Lots of soccer on you telly this weekend what with all kinds of tune-ups for Copa America and EURO 2016 going on, plus we got a full slate in Antonio Conte’s beloved MLS on deck. But the grand-daddy of them all is scheduled to kickoff at 1:45pm CT this afternoon, which is only a couple of hours away so let’s get to it…
God I love that song.
Quick reminder of how we got here:
Both were closely fought semi-finals that – per tradition at this point – were eventually won by Spanish clubs, albeit by the skin of their chinny chin chins… particularly Atletico, which moved on by way of the away-goals rule that everybody adores so much.
Atletico Madrid [+215]
Real Madrid [+150]
Offense versus defense. Magnificence versus utilitarianism. Los Blancos versus the (other) man in black. The clubs hail from the same city but embody polar opposites in terms of playing styles.
In fact, there’s really not much that needs to be said at this point as I have been writing about each team’s strengths and weaknesses for months now. Both come in relatively healthy, with Real’s Verane the only notable injury – though for me his absence could prove pivotal as it puts that much more pressure on guys like Pepe (yikes) and Casemiro to hold the fort in the middle of the field.
If this game somehow turns out to be an open and – dare I say – even entertaining match, that is gonna be baddddddd news for Atleti. In fact, we got a look at exactly how that sort of game is destined to play out in 2014.
Instead, Simeone’s men are going to try and strangle the life out of the game and nick one on the counterattack. Call me a pessimist if you must, but I gotta stick with my prediction from a couple of weeks ago: Atletico to win 1-0 on a 19th minute goal from Griezmann, exacting revenge for the 4-1 defeat in this very game two years ago.
I already wrote about some of the positives and negatives of the 23-man roster that Klinsmann selected – link HERE – so I won’t belabor those same points.
Many of those positives and plenty of the negatives were on full display on Wednesday in the game against Ecuador in a game that turned out to be a quintessential tale of two halves. The quick and dirty recap is Jurgy put out the type of uninspired starting XI that we have come to expect from him, including good soldiers like Kyle Beckerman who can and have helped the team grind out plenty of 2-1 wins over the Haiti’s of the world, but who are going to be useless when it comes to helping the national team achieve the bigger and better things that Klinsmann himself has promised.
After 45 minutes of bland, slow, plodding play Jurgen finally took my godamn advice and made some subs that changed the game entirely. Bobby Wood, Christian Pulisic and Darlington Nagbe were particularly influential in the second half, and the changes allowed Bradley to slide back into the deep-lying creative slot that everybody – aside from Jurgen Klinsmann anyway – would like to see him in more often.
Klinsmann’s line-up for tonight’s Bolivia game will be interesting. Is he going to remain married to the old guard or is it time to give in and give the exciting but unproven talent some legitimate playing time? Hopefully the latter, though you never really know with Jurgy. (For example, I’ve got a badddddddd feeling that JK might want to give Wondo some playing time tonight. Why? I have no fucking idea.)
[BONUS: some of you might recall that we play Paraguay in the third and final game of the group stage on June 11, so those wanting to get a little preview of what they look like can tune in their game against Mexico at 4pm CT on Fox Sports 1]
MAJOR LEAGUE SOCCER
Serious question: if you are NYCFC, do you just pack up your things and call it a season? Losing a dærby is one thing. Happens to the best teams every now and again. But losing 7-0 and essentially quitting on the field in a game that your fans put so, so, so, soooooo much effort into making a “rivalry”……. wow, I’ve got second-hand embarrassment just thinking about it.
Testicle-check game coming up tomorrow at home against Orlando City.
Friendly reminder: Copa America starts on Friday so you can expect a preview at some point this week, and EURO 2016 starts one week after that, so let’s all take a moment to thank the soccer gods for packing our evenings and afternoons, respectively, full of great soccer for the next month and a half.
Sam U.L. Army