I would normally post this on the Madrid board as I feel a lot of us visit the Spain board less often than the Madrid or Barca boards. But this is the biggest game in the world so it maybe a good idea to have the thread here and link it from the club boards. It's been many years since I have felt so little confidence heading into this match. It's almost as though I'm thankful that it's away and not at home, so we have nothing to lose at all... 3 points dropped at Camp Nou is not the end of the world. I saw both teams play this weekend and mid-week and while Madrid seem to be getting better every game, we are not close to being in the same league. The big difference is the speed at which Barcelona is playing. When they have the ball, they always seem to have 2-3 options rushing at speed into the area for Xavi or Deco to ping the ball to. And the 3 players rushing into the box (say Eto'o, Ronaldinho and Guily) do so intelligently enough to stretch the defence and create openings. When they lose possession, the forwards always rush the opponent's defence in an attempt to steal the ball (something only Owen does consistently for us) while in midfield Marquez, Xavi and even Deco work tirelessly to win the ball back. Even in defence, they look solid and unlike us, the hero is not the goalie, but a central defender, which is always a good sign because it means that with Puyol spectacular, they need not fear that one off-day by valdes will lead to a massacre. And while Oleguer is not the fastest, he has good positional sense and anticipation, at least more so than Pavon and samuel (so far this season). With us on the other hand, we seem to wait... wait... wait.... in defence or attack. You don't see us flying into tackles in midfield or trying to rob the defence. Instead we wait for the game to come to our third before a tackle is made or we hope that someone anticipates a pass in the meanwhile. And the moment the game is played in the defensive third, the opponent will always have chances and you will need casillas. The best example of the difference between the two teams in this aspect is comparing Deco's contributions with Zidane. Yes Zidane is a genius, Deco is not, he's just excellent. But Deco is inarguably more effective on current form. He releases the ball quickly, rarely gets caught is possession, rarely sends a wrong pass, and works hard supporting Xavi and Marquez in defensive duties. But I am willing to sacrifice a pirouette or two, to sacrifice the one or two moments of inimitable magic that will win us a match or two this season, for that degree of consistent effectiveness match in, match out. Even while attacking, we seem to be better at keeping possession with every match but are terrible in making the possession effective. No point having even 90% possession if it does not culminate in an attacking thrust, in potency where it matters. Too many times I've seen the ball played between our players in the middle of the park but the moment we try and put it in the opponents box, we end up losing possession. And it's not just because of packed defences, it stems from an inability to release the ball on time and to spot early runs, and it stems from the inexplicable absence of concurrent runs by 2-3 players into the box. In Owen and Ronaldo we have two of the world's fastest players and in raul, we have one the most intelligent box-players of our generation. But time after time, a ball is sent to the box and we have 1 player attacking it and no one within 15 metres, not 1 other player inside the box to capitalise. What I like about when Owen plays is that it puts opponents of gear, he makes these intelligent bending runs that confuse defences... "do we follow him, do we mark Ronaldo, what if he makes a run at the same time in another direction, will it create a space for raul to poach?". But most times we are just static and all it takes is a man-marker on Ronaldo and we just don't exert enough pressure in the final third. If we are not able to release the ball quickly, if we are not able to create multiple threats in the Barca box, if we don't use speed and intelligence we will not score more than one goal against Puyol. If we do not put pressure in midfield we will be overrun by Deco, Xavi and Marquez. If that happens, we will be forced to try and stop Guily, Eto'o and Ronaldinho in the defensive third, which is impossible if you're overrun in midfield and the 23 of them keep running at us for 90 minutes (with support from the 3 midfielders). So it really comes down to this. Assuming Raul, Owen and Ronaldo all start (which I assume they will and should), how much of a work-rate can Zidane, Figo, Guti/Beckham and raul display in midfield. How committed will they be in the tackle? How much hunger will they have to win the ball and to keep possession? Whether we lose 4-1 or win 2-1 depends on the answers to those questions. Despite the gloom in this preview, I am hopeful that the players will rise to the challenge though. We are Real Madrid. These are the best players in the world. It's time to wake up the sleeping giant. HALA MADRID!!!!!