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El Clasico enters new dimension

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Phil Minshull | 20:51 UK time, Thursday, 14 April 2011

One of the world's great sporting rivalries enters a new dimension on Saturday when Real Madrid play Barcelona in La Liga to kick off the first of four meetings in just over two weeks.

After Saturday's match the two clubs meet in the Copa del Rey final on 20 April, which will be followed by their two-legged Champions League semi-final - with the first game at Real's Bernabeu stadium on 27 April and Barca hosting the second on 3 May.

Both teams have a chance of winning the Treble, a feat only achieved in Spanish football history by Barca two years.

However, Real are eight points behind the defending Spanish champions with only seven games to go and as Madrid's coach Jose Mourinho admitted after the recent defeat by Sporting Gijon, mathematically the league might not be lost, but "in practical terms it is".

Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola

Mourinho's Real were beaten 5-0 by Guardiola's Barca in November - photo: AFP.

The juxtaposition of three Cup games makes you wonder whether pragmatism and pride will dictate that Mourinho puts out a weaker team than he might have done on Saturday in a bid to salvage something from Real's season.

Will he rest the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Marcelo or will the special demands of an El Clasico match ensure Mourinho has no alternative but to throw them into the fray and hope that they survive for that trio of Cup games.

Both men started Wednesday's game against Spurs but neither looked as though they had fully recovered from their recent injuries, with their return to action being precipitated in time for the first leg in the Champions League quarter-final against Spurs.

The same question could also be asked of Barca coach Pep Guardiola, who might feel that with such a cushion at the top of the table it might be a valid strategy to leave the likes of, who else, Lionel Messi, on the bench.

All of which has prompted many pundits in Spain to wonder whether this might turn out to be the most diluted El Clasico in recent memory.

Nevertheless, this quartet of matches could have a profound effect on the future of both coaches, which means that full-strength sides, with patched-up star players, may yet be the order of the day.

After eliminating Spurs, Mourinho maintained that he was likely to put out his 11 best men on Saturday: "Each of the Clasicos will be completely independent of each other in this context. Each one will not have any significance in relation to the one before or the one after."

Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo and Barcelona's Lionel Messi

Ronaldo has scored 28 league goals this season, one fewer than Messi - photo: AFP.

Nevertheless, most people believe that whoever gets the upper hand on Saturday will also get a psychological boost for the other three games.

For Real there is also the matter of laying to rest the ghost of their dismantlement by Barca in that humiliating 5-0 defeat in the Nou Camp last November.

Speculation persists in Spain that Mourinho might yet leave in the summer if he and Real were to suffer the blow of four poor results against Barca, let us say two draws in the Bernabeu and a couple of defeats in the other games.

Personally, I don't think that will happen because Mourinho and Real have individually and collectively backed themselves into a corner.

Just like the oft-quoted statistic that the Spanish economic recession has led to fewer divorces but more couples sleeping in separate bedrooms under the same roof, neither Mourinho and Real have anywhere else to go, at least for another season.

They must make the most of their marriage made in relative haste last summer.

Mourinho has an estimated salary of £11.5m and plenty of influence behind he scenes at the Bernabeu now that he has managed to partially mould Real in his own image and neuter his rival for influence, general director Jorge Valdano.

Likewise, who would Real turn to if Mourinho is unable to deliver a record 10th European Cup? More importantly would they want to pay off the remainder of his contract?

Financially, of course, Real could find the money but it would be a ruinously expensive public relations exercise, though it would confirm Real's Florentino Perez as the ultimate hire them and fire them president, after dismissing seven previous coaches in seven years during two stints in his current role.

Over in Barcelona, Guardiola does not believe that Mourinho and Real are the underdogs that the European media have portrayed them ahead of these four games.

"It's the chance to compete with one the strongest teams around," said Guardiola. "We shall accept the challenge and go for it. It doesn't matter what condition we are in. What matters is mentality and desire."

Conversely, if Real do rise to the occasion and grab their first Copa del Rey since 1993 - the longest period in their history that the club have gone without winning the Spanish Cup - and then eliminate Barca from the Champions League, it might have the reverse effect and lead to Guardiola contemplating his future.

Guardiola took over the reins of Barca in the summer of 2008 but could easily tear up the one-year extension to his contract he signed in February that was designed to keep him at the Nou Camp until the end of next season.

He caught everyone on the hop at the start of this month by saying: "I think my time is ending here in Barcelona. I'm fine here, but when you're at a club like this you cannot stay for too long.

"Next year will be the fourth consecutive season as coach of Barcelona. Such a club must have a lot of courage to take a coach for so long, because the players get tired of coaches and vice-versa."

If Mourinho turned the table on Guardiola, would the 40-year-old former Spain international find his courage evaporating?

Comments on this blog in the space below. Other comments or questions on European football to: europeanfootball@hotmail.co.uk. I do not need your full address but please put the town/city and country where you come from.

Comments

Page 1 of 2

  • Comment number 1.

    Looking forward to these games, but not all the play acting and surrounding the referee (puyol is the master of this) that comes with these meetings. Real are better now than they were when they lost 5-0, however I still think Barcelona should over the four games be the more successful. I think both managers will be there next season. Phil do u think the Porto manager will be the next Jose? He has had a pretty good season! It wouldnt surprise me to see him moving on this summer.

  • Comment number 2.

    Real Madrid are a fantastic side. And in any other year, any other league, they would have the domestic title in the bag by now.

    The problem is, they just so happen to be up against arguably the greatest team ever put together. Barca are just incredible.

    I take Barca for the league and Copa Del Rey. I can't call the CL tie though, too tight. It all depends on those first two games and who's got the greater point to prove.

  • Comment number 3.

    I think these games could see the implosion of the myth that is this current Barcelona team. Barca have been scoring for fun this year but have they actually played anyone good yet?

    Ronaldo, Marcelo, Adebayor and plenty mote are direct players who create chances and win matches out of nothing.

    Tippy tappy nonsense is all well and good against levante and espanyol... let's see how easy it is to play against a proper team.

    It was 5-0 last time but Real have grown and with Mourinho I'm backing them to win the cup and get through in the CL. Not sure he'll be bothered with la liga now.

    Can't wait!

  • Comment number 4.

    I think it's Valencia's to lose

  • Comment number 5.

    It's ok saying Real are different to the side that played earlier on in the season, but I don't think this changes much, perhaps the scoreline won't be as one sided but Barcelona will still win the Champions League tie and the Copa Del Rey, they can afford to lose the league game as the League is already in the bag.

  • Comment number 6.

    Many of the Barca team had an extremely long and enduring summer of football and have not had a rest since - it's going to catch up with them.

    Ronaldo is coming back to fitness at just the right time.

    Whoever plays of adebayor, higuain, benzema will be fresh. Kaka is showing signs of a return to form and fitness. Alonso has stepped it up of late.

    Neither side is particularly strong at the back but Barca's central defence has been very weak looking recently.

  • Comment number 7.

    #3 tippy tappy isn't nonsense. Would you rather watch Stoke style long ball hoofing?

  • Comment number 8.

    This Real side are growing with every game, the strides they've made this season will not be in vain, however, unless mourihno employs lassana diarra along side khedira and alonso, i seriously doubt they will cope with Barce's midfield. Furthermore i'm not convinced with the likes of ramos and marcelo (defensively) as well as Adebayor leading the line. With the second leg of the CL match at the Nou Camp, it will put too much pressure on Real to attack in the first leg, playing nicely into the hands of Barce. On the other hand, I believe Mourihno will not leave the club until he has bridged the gap, and after bolstering his squad with a couple of defenders and a stirker with a little more presence, they will be a completely different proposition next year.

  • Comment number 9.

    Joan_Burton, I think you haven't been watching a lot of good football. Oh! nearly forgot! the crikect world cup finished not too long ago. Don't spend your time watching division 2 and 3 games.
    Barca not playing good teams this far is a statement that shows that you need more time on better games. We will take on any team and prevail.

  • Comment number 10.

    As usual and fair enough many of the responses to your generally good article are from Barcelona supporters. However as neither, but enjoy watching all the La Liga games, I see something developing that most one eyed supporters miss. Over a full season I always thought Barca were going to prevail because they had a more settled squad and everyone fit at the early stages. If you look at RM's early form it was patchy and losing Higuain was a big blow. Now they are all back and the squad has gelled more having played in Europe and gained experience in cup competitions I can see some really tight games. Only an idiot would write off Real and Jose in two legs of a cup competition and I think Jose will play a few clever hands in these games and really concentrate on the CL. Sure the Copa is nice but he could play his second side and still have a chance (luck,bounce,referee,etc on the day) but I see a big push this weekend to strike a hammer blow and then rest for the CL. Anyway it is going to be thrilling with super stars at their peak.

  • Comment number 11.

    Jose still has work to do in La Liga after that 5-0 humiliation.
    If Pep plays it smart, he'll leave out Messi and perhaps another key player like Xavi for the league game. Real may win or draw but it makes no difference.
    From Barca's point of view their focus is home leg of Champions League then Copa. The other two games, they could play possession for a draw.
    But an away goal in the Champions league could be decisive and Real have the ammunition. Ronaldo has not been a big occasion player but Adebeyor and Alonso could have an influence. I expect the games to be tight. Both are focused on Champions League but Barca expect to progress. If Real land the consolation prize of Copa, Jose will stay. If they get nothing, Chelsea may come knocking.

  • Comment number 12.

    Mourinho's record in the domestic cup finals is a little bit patchy tbh. I don't think he has ever won a cup final by more than one goal. Will be interesting to see if that record changes.

  • Comment number 13.

    Barcelona to win Saturday they are the fresher team because they have had more rest since their Champions League game but after that I expect Real to compete in the next three games and to win at least one of them.

  • Comment number 14.

    One of the world's great sporting rivalries enters a new dimension a week Sunday when Rangers host Celtic in what will be the 7th El Oldo Firmo of the season, potentially deciding the League with the League Cup already in the bag for Rangers and Celtic favourites for the Scottish cup.

  • Comment number 15.

    #1 - I don't think you watch Barcelona very often, do you? To say that Puyol is the Master of playacting and surrounding the referee is nonsense. And are you even aware that he's been out injured for months now?

    #13 - yes, Barca played the day before RM, but don't forget they've had a longish flight back fromthe Ukraine, so maybe they won't be as fresh as they'd like.

  • Comment number 16.

    7. At 00:38am 15th Apr 2011, Murray wrote:
    #3 tippy tappy isn't nonsense. Would you rather watch Stoke style long ball hoofing?

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    I love how Stoke is always offered as the anti-thesis to Barcelona's tiki taka. What about the "anti-football" of Rangers (as described by Messi himself) or the Scotland team's 4-6-0 formation?

    14. At 07:44am 15th Apr 2011, rob_LFC_fairbairn wrote:
    One of the world's great sporting rivalries enters a new dimension a week Sunday when Rangers host Celtic in what will be the 7th El Oldo Firmo of the season, potentially deciding the League with the League Cup already in the bag for Rangers and Celtic favourites for the Scottish cup.

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Classic!

  • Comment number 17.

    A lot is being made of that 5-0 in La Liga, but I remember a match at Old Trafford where United beat Arsenal 6-1, still the difference between the clubs wasn't that great; just, everything went right for United and, had they wanted to score more, they could. The 5-0 match in Camp Nou was something similar.

    Barcelona have the best trio in the world, in Messi, Xavi, Iniesta - such talent in a group of players who belong to the same team is a rare occasion in football and Barcelona are getting the rewards from that. However Real Madrid are full of movement, dangerous up front and looked a very good side, in my eyes, in the White Hart Lane match. It's going to be a top draw derby.

    It's a matter of wait and see, regarding whether any manager will rest players. Personally, I doubt it. Some 100,000 fans will definitely want to see the real deal in the forthcoming match. Losing to Barcelona in the title bid is one thing, but handing them the cup on a plate by leaving key players out, I think, is something outside Real Madrid and Murinho's philosophy.

    Both the managers know the importance of confidence and if one of the two clubs win comfortably this match, they will go on to the semi finals with a psychological advantage. I don't think any of the two managers wants to hand this advantage to the other club.

    From the Manchester United's perspective, it is interesting to see how Barcelona's passing game fairs against the Real Madrid vibrant midfield. In any case, if both United and Barcelona progress to the Champions League final, it is a good example to have an assessment on how you deal with Barcelona's passing game.

  • Comment number 18.

    Also sorry Phil - apologies for being anal (I'm a former journalist after all) but there are a few typos in your blog:

    "Both teams have a chance of winning the Treble, a feat only achieved in Spanish football history by Barca two years [AGO]."

    "Mourinho has an estimated salary of £11.5m and plenty of influence behind [T]he scenes at the Bernabeu now that he has managed to partially mould Real in his own image and neuter his rival for influence, general director Jorge Valdano."

  • Comment number 19.

    Can't wait for those games and I think that will be the end of Jose's days in Madrid and he knows that as he always wishes to retun to England..Barca are the best team I ever seen and I would give them a 4-0 ( I mean four victories)lead over the four games.

    Viva Barcaaaaaaaa

  • Comment number 20.

    Sorry but why would Guardiola rest Messi against Madrid when he played him against Shakhtar when 5-1 up from the first leg?

  • Comment number 21.

    If there was ever a feast of football this is it, man utd vs man city in the fa cup on saturday then real madrid vs barcelona then on sunday arsenal vs liverpool followed by real madrid vs barcelona on wednesday the same day as spurs vs arsenal then they play again in the following week and then again the week after. What a quality football schedule, get the take-away and the beers ready.
    You have to feel sorry for real to a certain extent as i would back barcelona to win all four matches but i have a sneaky feeling that real can beat them in one of the semi-finals but still fancy barcelona to go through regardless. If Real Madrid are the 2nd best team in the world by far at the moment and they have the best team have every seen in front of them. Madrid have so much strength in depthand can bring on the like of benzema kaka and canales. But the way in which barcelona play is just ridiculous, they will move real madrid about and play wee balls round the corner and one-twos and there full-backs give them fantastic width and options and with there small men (iniesta xavi messi pedro) and a clinical finisher in david villa up front they have a complete team. Now obviously Madrid will play on the counter attack and i can't see adebayor ronaldo di maria and ozil wanting to defend so when madrid do have the ball, mourinho will want them to get the ball to xabi alonso as fast as they can so that he can move the ball quickly to the front four and then build from there. Madrid might even go a bit long ball because they have adebayor and ronaldo who are good in the air and can hold the ball up and all of the front 4 have pace, and if you can get into barcelona's half you can cause them problems as pep guardiola put it himself "we are a horrible team without the ball" so there is a desperation from barcelona to get the ball back after they lose it and madrid can definately profit from that by keeping possession themselves, and mourinho will want to slow the game down, make it a stop-start match so that the game doesn't flow and to irritate barcelona, but i think that barcelona ill be too strong and will win all 4 games, but what a football schedule to look forward to.

  • Comment number 22.

    @ 7, Murray,

    The game of football has a number of different tactics that teams use if any of them is to their strengths. Stoke City are developing to a side that has nothing to do with long ball hoofing. In fact, they have two very decent wingers this season that use the width of the pitch for counter attacking football, pretty well. I didn't see Chelsea moaning about long ball hoofing in their recent visit to Britannia Stadium. Alan Hansen, also, had some interesting views, regarding Stoke's play, in his very recent assessment of the F.A. Cup semi finals.

    Why not change the tape?
    I'm sure you have more somewhere.

  • Comment number 23.

    Barça definitely have the edge purely in football terms, for all of Ronaldo's talent, he's not enough of a team-player for Real and doesn't perform as well as we should be during the really big games. When he used to play for Manchester United, he could get away with that a bit since SAF built the team around him so that he had free licence to go and attack (and was on a purple-patch goals-wise in his last 3 seasons with us).

    The question mark with regards to Barça is whether their players are physically worn out or not. Pep Guardiola hasn't been doing much rotation of the squad, and while they're still damn brilliant against a lot of teams, some of their players do start looking a bit tired. It doesn't mean they won't turn up though, they might give Real a monstrous hammering at their place even at 50% of their fitness levels ! But this might be a deciding factor in some of the games, the fact is Real have Higuain and Benzema who just came back from injury, so they should have some energy left in the tank.

    Mourinho has beaten Guardiola when he was with Inter, but it remains to be seen whether he can make an impact on Barça with Real. His first attempt ended up in a brutal dismantling of his team but he's not the kind to repeat the same mistake twice.

    I wouldn't go as far as calling a winner from the 4 ties, but my belief is Barça should be able to edge it in the Cup and the league, the CL matches might go Real's way, purely because of the nature of the competition.

  • Comment number 24.

    #15, sorry if having an opinion has distressed you, FYI season ticket holder for 4 yrs when i lived out there, though not really a supporter, preferred espanyol. So stick by my original comment of puyol being the master of facing up to the ref when any of his players 'tumble' to the deck. did not say he was a playactor, said I wasn't looking forward to all the playacting.

  • Comment number 25.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 26.

    of course barcelona haven't played anyone really this year only real madrid which they beat 5-0 with all the amazing players on the pitch, higuain still there, ronaldo and ozil in top form, pepe and ramos. Destroyed arsenal at the camp nou, beat valencia (2x), villareal (2x), atletico madrid (2x) and sevilla once and drew at their stadium. You cannot beat those numbers.

    I'm only saying if Barcelona are in tune it doesnt matter who's playing against them or if they're actually on the form of their lives...they wont get the ball...and last time I checked you needed it to score.

    Anything can happen. If Madrid score first they have an advantage but they have to do this in the first half and then endure endless attacks for 45 mins hoping to get a counter attack, could happen. but if Barcelona score first...forget about it...you are required to go attack and they take the ball from you, frustrate you, you keep looking at the clock thinking we should score now but we cant string 3 passes together. You get tired of chasing the ball why the barcelona players seem to stand still and enjoy their passing and then bam, through ball and chance if not ball. Its hipnotizing, psychologically challenging football and it has all the barcelona titles, world cup and euro to show for this philosophy. I think it works

  • Comment number 27.

    I think the games will be too tight to call. On the one hand Madrid have come into some kind of form and have got an almost fully fit squad whereas Barça have Puyol injured, Abidal out with his cancer problem and Milito just isn't at the races, leaving a major headache at the centre of defence - all of which makes it much more equal. Busquets and Mascherano, who is suspended for the league game, will be filling in. There is no arguing that Barça starting 11 are a formidable team, arguably the best team ever assembled, but their squad is small and the bench looks very weak right now due to these injuries.

    I think both managers will play their strongest lineups this weekend to try and get the upper hand. Barça haven't been pressing as much to win back possession in recent games, but against Madrid I'm sure that'll be back and even Xavi and Iniesta will make runs beyond the forwards to try and score, which is another thing that they don't always do. I am predicting a very tight series of games and if Barça press well then they won't notice their defensive problems, otherwise be aware of Madrid on the counter attack.

  • Comment number 28.

    1* Why do you single out Puyol ? Xavi and Alves are worse.

  • Comment number 29.

    Hola Mr Chelsea :)

  • Comment number 30.

    re witness2gr8ness

    Great point - Messi started in Ukraine, when 5-1 up , why would he be rested versus Madrid when , if Barcelona win it will categorically kill Madrid off in the league. People say the league is over - well not quite: If Madrid were to win, difference would be 5, but surely it would not be over on the basis that ,- as alot of people are mentioning, Barcelona players are in danger (how real I dont know, they are extraordinarily fit) of burnout. 5 point difference, the psychological damage, you just dont know what could happen. Madrid wont rest players - with their president in the stand it would be grossly humiliating to lose comfortably at home and go 11 points behind in the league. Barcelona , I feel, will win all the games. the difference is huge, in terms of experience and age (Xavi and Iniesta compared to Khedira, Ozil, Di Maria) , confidence , due to winning titles repeatedly and familiarity and unity (Busquets and Iniesta and Xavi and Villa and Pedro and Puyol and Pique obviously form the spine of the sensational Spanish team). its like second nature to them, the Madrid team, whilst great is slightly more disjointed, - will Adebayor start, or Benzema or Higuain? Will Diarra start? its less certain. Also, watch out for Ramos in these games - he is extremely overrated as a defender. Whilst he is good , I am far from convinced he is good enough to win the league with Real or CL. suspect positional sense, clumsy at times too.
    also, regarding the weekends entertainment, which as aforementioned is great, dont forget, another event to through into the equation whilst you sip your sunday morning tea and nibble at your soft croissants...
    The London Marathon!
    ENJOY!

  • Comment number 31.

    3. you are clearly deluded if you think Barca's style is nonsense, they have won practically everything there is to win over the last few years and lets face it we all wish our teams could play like them.

    7. is it only me who is becoming tired of people associating stoke with long ball? does this mean every team in the premiership excluding perhaps Arsenal plays long ball too because we certainly don't play any differently. go and take a look at the likes of York City if you want to see evidence of a team hoofing it long every opportunity they get.

  • Comment number 32.

    15. At 07:48am 15th Apr 2011, Tess_sgs wrote:
    #1 - I don't think you watch Barcelona very often, do you? To say that Puyol is the Master of playacting and surrounding the referee is nonsense. And are you even aware that he's been out injured for months now?

    ------

    yes he does, take the blinkers off, hes up there with xavi, iniesta, alves, pedro, busquets. He actually runs the furthest to get in the refs face to get players sent off

    The football will be great but diving and playacting and card waving will take over and spoil it

  • Comment number 33.

    Real might get a draw at the Bernabeu in the Champions League. Barca to win all the other games though. They are a better side.

  • Comment number 34.

    #3

    Madman. Typical of people on these shores.

    Arsenal - garbage
    villareal - garbage
    real madrid - garbage
    athletico mardrid - garbage
    Shaktar (topped arsenals group) - garbage
    Valencia - garbage
    sevilla - garbage

    Plus they are practically World and European champions

    Plus they reduce teams like Chelsea and inter to just putting 11 men behind the ball and hoping they get a break



    They are probably the greatets team I have ever seen. Ahead of even the French Team of Euro 2000.....but I suppose they were garbage too

  • Comment number 35.

    i cant agree more.four matches in span of two weeks will definitely water down the tempo that comes with real-barcelona clash but i think it is mistaken to think that real will have an edge in the champions league just because they are out of contention for the la-liga title. This also means barca have already won it and now refocuses their energy to champions league.I feel that the Man utd-shalke match will be overshadowed by this clash of heavy weights.Madrid are under pressure from every corner to regain their lost glory which i think gives barcelona an upper hand as they will play their football in a relaxed mood contrary to real.either way a barcelona or real vs man utd final will be the math of year only if united does not underestimate the germans.

  • Comment number 36.

    Barca won 5-0 against new and hastly assembled Real stars who were also under new manager . The Real team had not yet experienced the technics of their new manager, and were playing against a team which had played together successfully for several years and had also won several trophies. Barca was therefore a vasttly experienced team and played confidently.

    Real players has already gathered a good experience as a team and the confidence is high and the tactics of Mourino the team has already changed. They also have home ground adventage all these factors will definately bring completely differnt result.

    IMO Barca is still a very good team, but assesing from the way they are playing right now it's possible for Real to score goals easily against them Barca and win the match.

  • Comment number 37.

    Is it possible that the comments made by Guardiola are an attempt to engineer a more lucrative contract, I understand financially he is not one of the best paid managers out there, certainly nowhere near what Mourinho is earning.

    If he gets fed up of working with these players then surely no other club will be able to sustain him, as quite rightly they are being described as one of the greatest sides ever.

    @34

    France 2000 are a good template for an amazing side. However I feel the last 15 years have been littered with amazing sides.

  • Comment number 38.

    @ #3

    obviously joan burton knows nothing about football. tippy tappy football is all well and good against espanyol etc lol.

    you missed the 5-0 hiding of madrid did u? and the 6-1 aggragate score against shaktar? and what about to 3-0 demolition of Athletic Madrid? or what about the way they messed with 'the best footballing side in England' just over a month ago?

    im going for 4 barcelona victories! maybe 3 with a draw at the Bernabeu on one of the games there.

    fact is Barcelona are the greatest footballing side ever assembled!

  • Comment number 39.

    If anyone can beat Barcelona, then surely it's got to be El Specialo Uno? I just can't see him coming away with nothing from these 4 games. Sure the league's a gonner, but he'll beat them in at least one of the cup ties.

  • Comment number 40.

    39# yer susanna reid is v tidy, i agree...she gets me up in the morning thats for sure !

  • Comment number 41.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 42.

    A lot of ifs and coulds in this article.

  • Comment number 43.

    As much as people love to look for weaknesses in big sides and love to say that they are overrated I'm afraid that Real Madrid will not win any of the three competitions (this doesn't mean they can win the league game or one of the CL legs). Overall, when push comes to shove, Barcelona have proved they are miles ahead of Madrid. Even without the charismatic figure of Puyol or Abidal stepping in for cover, the improvement of Mascherano and Adriano have slightly covered this vacant. It is impossible for a team like Madrid to stop Barcelona as long as Xavi, Iniesta and Messi are fit.

  • Comment number 44.

    regardless if barca win the champs league they are still the best team to watch, when inter won it last year it was like fair enough but it's unlikely i'll take time out to watch them from now on.

  • Comment number 45.

    does it matter who wins out of Real and Barca in the champions league... it is merely a battle to see who will lose to the mighty man utd in the final!

    Utd beat barca in 2008 and barca won in 2009... this time, united will not gift barca an early goal, will pass the ball better and ultimately prevail...

    barca have a smaller less physical squad than in previous year so will inevatbly succumb to this.... arsenal had a skilful team and sold all their physical players to bring in more skilled lightweights and look at their decline.. barca have embarked upon a similar path...although are obv still a much better team than arsenal ever were

  • Comment number 46.

    Four matches in such a short time is probably at least one too many, so the Copa Del Rey may be a damp squib. Somewhere along the line you can expect a real bust up, bit like Celtic and Rangers recently. I fancy Real for the league match but Barca for the two legs Champs League match up, but only just. Can't see Ronaldo and Messi playing in all four games.

  • Comment number 47.

    Barca is not only about Messi, Xavi and Iniesta. It has the best team play, they are so efficient on passes, they don't even have to look where a teammate is, it looks mesmerising when they play, and no, the teams they played and won against were no garbage! Some of those managed to beat Real M. too.
    Real is a very strong side, with probably the best individual performers, and of course we should never write off the "special one"'s tactics... but whether he can or cannot outwit Pep Guardiola is a big question.

    So what we all should do is sit back, take a deep breath, relax and enjoy the show. Whatever the score is, the show is going to be fantastic.

  • Comment number 48.

    Supershunsuke - get a life mate, one of those oddballs who has to nitpick the slightest mistake in order to make yourself feel better.

    Get over fella

  • Comment number 49.

    @3 Joan

    Yeh...real Madrid and they beat them 5-0. Plus all the other good teams in the Spanish league that they beat week in week out (Except the mighty Hercules ofcourse). I'm not hyping up Barcelona up to be this unbeatable machine but credit where it's due, they've been extremely consistent this season with very few lapses in form (Hercules for example). And it's that 'Tippy Tappy nonsense' as you put it that has forged this consistency and why very few teams have salvaged nothing from playing Barcelona. I do agree that the 'Tippy tappy nonsense' sometimes leads them to become very wasteful as shown against Arsenal but this again must be testament to the amount of chances they create, they were far from clinical against Arsenal but still beat them comfortably. They are a fantastic team!!

  • Comment number 50.

    well said RedddRussian!

  • Comment number 51.

    tiki taka football (or tippy tappy football as some have called it here )..has won spain the WC and euro, and helped make barca into the best club side in the world....its hardly nonsense !!

  • Comment number 52.

    & 12
    Patchy? Are you kidding? It doesn't matter if you win 34-0 in a cup final. Your own fans will still hail you. Considering he isn't at a club more than 3 full seasons he has won at least one domestic cup with Porto, Chelsea and Inter. If you think that so called great managers can't beat that record. Mr Wenger for one.
    To the Man utd fans thinking how are they going to cope against a stronger Barca when Utd are weaker than their last meeting, if both qualify, they won't be able to retain the ball and will be chasing shadows again.

  • Comment number 53.

    I'm not sure it is going to be all Barca, as good as a team as they are.

    Remember - Barcelona lost to Arsenal, and had Van Persie not gone off it could have turned out to be interesting. Arsenal have shown for two years running that Barca play for 60 minutes of high energy scintillating football, but don't keep going for 90. Arsenal couldn't defend, so lost, but Mourinho showed last year with Inter that if you can resist, they can be picked off.

    RM looked as if they were getting it together defensively against Spurs, and Alonso looked back to his best. They can certainly play direct football that will hurt a weakened Barca defense, who also have a smaller squad.

    I think RM will go for the CL win (Mourinho to win with multiple different teams) and therefore not worry about the league. Might even pick fringe players to do a bit of roughing up. Given the red card scenario earlier this season, worth remembering how ruthless Mourinho is when he needs to be.

    So, although I'd love to see Barca stuff Man U in another final, i think Barca for League RM for CL and the Cup to be won on the toss of a coin - probably Barca who would want the double again more than RM.

  • Comment number 54.

    both are good, but honestly bottom of my heart i do no think they can score that many goals in primer leauge, the higest possible 23 or 25 but thats about it.

    what the english media and the english do best is praise, this year barca are favourites rightly so, and then real madrid, nah i dont think so, it is so simple, take messi out barca are a good team, take ronaldo out real are an average team, man utd dont have enough superstars as the other two, but man utd play as unit a team.

    but next year man utd do have to improve massively, 5 players at least, modrid, bale, if he wants to come, alexis sanchez, snijder, a keeper

  • Comment number 55.

    If there is one thing that is absolutely guaranteed, it is that Ronaldo will go missing in a big game yet again.

  • Comment number 56.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 57.

    As an Arsenal fan I'm profoundly baffled by the assumption that Real and Barca are easily the best teams in the world and that either would top any other league. Having watched my team beaten by both Barca and ManU in a week I would have to say the latter looked like the better side. True they didn't have 60% of the possesian like Barca, but they didn't need it and scored two goals without reply without much trouble. People don't seem to want to accept it but Barcelona being the most creative side doesn't mean their the best, just probably the best to watch. Fact is they've had the most creative side for about 5 seasons now and only won the CL once in that time, not a bad return but no justification for all this talk of their inevitably winning it this time out, weren't people saying the same thing last year? In the final Fergusson will just send out the same defensive five man midfield he puts out against Arsenal and Spurs and Barca will be stifled. People will point to the last final between them and that could happen again but only if ManU were to lose their heads and try to match their style of play again, they did a similar thing at the Emirates that season and lost that match too but chances are they won't make the same mistake twice.

  • Comment number 58.

    Mixed bag of comments some of which are laughable-

    #1 Puyol= playacting?? Really? If you had labelled Sergio i'd probably agree but Puyol! Not only is he likely to miss the game anyway but he's probably the least like to hit the ground even if he'd broke both legs! Furthermore to stereotype the game as a theatre of play acting is to ignore the horrendous diving and cheating displayed in the EPL- Nani? Drogba? How bout Michael Owen's mythical foul that gave England a pen? It's tiresome and false that the English see there game as more honourable when they can dive and cheat with the best of them!

    #3 Where to start?! The myth of the Barcelona team? They haven’t played anyone? Tippy tappy football is all well and good against lesser sides? Madrid have grown?

    If you had watched any football this season you will have noticed many of footballs luminaries lauding this barca team as the greatest ever! Whatever truth there maybe in that (era's being hard to judge etc) the fact that it is spoken about and by whom suggest that there is credibility that this Barcelona team is arguably the greatest.

    They havent played anyone and Madrid have grown - from the kick off of the new season to November 29th Madrid sat pretty at the top, Mourinho his cocky self- no issues with refs, fixtures, etc, meanwhile Barcelona nursed Xavi with a troublesome achilles, villa, Iniesta, Sergio, Puyol, Pedro and pique into a late preseason and Messi (who had enjoyed one to many pie's) On the morning of the 30th of November - Mourinho hadn’t a big enough squad, he' was better in his second season, the refs against him, everyone was against him (lol) meanwhile Barcelona celebrating thumping Madrid 5-0.

    To add on to that victory we could tag the demolition of Arsenal (2nd in the EPL) who displayed far more anti football tactics that they'd so often accused stoke of playing. We could add the likes of Villarreal, Sevilla, Valencia, over the period Guardiola has been in charge we could tag Bayern, Lyon, Man utd (who got dizzy on the passing carousel of tippy tappy football) or perhaps the hugely expensive Chelsea whose only answer was to hide in their own half at the camp nou! All of these teams are of high quality and not one team (including Inter who in 4games enjoyed just one win 'the one on the back of the coach') has been able to do anything more than trying to survive when playing this Barcelona side.


    #6 you strike again! lol. 'Many of the Barcelona team have had a long summer'. Now why is

  • Comment number 59.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 60.

    I would imagine Jose would love to play more of a tatical game in the champs league home and away legs like he did with Inter last year, however the fans of Real demand attractive football, something that Jose isn't always comfortable with to get a result.

  • Comment number 61.

    Mixed bag of comments some of which are laughable-

    #1 Puyol= playacting?? Really? If you had labelled Sergio i'd probably agree but Puyol! Not only is he likely to miss the game anyway but he's probably the least like to hit the ground even if he'd broke both legs! Furthermore to stereotype the game as a theatre of play acting is to ignore the horrendous diving and cheating displayed in the EPL- Nani? Drogba?

    How bout Michael Owen's mythical foul that gave England a pen? It's tiresome and false that the English see there game as more honourable when they can dive and cheat with the best of them!

    #3 Where to start?! The myth of the Barcelona team? They haven’t played anyone? Tippy tappy football is all well and good against lesser sides? Madrid have grown?


    If you had watched any football this season you will have noticed many of footballs luminaries lauding this barca team as the greatest ever! Whatever truth there maybe in that (era's being hard to judge etc) the fact that it is spoken about and by whom suggest that there is credibility that this Barcelona team is arguably the greatest.

    They havent played anyone and Madrid have grown - from the kick off of the new season to November 29th Madrid sat pretty at the top, Mourinho his cocky self- no issues with refs, fixtures, etc, meanwhile Barcelona nursed Xavi with a troublesome achilles, villa, Iniesta, Sergio, Puyol, Pedro and pique into a late preseason and Messi (who had enjoyed one to many pie's) On the morning of the 30th of November - Mourinho hadn’t a big enough squad, he' was better in his second season, the refs against him, everyone was against him (lol) meanwhile Barcelona celebrating thumping Madrid 5-0. To add on to that victory we could tag the demolition of Arsenal (2nd in the EPL) who displayed far more anti football tactics that they'd so often accused stoke of playing. We could add the likes of Villarreal, Sevilla, Valencia, over the period Guardiola has been in charge we could tag Bayern, Lyon, Man utd (who got dizzy on the passing carousel of tippy tappy football) or perhaps the hugely expensive Chelsea whose only answer was to hide in their own half at the camp nou! All of these teams are of high quality and not one team (including Inter who in 4games enjoyed just one win 'the one on the back of the coach') has been able to do anything more than trying to survive when playing this Barcelona side.


    #6 you strike again! lol. 'Many of the Barcelona team have had a long summer'. Now why

  • Comment number 62.

    #58 please read comment #24.
    I didn't mean he was master of play-acting (both teams are the masters of that) - I meant he is the master of running 70 yards to surround the ref with Xavi et co. I would find it unbelievable if you cant see this - its the same every time they play.

  • Comment number 63.

    "To add on to that victory we could tag the demolition of Arsenal (2nd in the EPL) who displayed far more anti football tactics that they'd so often accused stoke of playing. "

    This assessment is frankly laughable, true we picked up a few yellow cards but anti-football? And is it really a "demolition" when your still a goal down 11 v 11 before a player gets sent off for a dubious second yellow and you scrape past 10 with a goal more on aggragate. Aaah they say but look at the possesian stats, because of course Arsenal were lucky to win the first leg after Barca had made about 3 times as many passes as them, never mind that they had less goals and indeed less shots, it's infact a good thing to have twice the possesian but still create less goal scoring chances!

  • Comment number 64.

    My honest opinion is I would like to see Jose win the Champs League with Real as it would be quite an achievement to win it with 3 different clubs. However, over 2 legs I think Real really do need to get a 'good result' at home and must not conceed, otherwise it would be difficult to overturn it at Camp Nou.

    In regards to the game tomorrow, couldn't agree with the comment earlier - Ronaldo always seems to go hiding in the big games against Barcelona and I think its about time he turns in a performance to warrant his £80m price tag.

    Lets just hope that it's a great game - El Classico is one of the games of the year and I hope there is no diving, and referee decisions don't hinder the game!

    2-1 Real on Saturday is my prediction. :)

  • Comment number 65.

    #61
    "Man utd (who got dizzy on the passing carousel of tippy tappy football)"
    A very similar team was beaten by man utd in 2008 over two legs.

  • Comment number 66.

    Very hard to choose between the two. The 5-0 drubbing earlier in the season is a bit of an anomaly as Real were as bad as Barcelona were good. Barcelona have the 'advantage' of playing away second leg and if they can come away from the Bernabeu in touch with Real then they will have a great chance.

    Both teams suffered shock defeats in La Liga recently and have lost some of their invincible aura so it will be interesting to see how they bounce back. Whoever goes through will be a tough test in the final and if Shalke can pull off another shock in the semis then they will be big favourites. Part of me is a bit sad the this isn't the CL final as that would be a match to behold but two big, big matches nevertheless which will undoubtedly throw up some real debates. Real to win 2-1 in the first leg and draw 1-1 in the second.

  • Comment number 67.

    Barcelona are a group of high quality players who blend together unusually well, they are not just a few great players. What is being said about them now has been said about numerous teams in the past and in terms of trophies won other teams have dominated Europe more than the current Barca side have so far.
    The "tippy-tappy nonsense as opposed to a hoofing up the park" reminded me of a Barcelona league game I watched last year where the opposition could not get a touch of the ball as Barca passed the ball round and round. Barca won 4-0, but the irony was that all 4 goals came from a big hoof up the park. The passing kept possession but couldn't get them past a packed defence.

  • Comment number 68.

    The midfield battle between madrid and barcelona will be very interesting to watch, the tie may depend on how well khedira and alonso (was excellent against spurs) are able to shield the defence. Benzema is starting to hit form and adebayor has played well since his arrival, add to this kaka and higuain returning from injuries and this will be a much more competitive el classico than last time. I do think that madrid's central defence can be targeted, although a fantastic defender carvalho is always liable to get himself sent of, ramos is unpredictable, particularly against fas wingers and the full backs are bound to give him problems. Based on the last game between the two you would have to say the key to the game is closing down the space that xavi was allowed in the first game, he orchestrated every move.

  • Comment number 69.

    @ 56, Mr Chelsea,

    toss a coin and you'll find my answer :)

    I've been reading all these responses, the majority of which have been praising Barcelona's football, to which I agree. Then, wanting to be provocative as usual, I imagined how it would be if two identical Barcelona sides were playing each other. I could go to make a drink and when I came back, perhaps, the team having possession would be the other one. I could go for a shower and the team having possession to be the one before I left.

    Conclusion: most styles of football can be beautiful, if they reach a state close to perfection, because there is this diversity of styles and you see different teams employing different approaches to the game. Barcelona's approach to the game is wonderful, but so is Real Madrid's, regarding the coming matches.

    As a football fan, I would like the team reaching Wembley to be in full strength, because I don't like teams missing players in finals. And that's it, really.

  • Comment number 70.

    Barcelona fan boys, it's embarrassing how much you gush over Barcelona. "Best ever, no argument, they are just absolutely, magnificently, unbeatable, and the games that they did lose were not their fault"

  • Comment number 71.

    "what the english media and the english do best is praise, this year barca are favourites rightly so, and then real madrid, nah i dont think so, it is so simple, take messi out barca are a good team, take ronaldo out real are an average team, man utd dont have enough superstars as the other two, but man utd play as unit a team."

    Madrid and Barca would both tear UTD to shreds. Madrid have too much quality with the likes of Ozil, Benzema, Ronaldo and Di Maria. All of those guys are world class and frighteningly quick as well. Barca are the greatest TEAM in the world. They defend as a unit and attack as a unit. They would have UTD on toast

  • Comment number 72.

    Madrid and Barca would both tear UTD to shreds. Madrid have too much quality with the likes of Ozil, Benzema, Ronaldo and Di Maria. All of those guys are world class and frighteningly quick as well. Barca are the greatest TEAM in the world. They defend as a unit and attack as a unit. They would have UTD on toast

    ----------

    Wheres all this sudden praise for real Madrid come from? What have they done to make Man UTD or other established CL Semi-final/Final teams fear them? Apart from spend millions, they've achieved nothing, they've done nothing in the champions league for nearly a decade, their well off the pace in the league. Yeh they have good players but so do Man City, doesn't make them a good team and doesn't mean the rest of the football world are scared of them.

  • Comment number 73.

    @ gunnerslovver2007

    As an Arsenal fan I'm profoundly baffled by the assumption that Real and Barca are easily the best teams in the world and that either would top any other league. Having watched my team beaten by both Barca and ManU in a week I would have to say the latter looked like the better side. True they didn't have 60% of the possesian like Barca, but they didn't need it and scored two goals without reply without much trouble. People don't seem to want to accept it but Barcelona being the most creative side doesn't mean their the best, just probably the best to watch. Fact is they've had the most creative side for about 5 seasons now and only won the CL once in that time, not a bad return but no justification for all this talk of their inevitably winning it this time out, weren't people saying the same thing last year? In the final Fergusson will just send out the same defensive five man midfield he puts out against Arsenal and Spurs and Barca will be stifled. People will point to the last final between them and that could happen again but only if ManU were to lose their heads and try to match their style of play again, they did a similar thing at the Emirates that season and lost that match too but chances are they won't make the same mistake twice.

    --

    Well, Madrid, Barca and United are certainly the top three teams in the world. But I think that United are 3rd. These teams played against 3 other teams: Arsenal, Spurs, Valencia.

    United 1 - 1 Valencia, Valencia 0 - 1 United
    Barca 2 - 1 Valencia, Valencia 0 - 1 Barca
    Madrid 2 - 0 Valencia, Valencia ? - ? Madrid

    United 2 - 0 Spurs, Spurs 0 - 0 United
    Madrid 4 - 0 Spurs, Spurs 0 - 1 Madrid

    United 2(1) - 0 Arsenal, Arsenal ? - ? United
    Barca 3 - 1 Arsenal, Arsenal 2 - 1 Barca

    Madrid come on top with three wins and aggregate score 7-0 but haven't played at Valencia yet. Barca only lost to Arsenal at Emirates and have 7-4 on aggregate. United haven't played at Emirates and are on 2 draws with aggregate score 7-1.

  • Comment number 74.

    @ 71, Ichi_1,

    "Madrid and Barca would both tear UTD to shreds. Madrid have too much quality with the likes of Ozil, Benzema, Ronaldo and Di Maria. All of those guys are world class and frighteningly quick as well. Barca are the greatest TEAM in the world. They defend as a unit and attack as a unit. They would have UTD on toast"

    As a Manchester United fan, I have to thank you for this posting and I do mean it:

    a) you assume that United will get through to the final and this sounds like a vote of confidence for United;
    b) if this view about United's team is widespread and proven on the pitch, in Wembley, then the most likely outcome would be for United to eventually spend, speed the conclusion of rebuilding the squad so that, next season, United can be effective and more entertaining in one.

    Don't you agree? :)

  • Comment number 75.

    lets be honest, Barca play tippy tappy rubbish, Ok it works for them, but it can be awful to watch. why pass the ball 46 times when you only need 3? and another thing which really grinds my gears, people praise individuals such as Xavi cause he has over 100 passes a game, but most of them are 4 yards long and he gets the ball straight back again...POINTLESS!!!!

  • Comment number 76.

    @ James
    Wheres all this sudden praise for real Madrid come from? What have they done to make Man UTD or other established CL Semi-final/Final teams fear them?

    --

    This is the table of teams left in the CL:

    1. Madrid P10 W8 D2 L0 GF24 GA3
    2. United P10 W7 D3 L0 GF12 GA3
    3. Barca P10 W7 D2 L1 GF24 GA7
    4. Schalke P10 W7 D2 L1 GF20 GA8

    You are right why should anyone worry about Madrid. Their defence is shaky and attack disjoint after all.

  • Comment number 77.

    75. At 12:22pm 15th Apr 2011, Joan_Burton wrote:
    lets be honest, Barca play tippy tappy rubbish, Ok it works for them, but it can be awful to watch. why pass the ball 46 times when you only need 3? and another thing which really grinds my gears, people praise individuals such as Xavi cause he has over 100 passes a game, but most of them are 4 yards long and he gets the ball straight back again...POINTLESS!!!!

    --------------

    Your post is more POINTLESS!

  • Comment number 78.

    Your post is more POINTLESS!

    ===

    World class argument. Now I understand why 50 consecutive 3 yard passes constitutes greatest football ever.

    Just keep saying this to yourself - As long as you still love barcelona, that's all that matters

  • Comment number 79.

    You are right why should anyone worry about Madrid. Their defence is shaky and attack disjoint after all.

    -----------

    I never said teams should'nt worry about Real Madrid, at this stage in the competition you should have a slight worry about anyone you play as they must have some qualities to have made this far.

    My point was people billing Madrid as some form of all conquering European superpower of football, when they are from it. Barcelona, United, Bayern, Inter, these consistently reach the semis/final, suddenly Madrid get there for the first time in 9 years or something and you read guff like 'Madrid will easily crush United' 'Teams should fear Madrid' and so on....

  • Comment number 80.

    I think Mourinho is one of football's grand politics masters, his comments about wanting to take over at ManU and all the talk of his leaving Real if things dont turn their way come end-season are as much for maintaining his 'super star' status as anything else. Unless he is let go by the usual Real management trappings, I see no reason why he shouldnt want to stick around and mount a serious challenge to all things Barca in the coming year or so. We've seen his prowess at Inter, I am sure we will see his abilities to undo the Classico math over a few games.

  • Comment number 81.

    78, because it has got them 2 champs leagues in 5 years and won them every concievable trophy they could in 2009 and most of that squad won the world cup.

  • Comment number 82.

    World class argument. Now I understand why 50 consecutive 3 yard passes constitutes greatest football ever.

    Just keep saying this to yourself - As long as you still love barcelona, that's all that matters

    -------------

    I dont love Barcelona, far from it, but to say their football is 'pointless' or 'tippy tappy rubbish' well the only thing I can think of incredibly stupid.

    This pointless tippy tappy rubbish won them a treble, la liga the past 2 years, la liga again this year, possibly the cup and champions league again this year also. Those are the facts of what they get from this type of football.

    You may not liek them but come on.....credit where it's due

  • Comment number 83.

    I won't be caring too much about Barca vs Real - I will be concentrating on Bolton vs Stoke, as I think Rory Delap long throw is far more delightful to watch :)

  • Comment number 84.

    dan, we are talking about mortals here leave the immortals out of this.

  • Comment number 85.

    Pep Guardiola is facing one big dilemma here. Should he field his best squad for this upcoming match, or should he rest the players for Copa del Rey match a few days later? Regardless of what happens on Saturday, it is pretty safe to say Barcelona became La Liga champions when Madrid lost to Gijón. Therefore it makes sense for Pep to rest Barcelona players and have them fresh for the Copa final. However, losing the first of four to Madrid may give Los Merengues the mental boost they need against Barcelona, and this may change the outcome of the other three encounters.

    Another thing to note is the absence of Abidal, Puyol and now Mascherano who will miss the upcoming La Liga match. Since the health problems of Abidal and injury of Puyol, the Barcelona back four have looked quite fragile. Gabriel Milito has been out for a long while and hasn't been on par with the rest of the squad whenever he has been called up, hence Pep's preference of playing Busquets ahead of him in important matches. I think Barcelona centre backs will find problematic the pace of Madrid's counterattacks, a tactic which Mourinho has been known for and has mastered over the years. However, if Barcelona control the match and possession, and score the first goal, balance of the equation will be favoured towards Barca immediately and siginficantly.

    It is important to note that Barcelona's starting line-up is more of a 'team' than Madrid's big names who are world class players individually, but let's not forget about Real Madrid's bench. In times like this, where there are many important matches to play in a short period of time, squad rotation will become more important than ever. Barcelona started the season with 19 in the squad (and now 20 with the addition of January signing Affellay), have Bojan, Abidal and Puyol likely to miss the season. This leaves them with 17 players, and of course the quarry of Barcelona B. Now looking at Real Madrid's bench, with Albiol, Arbeloa, Garay, Lass, Kaká(!), Adebayor, Benzama, Granero, Canales and Pedro León. There is no doubt that their bench is far more superior to Barcelona's, and this may become a deciding factor over the four matches.

    But looking at each match individually, I would not bet against Barcelona beating Real Madrid. I think the only way Real Madrid can get anything out of these four matches is by luck and referee, e.g. score an early goal and/or referee 'mistakes'. And this will probably happen, but not four times in the space of 17 days.

  • Comment number 86.

    @ 80, Thearmament,

    I got surprised reading about Murinho stating he would like (or expect) to become the United manager by the end of next season.

    Two years ago, the Real Madrid chairman was saying that, more or less, SAF was an old fool, because he didn't want to sell Ronaldo to Real Madrid. Yet, that old fool doesn't stop winning trophies, rebuilds successful sides and, on a season with minimal expenditure, he's on the verge of winning one more title (at least) with his weakest, allegedly, squad for years.

    Now we see Murinho spreading (if not rumoured of course) an expectation to get to the United hot seat when the logical thought is that SAF would like to see the best out of the latest side being rebuilt by himself, before he eventually retires.

  • Comment number 87.

    #75 It's amazing to me that people still don't get it.

    I realise that it may not be to everyone's tastes as a spectacle (if you don't enjoy masterful skill on the ball and the ability to reduce your opponents to chasing shadows) but to describe Tiki Taka as rubbish is absurdly ignorant.

    Simply put, if you can pass the ball 46 times and then get a shot in, your opponent can't possibly have a shot at your goal, can they? What Barcelona have finally proved is that possession is king.

  • Comment number 88.

    I wonder if any of you, after seeing what Schalke04 did to Inter, still think that ManUtd final v Real or Barca guaranteed? I wouldn't be so optimistic.

    Tomorrow's El Clasico is going to be one of the 4 upcoming in the next 18 days (OMG!). And while tomorrow Barca can afford to lose, as it is a La Liga match and Barca is safely 8 points adrift on the top, and Real Madrid is yet to play Valencia and Villareal, the next three - Copa del Rey, and two CL games are a must win for Barca.
    Messi v C.Ronaldo; Mascherano v Alonso; Guardiola v Mourinho; Busquets v Ramos; Team play (aka 'tiki-taka') v Artistic dives virtuously performed by Ronaldo and Angel di Maria, etc., etc...

    Visca Barca!!!

  • Comment number 89.

    wow my post at 41 broke the house rules. talk about cotton wool society.

  • Comment number 90.

    @ 87, GerrardTheKing,

    very similarly, one team has possession some 80% of the ball, creates chances and the other team has 2-3 counter attacks of a few seconds each and you might find the possession team being 2/3 goals down.

    What makes football such a beautiful game is the ability to apply so many different tactics to perfection.

  • Comment number 91.

    and one last thing pique things his one of the best, lol he couldnt get a regular spot on man utd team barca are not invincible, they are very poor defensviely, it juts bceuase they attack too much that their defensive is not shown

  • Comment number 92.

    75. At 12:22pm 15th Apr 2011, Joan_Burton wrote:
    lets be honest, Barca play tippy tappy rubbish, Ok it works for them, but it can be awful to watch. why pass the ball 46 times when you only need 3? and another thing which really grinds my gears, people praise individuals such as Xavi cause he has over 100 passes a game, but most of them are 4 yards long and he gets the ball straight back again...POINTLESS!!!!

    --

    Hmmmm I smell a windup here!

    However, If you are not on a windup, then I do despair! Perhaps Basketball would be more to your taste?

  • Comment number 93.

    Aaaaaaagh, there I was reading an excellent blog and looking forward to going through the comments over a cup of coffee, then before I even got going #7 mentioned Stoke and ruined the moment. It felt as if I was on a wonderful country walk in the sun then suddenly trod in some dog muck!!!!!

  • Comment number 94.

    #90, You'll get no argument from me. I'm not suggesting that football should just pack up and call it a day because I believe Barcelona to be the best. Football being what it is means that Barca can - and will - be beaten by teams if the opponents are patient and have quality in attack. Barca v Inter last season was absolutely fascinating for the reasons you just stated, and blimey, Inter came out on top.

  • Comment number 95.

    @ 91, badefella0807,

    I have to admit I liked Pique when he played at United and I had appreciated him much more when I saw him score for United.
    I was glad for him going back home as I could understand the reasons.
    But saying he's not a good defender is far from the truth. He's brilliant.

  • Comment number 96.

    95. At 13:05pm 15th Apr 2011, Football_UK wrote:
    @ 91, badefella0807,

    I have to admit I liked Pique when he played at United and I had appreciated him much more when I saw him score for United.
    I was glad for him going back home as I could understand the reasons.
    But saying he's not a good defender is far from the truth. He's brilliant.

    -----------

    I agree with you there, he was a bit dodgy at Man utd, but he's blossomed into a great player, his control and technique are incredible for a defender. Maybe a slip up there from Fergie to let him go so easily.

  • Comment number 97.

    @ 76 -

    Great point. I think you could be the man Sky Sports are looking for on Monday Night Football - those stats are impressive!

  • Comment number 98.

    @ 94, GerrardTheKing,

    Perhaps, I should have made clearer what I was saying.
    Barcelona are the best team around in my opinion too, and I love watching them play.
    The intended point was that they are the only side that has perfected the possession part and passing game of football, while keeping strong the other elements in their team. So, watching them play football makes them look double-brilliant.

    Perhaps, if other teams were as good in passing the ball, watching a match of two of the same style might be boring. Watching this style of football though in a match, against a different style of football, can bring out the best for both different styles.

    To give an example, possession football against a good counter attacking side which uses counter attack and doesn't just defend, could make an unforgettable spectacle.

    Seeing Real Madrid gelling eventually (in my opinion at least) might lead to all of us having the joy to view exactly that: quality possession/passing football against quality counter attacking. Both styles could succeed though.

  • Comment number 99.

    Joan burton! Are you to be annouced as th FA's chief coach when Burton gets the go ahead? I think ur assessment of Xavi being over hyped and you only need 3 passes to score should easily secure you the top post. The English can then be assured that their brand of air-ball will continue and with it their continued exit from world cups & european championships!

  • Comment number 100.

    I can only see Barcelona winning the league (due to being 8 points clear) and the Spanish cup. The CL is a different matter and not just because of JM. Real have players who can score when they are playing badly, unlike Barcelona, who have to play well to win. They have yet to come up against a really good team. If JM keeps Messi subdued and let’s not forget Messi has never scored against a JM team and the goal out of nothing factor from Ronaldo and friends I can see Real Madrid winning this on away goals at the Camp Nou.

    Whichever team gets through and most likely meets Man Utd, I think that will be the real test of how good these two teams are and how good Man Utd are.

    Wouldn’t be surprised if both Guardiola & JM leave at the end of the year. We can also see this as an interview for whoever takes over from SAF when he decides he has done everything he can achieve in football. If he wins the treble and overtakes Liverpool for title then he may well see that as retiring at the very top.

 

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