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Why Real Madrid Can't Beat Barcelona.

Tuesday 24th January 2012

El Classico. The biggest game in club football. The ultimate derby match. A clash between two giants of the game. A feast for the eyes of any self-respecting football fan around the globe. A meeting of twenty-two of the best footballers in the world on one pitch. Barcelona v. Real Madrid, without a doubt the most anticipated head-to-head in Spain or anywhere else. As fans we've practically overdosed on Clasicos in the last twelve months - the two sides met no less than seven times across all competitions last year. And what's more is that there's plenty more to come this term.

What you notice instantly about last years seven matches between these two behemoths is that Real Madrid only won once – the Copa del Rey final. One can argue that Barcelona have been the better team in these encounters, and they have but it's becoming even more clearer that Barcelona have the edge, not only man-for-man but mentally as well.

The most recent meeting between the two teams is the clearest evidence yet of an inferiority complex in the minds of the Real players. Madrid started the game stronger: the three attackers pressed high up the pitch, putting pressure on the Barcelona defence and were rewarded with an early goal. These were the tactics that Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho set his team out to follow but, as the game progressed, the players could no longer follow his word. Madrid's defence would drop deeper and deeper allowing Barcelona to come at them and playing into the hands of the Catalans. As Barcelona grew in confidence and simply by playing the way they always do, inevitably got the goals to turn the game in their favour.

This recent showdown was almost identical to the league match between these two in December: Real Madrid starting well, taking an early lead, dropping their level, Barcelona scoring three goals. With the talent that Real have at their disposal – arguably the best squad in Europe – you would expect them to do much better than they have done. It's clear that not only do Barcelona play the better football than Madrid but they are able to keep their heads during a tough situation, continuing to play their usual game confident in their ability to turn things around.

This is another predicament that Madrid find themselves in: they must dramatically alter their style of play when they play Barcelona. Whereas Real would usually play quick, classy football; obliterating other sides with their devastating attacks, they must adopt an underdog mentality against Barcelona. This usually means setting up very defensively which angers a lot of the purists in Madrid. To be fair to him, Mourinho has set out to attack Barcelona in recent encounters but, as mentioned before, the team seems to revert to the default defensive setting and therefore inviting Barcelona pressure.

Real Madrid must now travel to the Camp Nou to try and turn around a 2-1 aggregate disadvantage which will prove an arduous task. Come Thursday morning Real are likely to be out of the Cup and face another trip to Barcelona later in the season – maybe even a third depending on the outcome of the Champions League. If Madrid are not able to overcome their mental bloc against the Catalans it's difficult to see them coming away with anything from these games.

However, the silver lining is that Real Madrid could still win the La Liga title without beating their great rivals. This is because Barcelona have enjoyed less than stellar success away from home against ‘smaller' opposition this season and they currently have a five point gap to bridge. It's this hope that is spurring Real Madrid on at the moment, that they may not be as good as Barcelona but they can still win the war and remove Catalan finger prints from the league trophy. If this comes to fruition – and there's still a long road ahead – it will no doubt be a momentous and fully deserved achievement but, in the long-term, Real Madrid will have to find a way to beat Barcelona again as the current league champions will almost certainly improve in the summer and return stronger.

Lee Clifford

Total articles: 8

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