Spain Euro 2012 Focus – Can Barcelona and Real Madrid unite?

The build-up to Spain’s opening Euro 2012 fixture with Italy on June 10 has been surrounded by talk of a wedge driving apart the Barcelona and Real Madrid contingents. Various current and ex players have had their say, but should there be anything in the smoke that is starting the fire some nations could be ready to pounce on Spain’s perceived weakness.

Arguably the most outspoken player so far has been Xavi, who is quoted by the Daily Telegraph as saying: “Barca continue to be the reference point for football the world over. Barca has also been an example, Madrid not so much.” In taking a swipe at Barca’s Spanish rivals and their manager, Jose Mourinho, Xavi has essentially admitted, whether consciously or not, club politics will affect the La Furia Roja in their defence of the Henri Delaunay trophy.

Indeed, it is Barcelona’s, not Real’s, style of football that coach Vicente del Bosque most closely replicates, but there are partnerships in key areas of the team that will rely on an understanding between a Catalonia-based player and one from the capital.

One of these areas is the centre of defence where, in the absence of Barcelona’s Carles Puyol, club-mate Gerard Pique will partner Real’s Sergio Ramos. Both are imperious for their respective clubs and together, on paper at least, could arguably be considered as the strongest centre-back pairing in world football. However Pique, two days before the Euros gets underway, moved to deny any rift between the pair after claims they do not get on, saying: “I get on fine with Sergio,” and suggested that with media outlets “things get distorted.”

Spain fans and Del Bosque will hope he is right, as in the heart of the area where games could be won and lost for Spain – the centre of midfield – are two players who, for their clubs, are key men in the middle but for their country will have to share the limelight. Xavi is Barcelona’s metronome, the key to Blaugrana’s tiki-taka. Equally, although using a wider range of passing, Xabi Alonso is central to much that Real Madrid get right.

Whether they will each try to enforce their own style of play on Spain’s game or whether each man will be able to meet in the middle for the nation’s cause will become clear against Italy. With Del Bosque favouring Xabi deeper and Xavi linking the midfield to the attack, likely Xavi will remain as the one to keep the Spaniards ticking and Xabi will be expected to dig in a little more alongside Sergio Busquets.

Whatever rifts may or may not exist, the players will surely realise the team effort is more important. As Del Bosque sums up, quoted in Mail Online: “We have an aim that no-one has ever achieved before and that is beautiful.” A United La Roja is certainly the team to beat in Poland and Ukraine.

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