Soccer Magazine

Is This Real Madrid’s Year?

By Simplyfutb01 @simplyjuan11

Is This Real Madrid’s Year?BY: FRANK TIGANI

It is a well-known natural law, whatever goes up must come down. A quick glance at history and it is easy to discern this repeated pattern, civilisations emerge and fade, empires rise and fall and heroes come and go.

There is little arguing that there has been no better team in world football for the last couple of years than Barcelona. Two European Cups since 2009 and three consecutive league titles along with a list of other major trophies is testament to this. However, more than just the trophies they have accumulated, it has been the way Barcelona have won them that has been most impressive.

It has been said and I will say it again, the current Barcelona side are one of those few teams that come around every generation that leave football unlike it was before. Perhaps one could say that Barcelona’s reign of dominance began earlier last decade, circa 2006 when they claimed the Champions League in Paris. Back then, the team was inspired by the genius of Ronaldinho and directed by Frank Rijkaard from the sidelines.

For all the success the Dutchman achieved, it really has been Guardiola’s reign that has ensured this team will forever be remembered in football folklore. Under the guidance of the former Spanish international, Barcelona have perfected their style of football. It is one that requires each and every player to have a high level of technical ability, where patient and precise one touch passing is employed to take advantage of the space created by smart off the ball movement.

The success of this brand of football has spread to the Spanish national team. It is no coincidence that in this age of Barca dominance, la Furia Roja have too enjoyed their most successful period in their generally under achieving history. This is because the lynchpins of the Catalan side, namely Gerard Pique, Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta and latterly, Sergio Busquets, have played a key role for their national side.

However, like that pattern found in the history of man, also in football have great sides risen and fallen. Ajax were the best team in Europe in the early 1970’s as they dominated the European Cup playing a brand of football that no one was prepared for. The AC Milan team of the late 1980’s and early 1990’s – still regarded by many as the best team of all time – also took Europe by storm and were the last club to win back to back European Cups.

Therefore, it merely is a matter of time before we see the decline of Barcelona, as unfortunate as that may sound given the pleasure they have provided throughout their exploits and the inspiration they have afforded to spectators of all walks of life. Such a development rests in the ability of rival clubs to configure an approach that successfully prohibits them from playing their tiki taka game and this will come eventually, if not sooner than most think.

While it may be too early to call, because for all we know Barcelona may again repeat their successes of last season, what was clear during the first leg of the Spanish Super Cup is that there may be a team now that know how to enforce their own game while nullifying Barca’s attacking weapons and this team is, of course, Real Madrid.

In Jose Mourinho, Real have arguably the best coach in the business. One who is a master at cancelling out the opposition while instilling his side with sufficient attacking outlets to do the necessary damage in front of goal. Given extended powers over team affairs for the upcoming season, the Portuguese undoubtedly has one main objective and that is to beat Barcelona because unless this is achieved success in La Liga or even the Champions League may remain out of reach for Los Blancos.

Reflecting on the first leg of the Spanish Super Cup and one is given the impression that the former Inter manager’s magic is starting to take effect. Admittedly, the end result was only a draw and one where Real conceded two away goals. Nonetheless, if one watched the game it was ever so clear that Barcelona never really got into their stride as they were prevented from doing so. This may be for many reasons, perhaps the team is still underprepared for the new season or because Xavi started on the bench. But, the fact remains, Real Madrid dominated this game and deserved to win.

The home side rightly took the lead after some great work by Karim Benzema sent Mezut Ozil through on goal – both are two players to watch this season. Unfortunately, Mourinho’s side still went into the break one goal down after David Villa and Lionel Messi’s two moments of genius. Barcelona’s two goals were completely against the run of play and this was summed up by the Sky Sports commentator who, after Villa’s wonder strike, said “they have created next to nothing so far”. Words not usually ascribed to the world’s best team after half an hour of football.

In the second half Real continued to dominate and deservedly earned an equaliser shortly after the break when Xabi Alonso neatly placed the ball in the bottom corner. By the end of match the home side had recorded a total of 17 shots of which 8 were on target. Barcelona, on the other hand, scored two goals and, incidentally, only recorded 2 shots on target in the entire match, this despite the fact that Barcelona still, typically, dominated possession. Yet, even this favourable statistic is not so favourable to the Catalans when one considers what occurred last season between these two fierce rivals.

Last season Barcelona recorded an average of 72.5 per cent possession in the four matches the two teams contested in the Champions League and the Primera Division. However, in last night’s first leg Super Cup encounter, they ‘only’ managed 60 per cent which is definitely evidence of an improvement from Real Madrid’s perspective and perhaps a worrying sign for Guardiola.

The club from the Spanish capital still have an uphill battle if they are to claim the first piece of major silverware of the new season. Having drawn the first leg at home and by conceding two goals they really need to win at Camp Nou. History, in this regard at least, is not on the side of the Merengues as they have not beaten Barca at this ground since Julio Baptista’s strike gave them a tender one nil victory in the December of 2007.

Yet, even if Barca do enough to win the Super Cup this first Clasico of the season has provided evidence that Real Madrid may just, finally, get the better of their rivals. If this suggestion proves right, it will coincide with what many will label the beginning of the end of this great Barcelona team which is an inevitable eventuality only constrained by time and, possibly, the return of their prodigal son, Cesc Fabregas.

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