Barcelona’s dramatic 2-0 victory in the Estadio Bernabeu last night appeared to confirm what we thought all along: that the Catalan giants are simply unbeatable when they play to anywhere near their potential, and that all the forces of evil have once again conspired against long-time media darling and veteran complainer Jose Mourinho. Yet amidst all the controversy over the red card for Pepe, which just for the record was entirely unjust and should instead have been replaced by a booking for persistent fouling and a final warning, Mourinho’s tactics appear to have been slightly forgotten.
Now one could perhaps understand Wolverhampton Wanderers or Swansea City playing defensively, with an anchor in midfield, and a strategy based around preventing the other team playing, at either Molineux or the Liberty Stadium. Yet for a club of the stature of Real Madrid, and not to mention the considerable finances and playing staff, which not only cost the earth but can be justifiably described as containing some of the best players in world football, tactics such as these cannot be so easily explained away. Madrid, essentially, tried not to lose the match.
Obviously, attempting to control possession against Barcelona is a futile task, and anyone who saw the statistics for last night will know that the visitors enjoyed over 70% of the ball during the match. However, Real didn’t look as though they even believed they could compete with Barcelona in any sense, relying on defensive solidity to achieve a 0-0 draw that in all honesty would be almost useless in the Camp Nou, where Barcelona are imperious.
Had a different manager been in charge perhaps Madrid would have been thumped 5-0, but it does certainly seem that when one of the richest clubs on earth with players of the attacking quality of Oezil, Ronaldo, Benzema, Di Maria, Higuain, Kaka and Adebayor are unable to muster more than a handful of openings at home in the Semi-Final of the Champions League it is a sad day indeed. Perhaps this is just indicative of the way football is going; clubs no longer set out to win matches, merely to avoid defeat. Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini is a clear example of this, but from a personal viewpoint it was certainly underwhelming to see that Mourinho was both unable and unwilling to change his ways, and set his team of ‘Galacticos’ out to defend in the style of a Blue Square Premier club drawn away at Old Trafford in the Third Round of the FA Cup.