Real Madrid- Barcelona: 4 Observations from the Second Leg
The game could really be explained quite concisely. The entire game, Real Madrid created more chances than Barcelona and won the ball better than them. However, Barcelona only had to have scraps and Lionel Messi feeds on them. Lionel Messi again was the creative focus of the team.
"There is often a fierce rivalry between the two strongest teams in a national league and this is particularly the case in La Liga, where the game between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid is known as El Clásico. From the start the clubs were seen as representatives of two rival regions in Spain, Catalonia and Castile, as well as of the two cities themselves. The rivalry projects what many regard as the political and cultural tensions felt between Catalans and the Castilians."—Footballtickets.com
Xavi was a shining light for Barcelona. Last game, Barcelona missed him, but just how much is hard to explain unless you watched both legs. The first leg, the Barcelona midfield was near dysfunctional as Madrid completely dominated them/cleverly kept the ball away from them. Messi was inconspicous for most of the first leg.
In this match, the difference was subtle but real. Xavi was there again, creating order out of chaos, threading delicate one-two's through the center, making a fool out of the Real Madrid defensive midfielders. His presence seemingly accounted for more than what he actually did on the pitch, but his contribution was important nevertheless. Once Xavi got back into the team, Messi scored a brace and was a brilliant creative influence.
Xavi, tactically, did not differentiate much from the usual pattern of his play. Messi, in his "trequartista" role, dropping back into the midfield and heading a narrow midfield diamond as he usually does. Messi flourished as Xavi gave him the ammunition to create and create he did.
Pique and Mascherano
Pique and Mascherano were the starting center back pairing for Barcelona in both the Bernabeu and today in the Nou Camp. Both of them are excellent players; Pique is the more cultured of the center backs, impeccable with his distribution and effective with the tackle. He has the suaveness of Beckenbauer and the surgical tackling of great Italian defender Franco Baresi.
They looked vulnerable at times. This was probably one of the reasons that Real Madrid had so many chances to score. They are a bad center back pairing as both of them are in the same mold as defenders who like the play the ball out. Guardiola tried to play Mascherano in the "Puyol" role as the hard tackling, last ditch defender.
Coentrao and Pepe
Fabio Coentrao is a left-back, but he has been played at many different positions for Madrid. He was played as a ball winning defensive midfielder in the first leg and it seemed like it would be the same today. But, it was German midfielder and Real Madrid regular (last year) Sami Khedira alongside deep-lying playmaker Xabi Alonso of Liverpool fame.
Coentrao played as a left back the entirety as the first half and he was a more defensive option to the energetic Marcelo. His solidity paid off as he was solid against Pedro and forced him out. However, Coentrao was moved to a defensive midfield position at half time as Khedira left the pitch for Marcelo (probably as Madrid were looking for goals).
Pepe had been at the heart of many fouls in previous Clasicos and it was assumed by many that he would produce more of the same. He was integral for Madrid in this game. He stopped a lot of Barcelona players and made great tackles (especially against Messi and Villa).
Real Madrid's Tactics
Madrid's tactics were the same as the last leg. They were cynical, happy to keep the ball in the air and largely bypassed central midfield, acknowledging Barcelona's enormous quality in those positions. They succeeded, to some extent, in the first leg, where they snuck a 2-2 draw despite having the lion's share of the chances.
Cristiano Ronaldo down one wing made use of his pace, mainly, but his battle with Alves was not as key to the second leg as it was to the first. He used a bit of technique in getting past Alves once and did not get that much end product out of it. He took his goal well from Karim Benzema's inswinging cross.
This leg, however, the Barcelona midfield came out on top, but enjoying much less possession than it was used to, largely due to the efforts of Alonso, Ozil and Khedira. Inevitably, the passing game got started and Messi assumed his inspiratiopnal role, rather than the bit part playmaker he had looked in the first leg.
Di Maria and Ozil were very good, with great movement, tiring out the Barcelona players with their industry. Ozil was winning balls as if he was a defensive midfielder. He also took up the creative player mantle and created quite a lot, with through balls all over the place. Di Maria tried to dribble more than just run, like Ronaldo, and look for passes/crosses more than Ronaldo.
What do you think? Did Madrid's tactics work? Is Fabregas really better off at Barcelona?
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