Los Merengues face a season defining week starting from tonight. Three very important matches today, on Saturday and next week Tuesday are must wins if they stand any chance of claiming at least one title this campaign.
One could argue that the Spanish League is a foregone conclusion given Barcelona’s healthy lead over their most illustrious rivals. But as they say, it is never over until it is over. Real Madrid aren’t even 2nd on the La Liga table. They sit third and a massive 16 points behind the Catalan giants. El Cholo Simeone’s Colchoneros sit 2nd, four points ahead of their city rivals and 12 behind the 21 time La Liga champions.
Today isn’t about the League and its twists and turns. It is the Copa Del Rey semi-final second leg and Barcelona hold the slender advantage haven scored an away goal and conceded one at the Bernabeu.
With the match evenly poised at 1-1, Real Madrid will fancy their chances of beating the Blaugrana on their soil. Jose Mourinho was at his best when throwing verbal tirades at opponents yesterday citing Bacelona’s obsession with referees and their holier than thou attitude in footballing parlance.
Jordi Roura was critical of the appointment of Alberto Undiano Mallecano as referee fro the marquee match-up for the mere fact that he presided over Barcelona’s loss in the 11 Copa Del Rey final v the Blancos.
The stand in coach of the Catalans was of the opinion that Undiano left too many Madrid challenges unattended to in that Mestalla decider. One of the most flimsy excuses you’ll get in a long time. The Portuguese tactician who is no stranger to verbal exchanges, wasted no time in giving the League leaders a dress down.
In truth, Barcelona and Real ‘s whitewash of their own failings has become like a broken record. Both clubs who have won so many titles between them, are becoming disgraceful and infuriating to the football public at the same time.
The focus on things other than football has become a bore and the institutions which were once revered have almost become a laughing stock all over the world. Perhaps, both club Presidents can find a way around these shameful representations.
Back to the game. Barcelona warmed up for this spectacle with a come-from-behind 2-1 win v Sevilla at the Nou Camp. After Albert Botia, a former Camp Nou servant, put the Andalusians ahead, Barca had to wait until the second half for David Villa and who else but Messi to take the lead and eventually win the match.
Not what they envisaged, but they got out of a slippery situation to record the much needed win which was important after what went down at the San Siro in midweek. Real Madrid had to face relegation threatened Deportivo La Coruna at the Riazor which remains the only ground Cristiano Ronaldo has yet to register a goal since his arrival from Manchester United three and a half ago.
Depor were pumped up for this and it was no surprise how they started the match. Veteran master, Juan Carlos Valeron ran a makeshift (if am allowed to call it that) Real Madrid midfield of Modric and Essien ragged. Riki Sanchez Soto (a former Madrid youth/reserve team product) scored a peach of a goal at the other end, although Diego Lopez ought to have done better at his near post. Real Madrid tried all they could to equalize all to no avail.
It was in the 2nd half that the ‘Whites’ made their supremacy count. The introduction of Khedira, Ozil and CR7 motivated those left on the pitch and eventually, a Ricky Kaka beauty set the tone for a tense finale. Kaka was again on hand to feed CR7 who unselfishly laid it on for Pipita Higuain to apply the simplest of finishes for not only RM’s winner, but his 100th La Liga goal in 179 appearances for the capital club. It was also the Argentine’s 10th goal of a disappointing season for himself and the club.
Tonight is another atmosphere entirely. A purely different and more important game situation. If not for anything, for the rivalry that exists between both clubs. The Catalans rested Xavi, Fabregas, Busquets -who won the Catalan footballer of the year, and Pedro Rodriguez who is no stranger to the big occasion and is the only player to score in six different tournaments in one year for one club.
Leo Messi is yet to score a Copa Del Rey (CDR) goal for Barca v Madrid and failed to find the net in the 1st leg. He however set Fabregas up for the team’s only goal. El Guaje (Villa) will hope for a starting berth after impressing on his return to the starting 11 on Saturday. That looks increasingly unlikely if Barca decide to place Iniesta on the wings as has been done more often than not.
The Merengues were without Xabi Alonso the bandleader, Karim Benzema and teenage prodigy, Raphael Varane at the Riazor. All will be expected to return to the starting line-up. Varane was supposedly left out of the Deportivo game due to muscular issues. We all know how these clubs formulate and cook up stories just to hide the real reasons behind some decisions and actions.
The youngster from France was instrumental to Madrid’s defensive masterclass at the Bernabeu and even scored a beautiful equaliser off an Ozil assist when it was looking like another Barcelona triumph.
The two Spanish giants will slug it out tonight for the right to contest the final of the Copa. Apart from CR7 and Messi who are the usual suspects, there are great players like Xavi, Iniesta, Busquets, Pique, Puyol, Ozil, Alonso, Khedira, Sergio Ramos, Fabregas, Modric, etc who can decide the outcome of a match on their own. One moment of brilliance and boom, game, set and match.
The two protagonists any day are RONALDO and MESSI. The best players in the world by any standard have scored an astonishing 86 goals between them this season. The Portuguese’s record of scoring in consecutive Clasicos stopped at 6 (he couldn’t score in the 1st leg). Nevertheless, he is the main threat, the biggest and most lethal weapon of REAL MADRID. Set him loose and he hurts you deeply.
Mr Messi is just unbelievably phenomenal. The ‘flea’ has scored 38 league goals in just 25 matches this season including scoring in the last 15 La liga matches. The last time he failed to find the opposition net in league play was November 2012. Since then it has been 15 matches-25 goals.
An Ambrosini-esque performance will be needed from Alonso or Khedira or Essien to stop him from causing damage. His 17 Clasico goals is just 1 less than Alfredo Di Stefano’s record of 18 set donkey years ago. He loves the Nou Camp and is sometimes unstoppable when he gets on the famous pitch.
We anticipate a fantastic game of scintillating football tonight. Anything short of that will be way below our expectations.
Handbags, theatrics and shameful playacting have been common sights in recent Clasicos. The last two have been excellent with little or no controversies, with good football taking centre stage rather than childishness, immaturity and unprofessional behaviour among players and coaches.
BARCELONA- Pinto, Alves, Puyo/Mascherano, Pique, Alba, Busquets, Xavi, Fabregas, Messi, Pedro, Iniesta
REAL MADRID- Lopez, Essien, Ramos/Pepe, Varane, Marcelo/Coentrao, Khedira, Alonso, Modric/Kaka, Ozil, CR7, Benzema.
The widespread rumours have been that Mourinho will employ a false ‘9’ system v Barcelona (Copa), Barcelona (League) and MUFC (UCL). Whatever he does, at least 8 of the players I mentioned must start the game.
The ‘false nine’ idea is as a result of the poor performances and injury worries of his strikers this season. Compared to last season, it has been a very unfortunate campaign for the strikers at Mourinho’s disposal.
Angel Di Maria stupidly and irrationally sent himself off the other night. Sometimes, he behaves really funny. Two yellow cards in the space of 20 seconds is unacceptable even in amateur football. His moment of absolute insanity has cost him a place in Saturday’s League game v Barcelona.
‘What a farmer-‘FAZENDEIRO’, according to JERRAD PETERS.
Written by Ohireime Eboreime
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