Wednesday night’s El Clasico had even the biggest football fans groaning with phrases like “I’d rather watch the Royal Wedding”.
Well it was this game which ultimately ended Jose Mourinho’s chances of becoming the next manager of Manchester United, or so most sections of the media would have you believe.
First I begin with the so called “negative” tactics. For me it was clear to see that Mourinho’s first and foremost aim in the semi final first leg was to come out with a positive result, a 0-0 draw at home would have done him perfectly! Going to the Nou Camp without having given an away goal to Barcelona would have given Mourinho’s Madrid a great chance of progressing to the final if they got an away goal in the return leg at the Nou Camp. Would it be wise to go all out and match Barcelona? To offer a mass of space for them to exploit? Simple answer is no.
People would have you believe that Barcelona is the greatest footballing side ever to exist. They are good yes. But because of the way that Real Madrid had set themselves out meant that until the wrongful sending off of Pepe, Barcelona really did fail to threaten. I can only really think of Pedro’s header wide as their only really clear cut chance. What does this tell me? It tells me that until the sending off, Real Madrid cancelled Barcelona out. That is the only simple way of putting it.
For me it is not about the amount of possession that a team has, it is about what they do with it. Lionel Messi for the first 61 minutes was about as anonymous as his team was. Pique to Mascherano and back about a 100 times over (exaggeration) would not win the match for Barcelona and it seemed this was the only pass that was open for the Barcelona team to play and this stifled them.
They were far from potent in attack. His “negative” tactic worked for a good 61 minutes and it was this kind of genius that allowed his Inter Milan side of last year to progress to the Champions League final. In fact I genuinely enjoyed the way that Inter Milan played last year against Barcelona. It was similar to how Real Madrid were set up except the Inter Milan side is much more willing, hard working and potent on the counter attack. My verdict is that he was spot on with the tactics. It was only a wrongful sending off that derailed Madrid in this semi final. In fact, in addition to stifling the way that Barcelona played, Madrid’s setup also bought out the worst in them.
They stooped as low as simulation to gain unfair advantages in the form of set plays, they tried to get the opposition sent off and they hounded the referee. In fact the referee had many more followers in the shape of the Barcelona team than I have on twitter. It was Madrid making Barcelona do such things due to the way they played that made this “great footballing side” ineffectual in attack (admittedly when it was 11v11 still).
Continued on page two.