That was the weekend that was, although the Camp Nou clásico turned out to be something of a damp squib – not that anyone was complaining to the wild west in Madrid. Barcelona huffed and puffed but they never really blew Madrid’s house down, and by the time Agüero had scored his first for the hosts in his first clásico, the dice had settled. Madrid stay second, a point shy of Real Sociedad (more of them in a moment) and can be pleased with the way they coped with Koeman’s predictable tactics.
The idea seemed to be to attack Lucas Vazquez’ flank by getting Jordi Alba in the space behind him….but everyone knows that Alba, when he plays, is the only consistent offensive argument that the team has, and so Madrid predicted big Ron’s master-plan from the start, and stuck Modric in front of Vazquez as an extra defender. It must have taken Barça about 40 minutes to actually attack down the right. I exaggerate, but you take the point. You have to mix things a little more against Madrid, fragile as they can be at the back. And you have to realise that they’re going to play you on the counter, and at the moment, they’re very good at that.
They’re good at it because Finicius – although he didn’t score – has suddenly learned how to hold the ball for the correct amount of time, and when to pass and when to defend. He was great, and Barça never really coped with him. The first goal was down to him really, bringing down an awkward ball, bamboozling Mingueza yet again (not a difficult task) and playing a great ball forward to Rodrygo, who fed Alaba (one more ‘a’ than Alba), to score a cracker.
The second goal was again a rapid counter, nicely finished by Vazquez. I can’t quite understand why he’s so criticised by Madrid fans – or perhaps I’m wrong and they love him. The ground he makes up to get onto the end of the rebound was impressive, although Eric Garcia should have done better….but that’s a phrase that seems to be repeating itself. Garcia had some responsibility in the first goal too. But Vazquez held his position well, attacked when necessary, and did everything right from where I was sitting.
Kroos kept a paternal eye on Gavi, just in case the young ‘un had any big ideas, and neither Frenkie de Jong nor Ansu Fati had much influence on proceedings. Barça did have their chances, but for me it was a fair result, despite the miss by Dest and the usual possible penalty. But Piqué needed something to complain about. The simple truth is that without Pedri, Barcelona lack an offensive organiser. You can’t expect De Jong and Busquets to do it all. When Coutinho came on, the random nature of the attacking was ramped up even further. But Pedri is still 18, and only just shaving. It doesn’t make much sense.
Sevilla stayed in the top positions with a bizarre 5-3 home win against Levante, bizarre given the fact that Levante had only scored six in the previous nine games, and with Sevilla 4-1 up after 50 minutes it looked game over. Morales and Melero pulled it back to 4-3 before Fernando calmed Sevilla’s nerves. Some great goals too. Check out the opener from Oliver ‘Benji’ Torres and the first one from Morales.
The ‘partidazo’ (the big match) is usually reserved for 21:00 in Spain, and pride of place was given to the Atlético v Real Sociedad encounter, relegating the clásico to mid-afternoon fare when most folks were settling down to their siesta. Or was it for the Easter Island viewers to watch over their breakfasts? Who knows – but the partidazo was certainly a good one. Real Sociedad, with important players still injured and no left-back, had only returned from Austria on Friday lunchtime after their Europa win at Graz. Atlético had played Liverpool in the Wanda on Tuesday night but had had the previous week off due to some dubious idea that they couldn’t put out a side against Granada. Fair competition? No – whatever made you think that?
Nevertheless, Real Sociedad were league leaders until the result of the clásico put them second on goal difference, but by the 50th minute they were two up and cruising. Playing with two up front (Isak and Sorloth) they seemed to take Simeone by surprise, and were by far the better side in the first half. In the end, Atlético wore them down and equalised with a very dodgy penalty that only the referee seemed to see, despite not having blown for the original light contact that Merino makes on the fabric of Suarez’ socks. But Suarez goes down like a flaming zeppelin and Atlético got their point. They probably deserved it overall, but nobody quite understands just how well Real Sociedad are doing this season. Unbeaten since the first day, and with a horror-show injury list, they finished with seven ‘cantera’ (youth team) players on the pitch at full time, nine in total having taken part on the night. And their man of the moment, Mikel Oyarzabal, was watching from his sofa in San Sebastián, another victim of the injury plague.
Had they actually won on Sunday night, some might have started to believe. Hats off to near neighbours Osasuna too, who visit Real Madrid last week. Had Granada not equalised in the final minute of the game up in Pamplona then they would have been in the top four on Sunday night. Jagoba Arrasate is proving a lot of folks wrong.
Getafe v Celta finishes off the week’s action on Monday night with a dog-eat-dog encounter. Both sides are suffering from profoundly from depression, but Eduardo thinks it’s a home win so I won’t argue. Quote on Celta – ‘they’re just awful’. That’s pretty accurate I think, despite their half-decent squad. He got a decent 6/9 in his predictions so let’s stick with him.
That’s all from me folks – a relative shorty this week, but with Real Sociedad and Grimsby Town on top of their respective leagues, life is looking good.