The second leg of the Supercopa had all the makings of a much anticipated El Clasico…diving, aggressive play, numerous fouls and of course, goals from both Messi and Ronaldo. After a close game at home, FC Barcelona headed to the Bernabéu with a slim advantage, but Mourinho’s men, who have yet to win a game this season rallied to lift the Supercopa from a frazzled Barcelona side, whose defense seemed lackluster at best.
1. Tito’s Prophecy Becomes A Reality
During Tito’s pre-game press conference, the FC Barcelona coach stated that Real Madrid would be more dangerous than during their first clash. His reasoning was linked to the fact that the Madristas have had a shaky start to the La Liga season, with no victories thus far, and currently trailing by 5 points to rivals, Barcelona. Expecting a more determined Real Madrid to emerge at the Bernabéu, one would expect Tito to solidify the defensive backline which came unraveled during FCB’s game against Osasuna last Sunday. Alas, the second leg of the Supercopa yet again seemed to expose the Barcelona defense, with gaffs from Mascherano, Valdes and Pique leaving Barcelona fans more than frustrated. Real Madrid seemed in complete charge of the game, and despite their aggressive style of play which reared its ugly head a few times, Real Madrid were the better team at the end of the day and deserved to lift the Supercopa.
2. Disastrous Defense
Barcelona defense, which has been unstablet over the last few games, certainly made Real Madrid’s task a much easier one. It was after all Mascherano’s blunder that allowed Higuain to score in the 11th minute. About 8 minutes later, Barcelona saw their chances of lifting the cup slowly fading into the distance as Ronaldo’s flick of Pique fired past Valdes to put the hosts in the lead. Following Valdes’ unforgettable gaff during the first leg, the Barça goalkeeper stood his ground against a determined Real Madrid who easily could have doubled the final score line if Valdes had faltered. As if the Barcelona defense wasn’t already feeling the heat, things got even worse when Adriano was sent off in t he 28th minute, leaving the Blaugrana side with a ten-man squad.
3. Tito’s Strategy – Formation
Despite Messi’s astonishing 30-yard free kick minutes before first half whistle, Tito still faced the challenging task of lifting the Barça spirits, while simultaneously finding a way back into the game. The second half saw a stronger Barcelona emerge, and at one point, Tito was seen flashing a 4-4-1 at Iniesta. But in reality, the second half was more of a 4-3-2, with much focus placed on defending and attempting to put a stop to Real Madrid, who seemed to glide across the field, in the manner Barça usually does. Even the Barcelona offense seemed more solid during the second half, creating five clear chances. Tito may have some of the best players in the world at his disposal, and offensively Barcelona shouldn’t have much too worry about, that is as long as Xavi is on the pitch. But defensively, Tito has a challenge on his hands. Perhaps a blessing in disguise that this match up occurred so early in the season, exposing Barcelona’s weakness, granting Vilanova the chance to repair Barcelona’s broken back line before it gets worse.
4. “Spanish Dual”
The showdown between Mou and Tito could not have been scripted any better, both with their new signings on the bench…repeated images of both Modric and Song flashing on the screen, who would pull out their newest addition first? Would Song possibly help Barcelona back into the game, or would Modric score during his first game at the Bernabéu. Mourinho made the first move sending on Modric during the 75th minute. And as to be expected, Tito’s hand was forced, a few minutes later, Song entered the pitch. Hard to judge Song’s performance during the 7 minutes he played, but perhaps it would have been a smarter tactical move to grant Song his first game at the Nou Camp, during a match that didn’t have an underlying rivalry dating back to 1904! Talk about pressure…
5. Stage Set for the Season?
It may still be early in the season, but for many fans and critics alike, this first title showdown between the Spanish superpowers was more than just that. For many, this would determine the rest of the season…and if that is true, then we are surely in for an enticing and juicy season! But Tito praised his squad for sticking to their true style of play, and was confident that the Supercopa loss would not affect the team going forward:
“It’s clear that we would have preferred to win, but – as I said before the match – that this game wouldn’t determine the rest of our season. There’s a lot left. This will continue, and on Sunday we have to play in La Liga.”
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