Next week the Clasico will play on these emotions, but in a rather more nationally-focused fashion. The eternally wonderful thing about these games is that every one is slightly different, each one bringing its own particular set of contexts and circumstances to the stage. This time around, the difference is that the usual yin-yang nature of the two clubs' situations - whilst one is up the other tends to be down - is not the case at all. This is the first time for several seasons that I can recall a Clasico where both teams are frothing at the mouth with their own possibilities. Real Madrid's unquestionable improvement over the last year or so cannot be allowed to foreshadow Barcelona's continued excellence. Their home record is simply without precedent. Nine games played, 39 goals scored and none conceded. It would seem inhuman if it weren't for the relative contrast with their away record, with eight goals scored and seven conceded. Real Madrid will have taken note, as will have most of the Iberian Peninsula.[...]
Barcelona brought forward their game with Rayo Vallecano in midweek, and have thus reduced Madrid's lead to three points, but have played a game more. They know that defeat in the Bernabeu could condemn them, after Christmas, to a nine-point gap whose psychological effects might cause difficulties for certain members of the Barcelona squad, accustomed as they have grown to always being ahead. I only suggest this as a possibility. It may motivate them to perform even better, but the discourse in Spain has changed. Mourinho is deliberately remaining quiet, since he knows, for the first time since he trod Spanish soil, that his project is bearing fruit and that his team may be about to dethrone their eternal rivals. The change of the guard might be upon us, or not. It's going to be a fascinating game, but Mourinho's non-provocative silence is an implicit message of his confidence. He only stirs it up when he's feeling a bit uncomfortable.
Monday, December 5, 2011
Ball on the Clásico
Just five days away, I am already bubbling over with emotion. All I can think to write is "Please, please, please win Barça", so I'll cede the floor to Phil Ball: