Mourinho looks to end Guardiola’s Clasico domination
In-form superstars Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo showcase their talents tonight as league leaders Real Madrid travel to defending champions Barcelona bidding to beat their bitter rivals at Camp Nou after four consecutive losses in the Clasico.
Real are one point ahead of title holders Barcelona at the league summit and there has been immense hype for the first Clasico of the campaign with Real coach Jose Mourinho poised to renew his rivalry with Barcelona, who were eliminated by his Inter side in last season’s Champions League semi-finals.
It will be a first Clasico for Mourinho, who worked as a translator at Barcelona under former coach Bobby Robson, and the Portuguese will hope to fare better than his predecessors Juande Ramos and Manuel Pellegrini, who both lost on two occasions to Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona side.
“It was nice going back to Barcelona with Chelsea and Inter but going back with Real will be even sweeter,” said Mourinho.
“I beat Barcelona with Chelsea and Inter and now I am in charge of their biggest rival in Real Madrid so all this combined means I will get a hostile reception.”
Real have not beaten Barcelona at Camp Nou since December 2007 when a Julio Baptista goal secured a 1-0 win and their last victory was the infamous guard of honour in May 2008 when Barcelona had to pay tribute to Real as champions at the Santiago Bernabeu and were then thrashed 4-1.
Since then Barcelona have won four in a row under Guardiola who hopes to maintain his 100 per cent record in the fixture.
Lionel Messi, 23, has proved Real’s tormentor-in-chief in this fixture and the Argentine is in incredible form scoring in his last 10 games in all competitions, including a hat-trick in the 8-0 thrashing of Almeria, and already has 13 league goals this season.
Messi, who recently notched a century of league goals for Barcelona, has an impressive record against Real scoring in three out of the last four victories over Madrid including a brace in a 6-2 win at the Bernabeu two seasons ago.
“Real will come to Camp Nou with revenge in mind,” said Messi. “Since the 6-2 at the Bernabeu I guess they have a real desire to beat us and this season they have strengthened with the new signings and (Jose) Mourinho.”
Portuguese ace Ronaldo has also been in sensational form scoring a hat-trick in Real’s 5-1 win over Athletic Bilbao in their last league match and has 15 league goals to top the goalscoring charts ahead of Messi.
“It is nonsense just to talk about a duel between myself and (Lionel) Messi,” said Ronaldo. “I am not obsessed about scoring against Barcelona.”
Ronaldo can expect a hostile reception at Camp Nou having infuriated Barca’s Spanish World Cup winner Andres Iniesta last season by accusing him of diving and recently had a spat with Barca’s Spanish midfielder Sergi Busquets in Portugal’s 4-0 friendly win over world champions Spain.
Real duo Iker Casillas and Sergio Ramos are seasoned campaigners in this fixture as are Barcelona trio Carles Puyol, Xavi and Victor Valdes.
However, for others it will be a first taste of the Clasico.
Real’s new signings Angel di Maria and Ricardo Carvalho along with German internationals Sami Khedira and Mesut Ozil are set to experience the Clasico for the first time, as will Mourinho.
For Barcelona, Spain’s World Cup-winning striker David Villa, a €40-million signing from Valencia, is set for his first clash with Real in Barca’s colours and arrives in a rich vein of form with four goals in his last four league matches.
Winning the first Clasico has proved a good omen in the past and in the last six seasons the victor has gone on to be crowned champions at the end of the season.
Real and Barca have dominated to the extent that taking points off each other is a major advantage and gaining the early edge in the head-to-head record can be crucial as it can decide the league if the two teams finish level on points as happened in 2007 when Real won the title due to their superior record in the Clasicos.