Well, I guess they don’t call it ‘The Classic’ for nothing.
The 168th league matchup between the two Spanish titans managed to deliver 90 minutes of scintillating football that saw seven goals, eight cards and a whole lot of controversy. Being 4 points behind Real at the top of La Liga heading into the weekend, it was a game Barcelona needed to win, and win they did — just.
Lionel Messi will once again grab the headlines for his role in all four Barcelona goals (3 of his own, 1 assist), and in the process the Argentine became the all-time highest goalscorer in Clasico history, adding to a list of achievements which at this point is taller than he is. Still, perhaps Messi’s most impressive feat in the match came during a missed opportunity when, in the 15th minute (14:30 if you care to find it. Sorry, I couldn’t find a GIF) he managed to beat Madrid’s offside trap and, on the dead run take a low cross from Fabregas and stop the ball cold at his feet as he closed in on goal. It was the sort of effortless skill that makes you believe that despite all the posturing otherwise, God really did not create us all equal.
It’s hard to say for sure that the fortunes of Barca’s season rested solely on this game, but it did provide a good indication of what we can expect in all three competitions going forward. On the attack Barca were their usual dominating selves, keeping 68% of possession while attempting 18 shots on goal. It was the best they had looked in quite some time, as the metronomic short passing brought more than control, but menace to each period of build-up play. However, while we saw a Barca squad firing on all cylinders, Madrid still had little trouble exposing their inherent defensive frailties, and were very much bailed out by a moronic penalty from Xabi Alonso. Real was able to counter-attack with ease, and had no problem exploiting their back line – case in point, the second of Karim Benzema’s two goals came simply because Javier Mascherano was too much of a midget to intercept the preceding cross.
So while Barca is firmly back in the picture for the two domestic legs of the treble – there’s no reason they can’t complete a similar performance against Real in the Copa Del Rey final, nor overturn their 1-point deficit in the league – it’s hard to be excited for their prospects in Europe. As a Cule myself, it pains me to say it, but the road to Lisbon glory goes through Bayern Munich at some point, and they’re much more likely to make this Barca team pay for their weaknesses.
Madrid is in an interesting position because it can be argued to be both more advantageous and precarious. On the positive side, the Copa Del Rey final will be held at the Bernabeu, so they will certainly be favoured for silverware there. On the other hand, their lead at the top of La Liga is wholly out of their hands, as both Barcelona and equal-first Atletico Madrid hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over them. The weird thing is, despite falling short of their Catalan rivals this time, I believe Madrid’s European chances are slightly more favourable. Their defense is simply better, and no team will dominate possession against them the way Barca does. Offensively,they can match any attack for sheer lethality, not to mention, they’d undoubtedly have the best player on the pitch in Cristiano Ronaldo. Sportsbet has them second behind Bayern in the outright betting, and they deserve to be there.
Regardless, I hope Real retains the services of Carlo Ancelotti, irrespective of their haul of silverware. The Italian has done a magnificent job managing this side and has a lot of promising performances to build on. The Madrid brass can be fickle with their managerial affections, but at the very least, certainly we deserve more of the man who helped provide such a treat for football fans the world over as we were served last weekend.