Mark Meadows's Profile
Real’s psychological barrier key to Barca’s 3-1 win
Annoyingly for Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho, the supposed plot line of El Clasico on Saturday did not follow the script. The much-anticipated power shift from Catalunya to Madrid did not take place and his team are back to the drawing board as far as playing against Barcelona is concerned.
Mourinho blamed bad luck for the loss, as you would expect, but a lot of the press have zoomed in on Real’s psychological barrier when it comes to facing Barca.
These things are always difficult to quantify but the awe-inspiring Real team that crushed everyone so far in 2011 simply crumbled when Barcelona reversed a one goal-deficit and went 2-1 up.
Even Mourinho conceded the third Barca goal was a ‘psychological blow’, though I would argue it was the second goal that mentally defeated them.
Perhaps the players — a bit like many of the Madrid fans — had that feeling of ‘here we go again’. The doubts crept in, slowly but surely, and Barca took what is now their customary control of latter parts of El Clasico clashes.
Real Madrid began to play like a team that was facing an opponent who had whipped them in six of the previous seven encounters under their current coach, including a 5-0 drubbing.
Mourinho was 7-1 down by the time the final whistle was blown. His players looked despondent, aware that not only have they failed to wrestle the power away from Barca, but that the team from Catalunya exposed them once again.
But I think the final 3-1 scoreline masked the extent of Real’s improvement this season.
Although it will not bring Mourinho much comfort to hear this after another painful loss, Real have significantly closed the gap to Barcelona. Saturday at the Bernabeu was another step in the right direction.
This should not be underestimated, especially as the current Barcelona team are arguably the greatest footballing side ever, illustrating the size of Mourinho’s challenge.
For periods of the game at the start, Real were on top, while Barcelona looked shaky and panicked. Had Cristiano Ronaldo been his usual prolific self and converted his chances, Real could have won the game. Or at least drawn.
In most of the previous seven El Clasico’s under Mourinho, Madrid were only once in the running to win as the game neared full time. It was always Barca’s to lose.
As a footballing unit, Real are getting better and better, but until Mourinho’s players break that psychological barrier that Barca presents for them, Catalunya will remain the power base of Spanish football.