Real had short bursts of brilliance and long spells of undistinguished play for a staccato rhythm that simply felt like a car that couldn’t start up.. It is too early to judge our progress, the season is too young.”
But despite this attacking and midfield fragility it is at defense that the team is hurting most. The bottom line is that this team will continue winning with their formula as long as opponents fail to meet Atleti’s level of intensity and counter their strategic roughness, and as long as the officials maintain their policy of largesse toward Simeone’s players.
Earlier in the day the other Spanish Football contender, Barcelona, beat Athletic Bilbao 2-0 with two wonderful late goals from Neymar abetted by Lionel Messi’s superb form. Cristiano Ronaldo, as was clear from the myriad times he chose not to sprint into space or with the ball on a counter, is not yet at full strength and it speaks volumes for the team when he is still their most effective offensive weapon.
As we noted previously what we are witnessing three fun88 games into the season is this: a Barcelona that is hitting on most cylinders without utilizing all of their options, a Real that is misfiring while not knowing which options to use, and a one-note Atletico that nevertheless succeeds.
Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images
At the post-loss conference Real Madrid coach, Carlo Ancelotti, said: “We need to analyse things and try to fix them fast, but there’s nothing wrong with the system, it’s the lack of intensity. It hasn’t been a good start to the season, but it’s just the start. Barcelona coach, Luis Enrique, pleased with his win still felt “Barcelona have a lot to improve. The new coach has his team humming and his top stars cruising, and Luis Suarez has yet to play for him in La Liga. The Merengues had the edge in possession and defensive mistakes, the Colchoneros played their typical foul-filled match with a dollop of opportunism to boot. He seems to have made all the right moves from whom to bring up from the B team to fill in, to how to deploy a crestfallen Messi who has resurged, to how to pair up an almost recuperated Neymar, to how to keep a nearly Qatar-bound Xavi Hernandez and a much-in-demand Andres Iniesta. All eight players were in the box when the crucial cross came through to Ardan Turan, the second man with a shot at the goal, for the score.
It is early in the season to make any comprehensive long-range predictions off of these three performances, particularly with a good number of teams still to play later today, but some thumbnail sketches are beginning to emerge that seem to presage what may lay in store for at least the first third of the 2014-15 season.
For the second time in three league rounds, the top three contenders played back-to-back games, giving us an opportunity to see how they are rounding out their settling-in periods. No other teams seem ready to contend. In the first Atletico goal scored yesterday it was a blown coverage on a corner that allowed a very close range header to open the score.
At the other end of the spectrum in all but talent-laden rosters, Luis Enrique is enjoying a first-time first-big-team-coach beginner’s honeymoon. He has all the needed pieces to build the most formidable team in the world, but unless he finds the right fit soon he will go down the same path as previous galactico minders who simply could not match talent with performance.
James Rodriguez has not found his comfort zone, Toni Kroos and Luca Modric seem about two paces away from finding a rhythm in what might someday become a great midfield partnership. Gareth Bale seems unable to string together strong back-to-back national team and club team performances as he disappeared for long stretches against Atleti.
Watching from a box seat at the Bernabeu, while serving his suspension for striking a referee, Atletico Madrid coach, Diego Simeone, seemed happy to have but a game to go before the current penalty is fully paid. He continues to be the focal forward reference while consistently missing golden opportunities. Iker Casillas has been powerless to defend against scores that have left him one-on-one with opponents or the recipient of headers from five yards out. Ominously, Enrique also seems to know that, results aside, Barca is not yet hitting on all cylinders. He might yet tinker with the recipe and find a sweeter fit.
Yesterday, visiting Atletico Madrid defeated Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu 2-1. His team, faithfully playing from his so far successful libretto, seems ready to attempt a repeat of last year.
Carlo Ancelotti may have had a golden first year, but with La Decima in the rear view it will be the two remaining years on his contract that will most likely make or break his reputation. That said, one still has the impression that one tweak–a fully-fit Ronaldo pairing up with a settled James while Kroos and Modric jell, an injury to a key Atletico player, or the fusing of the Suarez-Neymar-Messi juggernaut–could change the balance of power within the trio, and thus within Europe.
Replays will similarly show that in the second goal no fewer than three Atleti attackers were better positioned to score than the opposing five Real defenders were positioned to contest. We’ll sort things out.”
At day’s end Barcelona were atop the table with nine points, Atletico were second with seven, and Real were at 12th with but one win and two losses in three matches.
Karim Benzema, the error prone enigma that was a Jose Mourinho pet and now a Zinadine Zidane favorite, keeps deflating the Madrid side more often than he helps them
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