El Clasico: Arguably the most intense football match in world football right now contested between two of the world’s best teams if not the two best. Jose Mourinho’s Real Madrid vs. Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona. Real Madrid’s triumph in the Copa del Rey last week had even the scales and with a spot in the UEFA Champions League final at Wembley to play for it was always going to be a high intensity affair.
The El Clasico is currently considered to be one of the greatest football matches in the world but the last three Clasico’s have been disappointing with Barcelona and Madrid winning one each and with the other ending in a 1-1 stalemate.
The last three Clasico’s have been hardly entertaining and many have blamed Jose Mourinho’s conservative tactics as the reason. Even an ardent Real Madrid fan cannot deny the fact that Mourinho did indeed have a defensive approach to the game with him choosing to field three defensive midfielders, namely Pepe, Xabi Alonso and Lassana Diarra.
He has been criticized by many mainly the Barcelona faithful who wanted him to set up his team as an attacking mind set so that they could create a spectacle of the game. It is understandable that Barcelona fans would want Mourinho to adopt an attacking approach because that is exactly what Mourinho did against the Catalan giants earlier in the season in the La Liga. The result of that match is common knowledge and we all know that Barcelona thrashed Real Madrid 5-0 in one of the most comprehensive victories in recent El Clasico history. In that match Barcelona proved themselves to be head and shoulders above Madrid and it became painfully evident to Mourinho that his Madrid defense lacks the quality to contain the vastly superior Barcelona attack.
Against Barcelona on Wednesday Real Madrid were missing Ricardo Carvalho, their best central defender and so they definitely would have struggled against a firing Barcelona attack that features the likes of Lionel Messi, David Villa, Xavi, and Iniesta. So Mourinho played it safe and went with a lineup that featured no recognized striker and played three defensive midfielders including the robust Pepe.
The criticism on Real Madrid and more importantly, Jose Mourinho has stemmed from the fact that he employed a formation that a team of Real Madrid’s stature shouldn’t have employed and more importantly at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Like Mourinho stated in the post match press conference he could have easily brought on the likes of Kaka or any of the strikers he had in Emmanuel Adebayor, Gonzalo Higuain or Karim Benzema. But thanks to Pepe’s harsh red card he was left to chase shadows as Barcelona played their sublime football with the brilliant Lionel Messi once again rising to the occasion with some breathtaking football.
Many have jumped on Mourinho naming his tactics, negative football and have descended upon him like a pack of vultures. For one while Jose Mourinho’s tactics were defensive but definitely not ‘negative’.
That brings about the question is it right to call it ‘negative football’? For that matter can you label any form of football negative football??
The answer is simply, no. As a coach, Mourinho’s job is to get the results not entertain. His attempt at playing at attacking formation saw him get thrashed and so he chose to go for a formation that gave him a good shot at getting a positive result out of the match. After all it was the very same formation that saw him triumph over Barcelona in the final of the Copa del Rey as Real Madrid wore out Barcelona and won 1-0.
Barcelona play the most beautiful and attacking football in the world and they expect every other team to play the same brand of football and are often quick to label other tactics, negative and boring. This is not the case. Madrid are not bound to play attacking football simply because of their rich heritage. Mourinho got the job done in the Copa del Rey and did indeed deliver a trophy with ‘negative football’. And even in the first half, Barcelona rarely did anything adventurous often stroking the ball around in their own half. At 0-0 the match could have gone either way and with Madrid having some real firepower in their bench they could have given the game a real go in the last 20-30 minutes after keeping Barcelona quiet for large parts of the game.
Those criticizing Mourinho have only looked at the last part of the match, after Pepe got sent off but have failed to look at the minutes preceding the sending off in which Barcelona hardly offered any real goalscoring threat. For all of their attacking prowess they were fairly inadequate in breaking down a disciplined Madrid defense much like what happened last week.
He could very well have done the same but who knows what could have happened. Thanks to a harsh red card from the referee, the effective Pepe was sent off. It should have been a yellow card from the referee and while the decision was not a wrong one, it was a harsh one, a decision that took away any hope Real Madrid had.
It’s tough to defeat any team with just ten men but when it is against Barcelona it happens to be all the more difficult if not impossible. The red card to Pepe, thanks to some good play acting from Dani Alves took away any chance Madrid had and left them vulnerable to a Barcelona onslaught, something which the Blaugrana and Messi gleefully obliged. Messi scored a brace to put this game virtually to bed with Barcelona now holding a two goal edge and not to mention that both the goals were away goals. The red card was a harsh one and Dani Alves can be accused of exaggerating, something which most players were guilty of that night.
Had Pepe still been on the pitch it not only would have given Madrid the chance to change and adapt their tactics it would also meant that the highly influential Pepe was still on the pitch. During the first half, he was extremely effective in outmuscling Messi and he could have restrained Messi if he was on the pitch.
While Mourinho alleging a conspiracy may be going a bit too far, it is true that he can feel hard done by the decision as it was definitely harsh.
A match like the El Clasico is supposed to be a good advert for the game of football but yesterday’s performance by both teams was disappointing to say the least as they showed more importance in getting opponents sent off than in actually winning the match.
In the aftermath of the defeat to Barcelona many have been relentless in their criticism of Mourinho for his defensive mind
set but that is how he operates and right now he has bee
n extremely successful using the so called negative football and it’s time to give Mourinho break.