For the past few days I’ve been collecting some questions on Twitter for a mailbag I was finally able to get to today. Regrettably, I still couldn’t get to all of your questions, but if I missed your tweet this week, please @ me again and I’ll try to conjure up another mailbag before the Madrid derby - a game which there were a couple questions on, but I wanted to let the game in Warsaw pass before addressing.
As a reminder, you can always become a patron and get a guaranteed response in every single mailbag and podcast.
First from our patrons, Ben and Ondra
@managingmadrid looking at the standings. Would RM be better off finishing 2nd in the CL?— Ben Mathison (@benmathison) October 28, 2016
To be clear, I never liked the idea of nose-diving in the standings in hopes of a favorable draw. Not that Ben is necessarily suggesting this, of course, but those kinds of gambles can backfire, and this season is no different.
Having said that, the current groups are lining up in a way that finishing 1st might seep you into a precarious position.
Group A is a wash. Arsenal and PSG will both be dangerous - though if I had to chose, I would rather avoid Arsenal at all costs given how cohesive they currently look - and group H has one of the most consistent teams on the continent in Juve standing tall. Sevilla is 2nd there, and though they’re growing over the course of the season, Real Madrid will avoid Spanish teams next round.
In group B, Avoiding Napoli is ideal as Besiktas is a big drop-off - ditto Leicester and Kobenhavn in group G.
After that, Ben makes an interesting point. Barcelona will finish top of their group, and Atletico looks like they might too, meaning Real Madrid would avoid those two top-seeded Spanish teams even if they finished 2nd, leaving them with just a handful of possible outcomes. Simultaneously, Real would scratch off Manchester City and Bayern Munich who are the 2nd seeds in group C and D. Those are four European giants that Real Madrid would sidestep immediately, and that’s always a great way to ‘buy time’ as the club did last season en route to the European title.
Still, that’s an ideal scenario, and it’s a scenario that requires a few dominoes to fall. The groups are far from finalized, and a lot can happen in three matches. Be sure that neither Bayern or City will want to finish 2nd, nor will either of them want to face Real Madrid next round.
In any case, I wouldn’t lose sleep over it. Zidane will strive for the top seed, and anything else is a pure gamble. Let’s enjoy the ride and look forward to the opponent no matter who it is.
@KiyanSo What's your opinion on the new stadium design and the new name Santiago Bernabeu IPIC (yet to be confirmed)?— Ondra Paul (@OndraPaul) October 31, 2016
The renovation itself is fantastic in a lot of ways. Aesthetically, it will be a huge face lift. Of particular personal delight is the removal of those four hideous towers on each corner of the stadium that were originally designed to give ticket holders access to the upper tiers. Some considered those four pillars of revulsion ‘iconic’ - how, I don’t know.
Another big plus is the complete revamp of the parking square on the side which overlooks Paseo de la Castellana. Currently, it’s an eyesore. To be fair, it’s also home to various food vendors and merchandise peddlers - and I’m sure they will continue to run their businesses in some capacity - but a facelift was definitely due. After the renovation, that square will be remodelled as a park which fits the city’s urban development plan.
The design of the stadium itself is striking. That’s subjective, sure, but I’m fond of it. On a financial level, even if the hotel and shopping center don’t go through (it’s currently been shot down by the city council, but Florentino is still pushing for it), the club’s revenue will increase. There will be huge screens encompassing the stadium allowing for sponsors and advertisements, and even the retractable roof which is being built in the name of ‘rain shelter’ will have a giant screen which will charge a dollar or two from advertisers.
The name you’re asking about, Ondra Paul, is undoubtedly the worst part of the entire facelift. IPIC are a huge sponsor in this redevelopment, and their name will get tagged on whether we like it or not, and that’s a sign of the times we live in. You can’t have everything your way.
The worst deal Real Madrid made this summer was sending Mayoral to Wolfsburg, and it’s not particularly close. Jesus Vallejo is thriving, as are Diego and Marcos Llorente. The club couldn’t find a home for Odegaard, but that’s fine, given that I was hopeful he would stay with Castilla anyway rather than forcing him into a different situation solely for the sake of it.
Mayoral would’ve been better off staying too, and Castilla could’ve benefited given that they’ve had issues in the final third all season.
Mayoral’s played just 22 minutes all season in the Bundesliga. 22! I had a glimmer of hope that things would change upon Dieter Hecking’s departure, but that was a pipe dream. From Real Madrid’s point of view, this scenario is unacceptable given how promising he is.
I won’t sugar-coat it. It’s been a disaster, and the club needs to expedite sorting out Mayoral’s situation - like yesterday.
I have nothing to say on the Isco question other than ‘it won’t happen’. Regarding Marcos (I assume) Llorente, unfortunately Real Madrid can’t bring him back until the end of the season.
He still shows glimpses this season of his ability to blitz past defenders. Bale is just 27, and is hovering around his peak. Physically, I don’t see any regression.
But concerns you might have could be more correlated to tactics and decision-making, rather than agility and pace. Against Alaves, on more than one occasion, Bale was facing a wingback with no cover. Rather than using his pace to get in behind his man with the ball, he opted to pull it back and cross it in - easy pickings for narrow defensive lines that are content with packing the inside channels and snuffing out in-swinging crosses.
He’s far too athletic and talented to be settling for those kinds of plays. Ditto the BBC as a whole. Some more inventiveness is needed in the final third beyond the build-up.
Square (medium power) -> circle (double-tap). Easy peasy.
coentrao = concentrao = concentrate = concentration https://t.co/boO6Vmi4dz— Kiyan Sobhani (@KiyanSo) October 26, 2016
I don’t want to spend too much time talking about the post-CR era because it seems so distant, but I would absolutely love to see James on the right with Bale on the left on a consistent basis in a parallel universe. Few talk about how some of the best football James has ever played was with Monaco on the right wing, and he brings something fresh to the table that I think would just click if he was given a consistent chance in an advanced role.
Alas, let’s revisit this when Ronaldo turns 49.
@managingmadrid Do you guys think Llorente takes the starting job from Casemiro next year? I'm very intrigued by Llorente. I like him a lot— Rick (@RickyP6) October 28, 2016
At the risk of starting bloodshed on a mass scale in the comment section, I would say a resounding yes. Llorente is special, and if not next year, then inevitably he will replace Casemiro at some point. Defensively, his IQ is high, and with the ball at his feet he’s a great distributor, and he’s exactly the type of player Modric and Kroos would love to link up with to dictate the tempo of the midfield.