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Real Madrid CF
Posted by Nicholas Rigg on 04/22/2012

There were celebrations at the Cibeles late on Saturday night. Not quite en masse, not with an all-white open-top bus as its climax and not with the Liga trophy being presented to thousands upon thousands of Madridistas. A dress rehearsal for a full-on party in the Spanish capital at the famed Plaza de Cibeles in a few weeks? Probably.

Sami Khedira and Cristiano Ronaldo gave Madridistas reason enough to wave all-white flags from car windows and to gather in song at the Plaza famed for Madrid lifting trophies at the end of fruitful campaigns. A 2-1 victory at the Camp Nou - fully deserved, and stretching the gap at the top of the table to seven points with four games of the league season to go - meant Madridistas partied harder than usual on a Saturday night.

There were Cibeles celebrations last season when Madrid won the Copa del Rey, against Barcelona. It's been almost four years since Los Blancos have been able to do the same for a league title. That honour has fallen to Catalonia for the last three seasons but Madrid are, finally, on the cusp of wrestling back the honour of being Spain's top club.

It was almost the perfect night for Jose Mourinho and his men at the Camp Nou. That's a line I've been wanting to write for the last few years, more in hope than belief. Was Jose going to use that much-loved Trivote? Were rumours of Lass Diarra starting alongside Xabi Alonso and Khedira going to prove true? Parking the bus, much like Chelsea, to nullify Barca, leave with an unspectacular draw and edge closer to the title?

Many, myself included, wondered that. What tactics was Jose going to use? As unattractive as some Madrid line-ups have been over Barcelona in recent meetings, setting up defensively to leave with a draw that would have suited Los Blancos to the ground could have been seen as sensible, if disappointing and unadventurous. Maybe not Pepe in midfield-type tactics, but tactics used in an attempt to stifle Barca's passing game.

I hoped Madrid would go about their usual game. A 4-2-3-1 line-up, going to win the game. Hope being the key word there. Not giving Barcelona the chance to say any league title win for Madrid would be tainted by their worrying inability to beat Barca.

Would Jose go attacking? Throw a bit of caution to the wind with the knowledge that a draw is all they needed, and even a defeat would leave Madrid in pole position, albeit just a point clear.

You bet he would.

After game-upon-game of tinkering against Pep Guardiola, Mourinho has finally come out on top. Boy has he come out on top. Not in an anti-football way, in a way Madrid should be playing against any team in the world, not just the so-called 'lesser' sides. Barca may still have won the possession stat, but Madrid's game plan worked an absolute treat in Barca's own back yard. The only stat that matters? 2-1.

Victory aside, the whole match was one Madridistas will be proud of. No mind games before the match (Aitor Karanka took the pre-match press conference, not Mourinho), no horrible challenges, relatively few theatrics, no classless celebrations on the Camp Nou pitch post-match (I'm thinking back to Mourinho almost causing a riot when he guided his Inter Milan side through to the Champions League final with an aggregate victory over the Catalans). Just a deserved, solid victory for Madrid in a Clasico. At Barcelona. One that should decide where the title is going this season.

Pep came in for some criticism post-match for his tactics. A 3-4-3 line-up with Gerard Pique on the bench? Adriano starting at the back? No Cesc or Sanchez (who was said to be 50-50 before the match). Cristian Tello and Thiago starting? Few have said the selection was down to the quick turnaround of matches, Pep thinking the title race was over regardless and having one eye on Chelsea. While that may be true to an extent, this is a game Guardiola, the players and Los Cules will have desperately wanted to win, and Madrid simply proved too good.

Messi, Iniesta and Xavi. All kept under wraps by the well-organised Madrid defence. Messi may have carved out some chances for the hosts, but it was little compared to his usual brilliance in Clasico matches.

Easy to say now, of course, but it's a victory that's been coming in my opinion. While Madrid have often looked nervous and a bit desperate on home soil in Clasico matches, they've been no pushovers at the Camp Nou in recent matches (the 5-0 aside). Los Blancos should have won the Copa del Rey game there earlier this season (which finished 2-2, Barca progressing on aggregate) and they ran Barca ever-so close in the Spanish Super Cup. Strangely enough, with almost 100,000 Barca fans baying for blood, Madrid have looked more relaxed and more focused in Catalonia.

It showed on Saturday night. Madrid out-pressed Barcelona throughout. They gave their hosts little time on the ball, and whenever Messi the maestro got near the ball, he was hounded off it by three or four Madrid players. Not kicking, not fouling, just pressing and winning the ball - fairly. Los Blancos were organised, strong and focused, forcing Barca to play loose balls and thwarting their attacking spark. All this without having to play an extra defensive midfielder.

Ronaldo was excellent. While Madrid can now get that monkey off their shoulder of not being able to beat Barca en-route to the title, Ronaldo can also quash a personal complaint against him - that he disappears in the big matches. CR7 has now scored four goals in the last five meetings between the sides, on top of bagging the winner in last season's cup final. The winner to all-but sew-up this year's title? Not bad going, and a goal that typified Madrid's excellence this season. A powerful, fast breakaway. A sublime ball from Mesut Ozil, and a superb finish by the Portuguese. What a way to win the game.

The winner also highlighted Madrid's resilience this season. It came just minutes after Sanchez had equalised, with the Camp Nou still celebrating. In previous campaigns Madrid would have wilted under the pressure following a Barca goal. Not this time. Instead? Just go straight down the other end and regain that advantage. There's a saying coined in England called 'bouncebackability' - not surprisingly the ability to bounce straight back after a defeat. Madrid have shown that in abundance this season, although thankfully it's not been required on too many occasions.

It was also a record-breaking day for Madrid. They went into the game needing just a goal to break their own 22-year-old record of most goals scored in a La Liga season. On 107 ahead of the game, few would have bet Khedira would be the man to get Madrid over the line. It wasn't really a goal worthy of a new record, but they all count. Ronaldo's winner also set him alone in leading the individual league goals tally with 42 - one ahead of Messi.

A Clasico victory - check. A La Liga title - almost. The end of the Barca cycle? Too soon to call, but the balance is definitely tipping firmly in Madrid's favour and has been all season. Saturday night's result, and the league table at present proves that. Madrid claiming a Liga and Champions League double? Few could then doubt Madrid's current superiority over Barca.

Hala Madrid!

Follow me on Twitter: @nicholasrigg

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Posted by adio olarewaju on 04/22/2012

real madrid has proved the book makers wrong again. The end of Barca ruling the club football in the world is fast coming to an end
Even if chealse lost Ihe second leg, they have proved to the football followers that no team is unbeatable.

Posted by ishola on 04/22/2012

"Messi may have carved out some chances for the hosts, but it was little compared to his usual brilliance in Clasico matches." Only easy to say cos moudrid has won. If the three one-on-ones with Saint Iker(two coming from Messi's through-balls) has been put away, it would av been a diff. story. Hope we meet again in Munich to prove ur points.

Hala Barca.

Posted by Vin on 04/22/2012

The Clasico victory was fantastic. But I think it's still a bit early to say Madrid is superior to Barca. If Madrid beat them again at the Champions League final and Spanish Super Cup then we can say Madrid is superior to Barca.

Posted by Ash on 04/22/2012

Nicely summed up and good points about Madrid doing it the right way. It's the first time they've done it like that under Mourinho and they've beat Barca which tells you something. No need to go back to the dark ways now Jose

Posted by Anonymous on 04/22/2012

The writer of this article in my opinion meet all the key points re-guarding madrid's win over barca but although i am a die hearted real madrid fan for years now I believe it is too early to say real has gotten to relaxing point keep in mind that they still have four league games to play two of which are against two real strong teams Sevilla and Athletic Club which could slow down real not to mention that they still have the chamions league to focus on but i have no doubt in my mind that real madrid can't win all their remainding la liga matches and still go on to win the uefa champions league (dispite who the go on to play) for the double i am confident and know this team can more than do it this is a club very highly rate and love and i just know they can do it just stay fully focused on the cups to win and keep calm because the team is near the end of what is looking to be an amazing season end Mourinho keep up the good coaching and i continue to pray for real madrid

Posted by to-ishola on 04/23/2012

' If the three one-on-ones with Saint Iker(two coming from Messi's through-balls) has been put away, it would av been a diff. story.' well, how about ronaldo putting the last one into the bloody net? what if benzema took those two wonderful chances he had and tuck them away nicely into victor valdes's net? well, the iffs and butts will continue my friend. this is not the first time and surely won't be the last one. you are right about one thing though - we also hope that we meet you again, in champions league final. we'll show the world that we can beat barca now, on any given day, occasion or the place. barca is very good but real madrid aint bad either. just go ask puyol et al.

Posted by richardvallejo on 04/23/2012


Posted by Khoo Kyaw San on 04/23/2012

Bravo RM, Congratulations Mou!!!
Winning the Laliga cup by beating the so-called team in the world! How sweet it is!!
I am sure many gamblers (many of tehm were the Barca fans) must have lost a lot of money on the night of barca vs Real M coz they took it for granted that RM would be routed by Barca for sure.
The best player of the year will be CR7, not Messi anymore. I can foretell it.
And it is high time Pep left Barcelona for Chelsea or Man City. He can't simply compete with Mou anymore. Mark my words!!!

Posted by Oscar on 04/23/2012

Madrid have always been good, just look at the 1st leg in Madrid when madrid lost, Madrid was good we lost that iat leg at the Santiago Bernabaeu because we missed too many chances. Mourinhon is the best coach ever, and please quote me madrid will win the double this season Bayern is going down 3-0 Wednesday night.Go Madrid go!

Posted by Christy on 04/23/2012

Madrid and Mou are simply the best to me. Everyone is just praising Barca because of their level of ball possession. Possession does'nt count as Chelsea and Madrid have shown Barca. Chelsea will go for a draw a Nou Camp hopefully and will qualify for the UCL. It is possible becos' Barca is beatable.

Posted by Alex L. on 04/23/2012

I am happy that Madrid shook up La Liga a bit, it was getting a bit boring. The one thing I do hate is the arrogance of Real fans. You just seem to assume that you are going to walk over Bayern after we were all over you in the last leg. Our attack outpaced and outplayed you, and our defence held firm fantastically (specifically Lahm who made Ronaldo his B***h). We have just as good of a chance as you to make it to the final. I am not saying we surpass you in every sense, but it would be nice to get some respect for the fantastic team we are. Just because we play in the Bundesliga. All in all, two fantastic teams are coming together at the Bernabau, and I am beyond stoked.

Posted by Kay Hummer on 04/23/2012

I am a die hard Real Madrid fan.Well thought out article.good points.Real played very well.they did their home work this time around.i am so so proud of Real Madrid.Barcelona were toothless on the night.Cristiano Ronaldo proved his critics wrong.Messi was just a shadow of himself.HALA MADRID!!!!

Posted by ntokozo on 04/23/2012

what i can say is dat madrid is the best team around the world and again christiano proved he is better than leo messi go on madrid to lift this titlle up u deserve it with no doubts

Posted by Lloyd on 04/23/2012

Madrid from now on will dominate la liga, if pep is a good coach let him liv barca & take up anoda club. Mou remains d special one as Cr7 is d best player in d world, the champs leaque is theirs. Up Madrid.

Posted by sam on 04/23/2012

Real better than barca and cr7 better than messi.if you think am lying watch that game again.i saw messi complaining to ref and also trying to fight Arbeloa with his chicken muscles,that to me was a sign of frustration and defeat.on the other hand,cr7 just enjoyed himself and after scoring the winner told the whole stadium to calm down which they obeyed cos Y cr7 was around and in control.

Posted by kamrun on 04/23/2012

i'm so proud of RM.I think all the madrid fans were delighted by this win and winning in nou camp was one of the greatest sure they're also gonna overcome bayern and win the champions league.CR7 is better than messi and no comparison between jose and pep coz jose is the best coach and madrid is the best team in the world.

Posted by real madrid on 04/23/2012

i am have been a die hard real madrid for more than a decade now and i intend to remain faithful to them for a long time. lemme get to the point here - Saturday's game is a testament to the fact that we have certainly closed the gap between us and perhaps we are on the same level in footballing terms, though with totally different playing style and philosophy. but it is quite unfair to claim that madrid is better than barca at the moment because i personally think we are not. but we are improving as a team and god willing, we will surpass them at some point. for now, lets hope we meet barca in the champions league final. that would give us the perfect opportunity to prove that we are better than barca by beating them to the champions league cup. haha madrid!

Posted by vishal bhartia on 04/23/2012

lets not get carried away guys, i am full of pride right now.. happier than anyone but lets take it one step at a time rather than saying we are better/we shall dominate now on..

i think we have a formidable squad which has quite a few years in them so we are on the right track lets hope everything stays right

Posted by Brett on 04/23/2012

So much to discuss, but let's limit it to a few key take aways:

Although this is just one victory, it is critical from a confidence standpoint. Madrid needed to SEE that they can beat Barca. But before we get carried away, we can't forget that Pep had some squad limitations (no Villa and no Abidal, both of whom have been nightmares for Madrid to handle) and probably made a couple of tactical goofs. Still, a win is a win,

I hate to say that I was right, but I was right on 2 counts. First, the trivote should never see the light of day again. Ball winners are important, but they aren't difference makers. Remember, Ozil is often the odd man out when Mou goes trivote, and without him, Ronaldo's goal doesn't happen.

Secondly, the key differnce between this match and Tuesday's or even last Clasico was the emotional and tactical discipline displayed by players like Coentrao, Ramos, Pepe and Xabi. Madrid has created more chances before, but this is the best defensive effort to date.

Posted by Ikem on 04/24/2012

It was indeed great for RM to get one over Barca and crucially too at the Camp Nou. As someone who idolises JM, the Special One, I was beginning to fear he was perhaps losing his special touch given the number of defeats to Barca. However, there is one incredible statistics I would like readers to check out - Has this present Barca team (under Pep G.) defeated RM (Since JM's time)in any game where no player was sent off?

Posted by aztattooedsean on 04/25/2012

I thought last Saturday would be the only high of the weekend but then add yesterday's result at the Camp Nou and it feels like Christmas.

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