Welcome to The Crossfire: El Clásico 2011 edition. Coming up this weekend is El Clasico, the game where we play our eternal and fierce rivals, Real Madrid. Before this very special match, we invited a supporter from each of these clubs to give their opinions about the encounter. Real Madrid is represented by Kaushik, a writer from realmadridfootballblog.com and from the Barcelona side we invited Jan, a writer from hayliga.pl. So, lets get the Crossfire blazing!
We ‘meet’ some days before one of the biggest football events in the world. Can you describe the atmosphere in your team and among supporters right now?
Kaushik: Warily confident, I suppose? Real Madrid has looked to do all the right things ever since the preseason started. The squad is focused, most players are in fantastic form and shape, results have been going our way this season, and we sit 3 points ahead of Barcelona with a game in hand, which is more than us fans could have ever asked for. The Madridistas have a good feeling about things this time around. If we win a 6(+3?) point lead is just fantastic, and if we lose it’s not really the end of the world, like they’ve said in the last couple of seasons. I’m happy with the way things are now, and am sure most Madrid fans would feel the same.
Jan: After the defeat against Getafe Pep said that Barça will be okay and you know what? He was right once again! Right now the atmosphere in the team is like our goal difference at Camp Nou, very much elevated. After some problems with injuries we have almost the whole squad ready to go and – what is more important – our crucial players like Messi, Xavi, Iniesta, Alexis, Cesc are in very good form and shape. We are 3 points behind Madrid and cules are pessimistic (like always) but there is hope. When I look at our players right now I can see the same attitude as last year before the manita. If we win at the Bernabeu we can get 3 very important points and we can undermine Madrid’s morale, how cool is that?
How do you rate your team’s performance this season (in the Champions League as well as La Liga)?
Kaushik: Excellent. We are blessed with having one of the strongest squads in Europe right now, not just playing 11, so it really helps with congested schedules and fatigue incurred by players. Like I said earlier, we’re in a pretty comfortable spot in La Liga right now, and even in the Champions League we have blazed through the group stages with no real trouble. The team is playing great, the players are in form, there is healthy competition. And as long as complacency doesn’t set in, which I don’t think it will knowing a fired up Mourinho is around, we don’t have much to worry about.
Jan: At home we are unstoppable but unfortunately we also have to play outside the beautiful Camp Nou. To justify this, now is the first time this season when we don’t have injuries (I don’t count Afellay because he has long-term injury). If we look only at numbers our balance isn’t that bad: we lost only one game and we’ve already played against Real Madrid (twice), AC Milan, Valencia, Villarreal, and Sevilla. But we are second in La Liga with 3 points behind the leaders (with an extra game played) and with too many average games. So how can I rate our performance? I would say: very good (I’m optimistic).
Describe your team at this moment of the season, any injury worries?
Kaushik: Well no serious injuries so far, touch wood. But you can never say till the end, nobody could have predicted that Higuain would be ruled out for that long a day before the Clasico that must not be spoken about. Just a few niggles, but I think most of the squad should be available by the time of the Clasico. Kaka, Arbeloa, Marcelo were the ones with the said niggles, but it looks they will be fit at least, even if not match ready, for December 10.
Jan: Like I said earlier, this is the first time this season when Guardiola has all players ready to play. Cesc, Iniesta, Puyol, Alexis, Pedro – they are all fit and God bless them. Last game against Levante was our best match this season, which is good news before the Gran Derbi. Right now Barcelona looks impressive.
Last season and at the beginning of this one there were many Clasicos. Some even said that games between Real and Barça weren’t THAT special because there have been too many clashes between the two teams. Both sides experienced some good and bad moments. How do you think the upcoming game will be?
Kaushik: Definitely full of drama again. Last season was an overkill yes, and I don’t know if it lost its specialness factor, but for sure it showed the ugly side of things. But that’s what happens if you ask 2 rivals to play each other 4 times in 15 days. Everybody knew it was going to be ugly. The supercopa was a lot better until the dying minutes. For the most part, it was only about football, and also quite an exhibition of football at that. But after losing a tightly fought match at the end, I guess some Madrid players showed their emotions and then it got ugly again. This match, I do not think will be as event filled as some of those clasicos, but definitely there will be lots of points of contention, lots of debatable topics, clasicos are never eventless.
Jan: Tough question… I really have no idea how this Clasico will look like. We all know that this depends on the result. If Barça is winning then Mourinho can go crazy once again. As always there will be lots of ,debatable moments, lots of controversy, but I really hope that this time it will be about football. No “por que”, no stupid fouls, no diving (on both teams), just pure, beautiful football. This is what we love, right?
What will be your starting eleven?
Kaushik: This is a tough one. We really haven’t changed our playing shape, or formations ever this season, but a lot of times there have been personnel changes and in certain positions we are blessed with the luxury of having world class options for one spot. I am terrible with predictions but I think nothing drastic will change from how we’ve lined up all season long. Casillas; Arbeloa, Ramos, Pepe, Marcelo; Xabi, Khedira; Cristiano, Ozil, Di Maria; Benzema. Possible changes to this may be Coentrao for Marcelo as he is a touch more stable defensively, and perhaps Kaka for Ozil, and although not likely, maybe Higuain for Benzema.
Jan: The question is: what will be my formation? If Pep will go with 3-5-2, or 3-4-3 then I will pick: Valdes, Puyol, Mascherano, Abidal, Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta, Fabregas, Sanchez, Messi, Villa. You can try to stop Xavi, you can even try to stop Iniesta, but how can you stop Xavi, Iniesta and Cesc?! Absurd. Alexis is in a great form and I can’t wait to see how Marcelo will be trying to catch our little Chilean. But personally I’d prefer to play 4-3-3 with Valdes, Dani, Pique, Puyol, Abidal, Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta, Cesc, Alexis, Messi. Cesc would be my ‘false 9’. Dani Alves is a machine and he loves to play with Messi like the great Ray Hudson said: “They’re like a happily married couple, Messi & Dani Alves. Messi washes, Alves dries. Fabulous together.” This is it.
Can you name an opposition player you would be the most wary of?
Kaushik: Simplest question to answer. Time and time again we have been able to negate every player of Barcelona, by hook or crook, except for one. The little genius, Messi, is the difference maker and obviously he is the biggest danger for Madrid. He always turns up for big occasions, and almost always leaves his best performances for Real Madrid. I find that consistency a tad annoying, hehe. On top of negating the many other talented players in Barça, if we can somehow keep Messi’s usefulness at a lower level than what he can potentially provide, we will go a long way.
Jan: That’s easy: Pepe, Sergio Ramos, and Marcelo, why them? Because I want my players to return home without any injuries. I know, I know these stereotypes… Seriously speaking, when I look at Real Madrid players I’m not worried, because I know that we have better players in every position, but this doesn’t mean that we can’t lose. They want a win as much as we do. I’m worried about how they will play but I’m not worried about their players.
Three words you would use to describe the opponent:
Kaushik: Tough – Definitely the toughest opposition for Real Madrid in all of Europe, not just Spain.
Jan: Fast– counter-attack!!!
Furious– wait, fast and furious is like title of a bad movie!
Hungry – they didn’t win any major title in a few years and even when they finally won the Copa del Rey then Sergio Ramos broke it. They are hungry, fast and furious like The Tasmanian Devil.
Thanks Kaushik and Jan for being part of this edition of The Crossfire. Looking forward to the game!