I didn’t watch most of the match so I can’t comment on its tactical aspects, but I will say that Madrid have a severe psychological block when it comes to playing Barca.
For the second Clasico in a row, Madrid started brightly and managed to take an early lead at home, but still managed to lose. This is inexcusable regardless of the quality of opposition.
A world-class team cannot twice lose at home to the same opposition after taking an early lead both times. Madrid are simply unable to close out games against Barca. Coach and players alike are far too scared of defeat to take risks in search of victory.
By employing an ultra-defensive midfield, Mourinho ensured that Madrid’s attacking triumvirate was starved of service. There’s no point in winning the ball in midfield if the midfielders aren’t capable of passing the ball to an attacking player.Why won’t Mourinho play Nuri Sahin, a fantastic passer of the ball who was the best player in the Bundesliga last season?
A word on Pepe: I think Madridistas have lost patience with the hard-nosed defender. It’s one thing to be a tough, no-nonsense player but Pepe has become downright vicious and borderline crazy. There is no place for thuggery at Real Madrid, a club which has always maintained high standards for player behaviour.
I would love to see Mourinho be proactive here and punish Pepe for his cynical stamp on Messi’s hand. And I think it may be time to start phasing Pepe out of the team because, while he is a very accomplished player, his behaviour makes him a liability. And Real Madrid have a very promising prospect in Rafael Varane.
On a positive note, Ronaldo’s first-half performance will have pleased many Madrid fans. Aside from scoring a fine goal, Ronaldo worked hard off the ball, chasing players down and winning tackles. Work rate and off-the-ball running have never been CR7’s forte, and it’s good to see him improving in those areas. His dribbling ability has waned significantly, and he will need to compensate by adding new dimensions to his game. Defensive play is a good place to start.
Madrid will need nothing short of a miracle if they want to overturn the tie. One thing is for certain: if they want to beat Barcelona this season, they will have to play the confident, brash game they do against other teams. And they will have to let creative, possession players like Ozil and Sahin play a part instead of warming the bench.