The 10 Reasons for Barcelona’s Victory in El Clasico
Posted on December 11, 2011 7:23 pm
As they usually do in the big stage, Barcelona played their best football when it really mattered. The Catalan victory was indisputable and a severe blow to Real Madrid, which believed they could at last play face to face to their irreconcilable enemies. The result leaves both teams equal on points although the Merengues have one game in hand.
I present you now with the ten points that I consider most important for Barcelona’s triumph last night.
1.- Guardiola’s tactical edge: Barça’s coach nailed every decision. He started with a very fluid kind of 4-3-3, after threatening for a month with playing with a three-back line which confused Mourinho in his initial approach and encouraged him to play with just two defensive midfielders. At minute 25, he deployed Busquets to central defense and moved Puyol to the right back position with Alves as a right winger, killing the merengue defense every time he got the ball. For the second half, Guardiola finally used his three-back line and his team took full control of the game. Mourinho never manage to get an answer, and his tactical rigidity contrasted with the strategic capability of his opponent.
2.- Luck: In his press conference, the Portuguese coach lamented his team’s bad luck in the Catalans’ second goal. Many journalists interpreted that he had said that Barça only won because they were lucky, but that was not what he meant. Mou was right, the four-leaved clover was on the side of the Blaugranas last night, and there is nothing negative in the statement, as luck is a pervasive element in football and in life, and the highest virtue is to be able to get the most out of it.
3.- Patience: The game couldn’t have started in a better way for Real Madrid. They led 1-0 after 20 seconds and their high pressing strategy was making Barça struggle mightily. But the Catalans never lost their minds and never tried to change their essence. It was logical to think that Real Madrid would wear eventually after applying so much pressure and to go into desperation-mode would have meant falling into Mourinho’s trap. Finally, patience paid off and, after a difficult start, Barça regained control of the game.
4 .- Carles Puyol: He did it all. He started as a central defender, but soon Guardiola moved him to the right side to deal with Cristiano Ronaldo, whom he completely manned up, to the point that, in the second half, Mourinho switched him with De Maria. Barcelona’s captain was always sharp, several times came at the last moment to prevent a chance and showed his usual character and leadership. The best player of the match in my opinion.
5 .- Messi vs. Cristiano. It may not have been the Argentine star’s best performance, but as usual, he was there when his team needed him the most, with a fantastic assistance for Alexis. The Portuguese, meanwhile, was a ghost. I do not necessarily agree with those who say he always plays badly against Barça but, in this case, his performance was awful. Two incredible misses, especially the second, will weigh on his name for a long time. If we got something out of this game was to completely end with the controversy of who’s the best player in the world. You only need to see the photo above to know it.
6.- Iniesta vs Özil. I don’t know what happens to the German playmaker. The brilliant, intelligent player we saw last season has given way to a slow motion version. There were many doubts about his inclusion in the starting XI and in the end Mourinho decided to put him as a statement of intent and lack of fear. He should not have bothered. Except for its participation in the first goal, Özil was just a name on the list. Iniesta, on the other hand, was Iniesta, and nothing more was needed to make a difference.
7 .- Real Madrid’s stance. As I said in my last article, this was the second time that Mourinho set up his team to face Barça as equals. On the first one he was mauled 5-0 at the Camp Nou, but this time his team seemed to have the quality to change history. After last night it became painfully clear that the Merengues are not yet able to stand up to their archrivals. From now on, to return to trivote, sit back and look for counters.
8 .- The flow of the game. Largely because of Madrid’s stance but also because the general environment is very different to last year, the match was not plagued by fouls and simulations, which undoubtedly helped the show, but also Barcelona, which feel way more comfortable in fluency than in constant interruption.
9 .- The new signings. For this season, Barcelona made two important additions: Alexis Sanchez and Cesc. Madrid, meanwhile, signed Coentrao, Sahin, Altintop and Callejón. No need to read too much to figure out which team was strengthened by their purchases in the summer.
10 .- The culture of success: Streaks don’t exist, they are just curious statistics. What is tangible is the mental strength of a team used to winning against another which is not. Barça have beaten Madrid steadily in recent years, and their players are used to play their best in the hardest moments involved while the Merengues are used for things to go wrong. Therefore, when Madrid scored after 20 seconds there was no despair, because Barcelona knew they were able to overturn the deficit while when Cristiano missed a clear opportunity for the 2-2 the Merengues started acting as if they had already lost the match, as it has happened many times in the past.