This one's for all the skittles. Real Madrid must overcome a two-goal deficit in Barcelona to get into the Champions League final. No easy task, not when Barcelona defends by keeping possession. The clásicos have been oddly disappointing so far, as Brian Phillips points out at Slate:
Two of the world's most beautiful teams, given an unprecedented opportunity to test each other's skill, have instead goaded the worst out of each other. Barcelona, which could play against elves and still be the finesse side, has reacted to Madrid's tough defending by diving (and writhing around, clutching their faces, thanking the academy, etc.) at the wispiest opportunity. Madrid has displayed an entirely different brand of cowardice by deciding, despite having one of the most awesome batteries of weaponry in the modern game, to power down the neutron core and play like clumsy underdogs.
Today, you can only expect a go-for-broke attack from Real Madrid that should heighten the drama (UEFA has sent legendary hard-ass referee Pierluigi Collina to keep an eye on things), especially with Jose Mourinho's conspiracy theories afoot and allegations that Barcelona midfielder Sergio Busquets called Real Madrid player Marcelo a "mono" or "monkey" in the last match:
More on the ceremonial dramaturgy from Slate:
All this extra stuff, this cobweb of grudges and media ploys, has overshadowed the flesh-and-blood games to a degree that's hard to overstate. (The conspiracy-bewailing and countersuit-filing, remember, came shortly after Messi's great, instantly half-forgotten goal.) These Clásicos, in other words, have been emblematic of the increasingly ambient, fragmentary way in which the world consumes its favorite rivalry. The feud is waged half in headlines, so the games-endlessly recorded, endlessly talked about, endlessly replicated-never really have to end. The best players in the world are involved, but they don't usually get in the way.
Well, we can always turn a lovely animation of Barcelona's 5-0 thumping of Real Madrid at the Camp Nou last year (courtesy of Richard Swarbrick at Hotspur & Argyle):