El Cl??sico Puts La Liga in Bar?ca’s Hands

This past Saturday, the two top Spanish La Liga teams squared off as Real Madrid and Barcelona went head-to-head at Santiago Bernabéu Stadium in Madrid. The capacity crowd of slightly over 80,000 witnessed two of the best teams in the world with arguably the two best players in the world battling for the top position in La Liga. Barcelona’s Lionel Messi and Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo were the focus of the star-studded event which included the likes of Barcelona defense specialist Carles Puyol and Real Madrid’s defensive leader Sergio Ramos. However, key players on both sides wouldn’t be playing due to injury in one of the most highly watched matches of the year. The absence of Barcelona’s strikers Thierry Henry and Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Madrid’s key acquisitions, midfielder Kaká and striker Karim Benzema would heavily impact how both teams approached the match as the vivacious and highly skilled Barcelona team would play a more tactical game rather than rely on its pure athleticism. Ibrahimovic’s absence caused Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola to play Dani Alves in an attacking position rather than his usual right back role.

People discuss the extreme spending of the New York Yankees and claim that the Yankees do everything in their power to win World Series. These people, however, should take a look at how much Real Madrid spent in order to try to win La Liga in 2010. They’d be speechless. Over the course of the summer, Madrid spent $363 million on the likes of Kaká, Ronaldo and Benzema in order to defeat what many people consider one of the best Spanish (and maybe even European) club teams in history. All of the money poured into defeating Barcelona would be tested on one fateful night in Madrid as the rivalry between these two teams would essentially determine who would be crowned

champions of this edition of La Liga.

As soon as the opening whistle blew, Los Galacticos came out extremely strong as Xavi Alonso and Ronaldo peppered Barca goalkeeper Victor Valdes with a flurry of shots in the 20th minute. However, in the 33rd minute Lionel Messi would take it into his own hands to put Barcelona ahead in the match after chesting a beautifully-passed ball from Xavi and striking the ball past Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas. Madrid then had several chances to level the score, but admirable attempts by Benzema’s replacement, Gonzalo Higuain, were off target as he missed both a header and a 1-on-1 confrontation with Valdes in the 38th minute. Higuain’s efforts weren’t the only Madrid attempts on goal as Ronaldo had several chances in the first half which he couldn’t capitalize

on either.

In the second half, Pedro Rodriguez extended the Barca lead to 2-0 as he beat Casillas on a left-footed shot in the 56th minute. Entering desperation mode, Madrid frantically tried to cut the lead, but the team’s revered leader, Ronaldo, was nowhere to be found as the Barca defense effectively took him out of the game. In an attempt to bring some fresh legs onto the pitch, Madrid subbed in Jose Maria Gutierrez who set up Rafael Van der Vaart’s shot on goal which was saved by Valdes. Madrid’s substitution of Karim Benzema in the waning moments of the game yielded a close header on goal which Valdes managed to come up with again. Benzema’s dynamism was truly missed on the pitch and, despite Higuain’s dominant play recently, Benzema would have provided the spark to deflect attention away from Ronaldo. The end result was a 2-0 Barcelona victory over Madrid.

The reeling Madrid club has been drastically underachieving this season as it managed to effectively lose La Liga in this match to Barcelona and made an early exit in the UEFA Champions League at the hands of Lyon. However, as Kaká returns to full health and Madrid looks to establish chemistry with their talented group of players, it is imperative that they continue to believe that pursuing the La Liga title is a viable venture. Madrid coach Manuel Pellegrini was quoted saying, “It was a fundamental game to keep up in the fight for the title. The team that won, Barcelona, isn’t champion now.”

Contact Chris Dell’Amore at [email protected].