(Assisted by Mohammad Al-Hassani)
As we all know, Real Madrid is on course for a succession of ties against fierce rivals Barcelona. They must certainly be hoping that last game's disaster is not repeated and will be looking to redeem themselves with victory.
Much is at stake here, after Real Madrid's recent spending spree has not produced success thus far. Mourinho also has something to prove` with his reputation on the line.This game will be a test of both teams' mettle with much pride and confidence on the line.
These upcoming 18 days are no longer about the games themselves but rather the bragging rights that come with triumph.
Real Madrid currently finds itself in the unfamiliar underdog position and will have to learn how to cope with that in order to achieve victory. They must use their current position to their advantage to achieve the desired level of success in the forthcoming clasicos. To do this they must follow a certain set of guidelines that will lead them to the joys of victory. Here they are.
In November, Real Madrid attempted to soak up Barcelona's attacks by sitting back. This clearly did not work. The only way to unsettle Barcelona is to pressure them whenever they have possession.
Allowing Barca any breathing space will only lead them to grow in confidence and consequently will end up in defeat. Barcelona is far too threatening to be allowed the license to attack, as is seen week in and week out in La Liga.
Instead, quick pressure should be administered all around the pitch to shift the tide. The key here is to unsettle the opposing side and halt their momentum.
Such pressure should be a team effort and the side should still maintain organization and composure.
Tactical fouls may also be implemented to halt the mesmerizing flow of the tiki-taka. These fouls should be concentrated in the middle of the pitch and should be used as a means for Real Madrid to assert its dominance on a physically weaker Barcelona side.
This strategy should be especially applied in the beginning of each half to set the tone for the remainder of the game.
After the first phase is completed, the Real Madrid team must try to compete with Barcelona in terms of possession. Suggesting that they should try to outmatch Barca in terms of possession is folly and would lead to a severe backlash. In this category, no team can match Barcelona, something that came as a rude surprise to hopeful Arsenal fans.
However, conceding ultimate defeat in this category is in itself dangerous, as Barcelona are a team capable of achieving possession exceeding 70 percent. This would lead to ultimate domination and is certainly not the correct path for Real Madrid to take.
Real Madrid must instead narrow the chasm between the two sides in terms of possession. They must periodically slow the play down and play the ball across the back-line. This strategy would serve as a respite for Real Madrid players tiring from the pressure strategy and would give the defense a chance to reorganize.
It would more importantly halt Barcelona's momentum and give Madrid the opportunity to attack. Also, the more time Barca spends away from the ball the less threat they would pose to the Madrid goal.
Employing this tactic would serve as a means for Real Madrid to level the playing field and build up an attack. Achieving minor defeat in this category would, in fact, be considered a victory for the Real Madrid side.
While this suggestion may seem paradoxical when contrasted with the previous slide, the two may harmoniously work, and this is why. The two strategies of keeping possession and counter-attacking are near opposites in footballing terms, however, Real Madrid can strike the proper balance between the two.
They can use the strategy of possession to parry off Barca's threatening attacks and break momentum, but this will not be used as their dominating means of attack.
Instead, the swift counter-attack should be employed when Barca is lacking in defensive numbers. This strategy should be especially successful given Madrid's potent attack. Most of Madrid's attack is in abundance of speed and this is a necessary element for the success of counter-attacks.
This strategy, while definitely enticing, should be used sparingly and only in the correct situations. For instance, in a situation where Dani Alves is caught in attack, the Madrid team should quickly combine in the hopes of catching the Barcelona defense off guard.
The balance of the two strategies, while difficult to strike, will also help the Madrid side to cloak its overlying intentions. Thus a counter-strategy would be difficult to conjure with the lack of any clear motive.
Defense is arguably Barca's weakest point, especially with the recent injuries suffered by some of the Barcelona defenders. Puyol is arguably Barca's greatest loss as he is the focal point of his team and regularly serves as their captain. With him gone, the team will definitely miss his sense of leadership especially in the critically important area of defense.
Pique is also, for the most part, still young and inexperienced and will be paired with a similarly inexperienced Busquets. Busquets is also not a natural in the role of center back and may find himself severely tested by a powerful Madrid attack.
Abidal's unfortunate injury also provides another absence that Barca will surely miss. These injuries, coupled with the fact that Dani Alves is largely attack-minded, lead for the development of a precarious situation for Barcelona in the upcoming weeks.
While these developments have proven unfortunate for a weakened Barcelona side, they provide Madrid with a rare weak point to exploit. Madrid should use this to their advantage and test the shaky Barcelona defense.
The last element Madrid must get right is the team selection. No team can perform to its full potential without the correct combination of players and the same holds true for Madrid. There are certain players that must be excluded for the mere reason that the opposition being faced is Barcelona. Mourinho must keep this in mind for his team selection.
Here the ideal formation that will hopefully give Madrid the best chance at victory.
This formation is the same formation Mourinho has used all year and should work by stunting the Barca attack and allowing for a potent counter-attack.
The back four is expected has been playing in unison for the majority of the season.
L. Diarra has been given the nod because of his physical presence that would work to undermine the crafty pair of Xavi and Iniesta. His defensive qualities are also notable and serve as another possible advantage he could offer to a star-studded Madrid side.
Ozil has been shining in his more central position, so Kaka should be shifted to the right, where he would be similarly dangerous.
Benzema has been chosen ahead of his three competitors because he is the most in form forward in the Real Madrid squad. His consistency has also given him a further edge. This squad has been proven to work in the past and should be given the chance to shine once more.
While it is lamentable that Higuain cannot start, he has just recently come back from injury and should be deployed as a substitute to further the Real Madrid attacking options.
Notable absentees should include Di Maria and Adebayor. The first player mentioned has shown lack of consistency and does not exhibit the level of class needed to defeat a monumental Barcelona side. While his contributions have been helpful for Madrid, he should not start ahead of Kaka and could be subbed in during the latter stages of the game.
Adebayor, on the other hand, is a newcomer to the Real Madrid squad and does not have the correct level of chemistry with the rest of the team. Adebayor is also yet to open his account in La Liga and should not be trusted to do so in such a significant game.
These strategies must and should be adopted by Real Madrid to give them an optimal chance at winning the games tomorrow and in the upcoming 18 days.