Tag Archives: Mesut Ozil

Premier League, Week 34 Game of the Week

20 Apr

Recap: Chelsea beat Manchester United by a dull score of 1-0, thanks to a goal in the 1st half by Eden Hazard. Chelsea “did what it had to do to win”, playing a very defensive 2nd half and limiting the Red Devils’ attack.

This Week:

Chelsea FC vs Arsenal FC

Chelsea FC vs Arsenal FC

Sunday, April 26th, 10am CDT, Emirates Stadium

Why this Game is Intriguing: Because these two clubs are not only the best two clubs in London, but the best two clubs in English football. Chelsea has just about sealed their fate as the winners of the Premier League, as they currently lead the 2nd place Gunners by 10 points. Even with a Chelsea loss here, it’s hard to imagine the Blues dropping points against some of the remaining opponents on their schedule, including Leicester City, Crystal Palace, West Brom, and Sunderland. Coupled with the fact that Chelsea has been knocked out of the Champions League and FA Cup, these remaining matches after the Arsenal game will be taken incredibly seriously by Jose Mourinho and company. Chelsea has a way of creating a wall (or as many call it, a bus) in front of their own final third, and it will be incredibly difficult for Arsenal to have its chances.

Other Reasons to Watch: Arsenal is gunning for 2nd place. While the Gunners have all but secured another top 4 finish and Champions League bid, they remain just 1 point ahead of 3rd place Manchester United, and 2 points ahead of 4th place Manchester City. Arsenal have had a fantastic season despite major, long term injuries to key players including Mesut Ozil, Aaron Ramsey, Olivier Giroud, the Ox, Jack Wilshire, and more. Arsenal would hate to finish 4th, because that would mean that they would have a play-in series, and thus 2 more key games to even qualify for the Champions League group stage. While it is impossible for the Gunners to overcome Chelsea in the standings, a victory over the Blues, and a victory for Arsene Wenger over arch nemesis Jose Mourinho, would do wonders for the pride in red based in North London.

Prediction: This one remains tight, and low scoring. I’ll go with 1-1 draw.

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English Premier League, Week 31, Game of the Week

17 Mar

Recap: I thought that the magic of White Hart Lane would be enough to catapult the Yids to a victory over their North London counterparts Arsenal. Unfortunately for them, it was Tomas Rosicky’s goal just a minute in a half into the match that was enough to seal the deal for the Gunners. The goal was class, but Spurs ought to be disappointed with their missed chances, particularly in the 2nd half.

This Week:

Chelsea FC vs Arsenal FC

Chelsea FC vs Arsenal FC

Saturday, March 22nd, 7:45am (CDT) Stamford Bridge

Why This Game is Intriguing: Because this match features 2 clubs from London who are 1st and 3rd in the Premier League standings. 1st place Chelsea is coming off a 0-1 loss to Aston Villa in Birmingham this past week, while Arsenal is flying high after beating their hated North London rivals. Not only is Chelsea coming off of a loss, but Chelsea also must play Galatasaray at home this week as they look to fend off the Turkish champs in order to advance to the round of 8 in the Champions League. Chelsea has a lot on their plate, but Arsenal still must compete in order to ensure themselves of a top 4 finish.

Other Reasons to Watch this Game: Because this game features arguably the most gifted attacking player in the league (Chelsea’s Eden Hazard) vs the best defensive player in the league (Arsenal’s Per Mertesacker). While some may label Eden Hazard as slightly overrated, I definitely don’t, as his 13 goals and 7 assists lead this 1st place Chelsea team. Is he as good as Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo?- frankly he isn’t in that conversation- but his production, consistency, and creative flair in attack are the reason why Chelsea finds itself in the position they are currently in. Anyone who has watched an Arsenal game this year will tell you that Per Mertesacker is the Gunners’ most consistent and important player. With injuries to key players Theo Walcott, Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Ozil, and Jack Wilshire this season- it has been Mertesacker who has been standing tall in front of goal the entire season- largely unscathed.

Soccahaus Prediction: Chelsea 3, Arsenal 1

Other Games this week worth Watching: Manchester City vs Fulham, Cardiff vs Liverpool, Everton vs Swansea, West Ham vs Manchester United, Tottenham vs Southampton

La Liga, Week 11 Game of the Week

8 Nov

Recap of Last Week: I must have jinxed Atletico Madrid, as last week was the first time in soccahaus I wrote about 2nd place Atletico in a La Liga Game of the Week Preview. Atletico, along with their superstar Radamal Falcao, were shut out at Valencia’s Mestalla Stadium. Valencia won 2-0 behind goals by Roberto Soldado (20′) and Nelson Valdez (90′).

This Week: 

Levante UD vs Real Madrid CF

Sunday, November 11, 2:30 PM (CST), Ciutat de Valencia

Why This Game is Intriguing: Because both of these teams have continued to climb the La Liga standings consistently over the past several games. Levante has not lost a single game since September 15th at Malaga. Levante’s Obafemi Martins has 4 goals already to his name, while several of his teammates have contributed assists to the 6th placed La Liga club. With Atletico Madrid losing for the first time last week all season, Real Madrid still remains in 3rd place in La Liga but has closed the gap.

Other Reasons to Watch This Game: Real Madrid received a major confidence boost in their draw to Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League. While a victory would have clearly been the better result, Borussia Dortmund has been playing like one of the top clubs in the world. Mesut Ozil walks away from that game flying high as his game tying goal in the waning minutes gave Real Madrid the result they needed. With that goal and with his first assist of the season in the preceding score headed in by Pepe, Mesut Ozil finally resembled the player he once was just last season. With Borussia Dortmund behind them, and with Mesut Ozil’s surging confidence, Real Madrid is ready to get back to work in La Liga. Levante hasn’t played any of the top clubs in Spain just yet. A home game against Real Madrid should remind them just how inferior they are relative to the teams ahead of them in La Liga.

Soccahaus Prediction: Real Madrid 5, Levante 1

Other Games This Week Worth Watching: Real Betis vs Granada, Rayo vs Celta Vigo, Malaga vs Real Sociedad, Valladolid vs Valencia, Athletic Bilbao vs Sevilla, Mallorca vs FC Barcelona, Atletico Madrid vs Getafe

My Prediction for Real Madrid’s Starting XI for the 2012/13 Season

1 Aug

With so much still up in the air during this transfer window, it is hard to predict what Real Madrid’s roster will look like, let alone decide on a starting lineup. With last season’s record breaking La Liga performance, expect few changes to Jose Mourinho’s rotation. Real Madrid are still hoping to successfully obtain Luka Modric from Tottenham Hotspur, and the latest rumors surround Los Blancos’ potential signing of Fulham FC’s Moussa Dembele.

Using Mourinho’s tactical preference of a 4-2-3-1, here is my prediction for Real Madrid’s starting lineup for their first game against Valencia, August 18th, 2012:

Goal Keeper: Iker Casillas. The most obvious and easiest prediction to make, Casillas is known as one of, if not the best goal keepers in the world, and possibly of all time. He has won every major trophy there is to win as captain of both Real Madrid and the Spanish National Team. He has played in over 450 games as a Real Madrid player, and has started more games than anyone in the history of the Spanish National Team. At 31 years old and with plenty still left in the tank, it will be exciting to see King Iker continue to lead his team through the rigorous La Liga and Champions League tests.

Left Back: Marcelo. Marcelo is an uber-talented left back with a vast array of skills and athleticism. He has been dubbed the next Roberto Carlos by Carlos himself, and even Carlos has admitted that Marcelo has a wider range of offensive talents. Often playing alongside Cristiano Ronaldo on the left flank, Marcelo maintains a close friendship with the world superstar. In the last 2 seasons, Marcelo has appeared in 64 games, scoring 6 goals and assisting on 18 (14 last season). At 24 years of age, the Brazilian is approaching his prime, and will only get better with more experience.

Center Back: Sergio Ramos.One of the tactical highlights of last season was watching Sergio Ramos’ seamless transition from right back to center (his natural position). After veteran Ricardo Carvalho went down with an injury, Mourinho slid Ramos over next to Pepe, and replaced Ramos with Alvaro Arbeloa. Sergio Ramos has a wealth of international experience starting every game in the 2010 World Cup and the 2012 Euro Cup. Since Ramos came to Los Blancos from Sevilla in 2005, the back has 230 appearances and has been an anchor along the back line. The fearless defender is only 26 years old, and is continuing to improve each and every season. Ramos has been and will continue to be a staple in the Real Madrid lineup. His ability to play multiple defensive positions makes him one of Real’s most valuable players.

Center Back: Pepe. Every team needs an enforcer, someone who will do everything necessary to both physically and mentally gain an edge on the opponent. Pepe clearly provides that spark, but is much, much more than that on the field. Pepe has excellent defensive instincts and at almost 6’3 can take on any striker in the air and just about always come up with the ball. He has as good of finesse on his passes as you could ask for a center back, and is a loyal teammate who is proud and eager to go to battle each and every match. Even though his antics (such as stepping on Messi’s hand with his cleats) are uncalled for and incredibly distasteful, Pepe blossomed with his Portuguese side during the Euro Cup. Expect a more a mature, well rounded Pepe for this 2012/13 season. If he avoids the suspensions he seems to get every season, Pepe will garner even more respect amongst his friends and foes.

Right Back: Alvaro Arbeloa. As solid as Arbeloa is for both club and country, Arbeloa is known as the weakest link on an otherwise loaded team with (literally and figuratively) a wealth of talent. Arbeloa took Sergio Ramos’ spot at this position with Carvalho’s injury, and actually played very well. A product of the Real Madrid youth system and with a ton of playing time for the international squad, Arbeloa is solid, but lacking the speed, strength, and overall defensive instincts compared to some of the top players at his position. Don’t get me wrong, Arbeloa is a player worthy of starting for this team- he just signed a 2 year extension with the club. Real Madrid is always active in the transfer market, and given the club’s desire to improve from last season (a difficult feat, though much remains to be desired in the Champions League), this is the position that could “use” the most improvement.

Midfield: Xabi Alonso. An argument can be made that Xabi Alonso is the most important player for this club not named Iker Casillas. A holding midfielder with incredible passing instincts, Alonso, much like Xavi Hernandez does for rival Barcelona, is the catalyst in the center of the pitch. While not exceptionally athletic or gifted of a scorer, Alonso acts as the focal point in the center of the midfield, often setting the table for the likes of Mesut Ozil or Cristiano Ronaldo to push the attack forward. Alonso has played in some huge games for Spain, starting every game for Spain in the 2010 World Cup and in the most recent Euro Cup. Since his 30 million Pound transfer fee from EPL club Liverpool in 2009, Alonso has appeared in over 100 games for Real Madrid.

Midfield: Luka Modric. Still so much speculation as to whether or not this deal will get done- but I decided anyway to put Luka Modric in this midfield spot. While his more preferred and traditional position is at center attack, there is no way Modric takes Mesut Ozil’s place given what Ozil has meant to his club, particularly this past season- but more on that later. This spot was primarily held by German international Sami Khedira who has size, athleticism, and defensive capabilities unlike most others in the world at this position. Khedira is an excellent player, but replacing him at this position with Luka Modric will no doubt improve Los Blancos’ attack. The Croatian player has a wide range of offensive skills that Khedira could only dream of possessing, with a magician-like quality few players in the world have. While not a lethal goal scorer by any means, the creativity Modric possesses going forward and setting up the next 4 guys in the starting lineup will add a spark that Khedira just doesn’t have. With this move, Real Madrid will rely even more on their defensive players to hold the back- but going forward, this should be an even more exciting attack than last year- an attack that produced 121 goals and a +89 goal differential.

Right Wing: Angel di Maria. The slick, speedy Argentine international is a young phenom who has yet to fully hit his stride. He possesses lightning quick ball handling ability and can be a terror when sprinting down into the box. He scored 9 goals in just 23 appearances in all competitions last season for Real Madrid, and when healthy, can be one of this club’s most talented players. While he was injured for chunks of last season, Real Madrid hardly skipped a beat, using Karim Benzema (or Jose Callejon) in this spot on the wing, and starting Gonzalo Higuain as the lone striker. At only 24 years of age and still at the point where he is refining and perfecting his game, Angel di Maria will be a more consistent offensive player this coming season.

Center Attacking Midfield: Mesut Ozil. At center attacking mid, Mesut Ozil flourishes playing in between the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Angel di Maria, Karim Benzema, and Gonzalo Higuain. No player in the world except for maybe Lionel Messi has the vision and passing skills Ozil has. He led La Liga with 17 assists, and is definitely a pass first type of superstar. He can score too, especially from long range, but Ozil is most lethal with the ball in or just outside of the box, searching for his cutting flankers. A wizard with the ball and at making decisions, his deceptively fast step to eventually set up others is truly unparalleled in European soccer. 23 years young, Mesut Ozil will scarily continue to get better as he gains more and more game experience with his top flight club. Ozil also comes off a strong Euro Cup, where in 5 games he scored once, and assisted on 3.

Left Wing: Cristiano Ronaldo. I’m not going to venture into the oft-debated Messi vs Ronaldo rant. Rather, here are some quick stats. 46 goals in La Liga, another 10 more in the Champions League. 15 total assists in both Champions League and La Liga play. Started 47 games total in both competitions. A world renowned superstar who at age 27 is playing the best soccer of his life (and frankly, some of the best soccer in the history of La Liga), Ronaldo represents what Real Madrid really is- Talented, emotional, arrogant, flashy, hard working, eccentric, and disciplined. Despite all of the individual accolades, Ronaldo is a proud Real Madrid player whose will to win is only exceded by his devotion to his club and teammates.

In a recent interview with Marca, a daily Spanish sports newspaper, regarding this past season and his future at Real Madrid, Ronaldo said, “I want to keep it up and enjoy myself much more with Madridistas because my connection with them has evolved considerably in recent months. I feel very close to them and that’s why I want to stay here a long time. I want to show my love for this shirt and do my best for the team.” Ronaldo lately has expressed his desire to continue playing at Real Madrid for a long time, and ultimately be the greatest who has ever donned the white shirt. In that same interview, Ronaldo spoke about his future with the club, “If it were totally up to me, I would end my career at Real Madrid, honestly. I would sign a ten year extension right now. I want to stay, but that decision is really up to other people.”

Center Striker: Gonzalo HiguainThe toughest decision in this post, I decided to reward Higuain’s loyalty by starting him ahead of Karim Benzema. Both strikers are talented and still relatively young (both are 24 years old, and in fact Higuain is only 9 days older than Benzema). Both strikers netted 20+ times last year, an incredible feat considering A. They both play the same position, and B. See Ronaldo’s numbers above. Both men, no matter how you think about it, are worthy of starting in this spot. They are of similar size and skill, although I would say Benzema is a little stronger, Higuain a little craftier and more creative with the ball. Mourinho has said publicly that he needs both strikers for Real Madrid to continue to stay atop the standings. Higuain was rumored at the start of the transfer window to be going to Paris St-Germain among a couple of other teams, but the rumors were quickly shot down by Mourinho and by Higuain himself, who pledged his loyalty to Real Madrid. Because of Mourinho’s insistence on having the Argentine international at the club, coupled with Higuain’s desire to see his contract through, I am placing him ahead of Karim Benzema on my starting XI.

Conclusion: Real Madrid will continue to wrestle with FC Barcelona for the La Liga crown (as is the case every year), but the goal this season is even bigger than that: Win the Champions League. Regardless of whether or not Luka Modric ends up joining Real Madrid before the start of the season, Los Blancos will have a very deep team with a lot of players who saw significant playing time last season. There is a good mixture of young players and veterans, and the core group of players from last years squad will be back desperately seeking the Champions League crown. After an abysmal PK performance in the Champions League semifinal against Bayern Munich, this is a team on a mission.