The individual at the centre of debate is Real Madrid manager, Jose Mourinho. His main intervention last night was that of the act of pinching Barcelona coach Tita Vilanova’s face in the fracas that embroiled after a horrendous late challenge from Madrid defender, Marcelo, on new Barcelona debutant, Cesc Fabregas. The match was delayed for five minutes as both sides’ players and coaching staff collided on the touchline – a similar scene to that at the Santiago Bernabéu in the first leg of last seasons Champions League semi-final.
It’s they way Madrid play under Mourinho against Barcelona that troubles me. In all fairness, Madrid were the better side in the first half and kept the ball far better than their Catalonian opposition. Mourinho had got his team playing good, attacking football rather than focusing all of his attention on stopping Barcelona from playing their natural game. Let us not forget also, that when Madrid are not in action against Barcelona, they do indeed play some very attractive and attacking football. It’s just that Mourinho knows that his side cannot match the possession football that Barcelona possess all year round. Barcelona don’t adjust their style of play to counter any opposition as they know their manner and unique approach to playing the beautiful game, simply, cannot be matched. This apart, the second half was a far different scenario as Barcelona settled and took control of the game.
And when Madrid looked out of touch in the game and couldn’t get the ball off Barcelona, they decided to turn nasty in hope of unsettling the La Liga champions. The main culprits In the Madrid side – in my opinion – that will try every trick in the book as you may say, are Pepe and Marcelo. The amount of nitty-gritty fouls from the Portuguese defender and his play acting in the attempt to mislead the referee in to booking the opposition, is nothing short of a disgrace. The amount of body checks and flying arms in the faces of Messi, Andres Iniesta and Pedro were deliberate and unnoticed. Marcelo, on the other hand, kicked Messi when going up for an aerial challenge, which was needless to say the least. And the Brazilians late scissor tackle on Fabregas was awful, which led to both teams coming together. Incredibly, also, this is a half-fit Barcelona side as well, who still were too much to handle for Madrid.
The last three matches between the two teams has been played out in similar fashion and the English press and public have laid into Spanish football. This is wrong. Barca may play act occasionally - most notably Pedro and Sergio Busquets - but it is Madrid who are tarnishing these matches. It is they who rush to the referee after every incident, it is they who kick Barcelona at every opportunity and it is they that simply cannot get near the side, they envy most. People say Mourinho is a tactical genius and a miracle worker. If by using these tactics and methods is the only way he personally believes his side - which by the way - is full of world class talent – can get close to Barcelona, this is saddening. Gerard Pique is right to label Mourinho as "ruining Spanish football” and, in fact, he is ruing his reputation also.