• Saurabh Nagpal

An El Clasico Unlike the Most


 

Match the mood of the game with listening to Dazed and Confused by Led Zeppelin

https://open.spotify.com/track/6hu1f1cXSw7OAqhpSQ2zDy?si=E2IuXSgES3aefWKsv13NfQ


 


Written on: December 19, 2019

Tied at 35 points. Tied at 72 El Clasico wins. Chance to go clear at the top. Both of them struggled at the start of the season but now had somewhat steadied their ships.


The atmosphere was tense, more politically charged than usual. The build-up was there, the stakes were high but the end result was a massive let-down. The game lacked the intensity of what an El-Clasico deserves. The supporters didn’t get what they so dearly waited for (this time they had to wait extra). Like the viewers, neither of the team would have been satisfied with what they delivered, Barcelona more so than Real Madrid.


Regardless of what went down in Roma in 2018 and then in Anfield in 2019, Barca’s hierarchy decided to continue to put their faith in Ernesto Valverde.


This decision didn’t go well with the Barca faithful and things became even worse as the season progressed. It was, mainly, the full return of Lionel Messi from his injury, the constant heroics of Marc Andre Ter Stegen, and the gradual adaptation of Frenkie De Jong within the team set-up which improved Barca and they started to show signs of settling down.


Similarly, Zinedine Zidane’s men were also very shaky initially; their midfield wasn’t clicking together and their new superstar, Hazard was finding it hard to come up with performances that he produced on a daily basis in Chelsea. Zidane, too, found the right balance as the season progressed especially after the quick emergence of Federico Valverde in the midfield and his consequent partnership with the sturdy Casemiro. Additionally, Benzema, who had been brilliant ever since the departure of Ronaldo, continued to show his prowess in front of the goal.


Barca’s home form had been decent throughout the season. Unlike the days of tiki-taka or the MSN, their gameplay under Valverde hadn’t been at the same aesthetic level however, they still managed to dominate home games while playing beautiful football in patches. It was the away form that remained a major concern for Valverde. He often faced heavy criticism for not being bold especially in away matches.


The way his side turned up in the El Clasico, it felt like they were playing away from their home, their fortress. The team selection was questionable. With Sergi Roberto in the middle and Sergio Busquets on the bench, the chemistry between the midfield trio was found lacking. Over the past few matches, Roberto had been playing well at the right-back position, yet he was moved up to the midfield. This decision too was met with criticism.


Chances created by Barca were far and few. Most of these came from Messi’s long diagonals. One such diagonal reached Jordi Alba’s foot at the 41st minute. Despairingly for the Barca supporters, he failed to capitalize on it. Uncharacteristically, Messi also missed a chance which he normally would have converted.


However, VAR might have been called upon if Messi would have put the ball in the net since the ball seemed to have touched Griezmann’s hand in the build-up to the move. Overall, it was a frustrating night for Barca. Neither did they get the result they wanted nor did they put on a respectable show for their supporters.


On the other hand, Madrid was fluent on the ball and their strong midfield was running Barca wild. Unlike Barca, Madrid pressed well when they lost the ball. More often than not they were first to the second ball. A certain Valverde announced his arrival against the arch-rivals in some fashion. His presence was felt all over the field. He, with his two well-struck volleys, even gave Ter Stegen a scare.


It was commendable that Madrid controlled the game at a venue like Camp Nou. However, despite stretching Barca, Madrid was also wasteful in the final third, especially with their final ball. They were the better side but in the end, had nothing to show for it.


Many times when two powerhouses of the game meet, the match ends in a stalemate because the tactical masterclass of one team cancels out the masterclass of the other. In a way, both the teams get interlocked amongst each other. This was not the scenario of this El Clasico. Barca forgot to turn up and equal the intensity of a game of such high stature while Madrid was inefficient when it mattered the most.


Through a game that was unpoetic in most aspects, poetic justice was served. Over the season and over the decades, it hadn’t been easy to part these two grand clubs. Similarly, this match was unable to pit one club over the other, neither in the scoreline nor in the points tally.


Viewing this game makes one question: Are these clubs at the same dominant level where they once were? Or are clubs like Liverpool and Manchester City staking a claim to their throne?


#ElClassico #Barcelona #RealMadrid #Football

 

Picture Credits: zimbio.com via Pinterest