January 27, 2012
"We gave a very good performance. It's a shame really, but feeling we were superior is important." - Xabi Alonso.
Okay, let's first get the negatives out of the way. Madrid are out of the Copa del Rey, the competition they were defending this season after last year's triumph. They bowed out over two-legs against old foes Barcelona, who again bag the bragging rights. For neutrals looking at the scoreline and the headlines, it'll be a case of just another Clasico win for Barca.
It was anything but 'just another win'.
As Xabi Alonso says above, Los Blancos can take plenty from their performance at the Camp Nou. Madrid deserved to win the game. Deserved? Or threw it away? They certainly had the best chances, they certainly had Pep's boys against the ropes late on, and they certainly, for a change, had the heart.
January 20, 2012
New competition, new personnel, new year. Same old story.
It's difficult to come online after another Clasico defeat at the hands of Barca and try to explain just why Los Blancos are no match for their Catalan rivals, at least in head-to-head competition. I can't begin to imagine what it feels like for Jose Mourinho. A winner. A man who doesn't 'do' losing. Unless it's against Barca. The 'Special One' is very-much second best to Pep Guardiola at the moment and, seemingly, he can do little to change the flow.
After analysing, analysing and analysing the only conclusion is quite simple, and quite hurtful for Madridistas. When the sides meet, Barcelona are simply much better than Madrid. While many, myself included, felt the tide was turning before the Liga Clasico clash at the Bernabeu at the start of December, Pep's boys upped their gear to show they still have a hold over Madrid in Clasico matches, and Wednesday night's Copa del Rey meeting proved no different.
January 17, 2012
'Copa del Rey is the third target, but tomorrow it will be the first one, because nobody plays to lose. We want two more games in February.' - Jose Mourinho.
There's been much debate over how important the Copa del Rey double-header between Real Madrid and Barcelona will be. Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas says the duel has become "a little decaffeinated" thanks to the frequent nature of their meetings in recent years - Wednesday night's quarter-final first leg clash will be the fourth time the sides have met already this season and the eighth time in less than nine months.
But while some argue that there can sometimes be too much of a good thing, Mourinho's comments in the pre-match press conference hit the nail on the head. Everyone knows the King's Cup is third on the list of priorities for both clubs this season - behind La Liga and the Champions League - but it'll be first on the list of priorities come Wednesday evening at the Bernabeu, especially because the Catalans are in town.
January 13, 2012
Deep breaths, freeing up of the midweek diary and hard hats at the ready - the next El Clasico instalment is less than a week away. While we all expected to have to wait until late April for the next clash between Madrid and Barcelona, the football Gods have pitted the bitter rivals against each other in a Copa del Rey double header - starting next Wednesday at the Bernabeu.
It'll be the fourth and fifth time the sides have met already this season (after the two-legged Spanish Super Cup and Liga game), and still there's a sixth contest to come in the return Liga fixture at the Camp Nou. Ruling out another double-header in the Champions League is also a big no-no - both Madrid and Barca so far look head and shoulders above the rest in European competition and it'd be a surprise not to see one side needing to beat the other at some stage.
So we're all excited, right? Well, not exactly judging by some feedback I received on Twitter (follow me @nicholasrigg), and some words from Iker Casillas's mouth this week - and who's going to argue with Iker? It seems to be a case of there can sometimes be too much of a good thing.
January 5, 2012
One dramatic come-from-behind midweek cup win, Iker Casillas has a street named after him, and Real Madrid beat Barcelona. Los Blancos have yet to return to La Liga action following the winter break but the week leading up to Saturday's clash against Granada at the Bernabeu has been anything but quiet.
Okay, so Madrid's 'Clasico' victory wasn't in the football, it was in the basketball. But maybe, just maybe, it'll be a sign of things to come in the second half of La Liga (okay, I admit, it has no bearing at all - we can but hope) as Madrid look to maintain the form that saw them top the table, three points ahead of Barca, going into 2012.
Nothing less than three points will do against the Andalusian side for Jose Mourinho and his men as they look to kick-start 2012 in the league in the same they ended it - with a convincing victory.