Barcelona 1 Real Madrid 3. Copa del Rey Semi Final.

TKTG takes a look at the best articles and analysis of the second leg of the Cope del Rey semi final between Barcelona and Real Madrid.

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(Getty)

Match Report from Goal.com

With a 1-1 home draw to overcome from the first leg, Jose Mourinho looked on in jubilation as his team executed their gameplan to perfection, frustrating the Catalans at the back, and through an inspirational Cristiano Ronaldo, giving a counter-attacking clinic up front.

The Portuguese opened the scoring from the penalty spot 12 minutes in, becoming the first player to score in six successive Clasicos away from home, and finished off a surging break shortly before the hour mark to put Madrid in the driving seat.

Raphael Varane put the finishing touches on an unbelievable night for the visitors when he headed home a corner, with Jordi Alba’s late goal coming as little consolation for the hosts.

…Sergio Busquets, Cesc Fabregas and Xavi returned to start in midfield for the hosts, with Carles Puyol partnering Gerard Pique in defence. For Madrid, Varane, the standout performer from the first leg, started alongside Sergio Ramos at centre-back.

Barca started positively, and with only two minutes on the clock, were nearly ahead. Pedro did brilliantly to turn Fabio Coentrao inside out and square for Lionel Messi, who narrowly missed the target from a tight angle.

But instead, it would be Madrid who would take the lead. Ronaldo was simply too quick for Pique, and was tripped up inside the area, leaving the referee with no choice but to award a penalty, from which the Portuguese forward slotted coolly into the bottom corner.

…The Blaugrana went close again minutes after the restart when Diego Lopez parried an effort by Busquets, with Alvaro Arbeloa taking the rebound off the toes of Fabregas from point blank range.

But much like the start of the first half, the chance was spurned, and again, Madrid would punish their profligacy on the counter-attack, this time putting the tie virtually out of reach.

Sami Khedira’s sublime first-time pass after winning the ball released Angel Di Maria against Puyol. The Barca captain was left on his backside by the skill of the winger, whose initial shot was parried by Jose Pinto, only for Ronaldo to bury the rebound.

And with 22 minutes left, Madrid were in dreamland again, when Varane rose highest to head home Mesut Ozil’s corner in almost identical fashion to his goal in the first leg.

Flares were set off in the stands as a few home fans lost patience with events on the pitch, but their mood improved ever so slightly just before injury time when Alba ghosted in behind the full-back to slot Andres Iniesta’s clipped pass beyond Lopez.

Tactical Analysis – Zonal Marking

Atletico Madrid v Real Madrid - La Liga

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Real outplayed Barcelona. Their defensive shape was good, their breaks were typically direct and efficient. 3-1 didn’t flatter them.

Real positive without the ball

In previous Clasicos Real have pressed heavily from the start of the game and dominated the opening ten minutes by forcing Barcelona to concede possession cheaply. Real’s approach was a little less aggressive here, and they followed Milan’s lead of pressing in midfield rather than sitting deep and inviting continual pressure – at least at the start of the game.

…In this match, there was surprisingly little threat in behind the defence from Barcelona, primarily because of the Andres Iniesta-Cesc Fabregas problem on the left, which continues to frustrate.

On the opposite flank, Pedro Rodriguez offers speed and clever runs, but he stayed in a very wide position and therefore wasn’t a direct goal threat

Real midfield play

There was another familiar theme – Real’s happiness to leave space between their defence and midfield lines, seemingly confident no Barcelona player would move into that zone unattended. Sami Khedira was given the freedom to press the player in his zone – generally Fabregas, who played deeper than against Milan, while Xabi Alonso got tight to Xavi Hernandez, forcing him into backwards passes.

Messi tried to drop into that zone a couple of times, particularly towards the right, but Ramos moved up and stuck tight to him, with Varane becoming the spare man. Messi had a couple of opportunities to turn and run at the Real defence, but overall they limited his influence.

Alonso positioning

Alonso deserves a huge slice of credit for Real’s performance. He’s struggled in many Clasicos, unable to live with Barcelona’s rondos because he’s not a natural tackler, and unable to assert his influence on the game in an attacking sense because of Barca’s pressing. For such an elegant midfield creator, he often becomes a scrapper in these fixtures.

But this was an absolutely superb display. Alonso managed to help nullify two Barcelona players simultaneously – he positioned himself cleverly in front of the defence to prevent forward passes being played into Messi’s feet, yet also stayed alert to the danger of Xavi, always in a position to charge up the pitch and pressure him. Then when Xavi had distributed the ball, Alonso would drop back and get in front of Messi. That freedom to move vertically stemmed from Real’s willingness to leave space in front of the defence.

…Equally vital was Alonso’s communication. It’s worth re-watching the first 15 or 20 minutes of the game and solely concentrating on Alonso – not just for his positioning, but for his constant pointing and shouting at his centre-backs. That was crucial considering the partnership at the back – Varane, a youngster who has been primarily used in home matches, and hadn’t played at the Camp Nou before, and Ramos, a terrific defender but one who can be dragged out of position too easily by Messi and Barcelona.

Alonso dispossessed Xavi on the edge of the Real box for the first goal, which summed up his dominance of that contest.

Counter-attacks

Besides, it left Ronaldo free to break. Barcelona gave him too many opportunities to run one-against-one on  counter-attacks throughout the game – sometimes against Alves, but often against one of Real’s centre-backs instead, in more central areas. Considering Ronaldo is unquestionably Real’s main attacking weapon, it was somewhat surprising Barcelona found themselves so exposed to his runs, but there was some subtle, good movement and passing from Higuain and Ozil.

…Ozil, meanwhile, played an understated role but made typically clever movements throughout. Those two players’ contribution for the move that resulted in the penalty for Barca’s first (Ozil’s lob over Sergio Busquets’ head, Higuain’s through-ball past Puyol for Ronaldo to chase) may be simple technically, but showed a great understanding of what Real needed to do when they won possession – get the ball past their opponent as quickly as possible, taking players out of the game.

Iniesta – Fabregas problems

 At the risk of repeating what was said following the Milan game, Roura’s continued use of Fabregas and Iniesta in these roles was hugely surprising. Iniesta stayed nearer the touchline while Fabregas floated around in a more central position, but they often got in each others’ way, and Iniesta seems unable to influence the game significantly while Fabregas is taking up his space.

… That problem – two players on top of each other – would never have happened under Pep Guardiola. He was insistent on training drills involving ‘boxes’ which forced Barcelona to always cover space effectively – when one man came into your zone, you moved out into another zone. It provides the man in possession with a number of options on the ball, it stretches the play and therefore the opposition defence, and it distributes players across the pitch evenly so Barcelona can press effectively immediately (something also lacking this season). It’s far from unique, and in many ways very basic, but clever spatial distribution was a key part of Guardiola’s strategy, yet so absent here.

… Villa was desperately needed on the left. It was interesting that Messi had commented on Villa’s impact against Sevilla at the weekend, saying, “With Villa up front in the second half, Sevilla’s centre backs couldn’t move forward, which gave me more space.” He hasn’t always worked well with Villa, but would surely have been disappointed to see him on the bench here.

Conclusion 

That shouldn’t take anything away from Real’s performance: they defended with a brave high line and the midfielders pressed energetically, with Alonso helping to stop both Messi and Xavi with superb positioning. They, like Milan, scored their goals in the expected fashion against Barcelona – two from counter-attacks, one from a set-piece.

And how important is experience of playing Barcelona? Barca’s two key defeats this week have come against sides now accustomed to facing them – Milan played them four times last season, Real Madrid six times. After ‘aggregate’ defeats in 2011/12, maybe Allegri and Mourinho have learnt lessons for 2012/13.

Real Madrid dominate Barcelona to reach King’s Cup final 

FC Barcelona v Real Madrid CF - Copa Del Rey - Semi Final Second Leg

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I’ve seen Jose Mourinho dancing along the touchline here before but not like this.

Two goals had already been shipped in by the defending Copa Del Rey champions before Rafa Varane scored his first of the night, his second of the tie and added further confirmation that he is on a very short, sharp journey into the world’s elite defenders. His leap was elegant and the television replays proved to us that the young Frenchman knew he’d scored well before the ball crossed the line.

Up sprang Mourinho much more in joyful celebration of his young protégé’s work than to celebrate the formality of qualification for the final, or to provoke. The Real Madrid manager quickly found young Varane leaping into his arms in an embrace which was totally natural and also wholly deserved.

Mourinho pointed, animatedly, at the name on the back of the shirt and, truly, this kid looks magnificent.

…Even in victory, and this was an admirable piece of work, there are questions which remain for the reigning La Liga champions.

How, when they can perform like this, are Real Madrid so far out of the title chase?

How, when he has been so gifted with a squad which can play such robust, quick and effective football, has Mourinho fallen out so badly and so often with key players, the media and anyone who has looked his way?

…Sir Alex Ferguson chose to attend himself, with two of his coaching staff, rather than send the Manchester United scouting staff. He’ll have seen enough to know that Madrid are fitter and faster than they were in the first leg of the two clubs’ Champions League tie.

Mourinho’s work on the training ground has obviously tightened up, the extra effort put into getting players sharper and adding stamina is working.

…Time and again the ball seemed to drop well for Madrid, but it was absolutely clear that this was a product of hard work and a system in action — not fluke. You know the phrase, whether it belongs to Gary Player or Sir Jackie Stewart, “The harder I work, the luckier I seem to get”? And so we got absolutely clear-cut deserving finalists of the Copa Del Rey.

…Meanwhile, in other news, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the famous Barca system. How they effect it is quite another matter.

When this group of players, plus or minus characters like Samuel Eto’o, Yaya Toure, Seydou Keita and Thierry Henry, was so dominant across all competitions, the skills on show were so glittering and seductive that they sometimes obscured the importance of speed, intelligence and confidence.

Obviously speed applies to both athletic velocity plus speed of thought and action. Particularly in the most powerful Pep Guardiola era, every little detail was so rigorously enforced that Barca were like a finely tuned middleweight boxer — all menace, lightning speed and remorseless killer instinct.

They swarmed all over teams when they wanted “their” ball back. When they had it back, they unleashed hell.

This applies to some of Tito Vilanova’s early reign, too. Signs were that there had been an effective tune-up. This Copa Clasico provided further evidence that many little details have gone awry.

In the first half, time after time, Madrid was quicker to initiate good decisions, quicker to react when there was a breakdown situation. Generally this comes from training and preparing for these scenarios over and over again. It’s a state of mind which becomes second nature. Right now, at least in the pressure-cooker, no-mercy environment of a Clasico, Real Madrid are more relentless, less error prone and slightly more sure of themselves.

It’s also true that Barca were once quicker in an athletic sense, too. They have a few players — Cesc Fabregas, Pique, Alex Song, Xavi, Busquets, Javier Mascherano — who simply aren’t flying machines. Brains, talent and speed of moving the ball can all compensate, but pace counts in covering, recuperating and pressing.

…It’s going to be worth Barca examining their fitness preparation because they are notably not as relentless, as strong in the last sections of games, and they will need an inquest into whose bright decision it has been to isolate David Villa for most of the season when his cutting edge, experience and goal ratio are a decent part of what they lack right now.

How fickle football is. Barcelona’s progress to the Spanish title thus far has been pretty regal. Firm, entertaining, enjoyable for neutrals.

Now Barca face either recuperating a two-goal deficit against Milan next month in the Champions League or watching their season trickle away while a Spanish title win, which looked like the bedrock for a treble, comes under threat of feeling like “second best.” How crazy is that.

Blog Views – Real Madrid

FC Barcelona v Real Madrid CF - Copa Del Rey - Semi Final Second Leg

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If Jose Mourinho is playing out his final months at the Santiago Bernabeu, he’s certainly playing them out with a fire in his belly that has been missing for too long this season. Real Madrid’s league form has been horrible, but their campaign may be clicking into gear at just the right time — the “business end” of the season.

…Los Blancos did not just progress to the final of the competition that was Mourinho’s first major trophy win in charge of Madrid, but did it with some conviction with a stunning 3-1 victory over Barca. A huge statement — “There’s still some life in the old dog yet.” Watch out, Manchester United. Watch out, European football — Jose won’t be leaving these parts with a whimper.

…The counterattack was always going to be Madrid’s weapon of choice. Interim Barca manager Jordi Roura knew it, the fans inside the Camp Nou knew it. You and I knew it. Yet Barca could do little about it.

A breakaway in the 13th minute saw Cristiano Ronaldo steam into the penalty box and draw the foul from Gerard Pique. Penalty. No question. The Portuguese kept his cool, as he usually does in these parts, to slot his side ahead.

Ten minutes into the second half and a huge boot downfield from Sami Khedira found Angel di Maria, who schemed past an unbalanced Carles Puyol, saw his shot saved but saw Ronaldo positioned to slam home his second — and slam Madrid into the final.

…It was all Madrid deserved. They looked calm and composed in defence, well-organised in midfield and penetrative in attack. The possession stats still had a similar ring to them: Barcelona with 62 percent to Madrid’s 32. Madrid have worked on their counterattacking and honed those skills just for nights like these — nights where the only stat that matters is the one with Madrid winning 3-1, and having more shots on goal despite that low possession stat.

…But let’s not put the cause of the result down to Barca’s flaws. Madrid were brilliant. Mourinho was spot-on in his approach and the players, for once, showed a togetherness and a team ethic that has been lacking way too many times this season — just look at the league table.

…In honesty, the players didn’t do themselves justice with the theatrics that, unfortunately, have become too common in Clasicos. Jordi Alba went down like he was shot just before halftime with Arbeloa making minimal contact. So too did Pepe when he came on to finish the match late on.

That will not blemish what was a superb night for Jose Mourinho and Real Madrid, however. It was just the boost Los Blancos needed going into a crucial period of the season. Expect both teams to be tinkered with for Saturday’s Liga Clasico at the Bernabeu, with Madrid eyes firmly on Manchester. Sir Alex Ferguson, the United boss, was in the Camp Nou crowd to witness Madrid’s magnificent showing. He’ll certainly have plenty to think about.

Atletico or Sevilla in the final? Either will do. Madrid may have taken months to get their season up and running, but up and running it certainly is, and there are two big trophies there to be won.

Blog view – FC Barcelona

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Barcelona endured a painful 3-1 loss to Real Madrid at the Camp Nou Tuesday in the return leg of the Copa del Rey semifinals. Jordi Alba scored for the Blaugrana, who enjoyed 62 percent of possession and attempted 11 shots, three on target.

… Unfortunately, El Guaje (David Villa) had to wait for his chance on the bench.

As a result, Barcelona looked in desperate need of a sharper attacking presence during the first half, when Messi was mostly isolated and surrounded by up to five defenders whenever he managed to set foot in the Real Madrid area. That the Blaugrana were unable to add that extra, decisive gear to speed to their pass-and-move game didn’t help, either.

Despite their impressive start to the season, Barcelona is beginning to show worrying signs at a crucial stage. I believe the team has been missing their inspirational leader and mentor Tito Vilanova for a while, but the fact that these difficulties have reached the surface makes them more visible.

…I was not impressed by Jordi Roura’s decision to complain about referee Undiano Mallenco before the match even kicked, off either. However negative Barcelona’s stats may have been whenever Mallenco officiated their games, a team of the Catalans’ calibre should be above such pitiful comments and fully focused on winning on the pitch.

Sure, Real Madrid played a physical game and Mallenco could have been a bit more strict about booking players. But that was not the difference. Real Madrid were more thorough, incisive and effective in their attacking third. Predictability and a degree of complacency became Barcelona’s greatest enemy.

…As for those Cules who left  before the game was over and the Merengues who decided to throw a flare at Barcelona supporters: true fans must know how to win and lose, however big the rivalry may be.

 

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