The epic Barça-Madrid battle starts here. Part 1 of 4: Liga week 32 Real Madrid vs FC Barcelona

If you are not excited by the 4-match clasico-fest we are about to enjoy then I find it difficult to believe you are human. Ever since the possibility arose after the Champions League draw was made in March it has been eagerly anticipated but the semi-final clash was only confirmed on Wednesday when Madrid completed the job of finishing Tottenham’s european adventure.

With two coaches who pay so much attention to detail it will be a fascinating set of matches. Mourinho has said that he will take each game individually as it comes, which for some people would be the best and most logical way to approach things, though with Mourinho we should have learnt by now that what he says and what he does are very often two different things altogether. From the outset it would seem that the Champions League semi-final is more important than the first two games, and given the eight-point gap in La Liga the first game could be seen as not to matter quite so much since even if Madrid win, it is extremely unlikely that they can recover the difference in the remaining six games. I am sure Mourinho will see it like this, and considering his particurlar love of the Champions League I think he will almost definitely play the first two matches with the Champions League in mind, though I should say I still think he will want to win these games. With this is mind it has been suggested that Mourinho could send out a player tomorrow with the intention of injuring Leo Messi. This may sound like paranoid-culé syndrome but the sad thing is it could actually make sense for Madrid to use such a tactic, and I had to ask myself this morning about why Jorge Valdano felt the necessity to say that Madrid have more answers without Cristiano Ronaldo than Barça have without Messi. Under normal circumstances I would expect Messi to play all 90 minutes of the four Madrid games (if he needs a break he could rest for one of the league games with Osasuna on April 23 or Real Sociedad on April 30).

It is difficult to know what Mourinho might have up his sleeve, and tactically he has more options than Guardiola especially now that Higuian and Kaka are fit again. Guardiola will also see the Champions League as most important but I feel it is impossible that we don’t go all out to win tomorrow as it is part of the Guardiola philosophy. Perhaps he might think about resting somebody but with the injury situation there are few options for change and as a consequence it may be more difficult to surprise Madrid with team selection and positioning. With Mascherano suspended tomorrow it seems likely that he has decided to play Busquets as the holding midfielder rather than in defence which would mean Milito would play which won’t be too popular with some fans. He might also give Afellay another start and leave either Villa or Pedro on the bench. Maxwell could come in for Adriano, but I doubt it as Adriano is in good form, while there could also be a place for Keita in order to rest somebody else, but aside from that we’ve only got youngsters like Thiago and Fontás and I don’t think either of these will start tomorrow.

I believe it is worth going all out for victory tomorrow, not only will it be the final nail in Madrid’s title challenge, it also surely has to be better going into the next game with a victory rather than a draw or defeat. Let Madrid players get a complex about never being able to beat us. To win, however, we are going to need another very high level performance, and given Villa’s poor run and Pedro’s recent injury we may again find ourselves relying on the magic of Leo Messi. There are a lot of different stats in the papers about how many goals Messi has scored recently but his importance goes far beyond putting the ball in the net with incredible regularity, we saw in the 5-0 game at Camp Nou that Messi can also help destroy the opposition without scoring himself. The other player who could be vital for us is Victor Valdés who is in an excellent moment, the Soccerlens blog made an interesting comparison to show why Valdés is better than Casillas. With our lack of speed at the back it seems sure that Valdés will face some action tomorrow.

The biggest threat from Madrid is likely to come from Cristiano Ronaldo though let me go on record here as saying I hope he never signs for us. He is quick and strong and extremely gifted technically, however he is far too individualistic and although his long shots can occasionally fool goalkeepers like Tottenham’s Heurelho Gomes most of his long-range efforts do not hit the target and he often shoots when he has other options. The other problem with Cristiano is his character, while he is undoubtably has a winner’s singular mentality he really does come across as a most unlikable spoilt brat. A question: you hear Cristiano Ronaldo is marrying your sister, how do you react? Are you happy because of the financial stability this might offer your family? I think it is more likely that I would be worried about how to stop myself from committing physical assault?

In fact from Madrid’s squad there are only three players who I could see fitting in at Barça and they are Ozil, Di Maria and Marcelo, and this summer we didn’t go for the first two when we had the option. However, they have been two good signings for Madrid who might shine even more without Cristiano. Marcelo is not so great defensively but he is good going forward and he also offers Mourinho the option of coming into midfield and he could be used like this as an anti-Alves card. Of the rest Xavi Alonso is very good but we have that position covered, Sergio Ramos is very over-rated in my opinion and his weaknesses were again revealed by Gareth Bale, and Casillas may be very good but I’ll stick with Valdés as he is better with his feet.

With the bookmakers Barça are favourite to win each of the four games though it is much less likely that we will win all four games, you will get odds of around 16/1 for that. As Johan Cruyff said earlier this week it is unlikely either team will win all 4 matches but it isn’t necessary to achieve our season goal of winning the treble again. A draw at the Bernabeu tomorrow will be an excellent result and that is what I’m predicting.

Possible teams:

Madrid: Casillas; Ramos, Pepe, Carvalho, Marcelo; Khedira, Alonso; Ronaldo, Ozil, Di Maria; Adebayor.

Barça: Valdés; Alves, Piqué, Milito, Adriano; Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta; Pedro, Messi, Villa.

My prediction: Madrid 2 Barça 2

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10 Responses to The epic Barça-Madrid battle starts here. Part 1 of 4: Liga week 32 Real Madrid vs FC Barcelona

  1. Fredegar says:

    Well, well, well… Will my heart hold? 4 Clasicos in 18 days, OMG!
    And they go in order of importance as well. I would happily lose the first three if winning the fourth meant a CL final. Not that I dislike the Cup of course, but the one everybody really wants is the CL, you can bet your house Mou will think exactly the same.
    For those who believe in a conspiracy theory, I would just like to remark that last year, Inter eliminated us without resorting to constant fouling. Mourinho being himself, I wouldn’t rule any move from his part as we all know he is able to do anything to win, but I fear more from individual hot heads in the madrid ranks (Pepe anyone?) than from an order from Mou.
    Formwise, I would say Madrid are in a better shape than we are. They are playing better than they were at the start of the season, have gotten pretty good results recently (Gijon appart), have almost no injury and a larger team than we do. We, on the other hand, are still brilliant, but not playing as well as we did before the turn of the year, have some players off form and a few injuries. So all this makes for a great and balanced match-up!
    Mou will play us with a counter attacking team. That won’t be easy cos’ I don’t agree with Sid Lowe’s and Zonal Marking’s theory that Madrid have played counter-attacking football all year. In my opinion, they have played a style not far from ours, with a high and intense pressing line and a lot of possession, the main difference being that they were more direct than us and running through adverse defenses. So Mou will have to alter the shape of his team, cos’ there’s no way he will play us again with the high defensive line that so spectacularly failed in November. He will have a very difficult balancing act to realise cos’ his defense is nothing near the one he had at Inter, but he will feel confident he can hurt us on the break.
    As for us, we will play our usual brand of football, but I believe Guardiola will give special attention to our defense and will keep something special in store as he always has for the Clasicos. The big difference with the first leg will be the absences of Puyol and Abidal which are worrying me a lot as they leave us very exposed to pace, but the good news is that some of our players look to be on top top form. Messi is looking very sharp, Piqué is at his best again, and if players like Pedro and Villa can find their best form back, we will be very dangerous. But above all I think Valdes and Iniesta are playing better than they have ever done, and I hope that this will be the difference between us and Madrid!
    Exciting times ahead, Visca Barça!

  2. DAYYIB-SM says:

    All barca funs wants barca to be on top champion league not la liga and copa….
    i hope if we are loose a game it should be tomorow because la laga is in our bag…..

    copa not match good as compared other two…

    appart of all of these i will hope tomorow to be a draw…… madrid 1-1 barca goals( messi and any one of madrid players except ronaldo….

    Go barca Go barca……

  3. blaugranaboy says:

    im not as much excited as rather nervous. these big games really stress me out. fact is, i can take losing to madrid here and there, its normal. and yes, the last few years we have owned them, but looking at history its normal to lose to madrid especially in madrid. i go into tonight’s game with zero expectations of winning. thats just how i approach the game. you cannot walk into the house of ur biggest opponent, a team filled with huge names and talent, and the most annoying successful manager and expect to win. yes, we can hope to win, yes we can believe we are good enough to win, but to expect is unrealistic.

    cruyff had it 100% right this last week. it is unrealistic and improbable for one team to win all 4 encounters. but the part he got most correct is that we DO NOT need to win all 4. would it be historic and ridiculously incredible, of course, it would go down in history and only add to the fact this team is likely the best blaugrana of all time. but we dont need to. the best result tonight is obviously a win, but a draw does JUST fine.

    these games are a bit overwhelming for me. i would be crushed if it was this team and this manager who destroy this season for us. i have a long dislike, even hate at times, for mr mourinho and as much as losing to madrid hurts, the fact he would be there with a smug little smile would be the danger to the heart. i seriously do not know how these games will go.

    readers will have picked up on my rather less optimistic outlook for the next few months. im legitamately concerned about the defensive issues we are facing. adriano is doing well, not as well as some people and football analysts think in my opinion, but he is no abidal. masch and busquets have done well in that center back role, but can they do it every game, in games versus top class players? surely not as well as puyol. and then we have david villa. his form has disappointed and saddended me like few players i can remember. henry and zlatan i never cared for, so there rubbishness only fueled the fact i didnt want them so it came through in anger. villa i believed in wholeheartedly. i bought his shirt before he even kicked a ball. so its really sad when i see him bumbling around not being the killer i know. i hope he turns it around.

    the goods news is puyol has has been cleared medically by the club doctors and travels to madrid. one can definietly look at this and think he’s being rushed seeing as its right before madrid. but he was expected to come back several games before and it appears we were strict on not letting him, so hopefully he has healed up in the right way.

    huge huge game tonight. im looking forward to it, but im really cautious.

  4. FCB-Parbo says:

    BIG UP TEAM BARCA!!!!!! Come on MVP, put your scoringboots on and walk all over them. Messi loves to score at the Bernabeu and he will do so again this time and it’s the time to break the curse against Mou.

    I fear injuries, they will attack especially Messi, Xavi and Iniesta. Please ALMIGHTY GOD stand by their side and watch over them.

    VISCA BARCA!!!!!!
    FORCA BARCA!!!!!

  5. bc9jaCulé says:

    Hey fellow culés. I understand all the worries and I don’t feel any different either. It’s almost an unpredictable match given ALL the indices that come into play from both camps. Thank God our captain is back and I hope he gets some minutes tonight but come what may, if our midfield trio of Xavi–Iniesta–Sergio and our dreadful attack of MVP can somehow get to swim in their full stride, Mou is as good as done cos I can assure him of another spankin’. Fingers crossed.

    Madrid — 0
    Barça — 2

    Visca Barça!!!
    Força Barça!!!

  6. barcacentralnic says:

    PUYOL is back and in the starting lineup!!! I am so happy. I change my prediction to a 1-2 victory to Barça. The team is as follows: Valdes; Alves, Pique, Puyol, Adriano; Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta; Pedro, Messi, Villa.

  7. hardcoreFCBARCELONEAN says:

    KEITA IS NO BARSA MATERIAL…..ABSOLUTELY RUBBISH….I HATE TO SOUND RACIST….BUT KEITA IS SH#T…..same case at the EMIRATES…what’s up with PEP and the preference of KEITA as a main sub?? …can’t he see that this KEITA can’t play in big games? I’d rather Millito then Keita seriously !!!!

  8. hardcoreFCBARCELONEAN says:

    if there is a sub taking place its almost sure thing that Keita is gonna be brought on …..ALMOST comfirmed…so fu##in predictable….ooooo boyyy i’m so frustrated!!! i predicted an equalizer as soon as i saw KEITA’S bloody face

  9. hardcoreFCBARCELONEAN says:

    watch what i saw….KEITA never plays well in big games…..never ever…..not against a top quality side..NEVER

  10. hardcoreFCBARCELONEAN says:

    I DON’T CARE IF KEITA IS A NICE CHAP OR NOT….BUT WHAT I’M SURE IS….he don’t deserve to play here !!! I’d rather bring on Thiago, or Millito or Dos Santos….or Marc Batra…or Muniesa…..anybody…i’ll even make Valdes a midfielder instead if i have to…BUT NOT KEITA !!! WATCH MY PREDICTION….KEITA STARTS NEXT CLASSICO….and BARSA loose…surely!!!

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