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.