El Clasico series - Part 4

Sunday, May 01, 2011 Posted by Pratheesh

So we are all set for the UCL semi final 2nd leg(El Clasico number 4 in little more than 2 weeks)
at the Camp Nou. Before this Real Madrid has won 1, Barca 1 and one resulted in a draw. Going into the match Barca has an advantage of playing at home with 2 away goals at hand. In the first leg, it was a deadlock which was broken by Pepe's dismissal which seemed to turn the tide in Barca's favour and they went ahead when Messi turned in Ibrahim Afellay's cross. Messi then added a fabulous second when he ran 30 yards before slotting in.

Real Madrid's defeat at the Bernabéu by Zaragoza – José Mourinho's second league defeat at home inside a month after a nine-year unbeaten run – gave Barça a chance to stretch their advantage at the top to 11 points but they were beaten by Real Socieded later on Saturday. Real Madrid coach Mourinho rested several first-choice players, including Real's top scorer, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Xabi Alonso, ahead of Tuesday's Champions League return at Camp Nou, where they will aim to overturn Barcelona's 2-0 advantage from the first leg.

For the 2nd leg, Pepe is suspended and then there are players in danger of missing the final if
booked - Alves, Mascherano for Barcelona and for Madrid, they are Arbeloa, Adebayor, Di María, C.Ronaldo, and Albiol.

To improve their attacking ambitions, Mourinho may play Kaka in an attacking central mid-field role. Madrid is one of the world’s best teams on the counter. In fact, they are much more than a team that depends on the counter. For much of the season Madrid has dominated the ball and retained possession for long stretches. In addition, Madrid have been quite dangerous when they’ve been able to turn the ball over higher up the pitch and then break at speed. Their pace and technical ability makes them very adept at transitioning from defense to not only attack extremely quickly but to do so in numbers.

Tactically, Alonso plays a key role in the midfield as Pedro and David Villa are for Barca. Alonso is a fine passer but he’s not particularly strong at shielding the ball or dribbling. With Villa and Pedro pressing the full backs, Barça will be able to break Madrid into two horizontal pieces by pressing Alonso and forcing Khedira to build up more of the play. This will require both Xavi and Iniesta(who might not play) to defend vigorously on the press, which they fortunately accustomed to doing.

The Barça wide players must press and disrupt the Madrid full backs as they seek to initiate play. Pedro in particular will be critical for Barça because one of the signfiicant advantages Barça have is Pedro’s work rate compared to Ronaldo’s. Pedro will need to not only pressure Marcelo but will then need to track back to support closing down the partnership between Marcelo and C. Ronaldo.

Which leads us to the final way Barça must defend – one of their best defenses in this match will
be to possess the ball and to do so with as few errors as possible. One of Madrid’s greatest
problems in this match will be - How to generate attacking opportunities in the way they are
accustomed to against a team that possesses the ball for so long and infrequently makes mistakes in possession.

Some Catalans see Barcelona as their "national team" – despite the presence of foreign players such as the Argentinian Leo Messi and Brazil's Dani Alves. Some Madrileños see it as the sporting embodiment of "anti-Spanishness". It is a state of mind that harks back to the days of General Franco, when Real Madrid was seen as the establishment club. Barcelona, almost as a corollary, became a symbol of Catalan resistance.

For them this is war, a set of proxy battles between the Catalonia region – of which Barcelona is
the capital – and mighty Madrid. With a draw and a victory apiece so far, the bruising campaign
will not be settled until Tuesday.

The first leg saw Mourinho openly criticising Barca(for their "theatrics)and UEFA(for "supporting" the Catalans). I have heard/seen people making baseless comments that UEFA supports Barca as UNICEF are their sponsors. But here I want to make clear that UNICEF does not sponsor Barca. Rather it's the other way round i.e. Barcelona FC funds UNICEF.

Anyways, hoping for more football and less of an action packed movie in the last Clasico of the


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