Jose Mourinho has claimed one Clasico victory this week ahead of the league game at the Bernabeu on Saturday, an emphatic 3-1 win at the Nou Camp in the Copa del Rey on Tuesday evening. Revelling in the aftermath of a famous and boisterous win at the home of their fiercest rivals, it may come across that Real revealed their priorities this week. The 16 point gap between themselves and Barcelona gave the Copa clash a fierce ultimatum that could have all but signalled a majorly unsuccessful season for Madrid. However, the result has invigorated a volatile side who have underperformed greatly this season and potentially given the club something to fight for.
On Tuesday Real were sensational and dominated their great rivals as though they were the team leading the table so proudly. Cristiano Ronaldo fired in two goals to virtually assure Madrid’s place in the final. The score sat at 1-1 heading into the game but Ronaldo’s quality and Clasico pedigree along with Angel Di Maria proving himself as one of the world’s greatest wingers ensured Madrid’s safe passage to the final against their local rivals Atletico. Raphael Varane added another to make the second leg score an astonishing 3-0 before Jordi Alba managed to save Barcelona’s blushes in the final 5 minutes.
It was the result everyone at Madrid had been praying for and the performance arguably merited further punishment for Barcelona, who are struggling of late and failing to cope without manager Tito Vilanova. Here we see two teams almost spiralling uncontrollably in two alternate directions at such a vital stage of the season. The recent upturn for Madrid compared with the imperfect results Barca continue to accumulate has made the Saturday Clasico one of great importance.
Over the season Madrid have failed to perform at grounds where a win is greatly expected, such as Getafe, Granada, Sevilla, Osasuna, Betis and Malaga. Their abysmal results away from home were contrasted by a virtually unstoppable streak from Barcelona and as morale dipped further and further, hopes of retaining the title faded. Players and management staff have fought against each other and have used the media unnecessarily. Making matters worse is the impressive form from Atletico who have a 4 point lead over Real currently and have bragging rights which could transform into a total mockery should they complete a famous ‘double’ over Los Blancos.
The cup final is of great importance to both sides but must wait until the climax of the season to be settled, meaning revenge will be in order for whoever finishes in 3rd place.
However the Clasico on Saturday must first be settled. With Barca teetering and stumbling in all three competitions of late, Real could pounce and put real pressure on the Catalans in the league with a string of results combined with a squad now seemingly in harmony. Despite this, Jose Mourinho faces a tough choice over certain players due to the midweek Champions League second leg with Manchester United. Should he rest key players, then Barca get a reprieve and could virtually seal the title, but knowing Mourinho’s character he’d do anything to thwart his previous employers.
A win for Madrid could really unhinge Barcelona but that appears unlikely considering the major strength that Barcelona field on a weekly basis against La Liga’s lesser teams. But a draining performance, especially against the division’s most supreme team in terms of possession, could be detrimental in their Champions League tie at Old Trafford.
In more ways than one this game has everything to whet the appetite but, just as on Tuesday, we are unsure of how both teams intend to approach the match. It is most definitely one to watch despite the awkward 3pm kick-off time.
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