Tuesday, December 13, 2011

13 December 2008 - When The Paradigm Shifted In Spain

On 13 December 2008, Barcelona won their first Clásico in almost three years, beating Real Madrid 2-0.

It is difficult to picture at the moment, with Barça having just won their eighth match against their Madrid rivals in twelve tries across all competitions (the lone loss came in the 2011 Copa del Rey Final), but there was a time not too distant in which Real Madrid were the dominant team. Since suffering a 3-0 loss to Barcelona on 19 November 2005, the Merengues rattled off a five-match unbeaten streak that included three wins and two draws, all in the league.

The last match of that run was the worst for Barcelona as, on 5 May 2008, Real Madrid won 4-1 at the Bernabéu with goals from Raúl (12'), Arjen Robben (20'), Gonzalo Higuaín (62'), and Ruud van Nistelrooy (77') (Barcelona's lone goal was an 86th-minute consolation strike from Thierry Henry). It was the final nail in the coffin for Barça manager Frank Rijkaard, as the club announced shortly afterward that he would be replaced at the end of the season by youth team coach Pep Guardiola. Real Madrid, meanwhile, went on to claim their second consecutive La Liga title

Guardiola duly took over the following month and immediately began to reshape the team by offloading a number of players, including two-time FIFA World Player of the Year Ronaldinho. After an opening day loss to Numancia, Guardiola's Barcelona went unbeaten in their next thirteen league matches, with eleven wins and two draws. They were at the top of the table on 13 December when they hosted Real Madrid for Guardiola's first Clásico as manager. It was close until the last few minutes, when goals from Samuel Eto'o (83') and Lionel Messi (90') delivered a 2-0 victory.

Since then, Barcelona have extended their unbeaten streak against Madrid to seven league matches, with six wins and one draw. They've also gone undefeated against their rivals in the Champions League and the Supercopa de España, with a win and a draw in each of those competitions.

Photo credit to Albert Olive/EPA.

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