The Spanish League - La Liga moves into Round 13 tomorrow & there is one game that is eclipsing all the rest, the long awaited FC BARCELONA vs REAL MADRID match commonly known in Spanish Soccer as "El Clasico". Barça has won the last 4 clashes & has dominated Spanish Football the last couple of years. Real Madrid has invested huge sums of money on adquiring  the best players on the market along with a Coach that is a proven winner on the field & off the field in order to win back protagonism & attempt to knock Barça from its Nº1 spot. 

FC Barcelona 2010-2011

This time around REAL MADRID appears to be closer than recent years in its plans as they go into Monday nights match as undefeated & leaders of the Spanish League. FC Barcelona has shown "signs" that the "Machine" has had some minor hiccups,  but this could be an illusion as they have managed to resolved things with powerful winning results.

What is clear is that we have before us two teams with two clear playing styles. FC Barcelona has made school of their aesthetically pleasing & artful manner of interpreting Football, with touch ball dominance that sweeps the game from side to side to dance their opponents before jumping in for the "kill". This is a natural tendency thanks to the Clubs vision of the game & a string of "in-house" players like Valdes, Xavi, Iniesta, Messi, Pique, Puyol, Pedro... who have this "vision" implanted in their DNA & live on the field exclusively from the ball. Some have gone as far to suggest that the "key" to defeat Barça is to take the ball away from them, which is fine if only you can figure how to take the ball. A strategic dilemma that has not been solved by almost all of the World Clubs that have faced Barça.

Real Madrid 2010-2011

Real Madrid has been swayed by the circumstances to be much more practical in their approach & have signed a Coach in the name of Jose Mourinho who is a pragmatist & has one single objective: to win at all costs. This ideal is at the extreme of the today "Romanticist" ideals held firm at FC Barcelona where winning is synonymous with artful play & established unwritten standards. Coach Mourinho rationalist pragmatism seems to have found an equilibrium at Real Madrid between their over-powering & ambitious players assembling alongside "hands in the dirt" team workers & building a tight unit were a strong defence is the KEY. This organically has lead Real to promote & effectively practice a deadly counter-attack style Football that is rapid & "mortal". This "new" Real Madrid has solved its past weakness ( the defence) & better exploited its advantage ( speed) into a more vertical playing style that goes straight to the point : the goal square, leaving aside aesthetic & fanciful overindulgence. 

This season that vertical punch has been strengthen with Ozil who touches , glides the ball with incredible vision & quickness of mind, Khedira who has given freedom to Xabi Alonso to wave the orchestra baton, Di Maria who gives pace upfront plus defends & a "re-found" Marcelo who as defender quickly converts himself into another attacker. All this added to the already known & written about other elements have built a side that goes on to meet Barça at Camp Nou this Monday on equal terms. 

Lass Diarra

 has unwilling come into the picture for two reasons. Firstly, he may have to play from the start if Khedira doesn´t recover in time from a slight muscle pull. Secondly, even if Khedira recovers, there is heavy speculation that Coach Mourinho may decide to "sacrifice" an attacking player - Ozil - for a midfielder (Lass) to strengthen further the midfield to halt the Barça play makers & put forward a more "deadly" counter-attack version to expose the "slower" Barça defence.

Today Mourinho has said he still hasn´t made up his mind to what team will start. I say that there is an element of "mind games" at play here with the aim of keeping Barça Coach Guardiola guessing.

Mundo Deportivo cartoon

Barcelona based Sporting paper "Mundo Deportivo" have put this cartoon today which seems to act as bait for Coach Mourinho. The cartoon translated says:
GUARDIOLA: " In front of Real Madrid we´ll do what we do best: play Football"
MOURINHO: "In front of Barcelona I´ll do the only thing we can do: put a Bus" 

Barcelona thinks (or wishes) that Real Madrid will put in Lass Diarra (sacrifice Ozil) from the start to play more defensively & at the counter-attack, that is, with a 4-3-3 system. However we all will have to wait & see, although Madrid based Sports daily "Marca" has put on the cover of today's edition that Real Madrid will play with its star 11 line-up with Ozil & as up till now : the 4-2-3-1 system.

Either way the promise is that Monday nights "Clasico" will be huge, transcendent & super important. The winner will have the Spanish League Title more than 50% in the bag, the winner of the Messi vs Ronaldo clash will have the loser definitely put in his place for months, the Coaches battle - Guardiola vs Mourinho - will give the winner the Nº1 spot & the Team winner an incredible moral boost that could put the loser into a "spiral downturn" for months with very negative effects. 

There can only be one victor unfortunately & may the better team win. But there is already an assure winner: the World Football Fan.

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