Juanma Lillo tells Real Madrid: Barcelona will have the ball, whether you like it or not

By Alberto Pinero

Former Almeria and Real Sociedad coach Juanma Lillo has told Real Madrid that they will have to chase the ball on Sunday because Barcelona will dominate possession in the Camp Nou Clasico clash.

Lillo, who would have ended up as Barca coach had Lluis Bassat beaten Joan Laporta to the club’s presidency in 2003, with Pep Guardiola as sporting director, believes little has changed since Tito Vilanova took the reins at Camp Nou over the summer and says it is Madrid who will need to alter their game on Sunday, not the Catalans.

Speaking exclusively to Goal.com, Lillo said: “Whether you like it or not, you know that Barcelona will have the ball, so Madrid need to choose what they believe can cause the most harm to Barcelona. Or perhaps they will choose what they believe will allow Barcelona to cause them the least harm.”

Lillo says Barcelona need not change their playing style in Sunday’s game, saying that their possession play means the opposition – in this case Jose Mourinho’s Madrid – must adapt.

“Barcelona are one of the few teams who play how they want to,” he stated. “When you play against Barcelona, you end up playing however you are able to, but they are the ones who play as they wish due to the preponderance of the Xavi-Inesta-Busquets trio and everything that goes on around them.” 

Nevertheless, the 46-year-old admits Madrid’s forwards can be devastating, even if they see relatively of the ball little against their greatest rivals.

“Madrid are very effective – they are a team with little transit [movement of the ball], but one which can score five times in five minutes.” he noted. “And when you talk about players like [Cristiano] Ronaldo, [Karim] Benzema and [Angel] Di Maria, they are no strangers to scoring goals.”

“Barcelona are one of the few teams who play how they want to. When you play Barcelona, you end up playing however you are able to, but they are the ones who play as they wish”

Former Real Sociedad coach Juanma Lillo

Lillo claims it will make little difference whether Madrid start with a 4-3-3 formation, or utilise a 4-2-3-1, saying the players define the style of play in any case, adding that Real’s movement means it is not a rigidly defined system.

“I believe it’s crass to talk about whether Madrid will set up with a 4-3-3 or a 4-2-3-1, because the players don’t stay in those positions – not even in a minute’s silence!

“Real Madrid will always have their style, simply because of the players that make up their squad, even though they have started less effectively this season – their team is identical to last year’s side.”

And the Basque-born boss believes Barcelona have barely changed, either, despite Vilanova replacing Pep at Camp Nou.

“If you look at Guardiola’s Barcelona from last year, I think this team is very similar. There cannot be too many differences because they are almost all the same players. The teams are made by their players, not their coaches. And on top of that, Barcelona’s style of play has been conceived in a structural substratum over many years, with fundamental criteria which take priority and make it very difficult to perceive differences.”

One difference from last season, though, is that Barca – and not Madrid – are out in front in La Liga, with an eight-point advantage over their rivals after just six rounds of the Primera Division.

“I never imagined one of the two would have an eight-point lead at this stage of the championship,” Lillo added. “But I don’t think it’s a definitive difference because there is so much more of the competition still to play.”

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