Time is ticking for the first Clasico match of this season. Real Madrid will not-so-warmly welcome Barcelona to the Santiago Bernabeu on Dec. 10, where both sides will prepare to play one of the two most important matches of the season.Madrid will be looking to get all the edge that they possibly can.
One way to get this edge is to watch Barcelona's performances, and study what goes right for them, and more importantly, what goes wrong. So whenever Barcelona lose a match, you can probably expect Mourinho and company to be pouring over the recording. We can even stalk Barcelona's weaknesses over the international break thanks to a certain national team.
If you have not already heard, Spain recently suffered a loss to England 0-1. As a fan of la Roja, of course I'm disappointed with the result, but as a madridista, I can see some benefits, though not in the way you would probably expect.
As Gabe mentioned in his article, Spain "looked like Barcelona on a bad day on offense, dominating possession, but without any teeth..." And this is absolutely true. Although I hate to admit it, Barcelona's horizontal attack (which is almost identical to the Spanish national team due to the number of Barca players in its core) can be extremely devastating. By maintaining possession for long periods of time, you can draw out the opponents as they become frustrated, which makes them easy prey for a cleverly crafted through pass and a well-timed run. This is how Barcelona has managed to be successful the past few seasons. This is how Spain managed to win the World Cup.
By studying the losses of both Barcelona and the Spanish national team, we're able to see weaknesses that Madrid will be looking to exploit come December 10. For example, England's tight defense and discipline were able to hold Spain's almost constant pressure for the entirety of the match. And with Spain having a bad day, Lampard's goal would be it for la Roja. If you have had the pleasure of watching Real Madrid play in the past Clasicos (sometimes they are admittedly not always a pleasure) you have probably seen los Blancos try to employ that same strategy, closing tightly on defense and breaking on the counter.
But contrary to what we witnessed Saturday Night in Wembley, that doesn't work.
Now, before you begin to protest, I'd like to your draw attention to what Xavi stated after the match:
"If we played ten matches like this, we would win nine, I am sure of that."
This is absolutely true for both Barcelona and Spain. Almost every single team goes out against Barcelona with 11 men behind the ball. And almost every single time they lose. This is because no matter how disciplined a defense can be, if David Villa, Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta, Xavi, or any number of those annoying people are in the mood, that ball is going to be in the back of the net. Even if they are held at bay, the best result expected would be a draw, and Real Madrid will need all three points if they want a healthy gap before they make the trip down to Camp Nou.
Sitting back and defending like England will give you the win 9/10 times. And even then it is a surprise. What Real Madrid should do is the opposite. Score early (which hasn't been a problem as of late), continue VERTICAL pressure down the wing (in addition to the fact that we will probably be outplayed in the center midfield, the squad has plenty of talent there as well as height) and keep Barcelona on the back heel until they are forced to push up, at which point the counter-attack would be employed.
More easier said than done of course, but the point is, Real Madrid needs to be prepared to do something that is unpredictable in order to catch Barcelona by surprise because even though Cules may argue and argue, Barcelona doesn't have a Plan B and they will be forced to adapt. Mourinho has begun to employ this philosophy, most notably in the Super Copa. And look how close we got then!
With los Blancos continuing to improve and Mourinho switching to a more offensive strategy against Barcelona, you can expect a highly competitive and goal-congested match come December 10. And Spain losing 0-1 to England is only the start of the analysis of both teams prior to kickoff. Who knew international breaks could be so exciting? (That was sarcasm. I'm still bored and there is still not much to write about).
But before I leave and continue drowning in a sea of work, how excited are you for the Clasico? Has the hype been building sufficiently or is it still early? Leave your comment below.