In the last three seasons Barcelona have entertained the world with their attacking, free scoring, possession heavy style of play. This current Barcelona side are revered all around the world and quite rightly too. They have without doubt the best player in the world in Lionel Messi, a team made up of mostly of double (and in some cases triple) Champions League winners and there is one man who has made this all possible.
Coach Pep Guardiola has been behind it all and transformed the Barcelona team since taking over in 2008. He has revolutionised the modern game with his tactics. In his first season he reintroduced the idea of the inside forward with Lionel Messi and Thierry Henry in the wide positions of the now famed Barcelona 4-3-3 formation. Despite losing away at Numancia on the opening day of the season, things fell rapidly into place for Guardiola‘s men and they went on to score 105 goals in the league that season. With Barcelona’s three forwards Samuel Eto’o, Thierry Henry and Lionel Messi contributing a staggering 100 goals in all competitions. In his second season he implemented the tactic of defensive midfielder Sergio Busquets dropping to centre back make a back three, which allowed the wing backs to push much further up the pitch. This tactic allowed Barcelona to retain possession with ease and led them to their second consecutive league title. For much of Dani Alves’ time at the Nou Camp he has had the whole right flank to himself! In his third and most recent season, Guardiola established the ‘False 9’ role for in his system in order to get the most out of Lionel Messi’s irrepressible talents. Messi’s clever movement meant he suited the role perfectly. His extraordinary anticipation always meant he was in the right place to score but he was also able to drop deep and help control the game, assisting plenty of goals too.
These are just a few examples of Guardiola’s tactical innovations that make Barcelona such a good side and one the best teams ever. Since his reign started back in 2008 Barcelona have won no less than 12 trophies. To put this in perspective, Arrigo Sachhi’s great Milan side of 1987-91 won eight trophies and only one league title out of four compared to Guardiola’s three out of three. Barcelona have some phenomenal players but Guardiola’s role in their success should not be overlooked. If he retired at the end of last season he would have still been one of the most successful managers ever.
However, all this success was not going to be taken well by one team in particular, a response was expected and it was duly delivered!
With Florentino Perez back as president at Real Madrid in the summer of 2009 he felt an obligation to the fans and to the club as whole to haul back Barcelona. He did so the only way he knows how, with a massive spending spree! Over the last two seasons Real Madrid’s squad has improved unimaginably. Players of the world-class calibre like Ronaldo, Ozil and Alonso have been brought in the replace players such as Huntelaar, Van Der Vaart and Mahamadou Diarra. I’m not saying those players aren’t good but Madrid are now on a level they previously not have though possible. They also have a world-class coach at the helm in Jose Mourinho and it looks like they will have an almighty tussle for all three trophies this season. Real Madrid have scored over 100 league goals for the last two seasons and in 2010 they racked up what would have been the record amount of points in a La Liga season ever, the only problem was Barcelona racked up a few points more!
They have also fallen to them in the 2010/11 season, being defeated by Barcelona in the Champions League semi-finals and again losing out to them on the league. There was one spec of hope for Real Madrid during last season, which proved Barcelona are beatable and will stand them in good stead for the upcoming season. It was in the Copa Del Rey Final, when a colossal defence performance and a towering Cristiano Ronaldo header, won them the trophy. This was sweet revenge from Real who had previously been defeated 5-0 by Barcelona earlier in the season. Having strengthened again this summer they will again try wrestle the La Liga and Champions League trophies out of their hands. Against every other team they play, Barcelona and Real are so evenly matched it is likely to be the head to head encounters between the two that will determine the champions this year.
If Barcelona’s narrow 5-4 victory against Real in the Spanish Supercup is anything to go by, it promises to be very close indeed.
Barcelona and Real Madrid are by far the two best teams in the world and quite possibly two of the best teams the world will ever see. Without this Barcelona side, Real would have won everything in the past two years and without Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo will have most likely added another Balon D’Or to his collection. This incredible Barcelona side have been just that tiny bit better than Real for the past few seasons. That should not take away from Real Madrid who are still a fantastic side. Neither should Lionel Messi’s brilliance take away from Cristiano Ronaldo. Ronaldo has consistently broken records since his moving to Spain and he has kept Real Madrid in the title race almost on his own at points during the past two seasons. He has scored a ridiculous amount of goals for Real during his two seasons in Madrid and his all round play has been superb. He would be the best player of his generation if it was not for Messi, just like Real would be the best team of their generation were it not for Barcelona.
These are two fantastic teams, led by two phenomenal players.
There may well be huge disparity between them and the rest of the league but this battle looks like it could go on for some time and no one can deny it’s thrilling to watch.