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August 25, 2012
Posted by Nicholas Rigg on 08/25/2012

So, where do we start with that one?

The post-match analysis was all set to be oh-so easy at half-time. No goals, few chances, no heavy tackles and no eye gouging. Or at least not from what I saw. It was a Clasico that had struggled to get out of third gear. Understandable, perhaps, given it's the last trophy on the wanted list of both Jose Mourinho and Tito Vilanova this season.

Something clicked in the second half, though.

April 22, 2012
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.

April 20, 2012
Posted by Nicholas Rigg on 04/20/2012

Did you know there's an El Clasico this weekend?

Of course you did, and it's a pretty big one as it goes. When is a Clasico never a big one? Just the La Liga title pretty much riding on this one, just to add to that usual Barcelona-Real Madrid rivalry. Expect fireworks, expect Messi magic, expect hard challenges, expect brilliant football, expect touchline controversy, expect the unexpected.

Madrid lead Barca by four points at the top of the table going into Saturday night's massive clash at the Camp Nou. Victory for Pep and his boys is a must if they're to overhaul Los Blancos at the top of La Liga and stop Mourinho's men bagging a first title since 2008. For Madrid to avoid defeat would be a massive step towards the title, and there's where the problem lies. Shut up shop? All out defend? Or go for it? How does Jose approach arguably the most important Clasico match since taking charge at the Bernabeu?

January 27, 2012
Posted by Nicholas Rigg on 01/27/2012

"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
Posted by Nicholas Rigg on 01/20/2012

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
Posted by Nicholas Rigg on 01/17/2012

'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
Posted by Nicholas Rigg on 01/13/2012

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.

December 9, 2011
Posted by Nicholas Rigg on 12/09/2011

I couldn't resist going on the Barcelona website just now to see their perspective of tomorrow's Clásico. If my internet had hands, I'd make sure they were washed twice over, don't worry about that. On a serious note, clicking on the 'El Clásico' section of their official site points you straight in the direction of Barca's memorable wins against Madrid, and it doesn't make pretty reading for Madridistas, as you'd expect. Of course, we all know history and statistics points to Los Blancos being the more successful of the two Spanish giants, something Barca fans can't argue with. The thing that strikes you is their more recent 'memorable' games - the 5-0 at the Camp Nou last season and the 6-2 at the Bernabeu in 2009.

I won't take anything away from Barca for their successes in those two games, and their trophy successes in recent seasons where they have been, unfortunately, 'top dogs' in Spanish football, in Europe and possibly, the world. What I can take from paining myself on the Barcelona official site is that tomorrow's game is huge, a possible 'tide-turner' in the bitter rivalry between Los Blancos and the Catalans.

December 7, 2011
Posted by Nicholas Rigg on 12/07/2011

El Clasico is just a few days away and, with Barcelona and Madrid having now played their respective Champions League midweek games, it's a fair time to look at just who will be lining up for both sides come 10pm at the Bernabeu this Saturday night. It's the biggest match of the La Liga season so far, no doubt, and also no doubt there will be a variety of different starting line-ups published in newspapers, on fans' forums and right here in the comments section of this blog in the build-up to the game.

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We all love to play the role of football manager, even more so when it comes to the massive games such as these. But while it's been relatively easy to predict a successful Madrid starting XI in most of their games so far this season, domestically and in Europe, there always needs to be some extra thought put into it for El Clasico.

So here's my XI...

December 6, 2011
Posted by Nicholas Rigg on 12/06/2011

In day two of my preview ahead of Saturday's big one at the Bernabeu, I look at the key men who can make the difference for Los Blancos against their bitter rivals on the day. From defence, to midfield and attack Madrid have been superb so far this season as a team but as they say, a match such as the Clásico can be won by a moment of magic, or lost by a moment of madness.

I was keen to put my preferred starting eleven forward today, but with the Champions League game at Ajax still to be played (yes, Madrid may have breezed through their group and won it at a canter, but there's still one game left to play in Holland...), I thought it wise to wait until after it. While Jose Mourinho is expected to put a weakened team out at the Amsterdam ArenA, some first team players that are likely to be in Saturday's squad could still feature, and I wouldn't want to put the curse on anyone before the big one.

December 5, 2011
Posted by Nicholas Rigg on 12/05/2011

It's time. It's the fixture we've been waiting for since... well, since the 2011-12 La Liga fixtures were announced back in the summer. The Spanish Super Cup may have provided a fiery and freescoring match in typical Clasico fashion between Los Blancos and Barcelona (and a bit of eye gouging, too), but the league clashes are what matter most and this Saturday provides the first head-to-head of the campaign between the two Spanish giants.

Madrid host Barca at the Santiago Bernabeu in the most important La Liga match of the season so far. It'll possibly also be the most watched of the season so far, likely only to be surpassed by the return fixture at the Camp Nou, if at all. The Spanish sports press may have led with Spain's Davis Cup victory over Argentina on Sunday, but rest assured the majority of the pages from now until the big kick-off will focus firmly on the old foes ahead of this weekend's clash.