After showing a steel of nerves, shrewd and incredible counter-attacking football on Wednesday to defeat their arch rivals for the Copa Del Rey, Real Madrid went to Valencia and did another thing worthy of mention….if not praise. Jose Mourinho tried his luck at the Mestalla and it paid off immensely. I even wrote on twitter that, Mestalla is now the home ground of Real Madrid. Many are the people who said that was an understatement. Not only did the score line make Madridismo happy but Mourinho found impressive reserves as well.
Nine changes brought nine goals – six for Madrid, all from the trio of Kaka, Benzema and Higuain. The trivote has worked for Real Madrid against Barcelona in the two el clasicos gone by. This time around, it wasn’t a trivote but a magnificent trio of skillful players who could do anything and everything with the ball at their feet.
Valencia did not help matters as their defense crumbled against Real Madrid in the first half. “I’ve never suffered such shame on a football field,” was coach Unai Emery’s angry assessment after the game. “We played like a team who is 15th in the league.”
Except Valencia are not 15th on the league table. They are one of the clubs who will accompany Real Madrid and Barcelona to Europe next season. They are the 3rd on the league table in Spain.
One, two, three – Benzema, Kaka, Higuain. It was simple, yet a counter-attacking masterclass; honed on the training ground, executed on the battleground; and in truth, few sides would have coped. The movement was exquisite, the understanding exemplary, the combinations sublime. Confidence oozed; class bubbled. Madrid’s attackers were sublime and lethal. Each one knew where the other was. It was like they were connected as with the case of twins. They exploited the space, got behind the full-backs, made good use of the flanks, passed intuitively, gelled impressively and finished ruthlessly – with pace, power and panache.
Benzema was lethal. He did a lot of runs. His work rate has improved tremendously and he isn’t the man we saw some months back. He has the zeal to excel now and he isn’t lazy. Adebayor I must say has helped in the development of Benzema. As soon as he came in, we saw a great change in the attitude of Benzema. He was as if a man possessed by evil spirits to do the impossible. Only this time, what Benzema did, does and will do isn’t an impossible mission. He has the talent and will surely make it at Real Madrid. He wouldn’t be an example of Gilardino at AC Milan.
Higuain was devastating. His pace and positional play is something worthy of emulation. He is and will be useful in Mourinho’s counter-attacking play. He has been missed by all Madridismo but he proved again that even after injury, he can score hat-tricks. Something all Madridistas will be happy about. Renaldo, the El Fenomeno has a competitor now.
Kaka was everywhere. This could have been one of Kaka’s best games ever since he joined Real Madrid. He scored two and assisted two. This was the Kaka of old. This is the Kaka that I don’t want to see leave Real Madrid. He will surely do well as Benzema has exemplified.
And together, they were magnificent and unplayable. Mourinho watched in delight. “We played spectacular football,” he said afterwards. “We were absolutely fantastic.” It is going to be another 2 weeks of Champions League football between Real Madrid and Barcelona. The remaining clasicos will be a joy to watch. Barcelona are now giving Real Madrid the needed respect as was depicted from Busquets press conference yesterday. “They are a great team and perhaps the worst rival we could have faced right now in the Champions League because they know us, they have a great coach and there is great rivalry,” he said.
Barcelona is the team to beat. A silky attacking football, players with the greatest of techniques and a coach who makes things happen out of nowhere.
It is time to observe another 180 minutes of clasico action. Injuries are piling up. Coaches are mapping up strategies. Formations will keep on varying. Cards will flow. Only the strong will survive!
The pressure keeps mounting, the rivalry keeps accelerating. Fans of both clubs are anxiously waiting with mixed feelings while the neutrals are ecstatic about a possible four Clasicos. I don’t really think Real Madrid or Barcelona will fail to qualify for the semi-final of the UEFA Champions League. That is out of the question. With a four-goal lead, both clubs have one foot in the next stage.
The two clubs have one more game to play in the Spanish league. Even though that match is very important considering the rivalry I feel the league is over. That match could put Barcelona in front of Real Madrid with 11 point difference. The gap could be narrowed to 5 if Real Madrid wins. Come to think of it, the 8 point gap could still be in play at the end of the day. This Barcelona side will never budge and let the lead go so I say, Barcelona has the league title in their pocket.
Four days after the clasico at the Santiago Bernabeu, the two clubs will meet at Valencia’s Mestalla for the final of the Copa Del Rey. It is a one-off match and Mourinho will surely have the upper hand. After being humiliated by Barcelona in November last year, the special one will by now know what to do against the Catalans. He wouldn’t repeat the same mistake twice. I bet he had sleepless nights like me when Barcelona outclassed us on the field at the Camp Nou.
The Real Madrid players would have also learnt a thing or two. It was the first time that players like Di Maria, Carvalho, Sami Khedira and Mesut Ozil were playing against Barcelona for Real Madrid and not any other place than the dreaded Camp Nou where fans easily influence referees and make opposing teams succumb to immense pressure. On a neutral turf with the experience gained by Jose Mourinho and his men after losing 5-0 to Barcelona, I pick Real Madrid to win it. Believe it or not, Mou is a better tactician!
Let’s come to the Champions league. This will also be influenced by what happens in la liga. If Barcelona are 11 or 8 points up, la liga Will be zilch. As a result both coaches will send in second string sides to play the matches before the Champions League encounter. Barcelona will play at home to Osasuna and would not suffer that much. If Real Madrid are 5 points down coming into the weekend preceding the UCL match, they will continue to fight for the title but will as well rest players when they travel to Valencia.
The return leg will be more merriment. I expect a lot of mini-heart attacks. Real Madrid will take on Real Zaragoza at home while Barcelona travel to Anoeta to face Real Sociedad. By this point the league will be more than finalized so all eyes, energies and hearts will be focused on the Champions League.
This will be one of the most devastatingly physical tests that either set of players will have to go through and by May 3 who will still be standing? I still don’t know. Hmmm…. four clasicos in 18 days will be a lot to take in. NB: the English premiership clubs and journalists will all be envious of SPANISH FOOTBALL. All the talk will be centered on these two clubs. Heart aches, heart attacks and even deaths will be involved. I pray no one dies though but I don’t see that not happening. Fans will watch and die on their couches. Mourinho is a great coach but I believe that this will be his toughest time ever as a coach… likewise Pep Guardiola. After these encounters, both coaches will need to be admitted at the hospital to check their mental statuses.
With Higuain and Kaka returning from injuries, the Real Madrid bench is strong. Mourinho can spur his fringe players on to play to their potential. The likes of Granero, Albiol, Garay, Canales and Lass can really help push Real Madrid to win the Copa Del Rey and get to the final of the Champions League. Pep Guardiola will also really on his old guards to pull the squad through a tough period. Thiago, Puyol, Keita will all come in handy. Barcelona have played for a long time. They know themselves very well on the pitch. If this Barcelona squad will be considered as the best ever in the history of the club, this is the time.
The four matches will be like a mini tournament. It is going to be a historic 18 days. I seriously need a cardiologist as we enter into the tournament. Even though it is going to be a football-gasm, there will be a lot of mini heart attacks. Brace yourself for it! Long live Real Madrid… Long live Spanish football. Hala Madrid!!!!