Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Is Real Madrid going the way of Man City?

Is Real Madrid going the way of Man City?
by rick olivares photo by getty images

Disappointing scoreless draw for Real Madrid against Valencia. They dominated possession and had more shots on goal. I am wondering though how they could finish so poorly against Los Che.

I’d credit Valencia for three things – one, answering a Madrid attack with one of their own; two, the compact defending in the middle the moment a Madrid player got within a few yards of the box. The few instances that Madrid got inside whether via one-two passing the volley lacked power or Ronaldo or Benzema clumsily fell. Whether they were trying to get a penalty called in their favor is disappointing. The third reason that allowed Valencia to escape being pulverized by Real Madrid is the fantastic goalkeeping of Vicente Guita Panadero. Even when he was beaten, he had his arms and legs flailing about that a follow up shot by Karim Benzema hit the Valencia keeper’s knee! Incredible.

When Valencia countered, Iker Casillas was also magnificent at goal for Real Madrid. When he was beaten, the cross bar was there for him and he was sure to make his appreciation known.

The ref missed a deliberate handball in the box that should have been called a penalty against Valencia though. That’s three draws in Madrid’s last four fixtures (including back-to-back 1-1 draws with Malaga and Villareal). All of a sudden, I am reminded of that horrible stretch (December 2008-January 2009) where Liverpool drew a bunch of games that allowed Manchester United to come close and overtake them in the standings. And you can actually say the same thing about Manchester City in the English Premier League this season. They were ahead and looked to win it (although it was kind of early to make such a pronouncement) but look at them now. Losing to Arsenal who did the Red Devils a massive favor.

As for Real Madrid, from a robust 10-point advantage over Barcelona following the Catalan club’s loss to Osasuna, Los Merengues are now a mere four points ahead of Lionel Messi and company who thrashed Zaragoza 4-1.

It will be a brutal stretch for Madrid. They played Valencia on Sunday then they will be playing cross-city rivals Atletico Madrid (11-9-11) on Wednesday and you know that that Los Rojiblancos will be up for the El Derbi MadrileƱo more so after losing to Levante, 2-0 at Cuitat de Valencia. And the derby will be at the Vicente Calderon Stadium where there is no love for Real Madrid. The head-to-head match up is 80-31-35 in favor of Los Blancos.

Then on Saturday, they go back to the Bernabeu to play Sporting Gijon (6-7-18). Then the week after they play Barcelona at Camp Nou. Real Madrid cannot afford to drop any points in these next two fixtures if they want to win the La Liga.

When clubs like Real Madrid and Barcelona play, I am reminded of what New York Post columnist Mike Vaccaro says about the New York Yankees, “In a 162-game regular season, the Yankees play 162 Game Sevens.” They are not only battling opponents on the field but also the specter of Barcelona's success and expectation in the Spanish capital. How's that for pressure. While the same can be said for top football sides, Barcelona has handled it well but for Madrid, this brutal stretch all the way to the El Classico will determine who wins La Liga.

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