Two different philosophies meet at the Mestalla, as Guardiola's collective-oriented Barcelona faces Jose Mourinho's Real Madrid. Los Blancos managed to keep their rival under control on Saturday's Clasico, but the cost they paid could have outweighed the benefits.
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo sacrificed the offense oftentimes to collaborate with the defense, as not even Pepe, Sami Khedira and Xabi Alonso could keep up with Dani Alves', Lio Messi's and Pedro's unchallenged speed. In fact, Barcelona dominated the game not only footbalistically but also psychologically, forcing Real Madrid's defenders to work against the clock to stop the Blaugranas from reaching Iker Casillas' goal.
Former Valencia's defender Raul Albiol was held responsible for the mistakes of Mourinho's back line and is set to miss the Copa del Rey final. It's been 10 games since David Villa score his last goal with Barcelona. He lead Real Zaragoza towards the title back in 2004 against Real Madrid itself.
Barcelona kept Real Madrid walking on thin ice for most of the last Clasico, but the lack of efficiency in the last meters stopped Guardiola's Blaugranas from securing the three points when they had a clear lead on the game.
We'll focus on Barcelona's attackers for this analysis, while for Real Madrid it'll be important to see the impact Iker Casillas, Mesut Ozil and Cristiano Ronaldo will have in the fight for the first title of the season.
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The sole presence of either Lio Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo leading the attack is intimidating for any defense whatsoever. Another chapter in the history of the rivalry between Messi and Ronaldo will be written this Wednesday.
Though both Messi and Ronaldo share the top scoring position in La Liga with 30 goals, the Argentineans claims the upper hand when you factor in all the competitions, with 48 goals against 40 for the Portuguese.
The Argentinean has also been more effective shooting (53% efficiency, 38% for Ronaldo). Messi has also been involved in 56% of the goals Barcelona score this season, 12% more than Real Madrid's top scorer.
Ronaldo has never defeated Barcelona with Real Madrid so far, and in fact the point rescued at the Bernabeu last Saturday was the first Ronaldo claimed against Guardiola's Blaugranas since he joined the Galactic squad.
Messi, on the other hand, has won four out of the five finals he's played with Barcelona in the last two years. A true final within a final between two of the most popular footballers in the world.
Both Xavi and Ozil have a deep understanding of the game and their finesse and depth of view is without a doubt one of the main reasons why both Barcelona and Real Madrid have made it so far both in the Champions League and the Spanish fight.
Xavi - the player with most appearances with Barcelona of all times- has been of the main engines in Pep Guardiola's scheme from the first moment on. He's won only one Spanish Cup with Barcelona, back in 2009.
German international Mesut Ozil, on the other hand, has only been with Real Madrid for a few months, but he's nevertheless grown as a vital part of Blancos' attack. After 31 Liga games, Ozil has scored only three goals, but assisted his fellow teammates ten times, four more than Xavi and only one less than Angel Di Maria, Real Madrid's top assister.
Lio Messi, nevertheless, stands as the unchallenged assist leader with 17 assists, followed by Dani Alves with 13. Xavi and Ozil can wreak havoc on their own, but they can become even deadlier if given space to edify a fatal offense.
David Villa returns to his cradle, the Mestalla, eager to claim the Copa del Rey for a third time, the first with Zaragoza in 2004, the second with Valencia itself in 2008. Villa will have to break a dry streak of 10 games without scoring against Iker Casillas, a world-class goalkeeper that has conceded only two goals in the Spanish Cup so far.
El Guaje has only been able to score one goal in the Copa del Rey so far, and his performance in the last few Liga games has been far below Pep Guardiola's expectations. At the 25th minute of the last Clasico, David Villa outran Real Madrid's defense and faced Iker Casillas one-on-one. Barcelona's striker fell, and the Cule squad demanded a penalty shot. Muñiz Fernandez ignored the claim, and even booked Gerard Pique.
"I'm obsessed about making things right, working together with the rest of the team and do my best to help the team. If that means I get to score, even better" said Villa, aware of the strengths of Mourinho's goalkeeper. Perhaps the most important match of the season for both Barcelona and Real Madrid, who'll be crowned Spanish Champion this Wednesday?
|Real Madrid||May 2|
|Celta de Vigo||May 4|
|Bayern München||May 6|