Azulgrana RoundUp, Week 19

Iniesta in the Madrid - Barça Spanish Super Cup match / PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ - FCB
Sportwist shares its findings on FC Barcelona and Real Madrid’s social media initiatives and Perarnau Magazine offers up a detailed analysis of this week’s Cup Clásico

Sportwist, which is a curated Wikipedia-style website that studies the intersection between social media and sports, turned its analytical eye on FC Barcelona and Real Madrid’s social media initiatives ahead of Wednesday’s Cup Clásico. The website summarized its findings in an interactive infographic. Here’s an overview of the most salient points for those of us who don’t speak Spanish (don’t fret, the infographic is easy to understand even if you don’t speak the language!) :

In total, FC Barcelona have 107,911,216 followers on online networks (that amount of people would fill the Camp Nou 600 times over) to Real Madrid’s 11,099,300. In the last 18 months, Barça have outpaced Real Madrid by 302,000 followers each month on Twitter. On Facebook, Barça have gained 185,000 more fans than Madrid in the same timeframe.

While Barça dominate on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+, Real Madrid have pulled ahead on Chinese social networks Renren – where Barça does not have an official account – and Tencent Weibo . Los Blancos also lead the way on the Spanish-based social network Tuenti.

Take a look at Sportwist’s infographic here.

Iniesta and Barça’s attack in the Clásico

The pages of sport dailies and newspapers are usually filled with high praise or damning criticism for the players of Real Madrid or FC Barcelona in the days that follow any Clásico, but rarely do we find a piece that outlines the tactical plans and on-the-fly decision making that dictate why these matches play out the way they do as Carlos Canyadas’, who writes for Perarnau Magazine, analysis of this week’s clash between the two giants of Spanish football.

According to Canyadas, the Blaugrana went into the match at the Bernabéu expecting to be pressured high up the pitch but with Madrid’s defence closely situated in front of Diego López’ goal. Barça’s initial game plan was to exploit the space left in between the back four and the midfield by using Andrés Iniesta – on the wing – as the linchpin going forward. By having Iniesta on the wing, he would “bring the necessary pause to Barça’s attack in order to force Madrid’s defence to dig in. The idea was that Madrid were not going to defend high up the pitch with their back line … But that wasn’t the case.”

Madrid’s high-line defence, which left no space behind the two holding midfielders – Xabi Alonso and Khedira – for a marked Busquets to play into Xavi and a deep-lying Messi, nullified Barça’s initial game plan.

“After the first 20 to 35 minutes of the first half, the first drastic positional play occurs for the Blaugrana: Andrés Iniesta abandons the wing and he joins the midfield. Barcelona start to lose fewer balls in the middle, they have an additional man in that zone of the pitch and solutions begin to appear,” writes Canyadas.

“With Andrés, Xavi, Messi and Cesc in the middle Barça start to find space and Madrid’s defence begins to thin.”

Canyadas notes: “This is when Barça most clearly dominate, during the first 25 to 30 minutes of the second half. Andrés guides Barcelona as he marks the timing of each play, forcing Madrid to organize its defence in an attempt to not fall further behind.”

Things are looking promising for the Blaugrana, they are up 0-1 and the team’s play is fluid and incisive. However, this is when Mourinho made a masterful structural change in Madrid’s line-up: Modric is subbed in, and he’s ordered to exploit the space left by Jordi Alba. Canyadas adds: “from that moment on, thanks to the Portuguese manager’s correct analysis of the game, it’s back and forth football” at the Bernabéu.

Round one of the Copa del Rey semi-final comes to an end with a one-all draw on the scoreboard. “Madrid are spectacular and Barcelona are impressive,” writes Canyadas. Round two is just days away.

Read Carlos Canyades’ article in its entirety here.