With a Champions League in midweek that doesn’t mean anything to both sides, the last tune up for Real Madrid and Barcelona as the two prepare for the first league Clasico of the season (we had two in the Super Cup, fiery ones) went very well and smooth with 3-0 and 5-0 wins while both Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi kept their scoring going on.
For Barcelona, it was one of those Nou Camp days that makes Barca fans melt with pleasure while Barca haters or La Liga haters find another reason not to watch the boring league. A 5-0 destruction of Levante, who led the league not too long ago if I remember correctly. Cesc Fabregas continues his good form (that didn’t translate into goals) with a first half brace, his first goals in a month. Isaac Cuenca, who showed some pretty training moves this week added one, while Lionel Messi (16th league goal) and Alexis Sanchez (3rd goal in two matches) finished the job.
It’s Fabregas and Sanchez that might hold the key to success at the Santiago Bernabeu six days from now. Both are new to the all conquering side that is showing signs of slowing down this season, while Real Madrid are hitting a perfect stride. Sanchez’ recovery from his injury to give Barcelona a reliable second fiddle to Messi up front (instead of David Villa and Pedro) while Cesc Fabregas provides a different kind of firepower from the midfield.
The problem will be the defensive personnel for Barcelona, with Guardiola getting clearance to play Pique next Saturday, but his form this season, like Puyol’s or Abidal’s, hasn’t been at the level we’ve been used to. I would start with Pedro and leave Villa on the bench, as Pedro tends to find the net against Real.
For Madrid, more business as usual, with Sporting giving the league leaders some trouble during certain stretches of the match, but Cristiano Ronaldo’s 64th minute goal, his 17th of the season, made it 2-0 and took the air out of the chasers sails. Marcelo finished things before the final whistle while Angel Di Maria’s scored the opener.
Jose Mourinho has an Ajax match in the way to mull things over. Last season, in that same venue and pretty much the same date, Mourinho made his famous red card play, with Sergio Ramos and Xabi Alonso delaying the match so they can come into the knockout stage clean of bookings.
But last year was last year, this year is different. This looks like the year of Real Madrid. They haven’t lost a match, or dropped points, in all competitions, since September 21, a 0-0 draw against Santander. Who remembers that Real lost to Levante? They have won their last 14 matches, with a 54-10 (just under four goals per win) aggregate scoring line.
The stat that works best for Real Madrid ahead of the Clasico? They’re perfect at home this season with six wins, +21 goal difference. Barcelona have won only twice on their five away trips (3 draws, one loss), only +1 goal difference. Despite not losing a league Clasico since May 2008, they’re the underdogs in this one. That doesn’t change the fact they have to win. Leaving Real six points in front (right now it’s 3 with Barca playing a match more) is just too much in a league that dropping points for big clubs has become a rarity.