Coach Jose Mourinho was lured to one of the world’s richest clubs to build a dynasty that would end Barcelona’s pre-eminence and he struck what could be a decisive blow in La Liga’s title race with a 2-1 victory over the champions at the Nou Camp on Saturday. With a seven-point lead at the top of La Liga and four matches left, Real now divert their aim to Barca’s European crown.
Mourinho’s team will need to replicate the defensive rigor and clinical finishing that did for Barca if they are to reach next month’s Champions League final in Munich.
Normally outspoken and provocative, Mourinho has recently shunned several news conferences, leaving number two Aitor Karanka to handle the media with anodyne responses.
The rules of European soccer’s governing body UEFA dictate the head coach must speak to the media before the home game against Bayern. However, the lack of controversy seems to have benefited his team, particularly ahead of the “Clasico” which they won for only the second time in 11 attempts with Mourinho at the helm.
“We were able to rid ourselves of the pressure we felt in previous encounters,” Real captain and goalkeeper Iker Casillas told reporters.
“We have taken a big step forward. We aren’t the finished article yet but we have given ourselves a big lift for the upcoming games.”
Leading scorer Cristiano Ronaldo displayed less of the petulance that has contributed to his failure to deliver on big occasions in the past and broke away to grab the winner against Barca, his 54th goal in all competitions this season.