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El Clasico: Real Madrid Versus Barcelona

5/2/09

Some rough notes and the highlights.

Can you really watch another soccer game this weekend after seeing El Clasico? I skipped past an MLS game, there was just no comparison. I'll just savor this one until the Champions League matches this next week. The Spanish clasico lived up to all of its expectations and then some.

What an electric pace the game was played at, right from the start. The goal by Real Madrid woke Barcelona up and they turned up the tempo. Thierry Henry was superb, bum knee and all he teasingly dashed down the left side with the ball always on his right foot. In one moment in the second half he juggled the ball over Ramos with ease. This was the first time I’ve seen him angry in a game. He showed why he’s a world class player, scoring twice for the Catalans.

Real Madrid, looked like they might keep up with Barcelona, with Robben running wild out wide. But despite two open headers for goals, it was Casillas who was busy all night and they have to thank for keeping them in the match. And eventually Robben was slowed down by Pique and Yaya Torre as the game wore on.

What stood out in this game was that Madrid is missing a player that can take over the game like a Messi or Henry. They will try to get Cristiano now at all costs I’m guessing. They miss Robinho and Jose Antonio Reyes and of course Zidane, Figo and Beckham. Los Galaticos. Where was Guti? Is he injuried? They miss players who can hold on to the ball but also create goal scoring chances. Yes, they have Higuaín but he is no Messi or Etoo just yet.

For Barcelona, with players like Iniesta and Xavi, they are an enviable side teams just have to tip their hat to. I’d say to having one player like this on your team is a luxury, but to have two isn’t really fair. Both players move the ball at speed and I love how they play short little passes back and forth to get out of trouble.

Madrid, with a brilliant but aging Raul, showed they still need to revamp their club. Raul is a legend but his goal scoring dominance in La Liga is nearing an end.

Fans started to leave this stadium with twenty minutes remaining. Would they do that in Barcelona or are they more loyal? I know Real Madrid fans demand the best, but have some heart. They certainly would never do that in England, Liverpool fans know their team is capable of a comeback.

Madrid tried to play beautiful football like Barcelona, but couldn’t keep up. In reality, they should have gone into a shell like Chelsea did in the Champions League once they got the first goal. But I’m glad they didn’t. It was a game for the ages. Pique’s goal was brilliant – not a junk goal. This is a player that was once at Manchester United, think if he’d stayed with them. Everyone thought he was going to lay the ball back to Messi, but he whipped the ball back into the goal at no angle.

In some ways, Barcelona might have been bored all year long, as they keep possession for 70% of the game sometimes. Finally, they play a team who wants to run with them. The game was on. They were happy for the challenge. It brought the best out of everyone.

I would have liked to see Etoo get a goal and for Messi to be taken off late in the game to get a round of applause from the away crowd. However, this el clasico might just belong to Iniesta. The slight, pale and humble midfielder was the engine for his club. Who said Gerrard was the best in the world? Right now, the player that most makes his team better might just be Iniesta.

El Clasico Highlights


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