Real Madrid’s thrashing of FC Barcelona at Camp Nou was a turning point for the two teams, according the Spanish press.
Real Madrid’s Copa del Rey demolition of Barcelona has boosted hopes for the team’s progress in the Champions League and raised fears that the Catalan giants could crash out of the competition.
Newspapers in both cities summed up the mood of triumph and dejection after Real’s 3-1 win on Tuesday night that took Jose Mourinho’s side through to the final of the tournament 4-2 on aggregate, with one eye on the last-16 return legs from next week.
“Now we’re going for Manchester” said sports daily Marca, referring to the match against English Premier League leaders Manchester United at the Santiago Bernabeu next Tuesday, which is finely poised at 1-1.
Marca also assessed that the Champions League was now providing the motivation for defending La Liga champions Madrid, who are currently in third, 16 points behind Barca.
Barcelona themselves have a mountain to climb to overturn a 2-0 first-leg deficit against AC Milan in Europe’s premier club competition on March 12 – particularly if their current form continues.
“It (the match) was a disaster but we have to get up,” said El Mundo Deportivo on its front page, calling an “unrecognisable” Barca “predictable and slow”.
“The team needs to recover to try and come back in the Champions League against Milan,” the daily added.
On Tuesday’s match, there was joy in the Spanish capital that an eight-day stretch that could define Madrid’s season had started so perfectly. The two sides meet again in the league on Saturday.
“The tide turns,” said Marca on its front page. “Relentless Madrid strip bare and annihilate Barca in the Camp Nou to progress to the final of the Copa del Rey.”
Focus inevitably centred on both sides’ star players — four-time World Player of the Year Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo — with Marca saying the Portuguese, who scored two goals on the night, put in a “powerful display while Messi was invisible”.
Barca said that Messi, who played the full game, did not train with the side on Wednesday morning and was being treated for “a fever and general sickness”.
Ronaldo has now scored a remarkable eight goals in the pair’s last six encounters.
The other Madrid sports daily, AS, was similarly ecstatic.
“Take that, that and that” it said in a headline, calling the game “an exhibition from Madrid”.
“Cristiano decided the game, Messi was a shadow,” it added.
Other than Ronaldo there was particular praise for 19-year-old central defender Raphael Varane, who scored in each leg of the tie and was also immaculate in his defensive duties.
El Mundo Deportivo meanwhile assessed that one of the main reasons Barca lost was their inability to keep a clean sheet in 12 consecutive games, while another was the temporary loss of coach Tito Vilanova.
Vilanova is currently undergoing cancer treatment in New York and the daily said his absence had not only affected the morale of the squad but also tactics.
Sport also lamented that many fans in the Camp Nou “left the stadium before the end because they didn’t want to see a group who have become a shadow of what they were.
“The game against Milan wasn’t an accident. Barca confirmed all their bad feelings against Madrid.”