With all major European leagues getting in the closing stages, this weekend and the coming few days will give the fans around the world a feast of football never seen before, probably —especially in terms of the quality of (football) schedule.
Never before, at least in recent history, have we gone from watching the two Manchester teams, United and City go at each in the FA Cup semifinal, then hours later, feast our eyes on the ‘El Clasico’ when Real Madrid host Barcelona, then end Arsenal up against Liverpool, all on the same weekend!
Then three days later, the two Spanish giants, Real Madrid and Barcelona will be up for each other’s throat in the final of the Kings Cup, the same day Tottenham Hotspurs take on their biggest rival Arsenal, after which Barca and Real play again the following week and then again the week after in the Champions League semifinal.
But besides the mouth-watering schedule, you have to feel sorry for Real Madrid to a certain extent as I would back Barcelona to win all four matches except that I have this feeling that Jose Mourinho’s team can win one of the semi-final ties, but still fancy Pep Guardiola’s side to go through regardless.
If Barcelona are the best team in the world by far, as we all seen over the two and half years, then Real Madrid are the 2nd best team in the world by far at the moment, then Premier League run-away champions Manchester United are third.
Real have the best team I have ever seen in front of them going into Saturday’s league game at the Santiago Bernabeu, they have so much strength in depth and can afford to bring from the bench the likes of Kaka, Benzema, and Diarra, Canales, Higuian or Adebayor, but the way in which Barcelona play is just ridiculous.
With the 5-0 drabbing still fresh in his mind, I expect Mourinho to come out to stop his opponents from playing their usual passing game, but I, in the same vein, anticipate Guardiola’s men to play the only way they know, which is playing the little balls round the corner and one-twos and their full-backs, Alves and Adriano (in for the injured Abidal), as always will give them incredible width and options.
And with their small men (Iniesta, Xavi, Messi and Pedro) and a clinical finisher in David Villa up front, Barcelona have a complete team that, with all the bias in me, I believe will continue it’s fantastic record against their eternal rivals since Guardiola took over nearly four years ago.
Obviously the Special One will set out his team to play on the counter attack, which they are very good at, and also I can’t see Adebayor, Ronaldo, Di maria and Ozil wanting to defend when Madrid do have the ball.
Real Madrid might even go one better and try to play long balls as they have Adebayor and Ronaldo, both of whom are good in the air, and the front four have pace, and if they can get into Barcelona’s half, they will cause them problems because the Catalan team are awful without the ball.
With the psychological edge over their rivals, I tip Barcelona to win on Saturday as they are the fresher team because they have had an extra day’s rest since their Champions League game, but after that, I expect Madrid to battle in the next three games, and possibly to win at least one of them.
A colleague, who dislikes Barcelona was telling me how Real of now is different from the Real that was torn apart in the Nou Camp in November, for which I agree, but Barca have the mental advantage emanating from their 8 points lead and the results from the previous four or five meetings. Guardiola has won all five games against Real.
So, for my colleague, it’s ok saying Real are different to the side that played earlier on in the season, but I don’t think this changes much, perhaps the score-line won’t be as one sided, but Barcelona will still, I think win on Saturday and the Copa Del Rey plus one Champions League tie.
Real side are growing with every game, the strides they’ve made this season will not be in vain, however, unless Mourinho employs Lassana Diarra along side Khedira and Alonso, I seriously doubt they will cope with Barca’s midfield.