Real Madrid did have a bit of a scare in their home match against Sporting Gijon, but eventually, the three strikers headed monster came through with a 3-1 win, keeping the four point distance from Barcelona. Los Cules had problems of their own against the very tough Levante, needing some refereeing help to carry them through with a tough as nails 2-1 win.
So everything is set for the 218th Clasico between Barca and Real, which is partially a Messi and Ronaldo show, with Cristiano Ronaldo more often than not a no show in these matches. He has scored in recent clashes, but the points haven’t been coming. And he hasn’t been playing well. But when someone who has scored at least 40 league goals in two consecutive season faces someone who is about to set a new record for goals in a single season, how can you not be excited?
And despite all of the craziness surrounding Real Madrid these past few weeks, with Jose Mourinho adding to the pressure with his panicky behavior, they arrive with less pressure on them to the Camp Nou. They can afford to lose this match. The road to the title isn’t easy – Sevilla and a visit to Bilbao, but as long as Mourinho doesn’t lose control over this thing, they can come into Barcelona relatively relaxed. Maybe actually get a win in a league clasico for the first time since 2008.
There is the visit to what may be a semi-broken Bayern Munich team in the middle, while Barcelona have to play Chelsea. Will it have an effect on the Saturday match? It might. But also there’s figuring what’s more important to both teams. Real haven’t won any of the titles for a while now. Still, local dominance should be the first thing on their mind, if there’s even a choice. For Barcelona? Repeating as Champions League winners would be the greater achievement.
Barcelona are in a must win situation, but the funny thing, in the weeks leading up to the match, is no one even considered Real winning there. All the point calculations immediately include Real losing at the Camp Nou, where they last won with a Julio Baptista goal. Streaks, losing or winning streaks, have to end at a certain point.
But what about the match up itself, the psychology behind it? In the three striker lineup, Real would be as usual, under a lot of pressure because they’ll lose the midfield battle. They lose it usually against Barca no matter who comes up in the lineup, but like this? Barcelona’s greatest strength defensively is the high pressure by their front players. You need more players able to handle the ball and move it forward. Valecnia proved that a packed middle of the park is a great way to give Real a world of trouble. Barcelona have proved it too many times these past few years, Mourinho or no Mourinho.
And then there’s the question of diving versus violent play. Real players need to keep calm, remain calm. And not look at Mourinho when they feel the call hasn’t gone their way. It sounds silly, but it seems he’ll push them in the wrong direction under those circumstances. Barcelona are favorites to win this one, but even winning it might not be enough. Winning it big? Manita style? That’s a whole different story. Not likely, but a dominating Barcelona performance may push the lately unstable Real over the edge.