MADRID, SPAIN - APRIL 11: Cristiano Ronaldo (R) of Real Madrid celebrates with Kaka after Ronaldo scored Real's opening goal during the La Liga match between Club Atletico de Madrid and Real Madrid CF at Vicente Calderon Stadium on April 11, 2012 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
No you didn't mistakenly end up at Barca Blaugranes, Madridistas. In our quest to give you the comprehensive Clasico coverage you crave (and deserve) we will be looking at this match from every angle and in every context. Pep Guardiola spoke to reporters after yesterday's 1-0 defeat to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge and I found his comments very interesting. Among other things he said:
"After this result, you have to say Chelsea are now favourites to reach the final...They were a little stronger than us"
While I think Pep was giving Chelsea due credit for their efforts, I was struck by how quickly he elevated them to favorite status. The speed with which he did that was rivaled only by his haste to proclaim La Liga's title race over last month. This cheap psychology and blatant message sending via the press makes me we wonder just where his team stands mentally as they head into the Clasico. Is there a creeping sense of complacency seeping into the Camp Nou? I think Barca's nucleus of Spanish internationals is wearing down. You can see an example of the fatigue I'm referring to in Xabi Alonso, whose form has also dipped a little over the last month. These men have all essentially been playing high-stakes football non-stop since the World Cup. If Barca are at all vulnerable, there can be no better for time for los Blancos to pounce.
Let the mind games begin!