Days, hours and minutes are counting down feverishly to the first El Clasico of the La Liga campaign. Barcelona host their greatest rivals Real Madrid on November 29th at the Camp Nou and will be looking to beat them for the third straight time at home. Real Madrid on the other hand haven’t won the Clasico in four straight attempts. But, this season, with the arrival of the ‘Special One’, Real have renewed hopes of beating the current champions in their own backyard. What approach will ensure a Madrid victory? We take a peek into the tactics that might win Real Madrid their first El Clasico of the season and give them a massive psychological advantage against the Blaugrana.
The Los Blancos have to be aggressive. Barcelona is a team that’ll make you sleep if you let them play their tiki-taka football. They have the ability to make a million passes before walking the ball into the net. So, Real Madrid have to be aggressive and not allow any time and space to their Lilliput counter parts. Whenever Barcelona has possession, the Galacticos have to make sure the ball does not last long on the feet of the Iniestas, Xavis, and Messis.
In turn, Real Madrid should also be aggressive in attack and press Barcelona in the final third of the pitch in order to make sure the defenders succumb to pressure and surrender possession.
Barcelona’s biggest advantage off the ball is their constant pressure on the opponent by their front men. Whenever they lose the ball, they immediately surround the opponent like vultures and make sure the ball is won back as far away from their own area as possible, so that they can resume their normal passing game. If Real Madrid have to win at the Camp Nou, they have to keep the ball for long periods and make sure they don’t lose the ball easily. When Barcelona doesn’t have the ball for long periods, they start to suffocate and often make silly mistakes. Real Madrid have to exploit this and make sure they make right use of it. Possession is the key to Los Merengues’ chances in the game.
Real Madrid have some of the fastest players on the planet. Cristiano Ronaldo and Angel Di Maria are at times unstoppable and Ozil’s delicate first touches can be a huge factor in Real Madrid’s counter attacks. It is almost impossible to beat Barcelona in their game of possession football. So, if Real Madrid can’t do that, they have to find different ways to beat their rivals. And counter attacking is Real Madrid’s strength. Last weekend against Athletic Bilbao, Real scored a goal through a lightning quick counter attack move.
From a Bilbao corner, the ball broke to Higuain who dribbled past a defender and squared a long ball to Ozil, whose beautiful first touch set Ronaldo up to finish into the left bottom corner with aplomb. Los Leones were virtual spectators in that move. If Real Madrid can do that at the Camp Nou, they might have the Catalans biting their nails.
Stop Xavi And Messi
Undoubtedly, Xavi and Messi are Barcelona’s most important players. While the former has lost his touch a little because of his injury, the latter is going from strength to strength. It isn’t an easy task to stop the Argentine wonder, but it’s not impossible either. In the 2007-2008 seasons, when Messi was starting to gain confidence, Bernd Schuster used a triangle arrangement to stop the Argentine. Marcelo, Gago and Cannavaro formed a triangle leaving no space and options for Messi to work on.
Of course, it’s a totally different case now as Messi is leaps and bounds above the level he was back then and he also has the support of Dani Alves on the right, who makes dazzling runs on the wings. However, given that Ronaldo will be playing in the same flank, Alves might be a little hesitant to come out of his area too much. So, that would leave Messi with an option of playing it back to Xavi or Busquets, which would stop the current Ballon’d’Or holder from skipping past the defence.
If stopping Messi is a difficult task, stopping Xavi is even more so. The Spanish World Cup winner might not have the pace of Ronaldo or the ball skills of Messi, but he is a very, very clever player who knows how to hold on to the ball and pass it elegantly. However, if Xabi Alonso can stop his Spanish midfield partner from sitting back and enjoying, Xavi might be in for a rough night.
Desperately Try To Score First
It is easy to say that whoever scores first in the game might go on to win it. If Barcelona scores first, they’ll keep the ball and frustrate their opponents and it’ll become more difficult for Los Blancos to win the game. If Real Madrid scores first, Barcelona will start to push more men forward leaving acres of space in defence. This is where it plays into Real Madrid’s hands. Like mentioned before, Real are superb on the counter. So, if they are a goal up early on, they can absorb the pressure from Barcelona and hit them on the counter attack using Ronaldo, Higuain and Di Maria. Now, scoring first won’t be easy as Barcelona have a habit of setting the tempo of the game according to their needs. Hence, Real Madrid have to start the game well and play at a very high tempo so that Barca’s defence succumb to the pressure and commit silly fouls near the penalty area which might give Ronaldo a chance to stun the Camp Nou through a free kick.
Don’t Miss Opportunities
It’d be fair to say that Real Madrid would’ve won the game against Barcelona at the Camp Nou last year if they had converted at least a couple of a whole lot of opportunities they created. This year, they shouldn’t repeat that mistake. If Real Madrid can convert the chances they create, they have a very good chance of coming away with a positive result.
Recently, Real have been in sensational form in front of goal and are taking their chances well. If they can emulate that in the Clasico, Mourinho might get a win in his first Clasico. But, the likes of Gonzalo Higuain, Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema have to be ruthlessly efficient in front of goal.
Finally, Don’t Be Afraid
It maybe a tad bit exaggeration, but from the last two Clasicos, one can observe how humble Real Madrid was against the Catalans. It’s fair to say that Barcelona evoke fear from their opponents. But, if Real Madrid pays too much respect to the Cules on Monday, they might be in for a long night and might go five games without winning a Clasico; a record which is unacceptable. Even worse, they might become an Atletico to Barcelona like Atletico are to Real Madrid now. However, if Real Madrid plays bravely, like they have been doing so far in the season, they have the potential to create havoc in the Barcelona rearguard.
All said and done, it’s now time for us to put down our stop watches and hour glasses into action and wait for what could be an extraordinary night of football at the magical Camp Nou on Monday.
Let the countdown begin!