El Centrocampista

CLASSIC CLÁSICO – How stalemate in Madrid is Barça’s gain

By Lee Roden

Sunday night’s first leg of the Spanish Supercopa was in many ways shaped by the midweek international fixtures.

As I pointed out in my last article, a couple of major injuries would have a severe dent on Barcelona’s performance, and this came to be true.

The absence of Gerard Pique from the defence was evident in the hurried clearances displayed by Mascherano in particular.

The Argentinean was sloppy in his distribution and at fault for the first goal, though he did make a few good interceptions as the game progressed.

Sergio Busquets was another player whose absence was notable.

His ability to take a “half touch”, as Xavi once called it, allows the defence to relax and the attacking players extra time.

Seydou Keita is a great footballer, but looked out of his depth in the defensive midfield position in the first half.

As such, with Barcelona performing so poorly overall, Jose Mourinho and Real Madrid have failed to seize their opportunity.

Madrid’s first half display was the best football they have played against Barça since 2007 in the last days of Ronaldinho, Deco and co.

The meringues should really have been 3 or 4 goals up by the half time whistle, but a failure to finish along with a generally uninspiring performance by Cristiano Ronaldo meant this wasn’t the case.

Will Jose Mourinho rue his side's inability to win tonight's game?

Barcelona on the other hand, rode the game by the skin of their teeth.

Alexis Sanchez aside, performances in the first half were generally poor and slow, in line with their pre-season and to be expected with the lack of match fitness of Messi, Mascherano and others.

Defending was abject, with Eric Abidal showing little of the calmness he displayed so often at his best last season.

The defensive side of Madrid’s game wasn’t great either, at least at the back (though the forwards pressed far better than previous years).

Whilst Villa’s goal was undoubtedly a moment of genius, Pepe was absolutely appalling for Messi’s.

The Portuguese defender has gained something of a reputation as a hard man for his fondness of a tackle, but after going down as if he had been sniped in the build-up to Messi’s goal, this has to be questioned.

Pepe’s game only got worse in a defensive respect, and he made several reckless challenges that only serve to remind us of his horrendous assault a few seasons ago, which resulted in a lengthy ban.

With Barcelona tactically announcing the signing of Cesc Fabregas around the stroke of half-time, they will be the happier of the two teams with the draw.

They can now return to the Camp Nou, regroup and face Madrid on their home soil with an additional, quality player to call upon. Key players like Xavi, Messi and Pique have also gained valuable game time and will only be better for the opportunity.

Real Madrid may live to regret their inability to shut the tie out in the opening 45; as such a result could have buoyed them on to a head start in the league campaign.

Barcelona on the other hand, will look to bounce back, and with the homecoming of Cesc Fabregas, it would be foolish to bet against their comeback, or “remuntada” as the Catalans call it.

Honours even, but disappointing from a Madrid perspective.

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