Real Madrid were badly criticised for their performance in last week's Copa Del Rey defeat to Barcelona and that is likely to be amplified unless Los Merengues can exact revenge in the Nou Camp on Wednesday.
It is now embarrassing. Real Madrid first tried to match Barcelona and were beaten 5-0. They then tried to kick the Catalans and had a degree of success, keeping the Clasicos competitive and claiming last season's Copa Del Rey title. However, this year Los Merengues have attempted to spit, snarl and stamp their way to victory and Barcelona have simply got up, dusted themselves off and beat their rivals.
Last week's victory made it 13 consecutive Clasicos which Real Madrid have failed to win. Pepe Guardiola has never been beaten in 90-minutes by the side from the capital and Jose Mourinho, 'the special one', can't beat Barcelona. The Portuguese has, in fact, been widely criticised this week for the way in which his Madrid side are moulded in his image. They are great when strutting their stuff and winning comfortably but things go against them and they become petty and petulant. Pepe's stamp on Lionel Messi last week may have been an isolated incident but it wasn't a one off and few can forget the image of Mourinho gouging the eye of Barcelona Tito Vilanova in the Super Copa earlier this season.
Real Madrid are now at a crossroads. Mourinho was booed by Real Madrid supporters during Sunday's 4-1 win over Athletic Bilbao and it now appears as though the 'Madristas' have lost faith in the Portuguese. He will deliver the title this term but that means nothing when everyone knows that they are the second best team in Spain.
'I'm not bothered by the whistles at me,' said Mourinho after the Bilbao win.
'It's not a problem. It's the first time it's ever happened to me. There's a first time for practically everything.
'(Zinedine) Zidane was whistled at here. Ronaldo has been whistled at here. Cristiano (Ronaldo), who is the latest Golden Boot winner, has also been whistled at. Why can't I?
'Zidane responded with his football, the same as Ronaldo and Cristiano. I work hard to be able to respond like they did some day, but there may come a day when the fans are sad.
Cristiano Ronaldo is another player who must also start regain the supporters faith. It seems crazy that a player who has scored 23 La Liga goals in 19 matches this season can be reproached, particularly when Karim Benzema is still in the team, but Ronaldo's failure to light up the Clasicos is now beginning to grate. The former World Player of the Year scored the opening goal in the Bernabéu last weekend but then became nervous and tentative. One cannot escape the feeling that even Ronaldo himself doesn't believe that he is the best player on the park when he plays Barcelona.
If the Portuguese is to have any hope of not being remembered as the second best player of his generation then a big performance is needed in the Nou Camp on Wednesday. A match winning goal in Barcelona would go a long way to winning over the critics and it would also unite a fractured Real Madrid squad. Reports this week suggested that Mourinho singled out Iker Casillas and Sergio Ramos for criticism and was met with short shrift from the World Cup winners. This is hardly the perfect preparation for a crucial Clasico.
It is 4/1 at bet365
that Real Madrid win in the Nou Camp on Wednesday but it is almost impossible to see what Los Merengues can do to beat Barcelona. The hosts are yet to lose a single home match this season and they have only conceded two goals in front of their own fans. Guardiola's side aren't just brilliant going forward, they can also defend.
Barcelona had over 70% ball possession against Real Madrid in the Bernabéu last week and on Wednesday they are likely to be more dominant. They don't need to push for goals, because they hold a 2-1 lead, and that means that Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets can simply pass the ball about will. Mourinho has yet to find an answer for the Spanish trio and neither Sami Khedira, Lassana Diarra nor Xabi Alonso are strong enough presences in midfield to disrupt their flow. Pepe will certainly not play in the Nou Camp, for his own safety.
The addition of Cesc Fabregas has also added a new dimension to Barcelona's play, particularly in the big matches. The former Arsenal midfielder has established himself as a centre forward and his passing ability has undoubtedly helped bring out even more in Lionel Messi. The Argentine doesn't have to worry about threading passes through, or attempting to create assists, but instead simply interchanges with Fabregas, a player he played with as a youngster. More often than not the move ends with one of the pair on the scoresheet.
This is why Barcelona will beat Real Madrid on Wednesday. They don't have to win but they will want to. Messi will have been riled by Pepe's stamp and Fabregas will be keen to continue winning over the crowd with more goals in the big matches. It is 4/5 that Messi scores against Real and 11/8 that Fabregas finds the net. Covering both players and backing a home win should yield a healthy profit but it may also spell the end of the line for Mourinho's Madrid.
Win Market - Barcelona (8/13, bet365
Anytime Goalscorer - Lionel Messi (4/5, bet365
Anytime Goalscorer - Cesc Fabregas (11/8, bet365