Wednesday, 30 January 2008

The curse of the central defender - Part II

In the latest twist to the problems afflicting Real Madrid central defenders Metzelder has suffered a relapse of the plantar fasciitis he had nearly recovered from. All told, he's been unavailable for selection through injury or lack of fitness for most of the season, featuring in only 7 of 21 league games so far, and runs the risk of going the way of Jonathan Woodgate (though not quite as expensive).

Another central defender who is no stranger to the treatment table this season is Pepe, who has suffered a similar catalogue of injuries (some possibly due to being rushed back into action) and is currently recovering from a torn muscle in his right leg. With Cannavaro as the only fit 'true' centre back, Schuster has been forced to partner him with Sergio Ramos, a position he's not most comfortable in, and which has probably increased Iker Casillas's already overloaded work rate even further. It is probably fair to say that Cannavaro is looking a lot more settled this season than last and thus far remains unaffected by the 'curse'. But the fact that Real Madrid has not played with the same back four for more than two games running this season must be a source of worry for the manager.

On the plus side, the elimination of Mali from the African Cup of Nations means that Diarra is on his way back to Madrid and likely to feature in next Saturday's game at Almería, especially given that his replacement over the last month, Fernando Gago, is suspended for that match.

Another player rumoured to be returning to the Real Madrid fold is Zinedine Zidane. He was spotted meeting Mijatovic and Calderón in a Madrid restaurant yesterday and As insisted he had offered his services to the club. His young sons play in Real's youth sides and he was said to be interested in "helping out". However, today, his agent, Alain Migliaccio denied this version of events, stating that "We had lunch with president Calderón because he had made the request, and Zidane accepted to show the respect he has for the president and the club. However, at no time and in no way during the meal did Zidane offer his services to Real Madrid". Curiously, Marca has spun this against Calderón by adding that Migliaccio stated his disappointment and sadness that the club had leaked the story. More reputable news media merely say that the disappointment was with As over their poor sources.


Alex said...

It seems like we are going into this match with no defender or DM on the bench.

john said...

A curse it seems, indeed. Which is why Sergio Ramos is such a valuable player, being able to step in for all of these wounded defenders, and perform well - not just well for a full back in the center, but well even by centerback's standards.

Concerning the return of Diarra - I'm a little bit disappointed that he's coming back so early (mind you, I'd never make that statement if we weren't 9 points up). I've actually enjoyed watching Madrid manipulate the midfield and style of play to cope with his absence. And clearly, after beating both Atletico and Villarreal without him, cope they can.

Probably the most remarkable thing Diarra's absence revealed (more accurately, it was the anticipation of his absence that prompted it) is Baptista's capabilities as a central midfielder. This discovery has produced a whole new dimention to Madrid's game, and is a large element of their current form. And of course, it's good to see Gago FINALLY start to live up to his potential.

estoverao said...

It says a lot about our resilience that we are 9 points ahead without any consistency in defense. Forget Metzelder, but imagine if Pepe had been healthy all this time. In the few games he played the full 90 he was outstanding.

I'm actually glad Diarra's back, especially because Gago has to sit out because of yellow card build up for the next game. Schuster has a lot of line up headaches, but thats a good thing for Madridistas.

Anonymous said...

I agree that "losing" Diarra for a month has forced Schuster to experiment, and the results so far have been good. However, with Gago suspended, there is no natural replacement in that position other than the Mali captain. He should also be reltively fresh, as he was suspended for the match with Ivory Coast which saw his country knowcked out of the competition.

estoverao said...

I felt goosebumps watching Robinho throw the ball in quickly to Gago who controlled then fed Sneijder for the game winning goal. The chemistry and understanding these young players had together was uncanny. Gago, in spite of his yellow card, definitely showed why we got him from Boca in the first place.