Category: Real Madrid

The Return of the Kim

My opponents in the quarter-final of the European Cup were Barcelona. In between the two legs of that tie, I played a crunch league game against Real Madrid. In most Master Leagues these three games taken together would have been among the hardest that I could ever (not) wish to have. But in this Master League, the fates have decreed that both Barca and Real are fairly average teams by the usual standards. They’re both still pretty good, but they’re nowhere near being the uber-opponents that they should be. It’s just the way things have gone.

At times I regret setting up this Master League in such haste back on March 1st. I do kind of wish I’d taken more time and at least included the English teams in a custom super-hard league. As much as I love my faux-Spanish league setup, I do miss playing against the likes of Chelsea and Manchester United. It would have been nice to at least have the possibility of meeting them in European competition. Back in March, I was pretty tired of the English teams after incessantly playing them (and effortlessly dribbling around them) on the version-that-must-not-be-named of PES2008. When I cracked open my PSP copy and set up an all-new Master League, I fancied a change.

Before the first leg of the European game against Barcelona, I implemented a change to my First XI that’s been in the wind for some time. Since I dropped the promising Kim Cyun Hi from my starting line-up a season or two ago, he’s been superb when filling in for Giggs up front on the left. This is despite Kim’s natural footedness being very much on the right.

It doesn’t come as a surprise to me that players can be as good (or even better) on their ‘wrong’ side in PES. Back in PES5, I played Bergkamp on his ‘wrong’ side, with staggering results. Kim Cyun Hi may be the same kind of player who’ll truly flourish for me on the ‘wrong’ side of the pitch. He was only ever competent for me in the middle and over on the right, not brilliant. I’m hoping he can be brilliant now he’s back in the regular first team.

All of which means that a place must be found for the mesmeric Giggs. In amongst all my good players, I only have about four or five gold-plated, undeniably brilliant players—Giggs is one of them. I decided to switch him back to the left-sided AMF role. He’s slightly more of a natural midfielder than he is a WF or CF. And he’s a better AMF than Burdner, who has been curiously anonymous for me so far. In PES6, Burdner was a star midfielder for me. Not so here. Not yet.

I’ve decided to stick with my 4-3-3, despite being strongly persuaded that an alternative formation might serve me better. The arguments for a 4-1-4-1, or a 4-2-4—or even my own demented brainchild, a 3-3-4—are variously compelling. But what can I say? I play PES every day, with hypnotic fervour, for a reason—it gives me more or less the same experience, day in, day out. I’m like a child who has to be told the same story in the same way, word for word, every day. Any departure is a cause for distress.

4-3-3 is an intrinsic part of my PES experience. I don’t know if I could stomach switching my main starting formation from my beloved, and familiar, 4-3-3. But never say never. The most I could do is to design an alternate formation and map it to a strategy button, and use it on the fly at selected moments in-game. I might do that in the off-season, when things are a mite less hectic.

——-

I won both legs of the Euro Cup tie against Barcelona 2-0 and it was pretty easy. I was barely challenged at all, which is actually quite rare for the latter stages of the Cups, I’ve found—even against an ‘average’ Barcelona. Or have I finally ‘aced’ PES2008, and will this be the norm for me from now on? I hope not. I still get enough awkward moments every season for me to know that the game still has a few nasty tricks up its virtual sleeve. Admittedly these tricks now can only come in the form of God Mode, a.k.a. good old scripting.

So that was me through to the semi-final of the European Cup. In the league game that formed the meat in the sandwich, I absolutely thumped Real Madrid 4-0.

Real Madrid are a mid-table team this year, and it shows. Their one bright spark is the almost peerless Kaiser, who usually torments me all game, but on this occasion he wasn’t playing.

So now I’m 13 points clear with 7 league games to go. Feasibly, I could have the title wrapped up with 4 games to go. I’d like that.

The man-mark of a man

Almeria are back in Division 1 of my Master League. I have to be careful when talking about them, as I tend to confuse them with Heracles Almelo, and swap their names around (i.e., ‘Heracles Almeria’, etc.). As much as I’m looking forward to this year’s brace of football games, beginning with FIFA09 in September and then PES2009 in October, I’ll be sorry to leave PES2008 and this particular Master League behind. I’ve had some great games in it and would count it as possibly my second-favourite ML career ever (PES5 would be #1).

But I don’t necessarily have to abandon it in Septemeber/October, of course. There’s always the PSP. I could easily continue this ML career on the PSP forever, in tandem with whatever I get up to on FIFA09/PES2009. It’s a possibility.

So, anyway, Almeria: they’re a bottom-of-the-league team this season, which naturally means they’re tougher to play against than Real Madrid and Baracelona combined. This is no lazy exaggeration, as my fellow ML players will know all too well. I couldn’t pass, I couldn’t run, I couldn’t shoot.

Almeria, with a relative handful of wins and goals to their name all season, were faster, stronger, and more skilful. They took the lead with a penalty after ten minutes. It was a rash challenge from my defender. I was too anxious to protect Cech, my new, raw, 17-year-old goalkeeper, whom I’d picked for this game just to give him some experience and start to build his teamwork rating. I felt it was worth the risk now that I haven’t got an unbeaten record to protect.

But I have still got another bonus target to aim for: conceding less than 20 goals in the league. At this stage, just after halfway, I’ve only conceded 9 goals all season. I’ve got a great chance of doing it.

When the Almeria player broke through I had no confidence in Cech stopping the goal, and I clumsily barged their player off the ball with my defender. The referee immediately gave the penalty. I was expecting a red card for the last-man challenge, but I didn’t even get a yellow. That was something, I suppose. Almeria scored the penalty and I was really up against it.

The game got to the 80th minute and it was still 0-1 to them. It looked like being another ignominious defeat. I was depressed about it. The league title was still probably safe, but after going unbeaten for so long it just felt so lame to lose a couple of games in quick succession like this. Ah, but then Andy Cole—having a quiet season, overall—popped up to score a stylish equaliser:

For anyone unable or unwilling to view the replay, I’ll describe the goal (I find embedded YouTube videos just a bit tiresome too…). Andy Cole, playing on the right up front, lays the ball off to Bradley and starts a run forward. Bradley dinks the ball over the top for Cole to chase. Still about 25 yards out, Cole takes the shot on the half-volley with a delicious scissors-kick. The ball flashes over the keeper’s head into the net. 1-1, and I had to be satisfied with that.

I won the final game of my European Championship qualifying group and finished in first place. My reward? A quarter-final tie against Barcelona. It shouldn’t be too tough, but I’d still have preferred one of the lesser teams.

In the first leg of the D1 Cup semi-final I played Real Madrid—an extremely fast and aggressive and skilful Real Madrid... Kaiser was magnificent for them, dominating play and going on runs for the hell of it. Within the first 15 minutes he’d created four clear-cut chances, two of which came back off my goal’s woodwork.

I sensed danger, somehow… I went into the Formation screen and did something I rarely do. I put a man-marker on Kaiser. I rarely see the point in man-marking, but on this occasion it seemed to work. Bradley was my chosen man and he reduced Kaiser’s effectiveness almost immediately. The game ended 0-0. The second leg will be at their ground.

Kaiser the chief

Many moons ago when I was playing the PlayStation3 version of PES2008, I had a certain great midfield player called Kaiser. A justly famous name on PES over the last few years, he was magnificent for me in my Master League team back then. Sadly, nearly everybody else was magnificent too. After a few months I made the discovery about next-gen PES2008 that other, much better players than I had made almost immediately: it really was possible to dribble the full length of the field and score with almost any player. On Top Player difficulty.

I made a half-hearted stab at another ML career with House Rules enabled, but I could no longer take the game seriously. It just wasn’t PES. I moved on (or back) to the PSP & PS2 version of the game, which still features the faithful old ‘classic’ gameplay that made PES what it was (and what it will be again—I still have faith in PES2009).

Kaiser popped up again in my ‘retro’ Master League a good few seasons ago now. I could have snapped him up at the age of 17, but chose not to. I didn’t want the reminder of next-gen PES2008, and at the time I was more than happy with Camacho and Bradley and co. (I still am more than happy with them.) Kaiser is in his late 20s now, in season 2019, and is tearing up trees with Real Madrid. Overall, Madrid are a mediocre outfit in my ML, but Kaiser is a major star for them.

They were my next opponents in the league—and, well, my opening spiel about Kaiser probably gives the game away. I scored early, as I so often do. But I couldn’t hold onto the lead, as so often happens to me as well—especially in the final third of the season, for some reason. I don’t notice myself playing any worse in the final third of seasons than in the first two thirds. Do I smell the whiff of macro-scripting? I’ll leave that question for another day.

Kaiser scored a dazzling hat-trick in the second half. The final score was 4-2 to Madrid. I think that’s the first time they’ve beaten me in this way for ten seasons. I’m not sure, but it’s something like that. I should still be playing this career when Kaiser retires and reappears as a Regen in about ten seasons from now. I’ll definitely pick him up next time.

It was my second defeat of the campaign. Now that I’m moving towards the business end of the season, it’s time to start making sure I don’t lose ground and let Valencia (still in 2nd place, of course) catch up with and overtake me.

In the 1st leg of the D1 Cup semi-final I played Sevilla and had a routine 2-0 win. The second leg will be a formality (not wishing to tempt Fate or anything…).

The league is the axis of the Treble that I’m keeping my eye on right now. It just feels as if the CPU wants to trip me up, and that I’ve got to really focus and prevent myself tripping up. Next were Real Mallorca, a promoted team and a pretty poor team judging by the league table. Uh-oh…

It’s teams like Real Mallorca that can be the hardest to play against in Master League under certain conditions. Under current conditions, I sensed a potential stitch-up. And it kind of was a stitch-up… I took the lead and created numerous opportunities to put the game out of sight, but couldn’t take any of them. It was the usual litany of supernatural goalkeeping, wasteful star strikers, and magnetic woodwork. Towards the end of the second half Mallorca started enjoying long spells of assisted possession around my box—the kind of possession where loose balls continually fell their way, never mine. Their goal came in the 89th minute—I looked at the clock, nodding grimly. 1-1 it ended.

I felt aggrieved, but that’s the nature of the PES beast nowadays. Yes, I yearn for what feels like the good old days of PES3 and before, when such scripting—if it even existed back then—was subtle and unnoticed.

Running on rails

In Master League you often end up playing the same teams back-to-back in the League and in European groups. It’s one of the many consequences of the Master League world being so small. Master League is in urgent need of an overhaul. I think we need more than just four leagues with two divisions in each. We need about twenty leagues with four divisions each, in my opinion. It needs to be as close to the real world as possible. Yes, I’ll say it, it needs to be as close to FIFA’s Manager Mode setup as possible. I’d like to be able to play a Pro Evo career in that kind of wider footballing world.

Real Madrid are in my European Championships group. They’re also one of my main rivals in the league. They’re not a great team in my ML and never have been, but they’re still no pushovers. They can still give me a good game.

In our league encounter they took the lead, a little luckily. I equalised soon afterward (which is always nice), albeit rather luckily with a Schwarz header that first went down into the ground then looped up and over the keeper into the net. 1-1 it stayed from then on. I’d just accepted that it was going to end 1-1 when I had a chance with Schwarz. He was in the box and I was just about to pull the trigger when the CPU defender viciously scythed him down from behind. Not even Pro Evo could deny me such a clear-cut penalty, but the CPU defender got away with a yellow card. For me, that would have been red.

Andy Cole was my penalty kicker. I felt beforehand that I’d miss the penalty whoever took it, so I decided I might as well leave Andy Cole to carry the can. Penalties in PES have always been totally random. They have no actual skill element that I have ever been able to detect. If anybody out there believes otherwise—or, preferably, knows otherwise—then I’d love to hear from them. I did no more than flick the analogue stick toward the right of the net, and tap shoot. Andy Cole ran up and blasted the ball two yards over the crossbar, and the match ended 1-1.

Then Real Madrid beat me in the first game of our European Championship group. The match started pretty tamely, but I had Del Piero sent off for a nothing foul in midfield. The CPU player was miles from my goal with my entire defence in the way. My tackle with Del Piero was a slightly mistimed one from the side, the kind of tackle that’s a yellow card at most. But on this occasion it was a straight red card.

Despite the setback I took the lead. That often happens when I play with 10 men (and sometimes with less than 10 men). I play superbly and wonder how I can ever be beaten. But on this occasion, it was not to be. I admit to letting my concentration slip and allowing a soft equaliser to go in before half time. Then, in the second half, Real got their winner. I couldn’t come back, and thus I lost the opening group game. I hate doing that.

In the league I finally came up against Deportivo la Coruna. I’ve had a great start to the league season, and so have they. I beat them 3-2 with two good goals from Henry—his first for me—one of them a true poacher’s goal after a very strange short back-pass from a CPU defender to the goalkeeper.

For my second game in Europe I brought all my concentration to bear. Another defeat was unthinkable. I’m going for a Treble this season.

Benfica, another old ‘friend’ of mine from this ML career, were next. I scored early and hung on until the end to win 1-0. I had to really dig in and withstand some ridiculous pressure and manipulation of the game. I absolutely hate in PES2008 how your players are often forced to run on rails with the ball at their feet and carry the ball over the line for throw-ins and corners to the CPU. Before anyone mentions super-cancel, it doesn’t arrest the progress of my players’ running on rails. It’s a definite feature of the programming this year, just one of the myriad ways in which the AI is granted an advantage in times of trouble.

Never mind. It hadn’t cost me this time and I’d got the win I wanted. It makes the group table look a little healthier, although I hope that first-game defeat doesn’t come back to haunt me further down the line.

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