Barcelona 1-2 Real Madrid: Pep Guardiola Drops La Liga Thinking Of The Champions League
Whenever Barcelona face Real Madrid at the El Clasico, the world of football stops and watches. Every little move, every single detail is noticed, then analyzed for weeks to come. Let's start by putting the truth out there: The best team won.
Barcelona Deserved To Lose El Clasico
Yes, you read that right and yes, you heard it from me. It pains my heart to say it, but Real Madrid were better than Barcelona on the night the La Liga title was decided. Jose Mourinho must have cried with happiness when he saw Pep Guardiola's lineup: No Pique, no Alexis, no Cesc. Far too much advantage when you are also missing David Villa and Eric Abidal due to injuries.
To make matters worse for Barcelona, our coach then opted for a 3-4-3 formation instead of our classic 4-3-3. When you are up against the best counter-attacking team in the world, just fielding 3 defenders could be suicidal - and it was, as both goals proved.
Real Madrid's first goal came from a corner kick Victor Valdes and Carles Puyol failed to clear. As it happened against Chelsea, Barcelona missed Pique's height dearly.
Cristiano Ronaldo scored the second after a quick break, beating Mascherano with a speedy run. Things may have been different with 2 central defenders covering each other's backs. Not impressed at all.
Why Barcelona Lost El Clasico
Things happen for a reason. In this case, there are many factors that influenced the result. If we focus on the match itself, Barcelona were too slow upfront, often abusing horizontal passes.
If Guardiola chose a 3-4-3 formation so we could have superiority in midfield, he should have fielded Cesc instead of young Thiago - The Fab4 is, at this moment in time, more experienced and capable of challenging rival defences coming from the second line.
I have read how some Culés are rubbishing Cristian Tello for his performance. While he obviously missed a couple of chances, Barcelona have become part of World Football's elite by trusting our La Masia youngsters. Pep Guardiola chose Tello, who had hardly started any professional matches previously, in the match that decided La Liga. I can see how our manager wanted to add extra pace to our wings and make Real Madrid's Coentrao suffer, but it simply didn't work out.
Looking back, fielding Thiago and Tello was the wrong decision. In fairness to Guardiola though, the Barcelona careers of Iniesta, Busquets and others all started with their managers taking similar risks. On a separate note, our Barcelona players seemed physically and mentally tired. This has been a very tough season, as long-term injuries and the need to chase Real Madrid for the whole of La Liga has added extra strain to our very short squad.
Guardiola told the media before the match: “Whatever happens, we have already won, the people have once again enjoyed how we’ve played“ - I don't know if Pep was trying to play mind games with his players, but it does sound a bit strange ahead of the two matches that will make or break Barcelona's season...
Listening to Guardiola's press conference prior to the match, I sense our manager had already given up on La Liga before El Clasico kicked off. His team selection was somehow brave but, at the same time, clearly focused on reserving players for the clash against Chelsea next Tuesday. Why else would he substitute Xavi when losing to Real Madrid at home? I really do hope the gamble pays off...
Barcelona Has No Time For Regrets
OK, so Barcelona lost and La Liga is Real Madrid's. Congratulations. Enjoy it. Looking forward to another battle next year.
Let's put things into perspective though: Since Guardiola took over in July 2008, Barcelona have won 13 out of the 16 competitions we have entered. While Culés are obviously disappointed about our last 2 results, we must keep trusting our coach and players. The current squad deserves all our support and have given us the best moments of our over 100 years of history.
As our tremendous mosaic read before the Real Madrid match 'Som i Serem' (which means 'We are and will be' in English). That Catalan saying implies we are proud of who we are and where we come from and, whatever happens in the future, we are determined to continue being the way we are. A couple of bad results will not bring us down.
Barcelona can be proud of our 2011/12 season already: We have won the Club World Cup, European Supercup and Spanish Supercup, qualified for the Copa del Rey final and challenged for La Liga until the end despite being 10 points from the leaders in February - But it doesn't end there.
On Tuesday, Barcelona have the chance of reaching yet another Champions League final. We have 90 minutes to score 2 goals against Chelsea. While it will obviously be a tough task, I am confident it can be done.
Looking at the positives, losing to Real Madrid in El Clasico means there's no need to focus on La Liga anymore. As a result, Barcelona only have 2 more relevant matches to play this season: The return leg of the Champions League semi-final against Chelsea (which would give us access to the final) and the Copa del Rey final against Athletic Bilbao.
Let's now focus on getting the job done. No excuses. No looking back.
Have Your Say
What did you think of this article?
Was Real Madrid really superior to Barcelona in El Clasico?
How do you feel about Guardiola's decisions?
What are your thoughts ahead of the Chelsea match in the Champions League?
Did I miss out on any important points you would like to share with us?
I welcome and appreciate all feedback.
Posted by: Francesc Tomàs
Columnist at Barcablog.com and ESPN Barcelona Blog.
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