Mourinho's Adjustments Lead to 1-1 Barca-Madrid Tie
The last time the two Spanish giants met, the game ended in a humiliating 5-0 defeat for Madrid. Determined to avoid a sixth consecutive loss at the hands of Barcelona, Jose Mourinho chose to start a defensive lineup, pushing centre-back Pepe forward to play alongside Sami Khedira and Xabi Alonso in a three-man midfield with the hope of canceling out Barcelona’s threatening attack.
The strategy worked (at least in part). The game ended in a 1-1 draw, leaving Real eight points behind Barcelona as both fight their way to the end of an incredibly tumultuous season.
Barcelona forward Lionel Messi scored the first goal of the game in the 53rd minute thanks to a penalty awarded after the sending off of Madrid centre-back Raul Albiol, leaving the whites to play with a 10-man team for the rest of the game.
However, Real was able to equalize with a virtually unstoppable penalty by Cristiano Ronaldo following Barcelona’s Daniel Alves’ tackle against fellow Brazilian defender Marcelo.
Man of the Match
With such great emphasis on defense, Barcelona found that breaking through Real’s back line was much more difficult this time around.
Even so, Real’s goalkepper Iker Casillas found himself head to head with Messi and his incredibly lethal left kicks several times throughout the game. Every single time, Casillas managed to execute a perfectly timed save that no doubt frustrated Barcelona’s front line.
Another noteworthy performance was Pepe, who played for the second time this season in the midfield and connected well with his teammates in the front, reclaiming possession of the ball at crucial moments time and time again.
Barcelona’s surprise starter, captain Carles Puyol, returned from months of injury and proved to be no less impossible to get past, shutting down Madrid’s forwards continuously throughout the first half. Unfortunately, a hamstring injury resulted in an early leave for Barcelona’s captain, most likely ruling him out for the rest of the season.
On Real’s side, Sami Khedira silently created opportunities for his teammates and broke through Barcelona’s defense, only to have his chance at a goal foiled as he shot too low and straight into Victor Valdes’ hands.
Following Saturday’s game, Real Madrid and Barcelona will meet three more times in the next several weeks, with the Copa Del Rey final this upcoming Wednesday and two Champions League semifinal games at the end of the month.
With only six games left in La Liga, Real Madrid would need an enormous stroke of luck (and a rather unlikely collapse by Barcelona) in order to win the league.
However, the future still looks hopeful for Real as they are in the semifinals of the Champions League for the first time in eight years and in less than a week’s time will face Barcelona in another final they’ll be reaching for the first time in several years, the Copa Del Rey.
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