The most anticipated game in la Liga is around the corner. The Spanish giants will face each other in the Bernabeu this Saturday. Even the ultimate critic of la Liga shall tune in to view this football battle and admire what have been the two leading football teams in Spain for some time.
On that note, I shall delve into that topic in a separate post in the near future, as the lack of knowledge and constant redundant critiques that revolve around the various leagues needs to be corrected.
But now is not the time. Now is the time to drool, as we have all been waiting for months to witness what are arguably, at the moment, the top two teams in the world in this epic showdown. Let’s analyze the factors surrounding this game and a few issues that have changed drastically since the 5-0 thrashing in the Camp Nou:
1) Media - there is a massive hype as usual around this match from the Madrid and Barcelona affiliated papers. However this time around the papers have been by far more discrete than last year, prior to Real Madrid’s humiliating loss at the Camp Nou in la Liga. Although there was an attempt to fuel the issue about Xabi Alonso’s booking against Atletico Madrid and Pique’s suspicious late booking against Rayo Vallecano, in order for both to not miss el Clasico. However those voices were quelled once both players were absolved.
2) Players – Real Madrid players have been extremely cautious on this topic. They have barely addressed the issue and all claim to be focused on Ajax and they are not thinking about Barcelona at all. A few Barcelona players have spoken briefly about the match however. Fabregas told BarçaTV: “We will go to the Bernabeu without fear.” Messi told FIFA: “It’s vital that we get a good result because it’ll set us up for the rest of the season.” Lionel is quite right, as Barcelona trail by 3 points at the moment and Real Madrid have played one game less than their archrivals.
3) Coaches – What is atypical is not hearing a single word from José Mourinho yet but we are all anxiously awaiting for his interview on el Clasico. At the moment, as his team, he has claimed that Real Madrid is not thinking about Barcelona, but only Ajax. Mourinho has been very low key ever since the famous Tito Vilanova incident. Instead, Guardiola when asked about the Clasico answered: “What is important is what happens with the euro, with Merkel and Sarkozy.”
4) Ballon d’Or – There is that issue as well. The two football superstars will face each other once again. This will be the 7th Clasico this year: 1 Real Madrid win, 3 draws and 2 Barcelona wins. Guardiola and his squad eliminated Real Madrid in the Champions League last season and also won the Spanish Super Cup over a thrilling double-leg more recently. The Argentinean was the difference in most of those matches. Ronaldo, Xavi and Messi are the three finalists for the Ballon d’Or this year and barring surprises, Messi should take home his third consecutive Ballon d’Or (a feat that only Platini has achieved). Of the previous 23 finalists, 13 belonged to Real Madrid and Barcelona, symbolizing their absolute hegemony of talent.
5) New additions – Barcelona signed Alexis Sanchez and Fabregas over the summer. Thiago Alcantara and Cuenca have been another two recent additions from the Cantera representing once again the brilliance of the Barcelona academy and young talents. Real Madrid signed Coentrão, Varane, Şahin, Altintop and Callejon. Fabregas has shined above all the mentioned signings at the moment and la Gazzetta dello Sport recognize Cesc as one of the main threats for Real Madrid.
6) Hunger for silverware – Real Madrid seems to be very hungry for results this season. At the moment they are on a 14 win streak (Mourinho beat his previous 10 win streak at Porto) and have managed to come up with a few big wins against teams such as Valencia and Sporting Gijon, which can prove to be crucial points at the end of the season. Even in the Champions League, Mourinho’s men have been unstoppable winning 5 games out of 5 and scoring 16 goals (they are 2 goals away from beating their all time goal scoring 1998/1999 record in the group phase).
7) Dropped points – Real Madrid have been nearly perfect so far in la Liga: 9 wins, 1 draw and 1 loss. At the Bernabeu they have only known victory with a total of 6 wins so far. Barcelona has been phenomenal at the Camp Nou (totaling 8 wins and 1 draw along with 39 goals scored and ZERO conceded) however they proved to have difficulties on the road and Pep recognized that his team must do better (2 wins, 3 draws and 1 loss) if they want to keep up with Real Madrid (6 wins, 1 draw, 1 loss on the road for los blancos).
8) Goals – We’re all hoping for a Clasico filled with goals. Real Madrid have scored 49 goals in 14 Liga games, while Barça have scored 47 in 15 games.
9) Pressing – One aspect of Barcelona’s game play that Mourinho has taken note of is the phenomenal pressing as soon as a player loses the ball. Real Madrid has earned additional meters on the pitch this season and the squad sits a lot higher up than last year. Their pressing game has been fantastic quite like Barcelona’s.
10) Ball possession – Barcelona are the masters at controlling possession. What will count however are how many chances the teams will create and how many they’ll take advantage of. Madrid has improved under this aspect and even in their counter attacks.
11) Formations – And here lies the big dilemma. What shall the two Spanish superpowers line up for el Clasico? Sport.es highlights this as Real Madrid has an incredibly deep and chameleonic squad: will Mou use the ‘trivote’ with Pepe in front of the defense as he did in the Copa del Rey final? Will Kaka play or Ozil? Will Benzema or Higuain start? Will José play a very defensive midfield with Lass, Xabi and Khedira? On the other hand, will Guardiola present a 3-4-3 formation at the Bernabeu in order to have another midfielder such as Cesc to improve ball possession? This did prove to be quite problematic against Valencia with Daniel Alves playing as a right-winger and Matthieu creating a lot of trouble for Barça on that flank. Also will Villa play even though he hasn’t had many minutes recently?
At this point, you must have a more in-depth understanding of the current Liga situation. I am refraining from expressing any predictions. Barcelona should always be respected, although now they haven’t proven to be in last year’s incredible form and just recently they proved they could beat the Italian champions in an extraordinary match in the San Siro in which Barça beat Milan 3-2. It is undeniable, though; that Barcelona has had the edge over Real Madrid in the past few years so my outlook remains a cautious one, with the understanding that a draw wouldn’t be a poor result. Even a loss wouldn’t prove to be the tragic, given the point difference, but a win could potentially put Real Madrid 9 points clear from the blaugrana in la Liga standings.