The first El Clásico of the season has come to pass, and the evenness of the affair shouldn’t have been too surprising. After all, Madrid’s lack of chemistry, due to their Pollock approach to team construction, continued to plague them. And Barca, as first exposed by Russian outfit Rubin Kazan in the Champions League, simply won’t replicate their scintillating form from last season.
But yesterday’s match was noteworthy for being Cristiano’s first starring turn. He should’ve scored, but perhaps a game-changing contribution was too much to ask following a lengthy injury spell, even for the reigning World Player of the Year. That Madrid even made it a match, in Barcelona no less, is promising to them just a fortnight removed from disastrous defeat to Segunda B side Alcorcón, as well as last season’s embarrassing 2-6 loss against the blaugrana.
Another debutant made the difference, though. It was a beautiful first-touch volley from Ibrahimovic, shortly after being subbed in for Thierry Henry, that provided the win in the storied rivalry that goes some way towards justifying his hefty pricetag. His presence, though, means the the absence of the likes of Robinho and Javier Mascherano due to insufficient funds. And a lack of reinforcements could mean a reverse scoreline come April when the blaugrana have to travel to Madrid.
Messi was conspicuously ineffective, despite this being his year as the favorite to claim Ronaldo’s crown. In truth, he’s been struggling ever since the final whistle of last season’s Champions League triumph. The weight of Argentina’s national team struggles has somewhat unfairly fallen upon him and not Maradona for his general lack of actual tactics.
If it’s anyone’s year, just look over in West London and pick out any of the boys in blue. Drogba. Terry. Essien. Chelsea are once again the machine they were in 2005 and 2006. They dispatched Arsenal at Ashburton with ease, and the return of Joe Cole may render the loss of their African contingent in January for the Africa Cup of Nations not too significant.
The aforementioned trio, in particular, are also enjoying seasons to savor with their national teams. Ivory Coast, England, and Ghana are all streaking as they head into the World Cup. The world’s elite have on eye on the wide-open summer showpiece and June’s looming quickly.