How Madrid can shut Barça down in El Clásico

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Over the last eight years teams have tried a variety of measures aimed at stopping Barcelona. Under Pep Guardiola and Luis Enrique, and even in the interregnums of Tito Vilanova and Tata Martino most teams gave up on taking the game to Catalans, instead preferring to dig in and hope for a miracle.

In Friday’s press conference Luis Enrique said he expected Real Madrid to take a similar approach in sitting back and surrendering possession at the Camp Nou. But anyone who’s seen the alarming lack of organisation in this Barça side in recent months will know that a far more proactive approach could reap dividends.

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The midfield has been split with Sergio Busquets, so central to building the play increasingly isolated and teams have figured out that if you press him, with the lack of support he can be less than imperious.

But last weekend’s clash with Real Sociedad was even more striking. Here the Basque side took the press higher still and as well as cutting off Busquets’ options, they harried the Barcelona backline to disrupt their game at source.

In particular this should be a tactic that Real Madrid seek to emulate, given how worryingly error-prone Javier Mascherano has been for club and country.

Of course it’s the absence of Andrés Iniesta — who returns after six weeks out — that has robbed Barcelona of their characteristic identity in midfield. It is no use having a forward line of Leo Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar if you can get them the ball.

So Barça will be praying Don Andrés can step in and fix that; but is it realistic to pin all their hopes n their stalwart in his first game back? A repeat of the 4-4-1-1 system used against Atlético a fortnight ago would also give the visitors that crucial numerical superiority in the middle of the park.

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