So get ready to be bombarded by El Clasico previews the coming two weeks – A league clash this Saturday, a Cup Final next week and then two Champions League games. The over exposure might make you sick. But seriously, we haven’t had an El Clasico overdose for quite sometime, usually because you just can’t get enough of this game. Maybe it’s the media hype just gettin’ bigger each year. Maybe the two teams are just so good, especially the last couple of years, it’s mind blowing watching Barcelona and Real Madrid play four times in a few weeks.
Lets approach this one game at a time, and begin with the league match. Real Madrid’s season took quite a blow on their Nou Camp visit – Manita, another 5-0 victory that will go down in the history books and Barca-Real lore. That was the fifth straight win for Barcelona over the Blancos and a severe blow to Mourinho and the overall confidence that was booming from Real.
Lionel Messi didn’t score, but sometimes just the attention one player creates and grabs from a confused defense is enough. He also got Sergio Ramos sent off for that ugly tackle on Lionel Messi and his scuffle with Puyol and Xavi.
Actually my guilty pleasure are these moments in soccer, so I hope we have at least one or two in the upcoming clasico’s. Back to the subject at hand, Lionel Messi – 29 goals and a shot at another pichichi. Right behind him Cristiano Ronaldo with 28. Messi topped the league with 34 last season. He still has a shot at beating Telmo Zarra’s 38 from sixty years ago. So does Ronaldo.
Barcelona are the better team, there’s no doubt. Still, something is squeaking in Guardiola’s machine right now. It’s hard to tell. The 5-1 win over Shakhtar wasn’t like Real’s 4-0 win over Tottenham. The Ukrainians had a few brilliant opportunities to make that game much more complicated. Spurs didn’t. On the other hand, I’m not sure Donetsk aren’t better than Harry Redknapp’s team. Still, Mourinho has his fellas confident again and looking happy again. Kaka is slowly finding his way back. There’s still no place for him in the starting lineup, but he’s more and more influential every time he steps on the pitch. Quite a rabbit to pull out of your hat.
Cristiano Ronaldo is blossoming again, scoring three goals in Real’s last three games. Back in action it seems that the shattering effect of the Gijon loss is fading away. Mourinho may have said that he doesn’t believe they can catch up with Barcelona in the league (8 point lead, seven games to go) but don’t buy that. A win tomorrow in the Bernabeu, Real’s first over los cules since 2008 will open his mouth again and shake everything up gearing towards the next matches.
Going back to last year’s 2-0 win – it was a Xavi masterpiece and Pedro’s coming of age. Real Madrid felt like they a got a bit robbed in the 1-0 Camp Nou clash, The way Barcelona outplayed them at Madrid was a moral killer. I think it resonated and lingered to this season. Still, great players and team have short memories. How much is the 5-0 holding and caving in those minds? Games in Barcelona and Madrid are completely different. Real will be dominant, but they have to be more than just pushing the ball to Cristiano. When things get tough, that seems to be the answer. It doesn’t work. The team effort, with Cristiano Ronaldo just above the rest is the right recipe. He usually can’t find himself against Barcelona. If Real Madrid are to have a chance at titles this season – all three of them, more likely and less, go through Barca. Ronaldo has a chance to show he’s ready to take on the big bad beast. And maybe gain a few points in the whole Messi-Ronaldo debate.