ARE YOU READY FOR SOME CLÁSICO?

C/O Realmadrid.com
I have a new piece up on Bleacher Report previewing the clásico on Monday--hope everyone is as psyched as I am for it! Make sure to keep your ears out for our pre-clásico podcast, which should come out tomorrow!

Here's the tactical analysis section--check out the link to read the full article:
The two teams play interestingly complementary styles of play: Barcelona’s methodical, flowing, passing game should provide an interesting contrast to Madrid’s frenetic, vertical quick-strike offense. As such, traditional ways of looking at the game--things like possession, pace, fouls--might be a bit overvalued: that is, because of the way each team plays on offense, classical methods of reading the game should be taken with a grain of salt. For example, it could very easily come about that Barça dominates the possession and pace of the game, but Madrid's defense effectively smothers their attack, and supplies a deadly counter attack: 0-1.

That being said, Madrid has two options going into the match-up--Barcelona will play their style without fail: the team can either (1) look to play defensively and cut off the diagonal passing lanes as much as possible or (2) try to wrestle as much of the possession from Barça as possible, and not focus as much on defense in the midfield.

I’d expect Mourinho to choose option 1 because it seems more disrupting to Barça’s style, and more complementary of Madrid’s: it doesn’t matter if Barcelona has the ball for a huge amount of time if los blancos are forceful in their tackles and smart about their positioning. Players like Xavi and Iniesta thrive on the spaces and inadequacies of opposing defenses--they push and poke until they inevitably find a hole. Madrid should try to counter this pushing in the midfield: by jamming up Barça’s passing diagonals in the midfield--and not chasing the ball all over the pitch--Madrid can try to blunt the blaugrana sword.

The key to this strategy is to work as a unit, both on defense and on offense: every player needs to completely commit to staying in their zones and shutting off their little area of the pitch. On offense, the transition to attack must be seamless so as not to be caught out: Özil, di María and Marcelo will be especially responsible for Madrid’s lightening counters.

I can’t pinpoint a single tactical match-up in particular because if this strategy is to be effective, then Madrid must work tirelessly as a unit to keep Barça from making dangerous, progressive passes (what I called "diagonals"). Khedira and Xabi Alonso must jam up the midfield passing lanes as much as possible against Xavi and Iniesta, and essentially cede control of the ball for much of the game. Pepe and Carvalho need to protect against through balls to the cutting wingers (Messi in particular); the fullbacks need to drop back as often as possible to try to slow down Barça’s advance down the wings. Even the offensive players have a role: to try to shut down progressive passes from the deeper-lying midfielders to the attacking trident.

A POR ELLOS!

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