Jose Mourinho wants to prove
there has been a shift in the balance of power towards his Real
Madrid side when the La Liga leaders host bitter rivals
Barcelona in the opening Clasico of the campaign on Saturday.
Real Madrid 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.
The consensus, at least among the Madrid fans, is that Real
are closer than ever to matching the team many consider the best
club side ever and several hundred million TV viewers worldwide
will tune in for kick-off to witness the latest
installment of one of the most intense rivalries in the game.
Real's form ahead of the clash that could go a long way to
deciding the title has been hugely impressive.
They have won their last 10 league games - and their last
15 in all competitions, equalling a club record - and lead
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
"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-equalling fourth
consecutive domestic title, have been almost impeccable at their
Nou Camp stadium in La Liga, winning eight and drawing one and
scoring 39 goals without reply.
However, they have 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
"It's true that Madrid are in good shape," Xavi, who heads
to Japan next week with his team mates for the Club World Cup,
told a news conference.
"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 their 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.
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 semi-final
first leg at the Bernabeu, while Ronaldo, 26, has three goals in
nine games against Barca.
The financial clout wielded by the big two means their La
Liga rivals have little hope of challenging for the title,
although Valencia are just about keeping pace for now.
Unai Emery's side are four points behind Barca in third with
a game in hand ahead of their match at struggling Real Betis on
Fourth-placed Levante, Valencia's much smaller city rivals
and the season's surprise packages, host fifth-placed Sevilla in
the earlier kick-off.
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