A minute’s silence was observed before the game in honour of those who died during the plane crash earlier today in Russia.
On to the pitch, the game proved to be disasterous and not so rosy for us at all. We were guilty of going off to sleep on crucial occasions, making many bad tackles which put our players and defence under pressure, attacking creativity and ingenuity was missing from the midfield and even by forwards.
Barcelona took advantage of our defensive slipups as they scored two goals from the first two opportunities that fell to them as Messi and Pedro were on target to make it two goals for the Catalans. We had our share of chances too but we failed to convert from them or were prevented from scoring by an inspired Victor Valdes. On the other side of the pitch, Messi had two more chances to make the scoreline look horrible for us but luckily Casillas was upto his mark to deny him a hatrick.
Some of my observations from the game :
- Xavi was their biggest playmaker and the big difference between the two sides. It wasn’t Messi, Ronaldo, Higuain, Casillas or Valdes. He provided both the assists from which Barcelona were able to score. The chip pass to Messi who then was able to score the 1st goal and then the defence splitting pass to Pedro who then ran on to beat Casillas were the initial points for the goals.
- We failed to show up in the 1st half. We were slow in reacting, not doing enough when going forward from whatever little opportunity that we got and the pressure buildup on Barcelona players was missing which was very important to do when facing a side of Barcelona’s class and quality who make plenty of short passes really well.
- Van der Vaart, Higuain, Ronaldo needed to do more to create chances between themselves. Van der Vaart was good in the beginning of the game but as the game went on he failed to make any headway into the Catalan defence or even making any influencial passes. Higuain did not seem like he had the confidence and the positivity which was necessary when he stepped on the pitch. Ronaldo had a patchy game with some decent runs and shots at Valdes along with some crosses but he tried to do too much in my opinion, especially in the first half.
- Why is Guti not given the nod to start in a game? When he came on to replace Marcelo, the number of chances created and passing improved. He was able to pass the ball beautifully to Van der Vaart but the Dutchman took a tame shot at the on rushing Valdes. There were further impressive one-two passing thus reflecting his impact on the pitch.
- Where is Lass? I had predicted he would start and would be the one who can stop Messi from advancing into important positions but he didn’t start and nor did he come on at a later stage. Obviously, bringing him on as a substitute would have had a negative impact as we needed goals to be scored and not to be prevented but am still unsure why he didn’t start. I agree that the way Gago has been playing in recent weeks he warrants the place instead but the pace and tackling ability of Lass is far superior than that of the Argentine.
- Marcelo was probably one of our best players in the game. He made many lung bursting runs into the Barcelona half, made half decent crosses but the problem arose in the final third where he screwed everything by taking bad touches which presented the ball back to the opposition.
- Benzema was brought on to add another dimension to our attack but his sort of negative attitude in terms of not concentrating enough (being offside when the ball was expected to be delivered to him only) , rueing the free header chance in the stoppage time reflected that he wasn’t ready yet. The Frenchman had been out for more than a month and the game he makes his return in is the El Clasico, not a good move by Pellegrini.
- Valdes played almost like he was a brick wall up against the Barcelona goal. He made plenty of crucial saves to deny us any opportunity of making a comeback.
With all that being said, the league has not been decided yet. There are still 7 games to go and 21 points at stake. They have two tricky games which could help us. They would be away to Villareal and Sevilla and both of them could prove to be difficult games, more so the one against Sevilla. While we could face stiff resistance against Valencia at the Bernabeu next week.