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El Clásico: Where Now For Mourinho's Anti-Madridismo Brigade?


Real Madrid vs Barcelona: Can Ronaldo Finally Topple The Catalans?

by Dermot Ledwith
18 January 2012 5 Comments

Rumours have been abound for some time that Mourinho's Madrid are ready to take the Spanish throne away from the Catalan giants, so far they has been proven wrong by consummate Barcelona performances and a misfiring Cristiano Ronaldo. Can the Portuguese turn it round?

Real Madrid and Barcelona meet again on Wednesday night in the first of two games of a Spanish Cup quarter-final that will go a long way to deciding which team holds the cards in this years Iberian power struggle.

Nine times in nine months the two sides will have met by the time they decide the tie in the Nou Camp next week, and up to now there is no doubt that Barcelona have held the upper hand.

This despite the Madrid press announcing the Catalan’s ‘fin de ciclo’, end of an era, since Jose Mourinho´s arrival in Madrid in the Summer of 2010.

The current La Liga and Champions League holders ended up the overall victors of the 4 duels last April when a league, Spanish Cup final and Champions league semi-final were in play in the space of 20 days.

Madrid did claim the consolation prize of a Spanish Cup final victory, a Cristiano Ronaldo goal earning an extra time 1-0 win to give them the end of season vision that the Catalans are in fact beatable.

So far this season Barcelona have continued to hold the upper hand starting with a 5-4 aggregate victory over two games in August in the season curtain raiser, the Super Cup.

Before Christmas the word in the capital was again that Madrid´s turn had finally come, superior form and a 15 game winning streak gave ‘Madridistas’ a confident air that the first league meeting of the season in the Bernabeu would prove to be the turning point.

When goalkeeper Victor Valdes gifted Madrid the lead with an uncustomary mistake in the first minute it seemed they were right, but Barca weathered the early storm and by the 30th minute they had got back into their passing groove and dominated the game to take a 3-1 win.

However before and since then Barca have seemed vulnerable, especially away from home where they have drawn 4 games, to give Madrid a 5 point lead ahead of the return game in the Nou Camp in April.

One of the theories in Madrid is Barca’s powers are beginning to wane with the slow decline of their midfield brain Xavi Hernandez. However  the most recent evidence from last weekend says this is far from happening soon.

With the opening goal and a majestic pass for Alexis Sanchez for the all important third in Barca’s 4-2 win over Betis,  Xavi was as influential as ever and afterwards spoke ominously about his team’s plans for the Bernabeu.

Stating how much he likes to play in the Bernabeu and how it motivates him, Xavi promised ‘Barca will play our usual game to attack and score goals and be as brave as we have been in recent years in the Bernabeu.’

One of the theories in Madrid is Barca’s powers are beginning to wane with the slow decline of their midfield brain Xavi Hernandez. However  the most recent evidence from last weekend says this is far from happening soon.

For Madrid the enigma is perhaps not the plan Mourinho comes up with this time to combat Barca, and his plans are definitely getting better with time,  but what Cristiano Ronaldo can do to help the cause.

Questioned for the first time by the demanding Madrid crowd after missing two clear chances in December’s league encounter, Ronaldo has 3 goals in 11 appearances against Barcelona.

In response to the boo boys, he refused to celebrate a goal in the Bernabeu two weekends ago against Granada, but it is difficult to question the record of the Portuguese golden boy since arriving from Manchester United for a world record £80m fee.

In the build up to this game Ronaldo has defended himself claiming pressure is not something that affects him before any match and certainly not when Barcelona are the opponents.

Ronaldo may be aided and abetted on Wednesday by the vastly improved Angel Di Maria if he is declared fit in time.

In the frail looking Argentine winger come play-maker, Mourinho has this season found someone other than Ronaldo that could genuinely hurt Barca.

With 13 goal assists  and 4 goals already this season, his killer passes have been a feature of Madrid’s effortless league wins and a player you want in your fantasy team.

Mourinho has purposefully been secretive with 24 hours to kick off about his starting eleven, but whatever personnel he has at his disposal we can be clear he has left to one side the aggressive tactics that marked the games last April.

Then the watching world was split in opinion over the four games between those who believed Madrid’s rough house tactics were part of a justified strategy and those that thought Barcelona concentrated a little too much on theatrics.

The result was three red cards for Madrid players in three of the games and Mourinho begging referees to be given a chance to play Barcelona with a level playing field.

This time around the mind games in the build-up have been non existant and it seems a sort of ‘détente’ based on mutual respect has broken out between Mourinho and Guardiola.

The latter has played the straighter bat throughout the clasico showdowns with Mourinho, knowing until now that he holds the better cards and in Lionel Messi the one genuine world superstar capable of winning the big games time and time again.

Messi’s goal tally against Madrid is 13 and on occasions, such as the first leg of last season’s Champions League semi in Madrid, moments of spellbinding magic produced in football heaven.

With his earlier goal giving his team a one goal advantage and Madrid penalised with the loss of  Pepe, Messi saw the opportunity to weave his way through the centre of the Bernabeu pitch  to score one of the greatest goal the stadium has ever seen and all but finish Madrid’s interest in the competition.

Whether it will be or Ronaldo who lights up this tie, or one of the support cast of Xavi, Di Maria, or Iniesta or Ozil, there is only one way to find out, and that is to tune in for this and the potentially 4 clasicos remaining clasicos between Wednesday night and the end of the season.

More stories that might interest you…

El Gran Clasico: Why Real Madrid v Barcelona Is More Than Just A Game

5 Things We Learnt From Real Madrid vs Barcelona

Real Madrid Greatest XI vs Barcelona Greatest XI: Who Wins?

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image descriptionCOMMENTS

stewy kennedy 11:48 am, 18-Jan-2012

Di Maria .... The Uruguayan winger?? Pretty sure he was Argentina's best player at the last world cup :/

yogavo 12:19 pm, 18-Jan-2012

who ever can cheat the most will win.

Colin 4:18 pm, 18-Jan-2012

Too many El Clasicos are sort of ruining the "event". Used to look forward to them but the cheating and diving and feigning injuries put you off in the end. La Liga is just a glorified SPL anyway. ZZzzzzzzz.......

eltricolor2014 6:22 pm, 18-Jan-2012

Ronaldo was certainly in his shell the last time they met. I hope he has better game this time around.

BigRed1 10:47 pm, 19-Jan-2012

Errrr.... No.

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