By Ben Hayward | Spanish Football Writer
Barcelona bravado was intact before kick-off on Wednesday. Confident of sweeping aside Paris Saint-Germain and cruising into the semi-finals of the Champions League, fans dared to look ahead to the last four and a possible Clasico clash. The message was clear: They wanted Real Madrid.
In the light of their stuttering show against PSG, however, when a limping Lionel Messi was required in the role of saviour despite being nowhere near full fitness and Barca advanced nervously on away goals, most Blaugrana aficionados appeared less convinced. Now, it seems, most want Dortmund in the last four.
Not so Madrid. Jose Mourinho's men struggled against BVB in Group D as they lost 2-1 in Germany and only salvaged a draw at home to Jurgen Klopp's side thanks to Mesut Ozil's 89th-minute equaliser at the Santiago Bernabeu. Real's 'German curse' continues after last season's semi-final exit at the hands of Bayern Munich - plus a string of poor results against Bundesliga outfits in the past - and the Spanish capital club will not fancy a reunion with Jupp Heynckes' talented team, either. No, Madrid want Barca.
|CHAMPIONS LEAGUE CLASICO SEMI-FINALS
Barcelona 0-2 Real Madrid
Real Madrid 1-1 Barcelona
Real Madrid 0-2 Barcelona
Barcelona 1-1 Real Madrid
But, if it is Barcelona, he now knows exactly how to beat them. Having suffered humiliation with a 5-0 defeat in his first Clasico clash back in November 2010, Mourinho's Madrid have now won their last two matches against the Catalunya club and knocked their eternal enemies out of the Copa del Rey over two legs in February.
Questioned after the hard-fought and much-suffered 3-2 defeat at Galatasaray, Mourinho claimed that he hoped to play against PSG: "I have friends in Paris, but not in Barcelona," he said. He also admitted, however, that the Catalans would probably progress along with Bayern and Dortmund. And he was right.
Of the three, he will prefer Barca. There is a feeling at the Bernabeu that Tito Vilanova's squad can be beaten more easily over two legs than in a winner-takes-all match. Mourinho is a master when it comes to planning 180-minute knock-out ties and knows his team can cause harm at Camp Nou after February's 3-1 win in the Catalan capital.
That match has sewn the seeds of doubt at Camp Nou and Madrid's win in the league Clasico at the Bernabeu in the following fixture now gives the capital club the upper hand psychologically in this brutal battle for the first time since pre-Pep Guardiola in 2008.
Dortmund's 4-2-3-1 formation makes life very difficult for Madrid (who use the same system), while Bayern have the edge mentally over Real after last season's semi-final success on penalties. However, the Blaugrana's attacking style suits Mourinho's men and, with the psychological shift of the last month or two, the Blancos will be hoping for a Clasico tie to come out of the draw on Friday in Nyon. Barcelona, after advancing in less-than-convincing fashion on Wednesday, will not.
Follow Ben Hayward on