(The following post was written by The Rocky Bracket who'll be hopefully contributing on a regular basis to the blog).
8 PM. Getafe – Barcelona. Coliseum Alfonso Pérez. MESSI IS BENCHED.
Getafe are one of those “I’m from Madrid too” teams, the minnows from the capital that you don’t hear much about - not very strange considering they are constantly overshadowed by their 9-time-European-champion neighbors. They’re a team whose standard position revolves around the mid table. Net spent in summer transfer? €5.4m (Barcelona’s was €33m). Now €5.4m is a hefty amount for a team that usually relies on free transfers and loans (mostly Madrid’s leftovers), and shipping their best players outside the Coliseum to survive financially.
What was their average attendance in 2011-2012 you ask? Below 10,000 fans. If you’ve watched La Liga the last couple of seasons, you’d definitely remember them for donning those really big Burger King logos on their kits – their sponsors. Getafe are supposed to be… you know, average. Except, they’re not.
Los Azulones have that uncanny tendency of making the Big Two drop vital points, in a league where draws are the new defeats and losses are … well, tragedies. Getafe beat Barcelona 1-0 at home last season (one of the Catalans’ only 2 defeats on the road) and Real Madrid 2-1 at the Bernabéu a couple of weeks ago.
The Catalans were expected to struggle against a side that is happy to drop deep for extended periods of time and try to score on the counter. Tito did the unthinkable and benched (!) Messi. Taking his position as a false nine was Fabregas. Reasons behind that decision range from easing Fabregas’ - lately very public - concerns, to containing the ever present FIFA virus by introducing the concept of “Rotations”, a concept unknown to the Camp Nou during the Pep era.
Barcelona dominated from the start but didn’t really get going until Messi was brought on for Thiago in the 58th min. The first goal came courtesy of an Adriano - Adriano! - shot, assisted by Fabregas. Messi still scored a brace. Villa was brought on in with 25 mins left on the clock and scored as well. Getafe had a couple of decent chances, but netted only one, via a deflection off Mascherano. Final score: Getafe 1 - Barcelona 4.
Normal service resumed in La Liga, right? Wrong!
10 PM. Sevilla - Real Madrid. Estadio Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán. 2nd min: LOS BLANCOS DOWN 1-0
And the score would remain the same until the final whistle. In the words of the ever-brilliant Tim Stannard “Does anyone remember the opposition when Real Madrid lose a game? […] Sevilla put in the kind of hard-working, sleeves-rolled up, professional performance against Real Madrid on Saturday that the side has consistently failed to do for the past couple of seasons”. In this writer’s opinion, hard-working, sleeves-rolled doesn’t do them justice. The Andalusians’ performance was aggressive and intense. They ran up and down the pitch as if they were possessed.
For those of you who are not avid followers of the Spanish league, Sevilla were a force to be reckoned with a while back. Their most recent titles include: Copa Del Rey Champions (2006/07 - 2009/10), Spanish Supercup Champions (2007), UEFA cup/ UEFA Europa League Champions (2005/06 - 2006/07) and UEFA Super Cup Champions (2006). The Sevilla teams that won those trophies had an impressive array of players, including Brazilians Luis Fabiano, Renato, Dani Alves, Javi Navarro, and one of the most respected figures at the club, a player Sid Lowe called “probably the best signing in the club's history”, Malian Frederic Kanoute - Freddie who, at 35 and after 7 years in Sevilla, left the club this summer for pastures new in China.
Los Rojiblancos’ league positions in 2010/11 and 2011/12 were 7th and 9th however. Their last two encounters with Madrid at home both ended with Real steamrolling the Sevillistas 6 -2. Sevilla today may not be as “sexy” as they once were, but they boast a number of exciting names, like underrated player Jesus Navas, Real Madrid outcast Alvaro Negredo, goalkeeper Palop (38 years old and still going strong) and a number of new additions like Rakitic, Perotti, Medel and Cicinho.
Back to the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán then and in the 2nd minute Trochowski’s strike puts the hosts up by a goal. Yes, Madrid’s display was awful, but take nothing away from the Andalusians’ performance; Sevilla had a plan and they stuck to it. They isolated Xabi Alonso and took advantage of defensive mistakes in set-pieces. As one blogger put it, “Real Madrid were physically “mourinho-ed by Sevilla”. Tempers flared and Los Blancos were lucky to finish the game with 11 men on the pitch - here’s looking at you Higuain and Di Maria.
12 PM. Final whistle in Sevilla. Final score 1-0. Los Rojiblancos walk away with 3 fully deserved points.
And then, there were 8. Alright then, time for genuine crisis mode in the Capital.