Real Madrid 2 Barcelona 1 match report: Can we play you every week?
Back-to-back triumphs over Barcelona see Real Madrid brimming with confidence ahead of United tie
First they loved him, then they grew tired of him, now they're in love all over again. Jose Mourinho had the Santiago Bernabeu singing his name as one yesterday as he served up the second scalp of Barcelona inside five days, just three days ahead of the visit to Old Trafford.
With Manchester United on the horizon Mourinho rested half his team, but Madrid were left with their confidence sky-high and Barcelona with theirs lower than at any time since the Portuguese took over Real in 2010.
The teamsheet reflected the needs and concerns of Tuesday's second leg. Cristiano Ronaldo, on 39 goals in all competitions so far this season, was left on the bench alongside Mesut Ozil, Sami Khedira, Xabi Alonso and Gonzalo Higuaín. Angel Di Maria was also rested, serving a one-match ban.
But within five minutes the second string was in front, with 19-year-old forward Alvaro Morata, playing in his first Clasico, rounding Dani Alves and crossing for Karim Benzema to score from close range. For the 13th consecutive match Barcelona had failed to keep a clean sheet.
The La Liga leaders' heads were down having conceded so early, but Alves found Lionel Messi inside the area and he made it 16 straight scoring matches in the league with his 50th goal in all competitions this season. It was his 18th Clasico goal, to equal Alfredo Di Stefano as the fixture's all-time top scorer.
Barcelona still looked a shadow of the side that racked up such a big early-season lead. Alves was exposed by Fabio Coentrao, whose cross-shot was saved by Victor Valdes. Messi then shot weakly at Diego Lopez after Sergio Ramos had failed to clear and Morata headed Luka Modric's cross into the side-netting.
The first half closed with the referee, Miguel Perez Lasa, not having issued a single card – something that had not happened for eight years. But he booked Ramos for handball shortly after the break and then booked five more in the next 16 minutes before sending off Valdes for dissent after the final whistle – the flurry of cards more a sign of Barcelona in meltdown than any repeat of previous Battles of the Bernabeu.
Barcelona's lead is still 13 points over their rivals but the wind is now blowing at Real Madrid's back, and more especially at Ronaldo's. He was introduced on 57 minutes, and though a free-kick on to the bar was the closest he came to scoring he goes to Old Trafford one goal short of 40 for the season and in unstoppable form.
His introduction seemed to convince Madrid they could get the winner. He immediately drew a foul on the edge of the area from Gerard Pique, who was booked, and though his free-kick was cleared he came closer moments later with one Valdes had to punch clear.
Ronaldo then raced away from first Sergio Busquets and Pique before shooting into the side-netting, and Valdes saved a Morata shot after he had run on to a fine pass from Pepe.
Then came Ramos's winner. Modric floated over a corner and the Madrid captain rose to head it past Valdes. That was the cue for Mourinho's name to be sung from all sides of the Bernabeu with more gusto than at any time since he took over.
Asked if this was the best the spirit had been in the Real Madrid dressing- room this season, Mourinho's No 2, Aitor Karanka, said afterwards: "It's clear that these five days have lifted everyone but we can't think that because of that the job against Manchester United is done; if we do that we will live to regret it."
If as expected Mourinho does move on at the end of the season then this may well have been his last Clasico. His assistant's comments underline the need for no complacency, but he will feel he has masterminded the perfect double against the old enemy and done it moreover while leaving plenty of powder dry for Manchester United on Tuesday.
Real Madrid (4-2-3-1): Diego Lopez; Ramos, Varane, Pepe, Coentrao (Arbeloa, 68); Essien, Modric; Callejon, Kaka (Khedira, 57), Benzema (Ronaldo, 57); Morata.
Barcelona (4-3-3): Valdes; Alves, Pique, Mascherano, Alba; Busquets, Thiago (Tello, 85), Iniesta; Villa (Sanchez, 67), Messi, Pedro (Adriano, 77).
Referee Miguel Perez Lasa.
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