The Clásico is a game that the whole world watches and Spain comes to a standstill for the most important game of the calendar year. Messi and Ronaldo face off, each eager to outwit the other. For the managers, leading your team to victory against your eternal rivals means more than anything else. You get the picture; it’s a bloody important game.
Having started the season in tremendous form, Barca were unbeaten in the league, Bravo in goal seemed unbeatable and Messi and Neymar were on form. Real arrived in top form, free scoring and confident, but four points behind their Catalan rivals after defeats to Real Sociedad and Atletico Madrid. It was all set for a fascinating game. Carlo Ancelotti would have been confident going into last week’s game, having gotten the better of Barça in the Copa Del Rey final last season. On the opposing bench, Luis Enrique was standing in his first as a manager, but he got it wrong for me.
Luis Enrique’s first error in judgement came in selecting Luis Suarez from the outset. I understand it; the marquee signing of the summer plays in his first game against your biggest rivals, plays a blinder and is an instant hero. Minus the pass for Neymar’s goal and the cross which Messi nearly converted for 0-2, I don’t think Suarez justified his selection. I believe that Pedro, a seasoned pro in terms of the Clásico, would have been a better option. Even the youngster Munir, who has started the season well, it could be argued, should have started.
Another selection which raised a question mark was that of Mathieu on the left side of defence, again dropping a player who has played in numerous Clásicos, Jordi Alba. A better option going forward than the Frenchman, Alba would have been able to impact the game in the second half in an attacking sense. I get the feeling that Mathieu was selected purely for his height, Barcelona have long been susceptible to long balls and set pieces, and they were again in this game.
Ivan Rakitic is another player who has hit the ground running since joining in the summer. He was another that was dropped to the bench for this game, with the masterful Xavi coming back into the midfield alongside Iniesta and Busquets. Nobody can ever call Xavi Hernandez a “liability” but Andy West, working for the BBC, decided to use this word in his recap of the game. I do think however that the Croatian Rakitic is another one who should have started, adding a more physical approach in the midfield. Xavi is a player who is coming to the end of his playing days, but who can still boss a midfield and control a game when Barça are in front. Far from a liability, Mr West.
Had Lionel Messi converted his chance, we may have been talking about a different game. However, overall I think Madrid were worthy winners, they looked impressive and could have scored more, but for the solid Bravo in goal.
Luis Enrique had made a great start with Barça, but I think that they need to improve if they are to regain their league title. They haven’t looked their clinical selves and I think Enrique has a job on his hands to make them nearly as exciting and effective as they were under Pep Guardiola.
Real, on the flip side, seem to be going from strength to strength. Now just a point off their rivals, Ancelotti and his charges will be confident of overtaking Barcelona and rescuing the title from their city rivals. If they continue as they have been, it will only be a matter of time.
March 22nd 2015, clear your schedule, Barcelona will be welcoming Real to the Camp Nou for the next instalment of this great rivalry.
By Tom Perrin - Wolves fan - @