Club Focus – Real Madrid – El Clasico dawns

Real Madrid’s bitterly cold trip to the Nou Camp tonight to take on eternal rivals Barcelona in the seasons first El Clasico could quite possibly be the defining moment deciding the destiny of La Liga this term.

In the two club’s 161st meeting, Jose Mourinho’s Los Blancos side hold a slender one point advantage over Pep Guardiola’s men at the Primera Division summit as the Whites seek to continue their unbeaten run this campaign, determined to notch a first win against their Catalan adversaries since April 2008.

The atmospheric cauldron of the Nou Camp provides a welcome setting for Spain’s top two to lock horns, following a Spanish season seeing La Liga very much move into a two horse race. But ahead of the game, a barrage of media attention, hungry journalists and watchful television cameras will be casting an eye over the overt touchline mannerisms of Madrid Coach Mourinho. The former Inter Coach is set to find himself under the microscope from home supporters following his spell as a translator and assistant coach under then Catalan Coach Bobby Robson in the mid 1990’s before embarking on a managerial journey to the affluent supremacy of the Santiago Bernabeu.

It is hard not to defer the attention away from the Portuguese who in the build-up to the clash is still the subject of a UEFA investigation concerning charges. He is alleged to have ordered red card dismissals of Spanish double act Xabi Alonso and Sergio Ramos in last week’s away outing at Ajax, which gives the two players freedom to be suspension free from the knockout stages of European footballs most heavy bout. Mourinho, infamous for his footballing quirks and controversy has successfully charged a quality ridden Madrid squad this term to unrivalled success, something which has proved an enigma in preceding seasons.

Footballs golden couple, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, who have scored 13 and 14 league goals respectively this season look set to hold the key to victory in the match which is sure to set an early season marker of where the La Liga crown lies come what June.

Both sides enter the match with a relative clean bill of health (Madrid front man Gonzalo Higuain and German enforcer Sami Khedira recovering from subsequent knocks), Madrid have the potency to muster the attacking form to challenge Barcelona on their own patch, but not without caution as the Catalans have yet to hit top gear yet nor have they attracted the media forays of Madrid, despite their unprecedented achievements of the past two years.

The real acid test comes tonight for the Whites; A win or draw will prolong Los Blancos’ unbeaten streak, and will see the head into the winter off-season with a points lead over the Catalan side. Whatever the outcome of tonight’s glamorous fixture, the league will be no means over for either side if they taste defeat tonight, nonetheless it seems much of the pressure rests on Madrid shoulders tonight and if they do not deliver, the cruel criticism will follow them all the way back to the Bernabeu.

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