Once again El Clasico – the clash between Barcelona and Real Madrid – showed us how football should be played. People fancied Madrid this time, and they scored in the first minute But slowly Barca wove their patterns and pounced. First Messi to Alexis, 1-1. Then Xavi’s tentative shot which went in off Marcelo’s arm. 2-1. And then a fantastic move which was actually quite English. Alves gets the ball down the right channel, whips in a brilliant low cross and Fabregas is in there with a diving header. Just like watching Spurs! 3-1 to Barca in the cauldron of the Bernabaeu.
Man of the match surely Iniesta. Absolutely everywhere. The golden triangle – Xavi, Iniesta, Messi. There is nothing like it anywhere else. But all footballers should study what they do and think about what they could learn from the way they play.
It was fascinating to see how Barca are playing Fabregas too. He is getting a lot of games, but playing in an advanced position. It looked last night like he was in the David Villa position, wide left in the attacking three – or should I say, the most attacking three. At time it left him a bit peripheral, compared with his central role at Arsenal. A bit like Villa – never quite at the centre of things. But when he got the ball he was dangerous, and the goal was outstanding.
On a different planet, West Ham were losing 3-0 to Reading. Lesson: don’t get two men sent off. It’s hard to get a result with nine men. Fortunately Southampton only drew, as did main pursuers Cardiff. But it’s looking like the pressure is starting to tell. Hopefully just a Championship wobble.
In the rugby, Quins finally lost a game and were taught a lesson by one of the masters of Heineken Cup rugby, Toulouse. 21-10 to the French at the Stoop on Friday evening. Quins’ running rugby just didn’t work against a team that seemed bigger, stronger, faster. They didn’t try anything too fancy, just snuffed out Quins’ attacks, punched holes through the middle and sent it out wide for a couple of killer tries. Quins didn’t play badly: they just didn’t seem to have the same know how, the same poise. Can they absorb some lessons and strike back at Toulouse next weekend? Hard to imagine, but you never know.
Man Utd learnt a lesson too this week. Even when you are Man Utd don’t take the Champions League for granted. They were in one of the easiest groups, but clearly did not take Basel seriously enough in the first game. And so the last game became crucial. Still shouldn’t have lost, but obviously going through a difficult phase. There will be acres of print written about the demise of Utd now. They will probably go and win the Premier League just to spite everyone – if City slip. I like the idea of Utd playing Stoke in the Europa though, should the draw do the dirty. That will rub the lesson in.
City went out of the Champions League too. A trifle unlucky, having won ten points. Lesson: play best team in all Euro-games. They didn’t against Napoli – Aguero and Nasri on the bench. I suspect this season they are happy enough. Winning the Premier League is the key step. That will give them the credibility, the sense of worth and identity, to move on and conquer all before them.
Just the mighty Barca in their way!