El Clásico Preview – Barcelona vs Real Madrid

29 Nov

Today, the footballing world will come to a halt for the most anticipated match, in the greatest rivalry on the planet. For purists, front-runners, and neutrals, there is something to savor in every aspect of this match. Barcelona’s beautiful game. Real Madrid’s stonewall defense and lethal counter-strikes. Messi vs Ronaldo. Mourinho vs Guardiola. Catalans vs Madrileños. Not to mention 13 Spanish internationals. Ten of the starting XI from the final vs Holland.

Barcelona fans have already stoned an assistant coach as well as two players, in addition to the Madrid team bus which shattered a window. We get it, they don’t like each other and tensions are higher than ever before. Not since Figo’s return to the Camp Nou have we seen such excitement and anticipation. How will it play out? Let’s delve into the main match ups to highlight the keys to victory for both clubs.

Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta vs Ozil, Alonso, Khedira – You can argue the match will be won in the midfield, and I would put myself in that camp as well. It all starts and ends here. Khedira’s job will be quite simple – try and stop Xavi. Mirror his movements, apply pressure, and give as little time as possible on the ball for the Spanish wizard. Barcelona breathes through Xavi, and cutting him off will force the three forwards to drop deeper. It will also do well to keep Messi under wraps (duh). Alonso, not always the greatest of defenders, will also need to do his best to stop Barcelona’s maestros. Iniesta’s movement can give you headaches, but it can be rendered meaningless if he doesn’t see the ball. On the flip side, Busquets needs to be careful with his defending. Ozil is a crafty, tricky player who is extremely talented at seeing the field and getting rid of the ball quickly. Incisive passing at its best. Both he and Alonso cannot be allowed to spring the quick counters and long balls against the high Barcelona defensive line, or else it’s curtains.

Cristiano Ronaldo vs Dani Alves – The problem for Barcelona is Alves’ offensive marauding and interplay with Messi. He naturally leaves gaps of open space behind him, the very same space Ronaldo will look to exploit. Don’t figure on the Portuguese man defending. Cherry picking would suit him well, and there will be plenty of grass to work with when the Barcelona wingback pushes up. Alves will need to be wary of this, and perhaps be more cautious in his approach.

Messi vs Marcelo / Real Madrid – That is worded carefully because we all know Messi may camp on the right side, but he is always moving anywhere on the pitch. Marcelo will be tasked with stopping la pulga as best he can. But if Mourinho succeeds in cutting off supplies to the wing, Messi will surely move central or to the left, or wherever the hell he wants. It’s going to take a team effort to shut him down – especially since no one man can do it alone.

Madrid defense vs Barcelona defense – Advantage Madrid. Never has Carvalho played as well as he is now, and coupled with Pepe in the middle they will be hard to break down. Not to belittle Pique and Puyol, but they play a suicidal high line and will rely more on offsides calls than sure tackling. Open play favors a Madrid attack because an organized Barcelona defense is much harder to beat. However, open play or methodical progression won’t make a difference for Mourinho’s defenders. They are just as good in either situation. Look out for the wingers, specifically Alves and Sergio Ramos, to fall asleep on their defensive duties.

Casillas vs Valdes – There should be a number of goals and even more shots. Casillas is the best in the world. Valdes needs to play like it.

There are plenty of other factors, not least of which is the home field advantage Barcelona will enjoy. It is a match neither team can afford to lose, the repercussions of which would be devastating until they meet again in Madrid at the end of the season. The league will surely not be decided tonight, but it will go a long way towards who reigns supreme not only in Spain, but in the entire world of football. Don’t miss it!!

(Photo courtesy of Barcelonafootballblog.com)

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