The biggest game in the world didn’t live up to the huge expectation most people tend to build for this game, but it did clear up a few things – Barcelona are a better team than Real Madrid right now, Xavi is the best passer and probably midfielder in the world today, Lionel Messi, even on a day he hardly touches the ball, is almost unstoppable, and the bottom line – Barcelona beat Real Madrid 2-0, opening a 3 point lead at top of the La Liga with seven matches to go. It was the first time in history that Barcelona beat Real in Madrid twice in a row, and achieve four consecutive victories over their arch rivals.
Messi & Ronaldo – It’s been an ongoing debate for the past two years who is the better player. Judging by the last two years, it’s Messi. No more criticism for not showing up for the big games (Ronaldo is still an absentee in these big moments). I still believe that Ronaldo has more to offer in terms of skills, but right now Messi is the hottest thing around.
27 League goals, 38 in all competitions, the 22 year old Argentinian is pretty much unstoppable at the moment. While Ronaldo is expected to perform alone, no matter how many “galacticos” are around him, and carry his team to victory and trophies, Messi, as good as he might be, is part of team, a finely tuned super-machine. Cristiano Ronaldo is amazing. He was pretty much alone against the Barca defense for most of the match yesterday and still managed to find a few breaks, stopped by Valdez. But his presence on the pitch means the rest of his teammates, by instruction or purely by some subconscious drive, rely completely on him. It worked pretty well at United, but he had a super defense, and a super manager. It seems it’s not good enough for a title in La Liga as long as Barcelona are this strong.
Guardiola – Both coaches didn’t play with their ideal lineup last night, but it showed mostly on Real. Guardiola has turned Barcelona into a tactical masterpiece. From a fantasy team last year, Barca have evolved and developed into a group of players, spearheaded by Messi, that move on offense and defense as one, something like perfect symbiotic relationship between them.
It wasn’t an elegant display of soccer that destroyed Real yesterday, rather an intelligent, well crafted attack and defensive scheme which eventually had Xavi find Messi and Pedro for the winning goals. Guardiola probably has the most talented group of players in the world to work with, but he is doing an incredible job with this team, relying not only on the brilliance of Messi, Iniesta, Xavi and Zlatan but also the work ethic and the on-pitch intelligence of Pedro, Dani Alves, Busquets, Keita, Pique and anyone else I might have forgotten.
What’s left – Well, seven games to go, Barcelona have 80 points, 3 points over Real Madrid. In case both teams finish the season with the same number of points, Barca have the edge, due to their two wins over Real this season. Looking at the remaining fixtures, Barcelona actually have the tougher road to go till the finish line, and we’re not even talking about the Champions League semi final with Inter and Mourniho. In six days its an away derby match against Espanyol which is never easy, and two very tough away games in May, visiting Villareal and Sevilla, both teams with the final champions league spot in mind. Real have four away games and three home stand left, with the toughest one at home looking like the Valencia visit. The visit to Mallorca, who have won 12 out of 14 at home this season, looks like the hardest game out of the remaining seven.