Real Madrid's 2-1 victory over Barcelona in the Copa del Rey final helps highlight the opposing directions of the clubs' two managers.
Both managers are in their first season with their storied clubs, and it may also be Gerardo Martino's last with Barcelona after a disappointing campaign.
Martino offered up this assessment on the outcome, via Barcelona's official website: “It’s a very difficult blow because of our expectations. We wanted to win. What I’m taking away from this match is the team’s intention."
This is just the latest blow in a lackluster season for the Catalan giants. Barcelona are now looking at a fate of capturing no hardware on the season. They've already been eliminated from the Champions League and trail Atletico Madrid by four points in the La Liga table.
By the sounds of it, Martino has resigned himself to a fate of coming up short in La Liga and is simply hoping his team continues to give maximum effort, via Barcelona's website:
[The team] must continue forward and keep on fighting for the league. [...]
We have to derive strength where there is none. We have the obligation to continue fighting until the final moment.
As for the action on Wednesday, it was an entertaining match.
Real Madrid held a 1-0 lead for much of this match. Angel Di Maria put Los Blancos on top in the 11th minute. That lead held until the 68th minute, when Marc Bartra struck an equalizer.
Then, in the 85th minute, Gareth Bale authored the defining moment of his first season with Barcelona by notching the winning goal on a brilliant effort. The world's most expensive footballer flashed his speed and body control on this exciting score:
Bale came up the left side, which would have been the territory of Cristiano Ronaldo, but Ronaldo did not play in this match due to fitness issues.
As WeAreMadrid10 tweets, Ancelotti passes along that the injury only helped fuel his team's fire:
Carlo Ancelotti: "Cristiano Ronaldo's injury was extra motivation for all of us." #HalaMadrid— WeAreMadrid10 (@WeAreMadrid10) April 16, 2014
Barcelona had a chance to level the score late, but Neymar's shot bounced harmlessly off the post. This left Real free to celebrate their fresh title.
WeAreMadrid10 also passed along that Ancelotti felt his side was exceptionally worthy of the victory:
Carlo Ancelotti: "We deserve this title because there were many times where we could have killed the match." #HalaMadrid— WeAreMadrid10 (@WeAreMadrid10) April 16, 2014
Although he did stop short of offering up blanket praise for the whole performance, Ancelotti knows his team was giving its all. Again, WeAreMadrid10 passes along the quote:
Carlo Ancelotti: "We played at our maximum. We did very well for most parts of the match." #HalaMadrid— WeAreMadrid10 (@WeAreMadrid10) April 16, 2014
On the other side, Martino, while not being able to manage his team past their struggles, has had no problem identifying the source of them. The following Martino quote comes from the team's website:
Barça have a way of playing that is hard to modify. There are no long balls for a pure number nine, we’re a team that passes the ball, elaborates plays and when we aren’t precise in finding space the game becomes uncomfortable for us. When we don’t score first things get complicated.
We lack accuracy in the final 20 to 25 meters.
Of course, many now seem to feel that Martino is not the man for this job, and Martino himself may not even feel that way.
Should Martino be back next year?
Spanish paper Marca reported that Martino had told those close to him that “It’s easier to change one person than to change the lot.”
Ancelotti and Real Madrid do not have the same concerns.
Things have not been all rosy for Real this campaign, as they are staring up at Atletico by three points in the La Liga table. But they have captured this title and are awaiting their semifinal clash in the Champions League.
Real Madrid's next action comes with the first leg of that Champions League semifinal against Bayern Munich on April 23. They are scheduled to return to league play against Osasuna on April 26.
Real's league destiny is out of their hands. Of course, they are still alive and well in the title; it's just they need Atletico to slip up in order to make up the two-point deficit. Their precarious position in the league race will undoubtedly leave them centering their efforts on success in the Champions League.
Meanwhile, next up for Barcelona is a La Liga clash on April 20 at Camp Nou against Athletic Bilbao. As bleak as things seem for Barcelona, the league title is not all that preposterous. They will finish the season with a match against Atletico. Barcelona have a comfortable edge on Atletico in goal differential. If they can pick up just one point on Atletico before their head-to-head battle, this campaign won't seem so disastrous after all.