Thursday, 19 January 2012

Thoughts on last night's Clasico and the upcoming second leg.

Next week will be interesting. Guardiola has consistently got the better of Mourinho in the Majority of Clásicos (with the exception of last years Copa del Rey) and on the evidence of last nights performance he's still nowhere near. Not that Madrid haven't vastly improved since last season because they have and will probably win the league as a result. But a league title without a Clásico win is generally viewed as a Pyrrhic victory by most Madridistas, who will not be pleased by Jose’s comments today that state it would in fact be “great”. Like a Rubik's cube being twisted into shape Barça were at their fluid best last night with both goals coming from usually goal-shy defenders; the ever talismanic Puyol and the criminally underrated Abidal. Madrid had started well though, with a fine goal from Ronaldo to underline Real's early domination of the game. It was not to last though as the Rubik's cube took its final twist and Barça clicked into gear. Unlike the last Clásico in the league way back in December,  Real seemed unwilling to press much beyond goal-kicks, letting Barça build from the back in a way which was only really likely to have one outcome. Going to the Camp Nou next week will not be an easy job, they will need to press and attack by playing Barça at their own game and it should make for intriguing viewing. 

What particularly interested me in this game, as with the previous Clásico, was the use of Alexis Sanchez as an orthodox centre forward, with Messi playing as a classic number ten behind him. Quite often in League fixtures this season (admittedly of less importance) Cesc has been given the number nine role with  Messi in his old right wing role, cutting inside. The formation used in the previous two Clásicos (with Iniesta on the wing and Cesc in midfield alongside Xavi) appears to be Guardiola's preferred 'big game' formation. Also interesting was the use of Dani Alves as an actual right back, not having Puyol to come across and cover for him. It appears that with Cristiano Ronaldo, even Alves has to defend. It did work though, with Ronaldo switching flanks after Callejon came on in the 67th minute. 

On the other hand though, it seems highly unlikely that Mourinho will be too bothered about being knocked out of the Copa del Rey next week. It would take something really special to come back and I’m not convinced Madrid have it. Jose wants the league anyway and unless Real flounder spectacularly, they will get it and despite the the Champion’s League being ‘Mourinho’s competition’, really it is Barça’s to lose and I certainly won’t be betting against them.

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