Saturday, November 28, 2009

EXCLUSIVE: Real Madrid Midfielder Xabi Alonso Ready For Barcelona Battle

Real Madrid's Xabi Alonso begins the countdown to Sunday's El Clasico at the Camp Nou. In Part One of an exclusive interview with, the midfield maestro shares his thoughts ahead of the big clash...

Xabi Alonso's vision and cultured play, has distinguished himself as one of the most original and unique midfielders of recent times. Real Madrid president Florentino Perez described Alonso as being the conductor for the orchestra. And if there are any doubts about that, then go ask the nearest Liverpool fan you can find.

Speaking to's Ashish Sharma in an interview, which will also be featured on the BBC's flagship television football show, Football Focus, Alonso spoke about playing in his first El Clasico.

"We know it's a massive game for us on Sunday, but after the Champions league game in midweek, we have been recovering from that big effort, and we are focused and ready for this game," he said.

Perhaps it's a slight surprise that Madrid go into the encounter on top of La Liga for the first time in over a year. Los Blancos are one point clear of their rivals, but does that put more pressure on the team?

"No I think that it's quite similar. The pressure is always there because although it's not a decisive game, we know it's an important one because psychologically it can have an effect. Hopefully it will have a positive effect on our side."

The game will be the most expensive in the history of football given the value of some of the players who are likely to feature. Cristiano Ronaldo is back from injury and will be hoping to join forces with Alonso and Kaka in the starting lineup. Barcelona are also hoping that Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Lionel Messi will have recovered from their injuries. The high profile nature of the encounter hasn't escaped Alonso's attention.

"It's really exciting for the fans. The whole country will keep an eye on the game," Alonso continued. "The whole build up always has so many expectations. There are so many interviews, so much talk about the game, and all over the world there will lots of viewers I am sure of that.

"Both sides have some great players of course. Barcelona last season achieved something amazing in winning the treble. We are also on a different project with new players, a new coach and a new president. It takes some time to get that foundation which they have had for a few years."

So does this explain the criticism which has been handed out to Real Madrid for their indifferent performances so far this season, when compared to Barcelona's appealing style of play?

"I prefer not to compare teams because it's not fair at all. Look, both clubs are run in different ways, they have different players. And as I have said they have had a solid base while we are just starting a new project. We play in a different way but we both hope to achieve the same results, which is winning titles."

Alonso is honest enough not to shirk any responsibility for the team. He disagrees that having a side with several star players who joined all at once, has made the process of gelling that much more difficult.

"No, it's not more difficult because of that. Of course it's better to have good players to build a better team. But to build a team you need to have time," he quipped. "You need to have the same ideas to work as a team, to have a good team spirit. And you don't get there in a day or even a month. It takes some time to get there."

The midfielder is also realistic and accepts that most pundits are predicting a Barcelona victory

"We know what is the reality. We know that the game will be quite close and that we have to be on top of them and to be at our best to get something positive out of it," he said. "But if they are considered the favourites then we are not uncomfortable with that situation."

Alonso also admits that he and Kaka have talked at length about the famous Champions League final in 2005. Liverpool were trailing 3-0 at half-time and fought back in the second 45 minutes to eventually win on penalties.

"Of course we had a conversation about that match. It was such a special final for both sides, from the positive side for us and the negative side for them. But they took their revenge two years later, so he isn't sad at all. If it had just been that final he would have had that pain in his heart.

"Yeah but they were devastated and gutted after the game," Alonso went on to add. "They thought they had a massive advantage at half-time. But then that's football."

And football being what it is, while some may feel that the odds are stacked against Los Blancos coming away with anything from the Camp Nou, no one within the club itself would be surprised, if they went four points clear of their Catalan rivals, come Sunday night.


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