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Climbing to Champions League Places (FM2020)

The season continues reaches its halfway point.

Soccer - UEFA Champions League - Semi-Final - Second Leg - Villarreal v Arsenal - El Madrigal Photo by John Walton - PA Images via Getty Images

When we last left our virtual heroes, the just couldn’t seem to get out of 7th place for very long. Next on the docket was Real Madrid, followed a run of winnable games. Here’s how it went:

Real Madrid

In the match preview, Real’s predicted XI included Marcelo and Casemiro, (with Bale the winger on Casemiro’s side) so I focused the attack to my right and pressed the devil out of them. It worked. The chances were pretty even on the night, as was the possession, and Real spent all night firing empty crosses into the box.

Then, in the 85th minute, I missed the injured Sergio Asenjo for the first time. Sergio Ramos, who I’m not I remember when the last time was that he direct free kick attempts on frame, fires one home and all that work was completely for not. Final Score 0-1.

What followed:

We had Osasuna and Getafe in the next two matches, beating ‘Atletico Pamplona’ (as the game calls Osa) 2-0 with goals from Bacca and Zambo, and Getafe 3-0 with Santi, Toko, and Bacca doing the work. Bacca will probably leave us in January, because his wages are a way too high for my liking, but he’s been solid in the interim. A Toko goal led us 1-0 past Valladolid in an ugly game (worth noting that my report on Enes Unal is that he is ‘struggling to hold his own’ in the top flight).

Our Copa Del Rey journey began against San Fernando and I rotated the squad very heavily. So heavily, in fact, that 12 minutes in we were losing. I didn’t react to their goal tactically. My assumption was that our superior quality would sort things out and Santi leveled for us in the 25th minute. With 70 minutes gone I platooned three subs to try to avoid ET and it should have worked, but Bacca missed a penalty in the 94th minute. We went into extra time with San Fernando down to ten men. Javi Ontiveros gave us a lead in the 102’ for good but to be honest this whole thing felt way too much like real life Villareal’s Copa Run. We dominated on shots, 17-4 and shots on goal 11-2 but sometimes the ball just won’t go in.

I’ll tack on the notes from the Betis game just so that we are halfway through the season. They came out wanting to press so my plan tactically was to bypass their press by playing the ball long to the wings and Toko in the middle. Things were going perfectly, leading 2-0 after 23 minutes, when Manu Morlanes got himself sent off in the 42’ for a second yellow.

Since we were counter attacking anyway, I took out both wingers, dropped Santi into the midfield, and Bacca up top with Toko. If anything, this made things worse for Betis. Chasing the game and leaving those two forwards on the break just wrecked their whole gameplan as Bacca put in a second half hat trick.

Transfer Business

OM triggered the 3.6m buyout clause in Alvaro’s contract. That combined with the fact that I have no intention of bringing Bregerie back (he’ll be 34 next year) makes CB a focus for next summer. I anticipate Bacca getting sold this window so between those two moves we’ll have the resources to make a big splash in the market, but no, it won’t be Paco Alcacer.

What’s next?

Grove in the Copa, then Atleti, Leganes, and Sevilla (if we beat Grove there’ll be another Copa game mixed in). Some transfer business, and hopefully having a second half of the year that equals our first to get us into Europe. At the halfway point in La Liga, we sit in 4th place, Toko Ekambi leads the team with 12 goals, and we have the budget to add an impact player.