DATE: September 23, 2012
TIME: 4:01 pm, Eastern, American.
LOCATION: Campo de Futbol de Vallecas, Madrid, Spain.
REAL MADRID STARTING XI: Casillas; Arbeloa, Pepe, Ramos, Marcelo; Alonso, Modric, Essien; Ronaldo, Di Maria; Benzema.
RAYO VALLECANO STARTING XI: People you have never heard of, nor care to hear of.
Mourinho has apparently discarded Real Madrid’s run-and-game 4-4-2 from last season in favor of a much more solid if less attacking 4-5-1. Ozil has been dropped in favor Luka Modric, a more classic regista, while Michael Essien replaces Sami Khedira in the destroyer role alongside Xabi Alonso. The three central midfielders should give more freedom to Ronaldo and Di Maria to roam at will.
Essien is still working his way into match shape, while Luka Modric earns a start in the blanquillo midfield. Will he be able to gel with Ozil, Benzema, and Ronaldo? Overall, Mourinho’s new formation has sacrificed classic #9 Higuain and withdrawn striker Ozil. Yes, the midfield will retain the ball better, but how will both players react to riding the pine? And can Madrid score enough goals?
Also, Sergio Ramos returns to the heart of the defense.
MINUTE 0: The lights are not working.
MINUTE 0: The lights are still not working. Spain is a first world country, allegedly.
MINUTE 0: The lights are still not working. Allegedly, a Rayo Vallecano fan cut the light cables to protest increased ticket prices to see Real Madrid play. This poses several questions. First, he already paid the inflated ticket price. Why? Wouldn’t simply not paying have been a more effective consumer statement of dissent? Second, why don’t they have extra cables or a maintenance man (or woman or transgendered individual) at the stadium?
MINUTE 0: The game has or has not been postponed, depending on how many times you refresh the homepages of Marca and AS within a single minute.
MINUTE 0: The game has been postponed, and now the two teams bicker about the starting time for tomorrow’s game. Real Madrid wants an early game so that they can try to beat that hectic Madrid pm rush hour traffic, while Rayo Vallecano fears that a 5pm start time will leave a critical mass of supporters at home or at work dozing the siesta.
MINUTE 0: Bad news for Madrid. Cristiano Ronaldo got over his sadness with his goal against City in the Champions League, but now appears sad again. Meanwhile, everyone who placed a fiver on Barcelona holding a 10 plus point lead over Madrid in La Liga at weekend’s end snickers and schemes. Poor, poor Las Vegas. They’re the real losers in all this. Not the fans or the players.
MINUTE 0: I am so happy I came out of liveblog retirement to cover this monumental game that I am officially re-retiring from liveblogging games.