x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Barcelona enjoying their domination of Real Madrid

Barca's dominance of the their games with their old rivals is providing a headache for Jose Mourinho, the Real coach ahead of the Copa del Rey el clasico tonight.

Real Madrid's Pepe sums up his sides emotions during their loss to Barcelona last week.
Real Madrid's Pepe sums up his sides emotions during their loss to Barcelona last week.

"You don't understand how much all this means," Jaume said as he surveys Real Madrid's almost deserted Bernabeu stadium. About 800 travelling fans are perched high on the fourth tier, singing songs about how nothing could be worse than being Spanish and a Madrid fan.

Jaume is a Barcelona fan who has travelled to the Copa del Rey quarter final match from Barcelona, 600 kilometres to the north east. The return leg takes place tonight at Camp Nou.

He is delighted because Barca have beaten their rivals. Again.

Cup draws meant this was the eighth clasico in 10 months and while Iker Casillas, Real's goalkeeper, their captain and most popular player, suggested that too many clasicos were diluting the experience, it merely sounded like he did not want to experience another defeat.

"I never thought I'd see this," said Jaume, 30. "I've spent my life suffering because of them. They used to always beat us. It was always about them, them, them and now it's all about us. It cannot get better than seeing the Madrid fans go home crying and seeing cules celebrate. Both goals from defenders, too!"

You would be pushed to elicit sympathy for Barcelona fans as underdogs these days, but Real's historical dominance was once emphatic.

Real were the team of the establishment, the dominant power not only in Spanish football, but world football. Barca did not win a European Cup until 1992, by which time Real had won six. By the time Barca won their second Champions League in 2006, Real had lifted nine.

Real still lead the respected all-time Spanish league table and boast 31 titles to Barca's 21, but the gap is narrowing; in 1990 it was 25 against 10.

Real boast a grandness unmatched by their peers. No other club possesses a stadium on the grandest street of a capital city like Madrid. No other club has so many influential supporters.

"Look in the president's box at a Madrid game and you see the most important men in Spain, the biggest fish," said Charles, a businessman who has also travelled to the game from Barcelona. "Look at Camp Nou and they're provincial wannabes."

Barcelona may be the undisputed best team on the planet with the highest average attendances in world football - in part because their stadium has 18,000 more seats than the Bernabéu and 22,000 more than Manchester United's Old Trafford - but Real still enjoy higher revenues than any other club, not that financial indicators carry much weight with fans who only want to see their team beat Barca. And that has not been happening.

In May 2008, Real destroyed Barcelona 4-1 in the Bernabeu to win a second consecutive league title. Frank Rijkard, the Barca coach, soon made way for Pep Guardiola and the transformation has been absolute.

Real have beaten Barca just once in the 14 games since, a victory decided in extra time in last season's Spanish Cup final in Valencia.

Barca have won three and drawn one of their league games in the Bernabeu under Guardiola, humiliating Real 6-2, 2-0 and 3-1. They have knocked Real out of the Champions League at the semi-final stage and won the Spanish Super Cup at their expense, plus the last three Spanish titles.

Xavi has got the measure of Real. The world's best midfielder has played more clasicos than any other player in history.

He has told friends that Barca know they have the edge in the tunnel when they see the nervous faces of the Real players, while Guardiola has told his players with certainty that they will win these games, and so far, he has been right.

Jose Mourinho has done much to establish absolute power in the notoriously political boardroom of the Bernabeu. Supported by his president Florentino Perez, who sees Mourinho as the only man able to topple Barca, he's largely perceived to be doing an excellent job.

Mourinho has been popular with fans and players and yet every time he pulls this great club up, Barca keep knocking them down.

Words were exchanged about tactics between Mourinho, Sergio Ramos and Casillas, two of his most important players.

"They were leaked to the media. Every coach has disagreements with his players and everyone looks to apportion blame after a defeat, but Mourinho likes to have control, the last word on everything.

He does not have that at Madrid, where even the most exalted names are challenged by fans, the media and players.

The defeat by Barca stirred signs of rebellion.

Mourinho was jeered during a convincing victory over Athletic Bilbao on Sunday, but he brushed off the criticism.

Real are a beast he is struggling to control, though a league title - they are currently five points clear at the top - or a 10th European Cup may temporarily sate the insatiable, the constant losses to Barca will continue to cause unrest.

Jaume and his Barcelona supporting friends are, understandably, loving every single minute of it.