Liga Preview: Real Madrid-Celta Vigo
Liga Preview: Real Madrid-Celta Vigo
Is there a luckier team than Real Madrid in all of Europe at
Napoleon used to ask if a potential commander was lucky before appointing
his generals. In the footballing context, we need not ask about the luck or
otherwise of the Spanish champions. Two huge strokes of good fortune have
saved Madrid in their two most important matches of the season: the
refereeing blunder that awarded them a last-minute penalty and subsequent
reprieve against title rivals Valencia, and the freakish goalkeeping blunder
of Oliver Kahn that provided them with a priceless away goal and undeserved
share of the spoils against Bayern Munich in Germany on Tuesday.
While any impartial observer has got to give Madrid credit for being in a
position to take advantage of their good fortune, nobody can really be
fooled by this side. Their limitations are now glaring, and when the luck
On Tuesday, Real ran into a Bayern Munich side who outplayed them and
outfought them, a familiar combination for Real against sides with the
wherewithall to compete. Raul, Ronaldo, and Zidane were largely anonymous in
Bavaria, with Lizarazu, Ballack, and Makaay taking the fight to the
Galacticos. Beckham had his usual headless chicken game when the chips are
down, the type of performance he often puts in for England when lacking his
usual inspiration. Figo had some brilliant cameos, but like the Bayern
goalkeeper Kahn, he seems to be slowly fading from the stage whilst
reserving his magic for fewer, more infrequent occasions.
Poor Oliver Kahn, done by another Brazilian, but Ronaldo's hand in the goal
should not be underestimated. It's arguable that the great German custodian
would have been spared his nightmare had the striker not dummied Roberto
Carlos's drive. The distraction couldn't have helped the goalkeeper, and
must have confused him enough to expose his injured back, a back rumoured to
have taken fourteen injections prior to the game, with disastrous
The priceless away goal changes the tactics for the return. Bayern would
have been good bets to see Madrid off had they held out on Tuesday, with
their counter-attacking expertise ideal for soaking up Galactico pressure
before cutting a swathe through the weak underbelly of the Spanish defence.
Now they must come out and play, and that must surely favour Madrid. All
still to play for, but on this evidence the Italians will have no fear of
Also in Champions League action in midweek were this weekend's oppponenets,
Celta Vigo. A 2-3
home reverse against Arsenal is no shame, but it more or less ends their
involvement in this season's competition. That may yet turn out to be a
blessing. A desperate fight against the drop can now take pride of place,
though it's hard to see the Galicians getting anything from this particular
Roberto Carlos now faces a UEFA ban for hitting out at Martin Demichelis
prior to his equaliser, something he could have done without after a
sub-standard season so far for the "Cannonball Kid."
He's not the only "Galactico" out of sorts. Raul has had a shocking season.
Perhaps he has finally burnt out after so many seasons of majesty. If so, it
is likely to be temporary. He's achieved so much so young that he can be
forgiven one season of mere ordinariness.
Last week's 4-2 win at Espanyol put Real five points clear at the summit,
with Catalan rivals Barcelona doing the champions a favour by winning at the
Mestalla against Valencia, who have, as predicted, taken their bad luck in
Celta, meanwhile, have been hugely inconsistent in recent times, with two
wins in the last five. The home defeat to malaga last week may yet prove
very damaging. Prior to that, Vigo had won the previous two, home to
Villarreal and on the road at Valladolid.
Celta travel to the Bernabeu without goalkeeper Pablo Cavallero who broke
his nose in the midweek defeat to Arsenal. The Argentine carried on but will
now be out for at least a fortnight.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Alexander Mostovoi (Celta Vigo) Now coming towards his own personal setting
sun, the mercurial Russian is still capable of dazzling all and sundry with
his exquisite ball control and slide-rule passing. Gifted, conceited,
temperamental, and flamboyant, had he possessed an ounce of consistency he
could well have fitted the "Galactico" bill. Prone to bouts of disappearance,
when on-song there are few in the same class.