It can’t get more cruel and hurting for Barcelona than to hand over the title to Real Madrid at Camp Nou. More depressing for the Catalans was the fact that Cristiano Ronaldo, a player whose big-match temperament has been under constant scrutiny this season, finally shook off any nerves to perform whereas Barca’s blue-eyed boy Lionel Messi failed to even penetrate into the box.
It is noteworthy that the El Clasico played last December was almost identical to this past weekend’s, except for the scoreline where Barca were away and won 3-1. They replaced Real Madrid at the top of La Liga and then there was no turning back as they raced to the title and also took the top honours in Europe. But one major difference in both these matches that was very clearly visible in this El Clasico has been the impact of Daniel Alves. Not just his delivery into the box but his ability to hold the ball has somehow seemed to have failed him in the last two matches. He was incredibly awful in both the Chelsea and the Clasico match. It seemed very uncharacteristic of him not to constantly keep delivering those balls into the box. More frustrating is to see him lose the ball just for an opposition winger to counter-attack.
Another very glaring aspect in Barca’s downfall was the substitutions of Xavi. In both the matches, Pep Guardiola chose to substitute Xavi and bring in Pedro and Sanchez respectively. Though Sanchez scored the equaliser, he did not make as much impact as someone who is fit enough to replace Xavi in such a crucial match should.
These might be trivial issues. But, the most important concern of Pep Guardiola now must be to deal with his defensive crisis and a certain attacker called “Tello”. How can the inclusion of Tello be justified on such a stage where the stakes are so high? Certainly, his finishing abilities do not warrant a place for him in this Barcelona side. More pressing an issue is that of Victor Valdes and Carlos Puyol. Though Puyol played his heart out in this match, both Puyol and Pep must realise that age is catching up with Mr. Barca. He cannot go on forever. This was evident from Madrid’s first goal. It was a classic case of a goalkeeper poorly placed and a defender who took an eternity to clear the ball at his feet with two attackers lurking around him. Puyol could have done much better as that goal just boosted Madrid’s confidence. They effectively shut out Barca in the first half by making them play within themselves and offering them no penetration into the box. But, before Chelsea come back next week,Pep must surely pep up his goalkeeper who is looking out of place recently.
Finally, the tactical genius of Jose Mourinho is again proven with unmistakeble clarity. He proves that when his drawing board is executed to perfection, the only result possible is a win, even if the opponents are Barca at Camp Nou. The way he pushed Benzema to the flank in the second half and brought in Ronaldo to play him more centrally were just moments of pure mastery where he clearly proves that he is generations ahead of Guardiola.
So, come what may, the title is now Real’s to lose. But, when a manager who can win trophies with even eleven school boys is given the most expensively accumulated bunch of the most skilled players, the title is now surely coming to Santiago Burn abeu. Hats off Mourinho for the way you planned out this victory.
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