Only 2 Premier League matches took place on Saturday, none of which caught any of my attention. As I write this, United have just dropped 2 points at Ewood Park and we are only 2 points behind them with a game in hand. There’s of course the matter of us taking advantage of that and moving past them by beating Spurs on Wednesday. In spite of all that, there is also Chelsea, who seemingly have picked up some sort of momentum after their Champions League exit.
And yet, despite all the drama still waiting to unfold in our pursuit of League glory, I felt my head turned towards the direction of the Spanish Primera Liga, at least for the weekend. Not least because Barcelona humbled us in the 2 meetings in the quarterfinals. In many people’s eyes, Real Madrid are seen as a more level opponent to Barca than Arsenal. However, at the end of the final whistle at Bernabeu, that notion could not be any further from the truth. While still reeling from our exit in the premier European competition, the result of the Classico goes to show that in spite of the millions pumped in by Florentino Perez, Real Madrid are still not on a level playing field with their arch rival.
The way Guardiola lined up his players, it could be the sign of the future of football. A team without a central striker, a team without a focal point of attack, a team that relies on the movements and incisive passing from a group of attacking midfielders. Even with Ibrahimovic out injured, Guardiola still resisted the temptation of fielding either Bojan or Henry in attack. The shapeless form of attack ultimately proved to be decisive. Madrid just could not cope with the likes of Xavi, Messi, Pedro and Keita moving all over the pitch.
Madrid resorted to putting hard defensive men in midfield. Most of which took to kicking Messi out of the game. Fernando Gago, who is a Argentinian colleague of Messi, was kicking the latter all over the field throughout the entire game. Diego Maradona would not be best please to see one of his most important player in the upcoming World Cup being hounded and kicked to the ground by a fellow countryman.
Still, Messi proved to be elusive and simply dust himself off and continue in the same vein that he did 3 days ago against Arsenal. It was good to see that side of him. The one that simply takes those challenges and get on with the game. Compared that to Ronaldo’s whining and antics when no fouls were given against him, it is easy to see why Messi is so much more likeable.
The worse may yet to come for those Madrid players and supporters. There’s a pretty big chance that Barca could still return for another game at the Bernabeu this season and lift the Champions League at the ground of their fiercest rival. Talk about rubbing salt into the wounds. As Arsenal fans, we all remembered when we celebrated winning the league at White Hart Lane in the Invincibles season. Ironically, that is where our next game is.