Mourinho out to prove power shift in ‘Clasico’

MADRID, (Reuters) – 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 tomorrow.

Real 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 kickoff (2100 GMT) 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.

Jose Mourinho

“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  Wednesday.

“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.

 Mass brawls     
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  performances.

“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 tomorrow.

“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.

 Financial clout     
Tomorrow’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.

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