TONIGHT is no longer about the unbreakable Barcelona. There is no glorious Oscar-worthy movie script ending, an uplifting castle in the sky that sees our infallible hero power beyond the grinning evil doer to set-up infinite sequels.

That Spanish blockbuster has played out and as the credits rolled, it was curtains down on a damp squib rather than a box office smash.

Jose Mourinho has the game sussed in his own little way. A variety of unflattering colloquialisms have merged to coin a single unflattering description, one that belittles and scorns, almost perfectly, the most unflattering approach seen in football.

Some quarters would have Mr Mourinho's famous appellation substituted for something more fitting, given his never-ending tribute to the flat, rigged structure that forms the beauty of a double-decker bus. “Transport Minister”, perhaps.

For all the cat calls and head-shaking, it clearly wasn't the worst approach undertaken by the Portuguese general. It was, for the majority of the evening, a dreadfully dull, fetid fracas. Barcelona barely broke beyond walking pace in a first half that saw them almost undone by Madrid's sheer hunger.

The second 45 minutes saw a return to the hare-footed, snappy tiki-taka phrasing while Real burrowed a trench around Fortress Casillas with the cessation peddled into extra time everything we'd come to hope against.

The sucker-punch was prototypical Mourinho. Rarely has a manager so often succeeded in making opponents feel completely robbed. By the time Sergio Ramos conspired to squash Juan Carlos I's Cup under the team bus, the metaphor had turned to goofy satire.

The next 90 minutes are about Pep Guardiola. While his opposite number has played his favourite hand to perfection, Catalonia's beloved son must answer some lingering questions. Is he simply the perfect fit for a custom-made Barcelona side that's so impossibly good they need little in the way of guidance or edification?

Can he adjust and motivate his stars to take the game to a side who refuse to accommodate or apologise for their system?

If his boorish, expletive-ridden press conference yesterday was any indication to how he considers the back and forth between the managers, he's already completely fed-up.

“He spoke directly to me, so I'll do the same to him. Tomorrow we'll take to the pitch at 20:45. Off the pitch he's beaten me. In the press area he's the f***ing chief, the f***king boss, and I can never compete with that. It's the kind of game that I won't play because I can't do it.”

It was eerily reminiscent of Rafa Benitez's Respect rant at Sir Alex Ferguson. Drawn into the mire of mind games, the former Liverpool manager believed he was setting the record straight and delivering an knockout clobber to the Manchester overseer.  In reality, it came across as a commiserable, petty schoolboy expose. Sometimes being right means never having to prove it. Guardiola's charm comes in his laidback, composed cool. That Mourinho is under his skin speaks volumes.

Barcelona must be quicker, stronger, braver and, above all, far more clinical at the Santiago Bernabeu. David Villa has the goal he craved, the goal his muddled mind insisted he find before he simply sat on the turf and pouted like a six-year-old with a broken tea set. The same Goals Fairy granted Fernando Torres the same reprieve. There may have been no rolling stones at the weekend but there was somewhat of a La Roja resurrection.

Without the injured Andres Iniesta, it will be a tall task to topple Madrid on their own stomping ground. A wonderfully gifted player, arguably the best in the world, his intrinsic, almost clairvoyant, on-field relationship with Xavi is the beating heart of Blaugrana. Without it, I can see the barbarous Pepe continue his free-form rampage across the midfield – his ability to do so perhaps the defining factor of the last two games.

It's doubtful that Barcelona will change their approach. They practice no alternatives, nor have they a strength in depth or variety in physicality to opt for a radical gameplan. There's also the argument that they have no reason to change. However, down three left backs and with a tired squad feeling the mounting pressure – for the first time since Frank Rijkaard picked up his P45 – Barcelona may well be the out-of-towner in more ways than one.


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