Sunday, 28 November 2010

El Clásico: The world's finest take to the stage

El Clásico. One of the rare moments when a domestic match holds the gaze of world football. Barcelona face Real Madrid at the Camp Nou tomorrow night and I thought that I would throw my proverbial hat into the ring along with many other sports writers by looking ahead to this special game.

On the simplest level, it is the biggest collection of world-class footballers you can witness in any match outside of the International arena. This is a match-up, however, that is anything but simple. It comprises of numerous intricate battles and sub-plots.

The first of these, which has received predictably large amounts of attention, is the showdown between indisputably the two greatest footballers in the world right now, Messi and Ronaldo. While the debate over who is better rages on, this match offers fans the opportunity to see the two compete for the headlines on the same pitch.

Either Messi or Ronaldo are able to change or win a game with one moment of brilliance. We all know this. Nevertheless, there are tactical complexities that perhaps warrant greater consideration. To allow ourselves to become preoccupied by the Ronaldo versus Messi battle would, of course, be doing a disservice to the spectacle that is El Clásico.

Another fascinating battle will be on the sidelines. Mourinho will take part in this historic derby for the first time tomorrow and all eyes are on him to see how he approaches the match. Can he mastermind a performance to put an end to Madrid's four-match losing streak in this fixture. When his Inter Milan side knocked Barça out of the Champions League last season, the majority of the footballing world applauded 'The Special One's' tactical masterpiece. Needless to say though, his current Madrid team does not in anyway, shape or form resemble that of Inter Milan.

Madrid, as ever, are defined by their attacking prowess rather than Mourinho's well documented approach last season which was to stifle opponents. Some have questioned whether Mourinho will adapt his tactics for this match. He may abandon his use of four attacking players in the 4-2-3-1 formation, usually using Di Maria, Özil, Ronaldo and Higuain, and replace one of them with another deep-lying midfielder to play his more common 4-3-3 formation, with the option to revert it to a 4-5-1.

It is hard to see who he may drop though. Ronaldo, maybe not. Higuain represents their genuine striker and Di Maria has been in good from cutting in from the right wing while Özil has adopted the role of puppetmaster, pulling the strings in the Madrid attack. Nevertheless, he may choose to play Lassana Diarra, Xabi Alonso and Khedira to attempt to try and combat the threat of Xavi and Iniesta's creativity.

Attempting to second guess Mourinho would be foolish. One thing does remain certain though, he will have worked on extremely specialised tactics for this game. These will probably revolve around preventing Xavi and Iniesta the opportunity to run the game while stopping service to Messi as much as possible. He is the world's most prominent tactician and his preparation for this match will have tireless, all of which makes this El Clásico all the more exciting.

His opposite number, Pep Guardiola, rarely strays from Barcelona's trademark style. With Busquets sitting in front of the back four, Xavi and Iniesta will push forward and act as the lynchpins in the Catalan side's formiddable attack. Messi, Villa and Pedro will rotate and push more narrow as the wing-backs, Maxwell and Alves, provide the width outside of them. Describing their likely approach is one thing, stopping it is quite another. With each attacking player being so comfortable on the ball and so adapt at beating their man or playing the killer ball, it becomes almost impossible to stop them creating chances.

The tactical battle that seems certain to unfold tomorrow night adds a new dimension from the usual 'we will score one more than you' nature of the game. How will the respective defences cope in trying to contain the other side's numerous attacking threats? Who will dominate the midfield and thus have the greater possession with which to breakdown their opponent? Will either manager change tactics or personnel for this match? These are all questions which add an intriguing depth to the all-star cast of El Clásico.

Through all this intrigue though, there are fears. The game has made for such a spectacle in the past because it was often both sides playing all-out attacking football. As sublime as Mourinho's treble winning achievements were last season, if he takes the same defence-minded approach tomorrow, many football fans will be left unsatisfied. The saving grace remains that with the number of fantastic players on the pitch, the match rarely fails to excite.

It is a clash between two of the most recognisable clubs in the history of world football. It is the duel between twenty-two of the most talented footballers on the planet, two of which reign supreme in a league of their own. It now has the added edge of being a tactical battle between two of the premier managers in the game right now. Under the spotlights, on the stage of the Camp Nou, the greatest domestic football match will be played out once again tomorrow night with the footballing world intently watching open-mouthed.

Thoughts, comments and opinions...

1 comment:

  1. I know that he is the best player in the world but I hate Messi. He isn't a people person.


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