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Thursday, 26 May 2011

El Clásico...Football Extravaganza

They are going to play each other 4 times in only 18 days. This straight forward information will not be enough to thrill you wait for those matches. But, you are a football fan and I am talking about Real Madrid playing Barcelona, then it can be something worth waiting for !
In football terms, El Clásico, planet’s most hyped club football game going to happen four times within a span of only eighteen days. Spain’s two most successful football clubs; Real Madrid and Barcelona battle out for glory and supremacy. The great rivalry does not limit to the borders of football; it’s the rivalry of nationalism, philosophy, culture etc. If you compare cities, Madrid and Barcelona are the biggest cities in Spain. If you compare football clubs, Real and Barca are the biggest, most successful and richest clubs in Spain; if not biggest, successful and richest in World football.  Then try to compare the fan base; they equally share huge fans across the globe. Real Madrid, representatives of Spanish nationalism or Castile region has a football philosophy different to Barcelona who represents the Catalan region of Iberian Peninsula. While Barcelona’s youth academy is known for producing football talents, Real Madrid always tend to purchase talents and assemble them to form Galacticos.
To know the fierceness of this rivalry you would have to turn your attentions back to El Clásico in 2002. Luis Figo, the former vice captain and fan favorite of Barcelona switched his allegiance to Real Madrid in 2000 after five successful years at Catalunya. When Figo appeared out of the tunnel at Camp Nou, Barcelona’s home ground, in the sacred white shirt of Real, culés called him Judas ! For them Camp Nou is a cathedral and they will not tolerate any act of betrayal. They threw bottles, cigarettes and whatever came to their hand to show their disgust; they even threw a rotten pig’s head aimed at once their beloved player !
Let me give you the fixtures in advance to plan your all other activities accordingly.
Real vs. Barca     16th April 2011    Estadio Santiago Bernabéu         La Liga
Barca vs. Real     20th April 2011    Estadio Mestalla, Valencia         Copa del Rey final
Real vs. Barca     27th April 2011    Estadio Santiago Bernabéu         CL SF 1st leg
Barca vs. Real     3rd May 2011        Camp Nou, Barcelona                    CL SF 2nd leg
In Spanish Primera División, Barca leads Real by 8 points with 7 games remaining. So the match at Bernabéu on 16th April has least priority out of four battles, at least for Barcelona. A Real win will not displace Barca from the La Liga summit. But in case Real wins this fixture, it will surely influence the outcome of other three remaining fixtures. Even though improbable in the current circumstances, a win for Real will restore the confidence to Real players and they will start to believe that all conquering ‘wonder in boots’ are not invincible. Also, that will provide the perfect revenge for the 5-0 trouncing Real experienced at Camp Nou back in November 2010.
At Mestalla, four days after the meeting at Bernabéu, Real will find out if the trophy cabinet at Madrid needs to be rearranged for Copa del Rey coming after a break of 18 years. Barca will be so eager to bring The King’s cup back to Camp Nou which they last won in 2009 while completing sextuple under Pep Guardiola.
Then there are two mouth watering Champions league matches await as José Mourinho prepare his ‘Men in white’ for the much coveted décima Copa de Europa for which he was hired. And for Barca too, this two legged matches are equally important. Last season, Barca was obsessed to play the Champions league final at Santiago Bernabéu and declare their dominance in front of Madrid fans. But the El traductor had other ideas as his Inter Milan side swept away Barca to take away Champions league while becoming the first Italian team to complete the Treble. In his post match conference, Pep Guardiola despondently admitted Barca fans that, ‘we owe you final place at Wembley next year’. Again the same nemesis, El traductor, is blocking Barca’s way in Semi finals. But this time Barca can’t afford to lose the battle as the team Mourinho managing is none other than Real Madrid.
To be precise, if there is any football Manager in the planet who knows how to stop Lionel Messi, or rather Barcelona, that seems to be José Mourinho, The Special One. It could be because he knows the Barcelona system very well due to his spell at Camp Nou under Late Sir Bobby Robson and Luis van Gaal. The true heir to Diego Maradona is yet to find the back of the net against a Mourinho team. Oh God, that list includes Chelsea, Inter Milan and now Real Madrid. Messi was kept silent by Mourinho during the 5-0 drubbing of Real at Camp Nou too. But that act alone against Messi was not enough to prevent Xavi, Pedro and Villa running riot against Real defense and smack five past one of the best goal keeper in the World, and Real Madrid Captain San Iker.
Even though ignored previously, may be purposefully overlooked, about upcoming four matches against each other, both Guardiola and Mourinho stayed away from publicly talking about El Clásicos.  But the time has come and you cannot hide the fact that rivalry is going to be renewed through this do or die series which comes as four installments. Eloquent about their midfield dominance, Barca is not going to experiment anything abnormal unless their injury crisis ask for so. But for Real Madrid and their shrewd Manager the story is different. Mourinho may try a similar counter attacking strategy deployed when he was in charge at Chelsea and Inter or a fresh strategy to stop Barcelona playing their normal Tiki-taka game. He may try those experiments either during two 45 minute sessions at Bernabéu during the first installment or even try experimenting at Mestalla if his initial strategies turn pointless. If any of the strategy works out against Barca, he is going to deploy the same with some fine tuning in Champions league semi finals to march past Barca again to achieve his dream rather than Real’s dream of décima Copa de Europa ! To become the first manager in the football history to win UEFA Champions league with three different teams. 
There could be individual battles in the turf which include great football names like Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, Xavi Hernández and Mesut Özil, David Villa and Sergio Ramos, Dani Alves and Marcelo. Near the touch line, Pep Guardiola will be occupied in an intellectual battle with José Mourinho. And in the stands, Sandro Rosell will watch the encounters alongside Florentino Pérez to the cheers and rants from both supporters.
Johan Cruyff, Barcelona legend claims that ‘Barcelona does not need to win all four games, they must only win two: the second and the fourth’. In the end of the war, there could be one winner or sometimes the spoils will be shared; who knows ?

15th April, 2011
The day before Real vs. Barca match in La Liga

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