A Clasico with Cruyff's memory all-pervading
Cruyff will be on our minds this evening, there will be a huge tifo mosaic raised in the stands and his name will be emblazoned on the chests of Barça's players. In short, Cruyff will be omnipresent in El Clásico. Cruyff heralded his arrival in Spain when he guided Barça to that famous 0-5 win at the Bernabéu. Later, as a coach, his team posted another 5-0 win at Camp Nou, when Romario turned Alkorta inside out with that unforgettable improvised cola de vaca turn; but he was given a taste of his own medicine the following season, with Valdano on the Madrid bench and a frenzied Iván Zamorano on the field of play. Incidentally, Luis Enrique played for Real Madrid on both occasions. Today, the barcelonistas will be demanding a great game from their team, as a tribute to Cruyff.
Madrid go into the game 10 points adrift, they've got nothing to say now in this league campaign, but both Barça and their guests need to win this game. Something extraordinary happens in these Clásicos, which for several years now have had the whole world glued to their television sets. In any part of the world you care to choose, the fans are divided almost exactly 50 per cent; so it's actually quite a big deal for one half of Humanity to gift the other half a moral victory. Luis Enrique and Zidane both have their best players fighting fit, which implies that Barça will be fielding a star-studded XI, but what about Madrid? Will Zidane make the same mistake Benítez made when the two teams met earlier in the campaign?
Even Cruyff was known to protect himself whenever his teams played the Bernabéu. There, he betrayed his own beliefs, safeguarding himself, very much at odds with his general philosophy on the game, so I don't think Zidane will have too many qualms about deploying Casemiro as the team's engine stoker in the middle. With a four-man defence and six violin players he could experience the same treatment as Benítez, whose team were overrun by Barça. Later this evening we will find out what Zidane has in mind for his side between now and the end of the season. Madrid are playing for credibility; they want to appear the Champions League candidates they see themselves as. Barça meanwhile will want to pay tribute to the Dutch genius who left us prematurely only recently. The league might not be in play this time, but we're sure in for a great match.
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