AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - DECEMBER 07: Gonzalo Higuain of Real Madrid celebrates scoring his sides second goal during the UEFA Champions League group D match between AFC Ajax and Real Madrid at the Amsterdam Arena on December 7, 2011 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. (Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)
Real Madrid's José Mourinho decided not to play his cards close to his chest, so to speak, in today's press conference. He was asked whether he'd consider playing strikers Gonzalo Higuain and Karim Benzema together against FC Barcelona in this weekend's clásico contest, and he responded with a little more information than we have come to expect: "No, they won't play together. I'm going to play Cristiano Ronaldo, Ángel Di María and either Benzema or Higuaín."
This one little phrase gives us a very revealing window into Mourinho's thought process leading up to the clásico: not only did he not mention Mesut Özil, he also presented a possible offensive trivote of Ronaldo, Di María and one of the two strikers. These two little extrapolations give us a hint at a possible starting XI for Real Madrid: a 4-3-3 with a Lass--Xabi Alonso--Sami Khedira defensive trivot, and a Ronaldo--Benzema/Higuaín--Di María offensive front.
Obviously, this is pretty much what we've been expecting for weeks now: one of the keys to the match will be high-intensity defending in the midfield and the offensive sectors, and this lineup seems to allow Mourinho to go all-in on the medium-high press. It also gives him the option of bringing either a fully-rested Mesut Özil or Kaká off the bench if things take a nasty turn.
At the same time, it's important to remember that Mourinho has been known to play games with opposing coaches, using the media as a foil, so it's probably a bit unwise to read too much into these reports. But hey, here's to some fun speculation over the next couple of days.
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