El Clasico 2010 - Barcelona vs. Real Madrid - Jose Mourinho vs. Pep Guardiola
Saturday 27 November 2010
As the saying goes in Catalonia – ‘Real buy, Barca breed’, and certainly that sentiment extends to the coaches of these respective dynasties.
A native Catalan - Josep Guardiola has been fed and schooled Blaugrana. After a distinguished playing career at the Camp Nou he began his coaching path with the Barcelona ‘B’ team, which provides an important conveyor between the clubs famed La Masia youth set-up and the first eleven.
Guardiola radiates everything that is Barcelona. ‘Mes que un club’ (More than a club) is the motto, competing, playing and winning with a style and grace is the ethos. The former Spanish international is the ideal figurehead - a picture of calm and decency, phlegmatic in victory, honourable in defeat. He exudes the etiquette of the club and embraces the manner in which they are famed.
Not only is he a paragon of these virtues, but he has proved himself as a highly astute and successful manager, guiding Barca to the league, cup and Champions League treble in his first season in management, followed by another La Liga, Spanish Super Cup, European Super Cup and FIFA World Club Cup in his second. Already he is one of Barca’s most successful coaches of all time, having won 103 of 142 games in charge, and his side average close to three goals per game under his stewardship.
If Guardiola is the Mr Miyagi of La Liga, then sat in the opposite dugout is definitely Sensei John Kreese.
No stranger to controversy, confrontation and the dark arts is Jose Mourinho – or,‘El Traductor’, as he is unaffectionately known by the Barca fans following a spell as Bobby Robson’s translator in the mid 90’s. Eternally the pantomime villain to everyone barring his own flock, he has already, typically, ruffled more than his fair share of feathers since arriving from Internazionale.
However, most importantly he has ruffled a few in his own camp. Previously, Madrid’s coaching job was something of a poisoned chalice, with interference from the top brass proving detrimental and destructive to previous incumbents.
So far Mourinho appears to have banished such meddling and has firmly established himself as the ‘Special Uno’ at the Bernabeu. Fourteen wins from eighteen games has helped, as does sitting a point clear of Barca at the tables summit.
After a slow start to the season - nine goals in their first seven games - Mourinho’s magic spell has suddenly clicked in with Los Blanco’s winning ten of the last twelve games in all competitions, rifling home 40 goals and remaining unbeaten in the process.
The trip to their arch rivals will undoubtedly be Mourinho’s sternest test so far. In four visits there as coach of Chelsea and Inter he has lost three, although he redeemed himself by completely outfoxing Guardiola over two legs in last season’s Champions League semi.
An interesting paradox of the coach’s two styles will be how each deals with the others star man. Mourinho will be reticent to give much freedom to Lionel Messi, who has already notched 23 goals in just 18 games so far this campaign. In those Champions League semi’s, Messi was chaperoned around the field by a duopoly of Inter stoppers and the tactically astute Mourinho will surely revert to such pragmatism for El Clasico.
What, if anything, Guardiola decides to do with Cristiano Ronaldo could decide the outcome of the game. Through sheer force of belief and confidence in his own men the Barca boss has rarely implicitly divvied out instructions to eliminate the threat of individuals – but left to his own devices as the spearhead of Madrid’s rapid breaks, the Portuguese forward could prove too much for Barca’s brittle back line to deal with.
The dual between Guardiola and Mourinho, good versus evil, bred versus bought, is just one of the intriguing sub-plots which make El Clasico arguably the most anticipated and exciting games of football to be found anywhere on the planet.