Today’s Champions League match marks the renewal of one of the most storied and politically charged rivalries in football. On one side of the pitch you have Real Madrid, the wealthiest, and most would agree, the best all around club in all of soccer. But the rivalry doesn’t start there, its begin in 1931, with a Constitution restoring democratic elections, and a young officer named Fransisco Franco. To make a very long and bloody story short, rightly or wrongly, Barcelona supporters see Real Madrid as the establishment club.
This view dates back to the days of the Franco’s dictatorship, when the Barcelona jersey became so closely attached with Catalonia’s struggle for independence and democracy, and Real became associated with Franco’s fascists. Even after democracy was restored, the Catalunians still sought and contniue to seek independence, and Barcelona is their greatest symbol. Look for another fast and fiercesome encounter tonight with both sides playing out of their skin to secure a place at Wembley.
The big story for the last few days may have been Pep Guardiola’s outburst during a press conference, but the truth of the matter is that he’s right, and the players on the pitch won’t be affected by it much. Messi should feature in a strong attacking line up that favors the same formation as the one that put Real 5-0 down during the season. I also think the Barca backs will have their wokr cut out for them with Ronaldo lurking around the area throughout. Look for the Barca defenders to react quickly to any attempts at a through balls as thats where Ronaldo’s goals come from. He may be a great player, but he’s not much at creating his own chances or going a on long runs.
Mourinho’s Real Madrid jersey clad warriors will prove a challenge for Barca, but I think they’re vulnerable at the back and in the end that will be their undoing. For all his tactical skill and bravado, Mourinho took over a team that has always been weak at the back, and they continue to be. Real give up goals, and its only the prowess of their forward line that keeps them in the game. Look for long runs from Messi along the wings, and Xavi working the center line with through balls. I think they’ll both sneak at least one in the Real net. If they do make to the finals…I don’t know if they’ll let Sergio Ramos touch the cup.
Overall, it should be a cracking match, and I’m looking forward to good action on the pitch, and hopefully a spat or two on the sideline between managers…get the popcorn.
Barcelona 2-0 Real Madrid
Written by: Matthew Wall, editor, soccerprose.com
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