You don’t travel to play Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu with an injury-hit squad but with a confident smile on your face, do you? Few are the teams who do, or would do that. But Pep Guardiola has apparently taken this challenge.
The Barcelona coach is trying to keep it cool. This is at least how it looks like through the comments he made to the press last Sunday:
“We believe in ourselves and we feel more comfortable playing to create chances than to playing to defend. At the Santiago Bernabeu, it’s always about taking the game extremely seriously.
“At the same time, you go in search of goals to avoid getting swamped by the occasion. We will obviously be going there and trying to come out with a good result.”
The Santiago Bernabeu Stadium. It was on this ground that Barcelona flooded Real Madrid with 6 goals back in 2009. It was on this ground that Barcelona became the first and only team to defeat Los Blancos in La Liga during the 2009/10 season. But it was also on this ground that Pep Guardiola recently lost his perfect record against Real Madrid as Jose Mourinho’s defensive tactics obstructed Barcelona’s trademark play.
With the 2011 Copa del Rey defeat still fresh in everybody’s mind, it suddenly seems as if Pep Guardiola has many big important questions to answer and embarrassing problems to solve. Pep Guardiola—the man who showed Jose Mourinho that a “special score line” could be set against THE “Special One”. Here, we’re talking about El Clasico’s 5-0 result at the Camp Nou in November last year, of course.
Barcelona fans are plotting a revenge of their team’s failures in El Clasico I and El Clasico II. Some are leaning on past results and on Barca’s form and status in general to predict an emphatic victory away to Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League come April 27. That’s fine. It perhaps never hurts to wish for something positive. That’s what fan support is all about in football, after all. But the reality remains that Barcelona are hit with injuries when Jose Mourinho’s Real Madrid are in good condition.
Maxwell is yet to recover from his groin injury and he is doubtful to feature in El Clasico III. Gabriel Milito is in the same situation; the Argentine has a calf injury. Other prospective absentees include one of the world’s most influential captains, Carles Puyol.
Races against fitness need to be won at Barcelona’s training centre; this is a big challenge now, with Barca’s UEFA Champions League semi-final first leg match against Real Madrid coming up on Wednesday, April 27. Otherwise, it would be Pep Guardiola’s turn to play the smart game one more time with his squad choices and formation, as curse-breaker Cristiano Ronaldo and his fellow Real Madrid attackers are ready to pull out their sharp swords.
“We will not be going to Madrid in the best physical shape. However, we will go there with a lot of enthusiasm. We accept the fact that Real Madrid may be the favourites. They deserve this name, considering their performances since the last few weeks. Either way, we will try to change that.”
That’s another typical comment from Pep Guardiola. Barcelona’s mentality is dangerous. When their bodies are down, their spirits are up and fighting to win back the energy lost. But now that they have to affront their Spanish Cup final murderer Jose Mourinho again, do they have enough blood to survive?
|Real Madrid||May 2|
|Celta de Vigo||May 4|
|Bayern München||May 6|