Hours away from the second el Clasico, did the Barca players have enough time to rest and rejuvenate from the first one? Will their love and passion for the game be enough to win or will lethargy and mistakes haunt the final? Find out what we think after the jump.
After a rather intense final moments in the last el Clasico on Saturday, I wonder can both teams match the crazy drama and energy of the final minutes, or will it be a cautious encounter from start to finish. Madrid have shown this season that they have the players capable of outscoring the opponent, and last encounter’s closing seconds are testament to that. Ozil has shown how much he’s grown this season by orchestrating Madrid’s attack. His entry changed the game at Bernabeu and he was influential in Madrid getting the equalizer. I think Madrid will pressure high and try to give Barcelona a really good challenge in this final.
Mourinho and Madrid press have been whinging repeatedly about referees favouring Barcelona. These mindgames can have very dangerous ramifications in tonight’s game as Mou will undoubtedly instruct Madrid players especially Pepe to tackle hard with or without the ball, challenge for any goal-scoring chances, and anything in between. With Mourinho’s complaints and the world’s eyes on him, the referee will think twice before handing another red card to the Merengues. Mourinho’s whining is totally uncalled for but it can certainly tip referee in Real’s favour. I for one think that the referee should still go by the book and book anyone who deserves it.
Strategically, Pep will play the same way he always does. But there are certain improvements needed in order to gain the victory against Madrid. First and foremost is to look for ways Dani Alves can maraud down the right flank once again. In the el Clasico in Bernabeu last year, Pep surprised everyone by putting Dani Alves in the right wing position. I think considering that Pedro isn’t been back to his prime yet, Pep can certainly consider playing Adriano in the right back position so that Alves can attack and harm Madrid in their left flank, because Marcelo is the weak link of their defense. Secondly, give Villa more chance to shoot to bring his confidence back. With Messi being guarded by Pepe, Xavi marked by Xabi, and Iniesta tracked by Khedira, everyone almost overlooks Villa due to his rather dry spell lately. This is the perfect time to give perfect passes for him to finish. He will be bound to finish one or more. Iniesta should also be allowed to roam so that Khedira will have a hard time tracking him and so in turn Khedira is pinned back in their half.
Mourinho will now opt for the rather probing attack, led by Ozil with Kaka still on the subs bench. Ozil will probably replace Di Maria who was largely ineffective on Saturday. They will choose Adebayor as their target man, but Pepe will stay in midfield and play rugby on defense. This largely awaited final is a showdown of two tactical schools of thought. Hopefully, the best team wins and the world is blaugranas once again.
Real Madrid FC
Albiol is deservedly missing from the squad because of suspension. Kaka and Higuain are fit already but will probably not start, and everyone else is available for Madrid. Expect a different starting line-up from last time.
Predicted Starting XI: Casillas – Carvalho – Ramos – Arbeloa – Marcelo – Xabi Alonso – Khedira – Pepe – Ozil – C. Ronaldo – Adebayor
Pinto will guard the post as it is his duty for the CDR. Meanwhile, Barcelona is still missing Abidal and Bojan through injury while Mascherano will be back from suspension. After a slight injury scare on Saturday, Puyol and Adriano have returned to the squad. They will feature on the subs bench. Pedro might not be starting due to his ineffective display on Saturday.
Predicted Starting XI: Pinto-Mascherano-Pique-Adriano-Maxwell-Busquets-Xavi-Iniesta-Dani Alves-Villa-Messi.
Barca can handle Madrid as long as Busquets, Mascherano, and Pique concentrate when being counter attacked. As always, Barcelona players must always track back and pressure from high up the pitch. Real Madrid really likes to play offside trap, and Villa and Alves should always make runs for 1-1 goal scoring chances. Madrid will resort to hard tackles once again so don’t be surprised if they get another red card in this match.
FC Barcelona 2 – 1 Real Madrid CF