Real look CR9 dependent as Sevilla heed cry for challengers
One swallow does not make a summer, but Sevilla’s bristling 2-1 victory over Real Madrid on Sunday offers hope that the answer to the question posed in Thursday’s blog is ‘no’.
Three teams can challenge for the La Liga title this year.
Manolo Jimenez’s side inflicted a first defeat on Real with a vibrant, attacking display that was reminiscent of their performances under Juande Ramos when they won back-to-back UEFA Cups.
Sevilla are now level on 15 points with Real, though third due to their inferior goal difference. Barcelona are top with 18 points from six games.
Wingers Jesus Navas and Diego Perotti did the damage at the Sanchez Pizjuan, truly testing Real Madrid’s defence for the first time this season, but it was a strong all-round team performance.
They have strength in depth, are solid at the back and club president Jose Maria del Nido boasts: “the best strike force in Europe” with Frederic Kanoute, Luis Fabiano and Alvaro Negredo. They have now won seven on the trot in all competitions.
Real were without top scorer Cristiano Ronaldo due to an ankle strain, but it was the absence of first choice left back Alvaro Arbeloa that may have been more telling as Navas made a fool of his replacement Marcelo.
Once again, Real lacked fluidity in their play and it was the familiar figure of Iker Casillas who was their outstanding player, pulling off a couple of magnificent saves.
“Real reveal their shortcomings in the first serious test of the year. They have CR9 dependency. They continue to rely excessively on their stars,” Marca wrote on Monday.
Barcelona remain unbeaten after shaking off Almeria 1-0, but the Andalucians made life extremely difficult for them at the Nou Camp with their man-marking of midfield creators Xavi and Andres Iniesta.
“It wasn’t marking, it was an obsession,” Xavi said of Almeria midfielder Chico’s work on Saturday. “All he did was watch me. I felt very important. I told him ‘Why don’t you go and mark Messi?’”
It may not be pretty but it was effective, and as Espanyol and Chelsea showed last year an asphyxiating pressure on the midfield can throw Barca off their game.
“I hope it is a blueprint for a way to play against a team as powerful as Barcelona. I hope they respect my patent,” Almeria coach Hugo Sanchez said.
After six rounds of matches, La Liga could be about to get a bit more interesting with both Real and Barca showing chinks in their armour. Maybe it won’t be the most boring league in Europe after all…
PHOTO: Real Madrid’s Kaka (top) falls over Sevilla’s Didier Zokora during their Spanish First Division soccer match at Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan stadium in Seville October 4, 2009. REUTERS/Marcelo del Pozo