Friday, April 22, 2011

Reaction to Real Madrid 1 Barcelona 0 : King's Cup 2011

Clearly, Jose Mourinho hasn't lost the plot. Nor his penchant for winning titles, everywhere he manages. That he has won at least ONE trophy since 2003 is simply amazing.

It means that whoever employs him is all but guaranteed of one title to be won under his charge every year. And for a club like Real Madrid, who are so thirsty for success, any success, that is one heck of a proposition that is very difficult to ignore.
His tactics have not been exactly typical Madridismo. Very ironically, he is the embodiment of somebody who is anti-Madrid. 

Typically, Madrid fans are very, very demanding of their team and of the players. It is imperative not just to win, but to win THE Madrid way. Which is to say, win with panache, with aplomb, with slick one-twos and through balls and some fancy football along the way.

This demand does not just come from the fans themselves, but it is demanded by management and the club president. Many a manager has learned to his detriment that to win, but not win beautifully is to be given the sack after the season (sometimes not even till the end of the season). 

Success is not enough. Winning the Madrid way is the only way. You can look no further than to ask a certain Mr. Fabio Capello, who was sacked (twice!) after leading the club to titles under his charge.

That said, the marriage between Jose Mourinho and Real Madrid is very, very uneasy at best. You need not look further than the backlash he received after Madrid drew with Barca in the league last April 2011. 

He was criticized by Real Madrid living legend Alfredo di Stefano had to say : "Against Barcelona, Real Madrid didn’t have its personality. Barcelona controlled the game beautifully and Madrid had to play catchup. "

Others have been more vociferous in their criticism of Mourinho, saying he fielded a Internazionale de Madrid against Barca. This, of course, in reference to his Inter team who beat Barca over two legs in last year's Champions League whilst playing the most unattractive football on the planet.

Being the pragmatist that he is, he always lets the end justifies the means. If the end means beating Barcelona by any means possible, he will utilize it. Even if it means some "shirt-pulling, injury-feigning, time-wasting and transcendental negativity"  as writer Henry Shawdon puts it.

I will tend to side with Jose Mourinho on this one. After all, he did indulge Madrid fans' attacking philosophy against Barcelona once. And the result wasn't exactly pretty, either. Madrid got hammered 5-0 in the Nou Camp. To expect Madrid to go into the four el clasicos with the same strategy, but expecting a different result, may be a bit too much for The Special One.

Putting Pepe as a defensive central midfield player was a masterstroke. Essentially, he sought out to defend the midfield by putting in three defensive minded players in Pepe, Khedira and Alonso, whilst not employing an out and out striker up front. Utilizing a 4-3-3 formation, he essentially had a very compact midfield and a very industrious front three in Ozil, Ronaldo and di Maria who tracked back to defend.

With Barcelona very poor on the wings, width was not a problem defensively for Mourinho. A very deep bench consisting of Adebayor, Kaka, Benzema and Higuain also made good options for him to replace tiring players.


Will this be a springboard for the Champions League success? Fortunately, we only have to wait for two more weeks. A defeat in the King's Cup would have been devastating for the Merengues. 

I am not sure about the celebrations in the Cibeles Fountain, as I understand it is usually reserved for winning the Champions League and La Liga. But Madrid have waited for 17 odd years for the Cup, so I don't think we should begrudge their celebrations there.

Sergio Ramos doing his 'Raul' matador celebration.

As it is, victory has instilled in them a belief that Barcelona are beatable after all. Indeed, a feisty two legs between the two Spanish giants await. A delectable treat for the neutral fans (are there any?), and two masive, massive games of football for both sets of fans.

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