Of the two pictured above only one seemed to be playing football on the pitch tonight

The significance of Barcelona’s 5-0 defeat was far more than 3 points to the Catalans and the build up to tonights game had started the second Jose Mourinho signed up to be the coach of Real Madrid earlier this season. There were in the mind of most fans three distinct battles that were being fought between Real Madrid and Barcelona on the pitch tonight and not analysing each separately wouldn’t be doing either side the justice they deserve.

Mind Games Vs. Stony Silence

The build up to any clash in which one of Jose Morhinios sides participates is usually a series of snide remarks and back handed comments in an attempt to get into the oppositions mind. The build up to this El Classico was no different. Morhinio went out of his way to comment that El Classico was nothing more than a fixture on the calendar a meeting of the best team in the league with whoever was currently in second place. To add another douse of petrol to the flames he piled on the fact that he had beaten Barcelona with both Chelsea and Inter Milan, which he reckoned wouldn’t see him incredibly popular with the home crowd.

Perhaps what he failed to realise is that El Classico is more than just a game of football. It is an opposition of philosophies on the subjects of politics, economics and yes even football. That his mind games did not seem to have any effect on Barcelona should be no surprise. His victory over two legs when he coached Inter Milan last year was far from comprehensive and even into the 92nd minute it could have gone either way. Though one would probably be short sighted to think that he would bank on his mental ping pong alone to tip the scales in his favour.

His counterpart Pep Guardiola didn’t seem to be buying into it one bit and it seems his players took to his usually reserved demeanor choosing instead to do the talking on the pitch as it were.

A Tale of Two Midfields

If one were to sum up the game in just two words it would be ‘midfield dominance’, Barcelona were not only accurate with their passing they were the picture of consistency over the course of the full 92 minutes played. In fact even Real Madrid fans would be hard pressed to remember a moment where a Barcelona player was comprehensively dispossessed without the hint of a foul in the midfield. The ball movement in the midfield began to look more than more like a matador tormenting a clueless bull with one back heel transitioning into the next players step over only to be passed back for them to do the same all over again to an increasingly agitated Madrid side. In terms of sheer brilliance though it has to be said that Xavi and Iniesta probably had the single most magical midfield partnership in their careers tonight with a fair share of scoring opportunities one of which was converted and almost all of the remaining assists that led to goals prior to their partnership breaking owing to substitutions in the dying minutes of the game.

While two quick goals must have done wonders for Barcelona’s confidence, it seemed like Real Madrid were never really in it to be fair. Di Maria and Ozil were just two of the many players for Real Madrid that seemed absolutely non-existent over the course of the game. Ronaldo had two set pieces from distance neither of which he managed to convert. Xabi Alonso seemed absolutely lost and the only man in the midfield that managed to make any positive impact from a footballing point of view was actually Khaderia who was forced back into his own box, on one ocassion making a crucial intervention that prevented further embarrassment that was yet to came later at the hands of a goal from the unlikely Jeffren. Real Madrid didn’t even seem capable of mustering enough confidence to string four or five passes together through the centre of the pitch, which just showed how utterly out of form they appeared even having won seven straight games in the run up to this match. They often seemed legthargic and ultimately paid a high price for their inability to hold up the midfield, which just transferred more pressure than the Madrid back four could have ever hoped to handle. A back four that went through an utter melt down which resulted in their frustrating boiling over in the final minutes.

Class Vs. Hooliganism

While I am often ridiculed for it, my personal opinion is that I don’t hold Jose Mourhinio in incredibly high regard as a manager from the standpoint of being a role model to the 20 something year olds he influences on a day in and day out basis. This stems from my strongly held belief that he is an opportunist at heart and his style of football certainly reflects that. His strong arm tactics in his game plan seem to be a common theme throughout his careers with Chelsea, Inter Milan and now Real Madrid, something that I feel takes away from the game rather than giving it greater room to evolve. While I understand that instructing your players to take on a tough physical mentality is sometimes needed in the game of football at certain positions, I feel he breeds every one of his players to exhibit the ruthlessness of a holding midfielder, no matter what club he goes to. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I’m not sure how safe it really is to be impressing that idea of aggression on a bunch of 20 something year old premadonnas in the first place.

Ultimately, players bred with that kind of aggression snap and we saw just that happen rather uncharacteristically on the pitch tonight. The first and really the most glaring incident in my mind was that of Ronaldo’s push on Pep Guardiola. Which I honestly thought was the worst of the three offenses committed. Love him or hate him, you would never expect him to go so far as to push a coach which is absolutely inexcusable. There is a huge difference between getting physical with another player as a peer and a coach whom should always be looked upon as a senior no matter what the circumstances. I don’t care how high tempers was flaring, any fan of Ronaldo is not going to tell me they would have expected him to behave that way in years gone by when he wasn’t being managed by Mourhinio.

Next was the Ricardo Carvalho elbow to Messis face which to me was an incredible rarity. Carvalho has to be one of the coolest heads on the pitch that line up in the back four of any team that I could think of, this to  me was akin to seeing Maldini losing his temper and lashing out physically. Something that just never happens. The cou’de grace was yet to come however in the form of Sergio Ramos taking a swing at both Puyol and Xavi’s faces en-route to his walk of shame down to the dressing room. Something that should be of serious concern to Del Bosque in that he should have already dialed Ramos to explain that he had better apologize before the night was over for his actions if he planned on playing alongside both Puyol and Xavi in his national team colors.

All in all, Barcelona’s performance could not have been overshadowed by any number of red cards and a comprehensive 5-0 defeat of Madrid will put them two points ahead of their arch rivals in what looks to be a fiercely contested fight for being crowned the champion of La Liga. The battle might have been lost for Real Madrid tonight, but the war is far from over. To think that Morhinio will suffer this kind of embarrassment in Madrid for the return leg of this fixture later on in the year would be wishful thinking and even the Barca faithful will know that to be true. Few if any teams have managed to pull a double over the Special One during the course of his league records from Chelsea onwards.  If anything tonights victory is significant in that it could be thought of as a telegram being sent from Barcelona to Madrid – “Our legitimacy is a product of our ability and philosophy. You will have no place in our history as victors, whether it is on the pitch or off it.”

Your move next Mr. Mourhinio.

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