It is over! The El Clasico Marathon of the past 18 days is over. The winner is, FC Barcelona. While Real was able to snap the Copa del Rey from Barca, the overall winner of the marathon was Pep Guardiola’s team. Championship in the league and semi final win in the Champions League are the positive results from the last almost three weeks.
Barca is a sensational soccer team, there is no question about that. The way they play soccer is remarkable and a player such as Lionel Messi makes every soccer fan smile. The way how they move the ball through their opponents defense is just staggering and is very difficult to defend. It is also a fact that they have an awesome coach in Pep Guardiola. If at all, he is not much less magic than “The Special One” Jose Mourinho. All this is the common opinion about Barca and is available to read and watch in the press and on TV all over the world. It is a correct display of what is going on.
So, with that I hope I made it clear that I agree with the fact that Barca deserved to move on to the final in London. I say this, because I have a few other things to make clear, that are also facts and should be considered while evaluating and judging these four games.
Let’s start with a few things regarding to soccer overall. The word possession was all over the reporting. In the Copa del Rey final, Barca had completed well over 600! passes while Real ended with a number in the 160’s. Real, not Barca, won the game. This should give everyone a clear understanding on how valuable possession really is. It is no secret that you can win soccer games with much less possession than your opponent. Possession was about the same in all games, Barca had the ball, Real was defending, the over all results in game wins is tied. Each won one game and we saw two ties. Forget possession if you don’t have players like Barca has. It is a fact that you can control a game by defending. Does that look good? No, but you can do it.
Soccer, like many other ball sports, is a game of offense AND defense. Both style’s are based on one major characteristic, patience. On both sides, the players are waiting for opportunities to score or win the ball. Barca moves the ball all over the field, sometimes just with 2 or 3 yard passes, and is waiting until somewhere a defender loses patience and an opening occurs. With players like Messi, Xabi, Iniesta and all the other artists, I don’t mean that in a bad way, this is the way to go. Real, and all the other top teams in Europe, cannot keep up with Barca on that level. Therefore, they have to seek their opportunity somewhere else. Real defended well, and, they had their opportunities. To say otherwise is proof for not understanding what happens on the field or wearing a Barca hat.
If you are a coach these days and you are unfortunate and must play Barca, what are you going to do? Play them out? Not much chance. You must defend. And you must do that very well, otherwise they will score a sack full of goals. In order to win, you must wait for your chance to score. As Real clearly demonstrated, and has accomplished, the chance will come. Do you need some luck in order to have a chance? Take a guess! Would you go on the field expecting Barca will have no chance to score?
On the Real side, there is a lot of complaining about the referee’s. While for the most part it is all nonsense, I agree with some of that. For the Champions League games there were two major decisions that clearly were of disadvantage to Real. In the first leg, Pepe saw a red card for a stupid foul. It was dangerous play in an area where it was not necessary, but a red card, please. There was not even much contact. In the second leg Real scored a goal. There was nothing wrong with that goal. Disallowed for a foul by Cristiano Ronaldo who went down during a “high speed” attack and on the way down fell into Mascherano’s legs. None of the Barca players was complaining about that scene, just the referee saw a foul.
Yes, these are just two scenes over two games, but those, not Barca’s ball movement, decided the semifinal. Not sure how that would have ended in the second leg, if Real’s goal would have been allowed. There would have been some excitement, that’s for sure.
Barca is an excellent soccer team, the best in their way of play. However, they are beatable. It will happen again.