MADRID, SPAIN - DECEMBER 10: Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid reacts after failing to score during the la Liga match between Real Madrid and Barcelona at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on December 10, 2011 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)
Yesterday's El Clasico game between Real Madrid and arch rival Barcelona was similar to our 5-0 defeat in the Camp Nou. This was not due to Barcelona's domination--which came only after they took the lead--nor was it due to the result. Rather, both games have this in common: Mourinho betrayed his own soccer principles.
While last year he was pressed by both the fans and the press to play with a 4-2-3-1 formation, this year Mourinho was tempted to win the league in December. That's why he didn't play the expected and necessary trivot to stop Barcelona's play in the midfield.An excess of ambition. That was Mourinho's problem yesterday. It's clear that if Real Madrid was playing a Cup final instead of a Liga game yesterday, Mourinho would have played with a 4-3-3 formation with either Khedira-Xabi-Lass or Khedira-Xabi-Coentrao. But the Portuguese thought it was worth the risk and decided to attack FC Barcelona.
It was impossible to contain Barcelona's midfield with the 4-2-3-1 formation without applying the pressure everybody was expecting. It all started to look worse for Madrid when Xabi Alonso saw the yellow card. The midfielder was pushing into Barcelona's part of the field, but he could no longer do that with risking dismissal.
Neither Lass nor Xabi played badly. Coentrao was average as well. Instead, it was an structural problem. The 4-2-3-1 formation requires Mesut Özil to press either Xavi or Busquets. I don't know what the problem is with the German player, but he reminds me of Karim Benzema in his first season with the club. Every Real Madrid fan knows that the quality is there, but he has an attitude problem. He needs to get some confidence and intensity in the defensive part of the game, which is something he showed us last year. Mourinho and the team need to back him up.
Arbeloa's absence was key in yesterday's game. If the right back didn't play it's because he is not in full health after his injury against Ajax. He looked ready, but Mourinho told the press that he was still hurt. The Spanish defender would have allowed Madrid to play a more intense midfield with Lass-Xabi-Coentrao. Khedira was left out because he is slower and his strength relies on positioning. The midfielders need to be ready to run against Barcelona. Khedira is a good player but he is more of a "diesel" player than Coentrao and Lass.
Mourinho will not play a 4-2-3-1 formation against Barcelona when Real Madrid doesn't need the win desperately. It has been proven that the system he used in both the Copa del Rey final and Champions League semi-finals is the better one against this possession team. The 4-2-3-1 worked in the Supercup because Barcelona was not as fit as Real Madrid. With Arbeloa and a good Nuri Sahin, the Portuguese coach will have more options for the three man midfield, and that will cause Barcelona some troubles.
One of the few positive aspects of El Clásico was Karim Benzema, who showed himself to be a world class striker. Everybody was expecting for a big game of the French striker against elite teams, and he certainly delivered. He was the best player for Real Madrid alongside Di María, and not because of his goal. He launched every counter attack almost perfectly by receiving the ball from the center backs, Marcelo or Alonso and passing it to Di María and Özil.
Ángel Di María understood the pressure and counter attack game perfectly. He is sometimes too quick and jumps the gun too often in his decision-making, but he is one of Real Madrid's key players. However, his effort on the pitch did not last for the whole 90 minutes, so he had to be subbed by Mourinho. Real Madrid fans need to be confident about the Argentinian player.
The press, including Marca and As, and even some fans who's attitudes have been shaped by these sources, are already criticizing the team. They say Mourinho doesn't have an answer to FC Barcelona, Cristiano is useless against them, and there is no hope for this season.
The only thing this mere informer knows is that Real Madrid can win the Winter Liga title next weekend, which will mean Real Madrid will be one or three points ahead of Barça. Mourinho was the reason Madrid beat Barcelona in the Copa final and competed against them and the referee in the Champions League semis.
Plus, Cristiano was the one who gave us the Copa title.