Posts Tagged ‘Jose Mourinho’
“MANCHESTER — Cristiano Ronaldo scored the decisive goal as Real Madrid controversially came from behind to win 2-1 at Manchester United on Tuesday and reach the Champions League quarter-finals.”
“As the major continental leagues resume following the winter break – Serie A and La Liga returned to action over the weekend, with Ligue 1 and the Bundesliga set to follow suit in the next fortnight - Pitchside Europe looks at 10 issues that will help determine the balance of power across the European mainland in the 12 months ahead.”
This week’s Pitchside Europe column for Eurosport, which looks at Real Madrid’s quest to topple Barcelona, Juventus’ bid to prolong their unbeaten run and Borussia Dortmund’s emergence as enduring rivals to Bayern Munich, can be found here.
“The statistics over the last two seasons add weight to the theory that Ronaldo is more inclined to adopt the role of a creator – and suppress his own goalscoring instincts – when Higuaín is in the team. Since the start of the 2009-10 campaign, Ronaldo has started 39 league games alongside Higuaín, scoring 40 goals at a rate of 1.03 per game. Over the same period, Ronaldo’s goals-per-game ratio when he starts alongside Benzema is slightly higher, at 1.125. The assist figures tell a similar story. With Benzema next to him at kick-off, Ronaldo produces an average of 0.25 assists per match. Alongside Higuaín, that figure climbs to 0.41.”
This week’s Pitchside Europe column for Eurosport can be read here.
In the endlessly self-mythologising Premier League, it was perhaps inevitable that a visit to Stoke City’s Britannia Stadium would be cast as the sporting equivalent of the descent into Hades. It is a place, we are told, where madness and brutality reign, where identities are called into question, reputations torns to shreds, and from which only heroes emerge unscathed.
The Britannia is clearly a foreboding place for opposition teams to visit, but Tony Pulis’ side have also come to represent a pan-European vision of the most rugged extremes of English football. Andy Gray attracted widespread scorn for wondering aloud how Barcelona would handle Rory Delap’s long throws, while Rennes coach Frédéric Antonetti rebuked critics of his side’s patient approach play last season by fuming: “If you want to see us play like Stoke City, you’ll have to change coach.”
If Stoke have become a modern byword for direct, no-nonsense football, it is certainly borne out by the statistics. In the 0-0 draw at home to Chelsea last Sunday, the hosts saw just 34 percent of possession. They averaged 38 percent of possession across the whole of last season, and their pass completion rate in the opposition half of 56 percent was the lowest in the division. This Stoke side may have given their supporters mid-table stability and a first ever FA Cup final appearance, but they have not done it with the ball at their feet.
To accuse Pulis of wilful brutishness, however, is to overlook the fact that physical robustness is a fundamental prerequisite to success in the Premier League. You only have to look at the way that José Mourinho went about spending Roman Abramovich’s billions at Chelsea, or the way Roberto Mancini is constructing the current Manchester City side, to recognise that there is nothing perverse about Stoke’s approach.
“LYON, France — Karim Benzema scored against his former club Lyon to earn Real Madrid a 1-1 draw here on Tuesday that puts them in a strong position to reach the Champions League quarter-finals.”
My AFP match report can be read here.
In January this year, Football Further examined the first few months of Manuel Pellegrini’s stint as Real Madrid coach and discovered that he fielded 16 different midfield and attack configurations in his first 16 league matches. Pellegrini’s time at Real ended in disappointment – despite phenomenal success in the goalscoring department – and a look at how his successor, José Mourinho, has approached team selection in the early weeks of his tenure reveals a very different style.
Where Pellegrini chopped and changed (unaided, it must be said, by injuries to key players), Mourinho quickly settled on a first-choice XI and has sought to deploy it at every available opportunity. Below are the midfield/attack combinations that Mourinho has used in the league this season, in the order in which they have appeared:
1. Xabi Alonso, Lassana Diarra; Ángel di María, Sergio Canales, Cristiano Ronaldo; Gonzalo Higuaín (0-0 v Mallorca, a)
2. Alonso, Sami Khedira; Karim Benzema, Mesut Özil, Ronaldo; Higuaín (1-0 v Osasuna, h)
3. Alonso, Khedira; di María, Özil, Ronaldo; Higuaín (2-1 v Real Sociedad, a)
4. Alonso, L. Diarra; di María, Özil, Ronaldo; Higuaín (3-0 v Espanyol, h)
5. Alonso, Khedira; di María, Özil, Ronaldo; Higuaín (0-0 v Levante, a)
6. Alonso, Khedira; di María, Özil, Ronaldo; Higuaín (6-1 v Deportivo, h)
7. Alonso, Khedira; di María, Özil, Ronaldo; Higuaín (4-1 v Malaga, a)
8. Alonso, Khedira; di María, Özil, Ronaldo; Higuaín (6-1 v Racing Santander, h)
9. Alonso, Khedira; di María, Özil, Ronaldo; Higuaín (3-1 v Hercules, a)
10. Alonso, Khedira; di María, Özil, Ronaldo; Higuaín (2-0 v Atlético, h)
11. Alonso, Khedira; di María, Özil, Ronaldo; Higuaín (1-0 v Sporting Gijon, a)
12. Alonso, Khedira; di María, Özil, Ronaldo; Higuaín (5-1 v Athletic Bilbao, h)
13. Alonso, Khedira; di María, Özil, Ronaldo; Benzema (0-5 v Barcelona, a)
The consistency is striking. Prior to Real’s humiliation at Barcelona on Monday night, Mourinho had aligned the same six players in midfield and attack for eight successive games, and had Higuaín not sustained a back muscle injury prior to the trip to Camp Nou, it is certain that that statistic would have been extended to nine games.
A bite-size round-up of the week’s events in French football, for anyone who wants to keep up with what’s happening in Ligue 1 but hasn’t got the time (or the French) to do so.
Torrential downpours in southern France prompted the postponement of two matches over the weekend, and when the skies finally cleared the unlikely team sitting on top of the table was Brest.
Marseille’s game at home to previous leaders Rennes appeared to represent OM’s chance to recapture top spot for the first time since the end of last season, but incessant rain saw the match at Stade Vélodrome pushed back from Saturday until Sunday and then postponed definitively when the poor weather continued.
It handed Brest and Saint-Etienne the chance to climb to the summit and it was last season’s Ligue 2 runners-up who prevailed when the sides met at Stade Francis Le Blé, through a 77th-minute Mario Licka header and a sublime chip (see below) from Romain Poyet.
Brest lead the table by two points from Rennes, with Marseille, Saint-Etienne, Toulouse and Montpellier a point further back. Toulouse and Montpellier were both held to 1-1 draws at home; the former against second-bottom Lens, the latter against Paris Saint-Germain. Lyon, meanwhile, bounced back from their League Cup exit to PSG with a laboured 2-1 win at home to Sochaux that bumped them into the top half.
Bordeaux drew 2-2 at Monaco on Tuesday, after Djimi Traoré had reprised the comedy own goal act from his Liverpool days to give the away side a 10th-minute lead. Jean Tigana’s men remain ninth, but on Thursday night Les Girondins‘ captain Alou Diarra had his ban for pushing referee Wilfried Bien extended by three matches.
The build-up to the season’s first PSG-OM clash on Sunday took another twist in classically bureaucratic French style, with the ban on Marseille’s fans reinstated by the league after it had been suspended by an administrative court last week. With Brest travelling to Lille and Rennes at home to Lyon, victory could yet take Marseille top.
As the latest batch of world-class international players joined the assembly line at the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu over the summer, speculation quickly turned to how José Mourinho would attempt to shape his talent-packed Real Madrid squad into a cohesive team. Two games into the La Liga campaign, his strategy is gradually beginning to emerge.
The diagram below, a screenshot from ESPN Soccernet, shows the average positions of Real’s players during the 1-0 victory at home to Osasuna on Saturday*:
[Squad numbers: 1. Iker Casillas; 4. Sergio Ramos, 3. Pepe, 2. Ricardo Carvalho, 12. Marcelo; 24. Sami Khedira, 14. Xabi Alonso; 9. Karim Benzema, 23. Mesut Özil, 20. Gonzalo Higuaín, 7. Cristiano Ronaldo; Substitutes: 11. Esteban Granero, 21. Pedro León]
Hot on the heels of the Goals of the Season, we move on to the Football Further European Team of the Season. As in any decent dream team this side is strongly, perhaps even foolishly, oriented towards attack.
Goalkeeper: Hugo Lloris (Lyon)
Lyon have not had a great season by their recent standards – despite reaching the last four of the Champions League for the first time in their history – but Lloris’s performances in both Ligue 1 and Europe have elevated him to the position of Europe’s best up-and-coming goalkeeper. He was the difference between the sides in Lyon’s Champions League quarter-final win over Bordeaux thanks to some stunning reaction saves and a move to a top-rank European club cannot be far away.
Right-back: Maicon (Inter)
The world’s best full-back has added spectacular goals to his trade and continues to be one of Inter’s most potent attacking weapons. His juggle-and-volley goal against Juventus will live long in the memory but his strike in the 3-2 win at Udinese, when he started a move inside his own half and finished it with a crashing volley off the crossbar, was every bit as delicious.
Centre-back: Gerard Piqué (Barcelona)
Has developed into probably the finest ball-playing centre-back on the continent. The awareness and sangfroid he showed to spin Inter goalkeeper Julio César and finish into an empty net in the dying minutes of Barca’s Champions League semi-final defeat to Inter was worthy of the world’s top strikers.
When it comes to surviving in the latter stages of the Champions League, it seems versatility is the key to vitality. One of the most notable things about the four sides that have made it to this season’s semi-finals is that all four have, to a greater or lesser extent, deployed formations and tactical systems that they do not use in domestic competition in order to reach the last four.
Defending champions Barcelona romped to an unprecedented six-trophy haul last year using a fairly classic 4-3-3 system that featured three narrow central midfielders and two goalscoring wingers (Thierry Henry on the left, Lionel Messi on the right) either side of a central forward (Samuel Eto’o).
This season, however, their shape has morphed into an assymetrical 4-3-3 that more closely resembles a 4-2-4. Messi has abandoned the right flank in order to occupy a roaming central role, from which he wreaked such havoc in Barça’s 6-2 humiliation of Real Madrid towards the tail-end of last season and the 2-0 Champions League final victory over Manchester United last May.
“Last year we won six titles and he played wide but we need him involved and sometimes he sees more of the ball when he plays more in the centre,” said coach Pep Guardiola after the 4-0 demolition of Stuttgart in the second leg of their last-16 encounter.
Messi’s place on the right flank has been taken by Barcelona B graduate Pedro Rodríguez – himself a capable goalscorer – with Bojan Krkić playing as the central striker in Zlatan Ibrahimović’s absence in the 4-1 quarter-final second leg win against Arsenal last week (right).
Seydou Keita, a goalscoring carillero in La Liga, plays almost as an orthodox left-midfielder, with both he and Pedro instructed to put pressure on the opposition’s full-backs when they lose possession. The attacking instincts of right-back Dani Alves allow Pedro to abandon the right flank when Barça go forward, with Messi also drifting into his former role on the right from time to time.
Internazionale, who will meet the La Liga leaders for a place in the final, have exchanged their 4-3-1-2 standard Serie A shape for a 4-2-3-1 that accommodates playmaker Wesley Sneijder and three strikers in the form of Goran Pandev, Samuel Eto’o and Diego Milito.