Thứ Hai, 17 tháng 8, 2015

Real's Benitez seeking balance between defence and attack

In his first season in charge at Real Madrid, Rafa Benitez faces a delicate balancing act between allowing his formidable attack the freedom to perform and preventing opponents exploiting any defensive weakness.

MADRID: In his first season in charge at Real Madrid, Rafa Benitez faces a delicate balancing act between allowing his formidable attack the freedom to perform and preventing opponents exploiting any defensive weakness.

Benitez, who joined Real from Napoli following the sacking of Carlo Ancelotti at the end of last season, has gained a reputation as a defensive coach during stints at clubs including Valencia, Liverpool, Chelsea and Inter Milan.
But with the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema, James Rodriguez and Isco in his ranks, he must satisfy the desire of the demanding Real fans for spectacular attacking football without sacrificing the solidity in midfield and at the back that Real were sometimes missing last term.
Benitez, who trained in the Real academy as a boy and went on to coach the club's youth teams, has returned home to sign a three-year contract but will be well aware that failure to win major silverware in his debut season will not be tolerated.
"I know what the supporters want: good football and victories," Benitez said in an interview with Spanish daily El Pais published on Monday.
"This team scores a lot of goals and has to continue scoring them but we have also conceded them and we have to correct that," added the 55-year-old.
"If I have an offensive team I will go on the attack and if I have to make changes I will make them.
"But what Madrid has to do is score more goals than the opponent and try not to let them score any."
Real begin their latest La Liga campaign at promoted Sporting Gijon on Sunday and will be trying to prevent champions and great rivals Barcelona winning a sixth Spanish title in eight years.
Benitez said some of the keys to Real's tactics will be pressuring opponents high up the pitch and allowing the forwards freedom to switch positions depending on the situation.
"Our idea is to have the ball and know what to do with it," he said. "And when we don't have it, knowing how we are going to get it back and where.
"The team needs to improve in defence but starting up front. That does not mean the forwards need to drop back but that they need to press high to win the ball back as quickly as possible and be closer to the opposition goal."

Sergio Ramos Real Madrid contract: Spanish giants agree new five-year deal for captain

REAL Madrid captain Sergio Ramos has ended speculation surrounding his future by signing a new five-year deal with the Spanish giants, the club confirmed on Monday.
Ramos had been courted by Manchester United during a standoff in negotiations between his representatives and Madrid president Florentino Perez over the Spanish international’s salary with his previous deal set to expire in 2017.
However, the club said in a statement he will remain “tied to the club for the next five seasons.” Both Ramos and Perez will appear at a press conference to mark the renewal at 1:30pm local time at the club’s Santiago Bernabeu stadium.
According to Spanish media reports, Ramos will earn up to 10 million euros (AU$15m) a season.
United and Madrid have been locked in transfer talks all summer with Real still hopeful of landing Ramos’s international teammate David de Gea before the transfer window closes at the end of the month.
Ramos is now Madrid’s longest serving player having signed from Sevilla 10 years ago as a 19-year-old and will be club captain for the first time this season after Iker Casillas’s 18-year career at the Bernabeu came to an end when he joined Porto last month.
Real Madrid's defender Sergio Ramos.
Despite holding an unwanted record as the Madrid player to have seen most red cards in the history of the club with a staggering 19 dismissals, Ramos is a hero among the Real support and is most fondly remembered for scoring the goal that saved Los Blancos from losing the 2014 Champions League final to local rivals Atletico Madrid.
His stoppage time header forced the game into extra-time where the white half of Madrid went onto dominate and run out 4-1 winners to complete his own personal repertoire of honours, which also includes three La Liga titles and two Copa del Reys as well as the World Cup and two European Championships at international level with Spain.
By committing to stay at the Bernabeu, Ramos has offered a huge lift to a Real side in need of a confidence boost ahead of the kick-off to the La Liga campaign next weekend.
Ramos was among a host of high-profile first-team players also including Cristiano Ronaldo and James Rodriguez who showed their discontent at the sacking of Carlo Ancelotti in May.
The appointment of Rafael Benitez as Ancelotti’s successor was met with scepticism by the vast majority of the club’s fans and Perez has unusually decided against the lavish signing of a “galactico” this summer, instead settling for a deeper and younger squad.
However, without the injured Ronaldo, Benitez’s men have struggled in pre-season, failing to score in four of their seven friendlies so far.
Madrid begin their league campaign away to newly promoted Sporting Gijon on August 23.

Chủ Nhật, 2 tháng 8, 2015

Awaiting James with open arms

Awaiting James with open arms
Rafa Benítez is missing a single piece from his puzzle, a key one that will boost the whole team once fitted into place.
James Rodríguez has just celebrated his one-year anniversary at the club, during which he has become a pivotal member of the team to the extent that the Real Madrid side competing in China will bear little resemblance to next season's until the Colombian touches down.
James will be the last player to report for pre-season and the final component of Benítez's starting eleven, barring any possible new signings. The 24 year old is capable of playing in several positions: he can boost the attack during barren spells and protect the defence when under pressure. The left-footed player will be the team's transformer who will put Benítez's intentions into practice and ensure they constantly play with the appropriate style.
Both Benítez and the club know that James must be one of the symbols of the team. His performance in his debut season was worthy of praise as his ability and productivity on the pitch correspond with what he achieves off it. The Colombian has become a money-making machine for 'Los Blancos', especially in South America, where the club did not previously enjoy a dominant position.
Although the transfer fee paid to Monaco was above James's market value at the time, the deal became profitable within a few months to the point where his worth has already reached the €80 million that Real Madrid paid for him.
The midfielder is yet to sport a club training kit so far this season, but that does not mean he has neglected his physical shape in any way. His new coach is already impressed with his professionalism and is said to be counting down the hours until James will be available.
Both supporters and club management were delighted with the player's first season in Madrid and are excited to see him return to action. 'Los Merengues' know they have a gem in their grasp, one that could be for life. The Real Madrid number 10 only recently turned 24, meaning he still has his best years ahead of him. There is now not long to go until the Colombian can meet his new coach in person and look to build on his impressive CV.

My best friend's wedding

My best friend's weddingToday is a day of celebration for Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo.

Ronaldo's agent Jorge Mendes and his partner, Sandra Barbosa, are tying the knot at the São João Baptista church, located in Foz, an affluent residential part of Porto. The forward will serve as the best man for the ceremony, which will be attended by 400 people.

Where the reception is concerned, the couple have chosen the facilities at the Serralves Foundation, one of Portugal's most prestigious museums. The most important agent in the football world has forked out almost €100,000 to rent the gardens at the foundation and have them completely closed off to the public eye, so that the legion of guests can enjoy the event in total privacy without worrying about the paparazzi.

Mendes is one of the richest men in Portugal, with a fortune believed to be in excess of €100 million. Small wonder, then, that the power broker has spared no expense on his second nuptials.

The 49-year-old and Barbosa, who have three children together, are getting married at the altar having previously wed in a civil ceremony in 2005.

Cristiano is not expected to be the only Mendes client in attendance, not by a long shot: the likes of James Rodríguez, Pepe, Radamel Falcao, José Mourinho and Jorge Jesus are all on the guest list. Other leading football personalities invited include Florentino Pérez, Roman Abramovich, Peter Lim and Joan Laporta.

Real Madrid vs AC Milan, International Champions Cup: 3 things to watch for

After beating Inter Milan last Monday, Real Madrid will play its last game in China against the rossoneri from AC Milan to try and conquer the Chinese edition of the International Champions Cup. The full roster is available for this game and, since James Rodríguez has had enough training since his arrival, it is the first chance for Rafa Benítez to configure a lineup without any restriction.
Three things to watch for:
  1. Will we see a different system? In the previous three games, Real Madrid base system was a 4-2-3-1, that evolved into a 4-4-1-1 or a 4-4-2 in certain moments of the game. However, the rumors about Rafa Benítez not being totally fond of Karim Benzema and the recent incorporation of James Rodríguez suggest that we could see a pure 4-4-2 tomorrow, with Ronaldo and Bale upfront, and Isco and James on the wings. We will see.
  2. Does Real Madrid need a new left-back? Marcelo has been a starter in the previous three games of the pre-season, and is the only player in the roster that does not have a clear backup (Coentrao stayed in Madrid with another injury to add to his long list and is claimed to be leaving Real Madrid soon, while Arbeloa and Nacho are not serious options). Perhaps it is time to see whether Denis Cheryshev can perform as a left-back before deciding if a new one is needed.
  3. Is Jesé ready to be important for Real Madrid? Big Flow left an extraordinary performance and a magnificent goal against Inter Milan on Monday, which proves he has enough talent to be a fantastic bench player for Real Madrid, but Los Blancosneed him to be consistent as well. For a player of his type, it is hard to deliver when you don't have many minutes, but Rafa Benítez's rotation policy should suffice for Jesé to show what he is able to do and to be a determining factor for Real Madrid this season.

Isco vs James: let the battle recommence

Isco vs James: let the battle recommence

Competition comes with the territory in all walks of life and, in the football world, benefits the team and fans alike. James Rodríguez and Isco are vying for a single spot in Rafa Benítez's Real Madrid side, and the pre-season action has made it clear that when the shoe is not on one foot, it is on the other.

With the BBC in place, there is only room for three midfielders, two of whom - Luka Modric and Toni Kroos - look nailed-on starters. James appears to be slightly ahead in the pecking order, but Isco is gunning to raise his game and win over his new coach.

The stats from last season make interesting reading. The Spaniard actually made more appearances (53 to the Colombian's 46), although it must be remembered that both James and Gareth Bale had spells on the sidelines, which opened the doors to the former Málaga man. Where minutes are concerned, there isn't much in it: James clocked up 3,507 to Isco's 3,755.

Such healthy competition is par for the course at a club as demanding as Real Madrid. Karim Benzema's battle with Gonzalo Higuaín and Fábio Coentrão's challenge to Marcelo are just two recent examples of positions where players have had to earn their berth. Isco is well aware of James's ability, but is hopeful that he can play an important role under Benítez, a coach famed for his love of rotation.

Why 4-2-3-1 Should Be Go-to Formation for Rafa Benitez's Real Madrid in 2015-16

Why 4-2-3-1 Should Be Go-to Formation for Rafa Benitez's Real Madrid in 2015-16 
It was an image designed to stir optimism, Real Madrid using the most modern of methods to convey a message, an idea. On June 3, the club took to its official Twitter account to communicate its news that Rafa Benitez had been appointed as manager, releasing a graphic of the Spaniard that, in essence, attempted to explain why he'd been hired. 
Accompanied by trophies and the names of his previous stops was a side-on picture of his head. Splashed across it were tactical diagrams; all Xs and Os, dotted lines, bending arrows and the outline of a formation. The intended message was obvious: Real Madrid had signed the tactical mind they needed. 
Naturally, the cynics will argue Benitez isn't the man Real wanted, but simply the only man Real could get. The optimists, meanwhile, might feel that, while he's far from perfect, his intense, strong-willed approach will address one of the club's shortcomings last term: a lack of systematic balance. And they have a point. 
Under Carlo Ancelotti last season, a campaign that commenced so brightly burned out steadily. Pinpointing exactly where it went wrong is difficult; the contributing factors were heavily intertwined, issues such as key injures, fatigue, a lack of rotation, a skewed squad balance and a gradual evaporation of chemistry all unfolding concurrently. What started the rot? Which factor came first? Did the fatigue cause the injuries or did injuries cause the fatigue? The questions are the chicken-and-egg sort. 
However, if you examine Real Madrid's unravelling in 2014-15 from a broader perspective, the club's problems stemmed from an over-reliance on sheer talent and the neglect of sound footballing principles. Consider Ancelotti's 4-3-3 formation: The system was spearheaded by three superstar forwards, a trio backed-up by three more attacking talents in midfield. 
At its best, such a lineup was jaw-dropping, oozing flair, power and swagger in an attacking cocktail that prompted this writer to ask whether Ancelotti's team might redefine the way we perceive systematic and positional balance. At the time, the possibilities felt endless. But realities quickly kicked in.  
Instead of changing our view of the principles underpinning success, what Los Blancos had stumbled upon was a recipe of tiny margins: At 100 percent it was remarkable; at 99 percent it didn't work. With a balance that was all too precarious, Madrid didn't have any wriggle room—room for error. Either they were devastating or devastated, a plethora of performances sitting at either end of the spectrum but with little in between.
Think of the contrast between the outings against Liverpool andSchalke; Granada and Real Sociedad; Barcelona (the first time) and Atletico Madrid. There was a boom-or-bust feel to it all by the end. 
Essentially, it's that broad theme that Benitez needs to change. He needs to take this Real Madrid outfit away from the fine-tuning perils of a Formula One car and more toward the greater reliability of an all-rounder. His formation will be central to that. 
A strong advocate of the 4-2-3-1, Benitez will look to add a greater sense of two-way commitment at the Bernabeu, striving for a balance between defence and attack that was absent at various junctures last term. Certainly, his history as a defensive schemer has many doubting his ability to oversee the fluid attacking machine the club craves, but there are two important points to consider here: First, encouraging signs have existed thus far in pre-season, and second, this is a Real Madrid outfit that doesn't need help to score. 
This is a team that possesses Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, KarimBenzema and James Rodriguez; a team that was the most prolific in Europe last season; a team that put together scorelines of 9-1, 8-2 and 7-3. Benitez can trust he already has the firepower; Real Madrid aren't an outfit needing attacking improvements. Instead, it's going the other way that remains the point of focus. 
In that regard, the 55-year-old's characteristic 4-2-3-1 makes a lot of sense. Behind a sparkling attacking quartet, the presence of a two-man midfield pivot should add a dash of conservatism to the XI, Benitez's only choice being whom he chooses to deploy there. 
In primary consideration will be Toni Kroos and Luka Modric, the silky pairing who were often present for Real's best football last season. In a sense, their partnership in a 4-2-3-1 would be similar to the one they formed in the 4-4-2 Ancelotti switched to at times in 2014-15. So why not use that?
Essentially, such a shape forces Bale into a peripheral existence, shunting him to the side of a four-man midfield and quelling his goal threat. Having cost €100 million, Bale can't be that sort of afterthought, and president Florentino Perez will make sure he isn't. 
Thus, the 4-2-3-1 is the obvious system to turn to after the demise of a 4-3-3 that needed the gut-busting running of Angel Di Maria and the positional awareness of Xabi Alonso to function optimally. It's also a system that provides natural positions for Real's supporting cast: Iscois a born-and-bred No. 10, Casemiro and Asier Illarramendi will plug nicely into the midfield pivot to add a defensive edge, Lucas Vazquez and Denis Cheryshev are neat fits for the wide berths and Jese looks an appropriate understudy for Benzema up front.
Benitez's favoured system, therefore, looks to be conveniently suitable for his latest club, catering to both the squad's composition and the team's primary need. After a 4-3-3 that was dynamic but fragile, explosive but ultimately flawed, the Spaniard's 4-2-3-1 can help to bring a sense of balance to a side that has lacked that very commodity. 
The idea will be to give Real Madrid some margin for error, to minimise the difference between Los Blancos' best and worst. For Benitez will know that all Real's firepower needs is a complementary dose of sound footballing principles—the sort their previous system threatened to redefine but only ended up proving.