Saturday, October 21, 2006

Spoilt for choice - A weekend of Super Classico's

AFTER Thursday morning's great game at Stamford Bridge in the champs league, the weekend sees a return to the domestic stuff, and there are three games that will certainly have me and many other Australian football die-hards captivated.

Locally, it's our own version of the Super Classico, as Fox commentator Simon Hill has dubbed it, tonight at Aussie Stadium, where the troubled hosts, Sydney FC, take on the rampant leaders, the Melbourne Victory, in what has become a grudge match perhaps only rivalled by Melbourne's rivalry with Adelaide. While Sydney are struggling, they have a knack of lifting for this encounter, and certainly their 2-1 win over Melbourne just before they departed for the club world championship last season was arguably their best performance of the season at home. It certainly provided the springboard for a decent perfomance in Japan, which they carried on when they got back, all the way to the title.

Under fire and under pressure coach Terry Butcher will certainly be hoping it provides a spark and springboard this season, but the news filtering through that Sydney look like playing a 4-2-3-1 is probably their best bet of an upset. With Carbone gone and the players available, it is a natural fit, with Brosque and Zadkovich providing the width and Corica playing off Petrovski or Zdrilic, screened by Milligan and McFlynn, who will need to compete with Muscat and Brebner and ensure that Topor-Stanley and Rudan aren't exposed by Fred, Allsopp and Archie.

For me, that will be the key, how the Sydney defence deal with the potency and speed of Melbourne's front three. This has been among Sydney's biggest issues this year, and they have only twice kept clean sheets, both against the Knights. At times the defence has looked slow and static, but Sydney haven't been beaten at home for over 12 months, so pride is at stake.

Melbourne, after spending so much physical and mental energy in last week's classic with Adelaide, will need to be refreshed for another exhausting affair. If last week's loss has taken a slight edge off them, Sydney might just be able to capitalise.

Fast forward to Sunday night our time, Man U v Liverpool, England's version of the Super Classico, that will have the eyes of the world fixed. Man U have started very impressively, with Ronaldo and Saha on fire, making up for the lack of fire from Rooney, while Liverpool, suppossedly Chelsea's biggest title threat, have been anything but, making errors defensively and struggling to find the control in midfield that their play exuded last season, Up front, Kuit has looked good in patches, but someone needs to start finding the net regularly. If they are to have any hope this season, Sunday night is a must win.

Then it's on to Monday morning, 5am Sydney time, for the real Super Classico, Barca v Real Madrid, and the eyes of the world will be watching to see if it signifies a changing of the guard. Certainly, Barca, after dominating the past few seasons, appear to be struggling without Eto'o, while Real, with Cappello at the helm, looked good in the champions league midweek. With Helguerra going reasonably well at the heart of the defence alongside Cannavaro, and Sergio Ramos looking better on the right than he did in the middle, maybe, just maybe, the famed Italian manager can finally get this unit to defend properly.

Barca will certainly be looking for a reaction after their loss to Chelsea, any it's been a while now since we've seen Ronaldinho's famous smile.

Fans across the world and at home will certainly be smiling at the prospect of such a feast. Bring it on.


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