We are just hours away from arguably the biggest club football game in the world. El Clasico, Barcelona vs Real Madrid.
This season we are seeing a slightly different build up to El Clasico. I am almost confident to say that this is the most anticipated game in many years. The main reason possibly being how Guardiola and Mourinho will tactically outwit each other on the sidelines while the two greatest players in our game today, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo duke it out on the pitch with up to thirteen players with World Cup winners medals.
After serving a two game suspension Jose ‘special one’ Mourinho will be back in the dugout, so no need to steal anyone’s season ticket for a day or sneak to the dressing room in a laundry basket.
Not much has been said between the two coaches all season, in fact you could say they’ve gone out of their way to ignore each other. But Guardiola fired the first shot recently saying “It’s not good that coaches want to be protagonists, I can only understand that a coach wants to be the centre of attention because he has not lived that sensation as a player”
To compare Guardiola and Mourinho’s careers as players would be like comparing the number of Champions League trophies between Chelsea and Liverpool, a massive gap.
There is no doubting that Mourinho has excelled as a coach and within ten years has gone from being pushed out as caretaker of Benfica and falling into the coaching job at Uniao de Leiria to being in charge of one of the world’s biggest clubs and with two Champions League trophies already in his cabinet.
A lot of people say Mourinho’s success has come mainly from his education, his ability to get the best out of his players and to deflect the pressure from his squad and onto him. This is something which he’s done in recent weeks as the Clasico draws ever closer.
You could argue Guardiola’s coaching career has come in reverse to Mourinho. Winning everything in his first season at Barcelona after coaching the B Team. La Liga, Copa Del Rey, Spanish Super Cup, Champions League, European Super Cup and the World Club Cup all sat in the Camp Nou within 18 months of Guardiola getting the job. While Mourinho is chasing his own goal of being the first manager to win the leagues in England, Italy and Spain.
But of course this game just isn’t about the differences in styles of the two coaches, it’s also about the players and the effect it has on the whole nation.
In the build up to Spain’s friendly against Portugal last week, much of the talk was of who Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque was going to rest from Real or Barca. In the end he went with a strong team and favoured no one.
There are many many stars who will be on the field come kick off. Xavi, Iniesta, Ozil, Casillas, Puyol, Pique, Ramos and Higuain. But all eyes will be on two competing men. Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Many people wouldn’t argue against the fact the Messi and Ronaldo are the two brightest stars in football right now. They’re stats are quite scary to say the least. Combined they have 27 goals in 2073 minutes, a goal every 76 minutes. Interestingly though, while Ronaldo has 4 goals from penalties and one from a free kick, Messi has only scored from open play.
Messi has also scored his 13 goals in the least amount of shots, 49 with just 28 on target (a goal with every 2.1 shots) but Ronaldo’s is almost double with 90 shots 34 on target (a goal every 2.4 shots).
In years to come I believe these two players will be held in as high a regard as Pele and Maradona and we should all as football fans welcome the opportunity to see these two players at the same time on the same pitch.
The game itself will be closely fought. I see Barcelona having much more possession but when Mourinho was in charge of Inter last season that was his game plan, to concede possession. Now that he has a much more potent attack compared to that Inter team, it will be interesting to see how Mourinho set’s up his team.
I think it will be very much cat and mouse from Mourinho and much more akin to his time at Chelsea and Inter using the counter attack to his advantage rather than the goal scoring free flowing Madrid we’ve seen in recent weeks.
Barcelona only play one way, the passing, Tiki Taka, patient build up style. Whether that will be enough to seal the victory and break down Real’s backline remains to be seen.
Written by Craig Shields.
Craig is a writer who frequently writes for the Footyblog.net and can be followed here on his Twitter