Let the 'Clasico' begin
Updated: 2011-12-10 08:20
Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo VS Barcelona's Lionel Messi, file photo. [Photo/Agencies]
With Mourinho full of confidence, fierce Spanish rivals will renew acquaintances at Nou Camp
Jose Mourinho wants to prove there has been a shift in the balance of power towards his Real Madrid side when the La Liga leader hosts bitter rival Barcelona in the opening 'Clasico' of the campaign on Saturday.
Real president Florentino Perez poached the flamboyant Portuguese, a Barca assistant coach in the late 1990s, from Inter Milan at the end of the 2009-10 season to try to wrest the Spanish title back from the Catalan capital.
Real's form ahead of the clash that could go a long way to deciding the title has been hugely impressive. `
It has won its past 10 league games - and its last 15 in all competitions, equaling a club record - and leads Barca by three points with roughly a third of the season played and with a game in hand.
"You never know in football, there are always surprises," Mourinho, who has a habit of rattling his former club, said after Real's 3-0 Champions League victory at Ajax Amsterdam on Wednesday.
"But right now we feel more confident and we are a better team than last season," added the former Chelsea manager.
Pep Guardiola's side, chasing a club record-equaling fourth consecutive domestic title, has been almost impeccable at its Nou Camp stadium in La Liga, winning eight and drawing one and scoring 39 goals without reply.
However, it has managed only two victories in six away games, scoring eight and conceding seven.
Playmaker Xavi said on Wednesday that statistics were meaningless once the players took to the field and unexpected events can, and quite often do, change the game in a moment.
Recent 'Clasicos' have included several mass brawls and a slew of red cards, as well as some outstanding individual performances.
"It's true that Madrid are in good shape," Xavi, who heads to Japan next week with his teammates for the Club World Cup, said.
"They are a bit better but that does not mean anything," added the Spain international, who will make his 600th appearance for Barca if selected on Saturday.
"The 'Clasicos' have nothing to do with statistics and anything can happen."
Guardiola has enjoyed the upper hand over Real since the former Barca and Spain midfielder took over as coach at the end of the 2007-08 season.
He has engineered victories in seven out of 11 'Clasicos' and after Mourinho arrived at Real, when the rivalry grew yet more intense, he has three wins, three draws and only one defeat, in the King's Cup final in April, Mourinho's only silverware in his first season at the helm. reuters
Saturday's game will match up not only two of the game's most influential coaches, but also the world's two best players.
Argentina forward Lionel Messi and the man he replaced as World Player of the Year, Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo, are joint top of the La Liga scoring chart with 17 goals each, although Messi boasts by far the better record in 'Clasicos'.
The 24-year-old has netted 13 goals in 15 matches against Real, including two in last season's Champions League semifinal first leg at the Bernabeu, while Ronaldo, 26, has three goals in nine games against Barca.
- Top Chinese official says nation 'serious' on IPR protection
- Shanghai's old elevator plant becomes temple
- China recognizes Russian State Duma election
- 9 injured in smoke alert aboard HK flight
- China continues to pursue peaceful growth
- 'Prudent' path for economic policies in 2012
- Climate talks down to the wire
- China works hard for cyber security