When a project doesn’t go well, the first one to be shown the exit door is the manager. In the past decade, Barcelona has been much more stable in the bench, with four coaches preceding incumbent Luis Enrique. On the other hand, a whopping ten managers preceded Carlo Ancelotti. Right now, both are performing well, and this match will be their biggest challenge.
Not only was he an exceptional player, he’s been an exceptional manager. 16 official titles have made him one of the most desired coaches in Europe. He’s won at every club he’s managed. Like a true Italian, he has a deep appreciation for defensive performance. Since he arrived at Real, he’s constantly mentioned the word “balance.” Last year Di María gave him that, and this year it seems all the midfielders are working to achieve it.
While he did win the Champions League and Copa del Rey in his first season, he’s been under pressure and heavy criticism. He wasn’t able to beat the toughest rivals in the domestic competition. This fact was masqueraded by their excellent performance in the two titles won. Many even say that if Ramos’ hadn’t scored that goal, Carletto would be history. To his luck, titles cover the flaws for a bit.
He had a bad start this season, losing the Spanish Super Cup and losing two consecutive matches in La Liga. He’s been able to mold their players into his 4-3-3 system, with results steadily improving since then. For El Clásico, he might employ the 4-4-2 formation that brought him success in Copa del Rey and Munich. It’s up to him to shake things up and finally beat Barça in the domestic tournament, or he’ll continue to be criticized.
As a player he won quite a few titles and scored more than a hundred goals. He’s persona non grata at the Bernabéu, having switched sides to the arch rival. Not only did he succeed with the Blaugranas, but he was always heating up the Clásicos with actions on and off the pitch. Although this is in the past, Madridistas never forget, and he won’t be very well received on Saturday.
On the other hand, he’s had a short career as a manager, having been active for only six years. He hasn’t won any titles yet, failing to succeed at Roma, his most prominent team prior to Barça. His football philosophy is very clear. His teams have an attitude, they like to carry the ball and be very straightforward. He retains the Guardiola idea of the tiki-taka, yet adding other alternatives, like Messi as the passer, not the finisher.
He also has a deep appreciation for the club’s youth system, having succeeded in making room for Rafinha, Munir and Sandro to name a few. His biggest test so far was PSG, and he failed it. Having done his homework this week in the Champions League, he has an extra day to think through every detail for Saturday. One thing’s for sure with Luis, he won’t conform with his team just winning, they have to give absolutely everything on the pitch.