Barcelona v Real Madrid Review

Barcelona continued their almost flawless 2015 with a win in the first El Clasico of the calendar year, which saw the Catalan giants extend their lead to four points at the top of La Liga. Luis Suarez’s 56th-minute goal was enough to seal the 2-1 victory at the Nou Camp where over 98,000 fans watched on to see the two biggest clubs in the world.

After initial pressure from Barca, the first big chance came to the Ballon D’or winner Cristiano Ronaldo, who unexpectedly could only hit the crossbar from a Marcelo pass in the 12th-minute. With Real settled in to the game, Barca took the lead thanks to an inch perfect cross from Lionel Messi’s free kick; finding Jeremy Mathieu in the centre who headed home his first goal for his club.

Neymar could have made it 2-0 after good work from Suarez but instead fired straight at Iker Casillas. Following this save, Real immediately found themselves back in the game on 31 minutes when Karim Benzema’s fancy flick found Ronaldo who inevitably scored from inside the box. Real would have gone in leading at half time had it not been for the linesman signalling offside on Gareth Bale’s goal – which still remains debateable – and Ronaldo forced a good save from Bravo in the late stages of the first half.

Barca soon saw themselves ahead again after Dani Alves’ long ball up field found Suarez who brought down the ball at beautiful ease and coolly finished it in to the goal. Real never threatened and Barca saw out the remainder of the game; Neymar, Messi and Jordi Alba all missing a host of chances. With Real slipping further behind in the title race and Barcelona’s somewhat unstoppable form, parallels have even been made between Luis Enrique’s and Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona side.

MESSI V RONALDO-

This was obviously going to be a massive talking point: the two greatest players in the world (and maybe even the greatest ever) playing against each other where one will surely out do the other. In all honesty, neither had the impact they can and usually do have in a football match and this left a couple of neutral fans frustrated. Ronaldo grabbed his goal whilst Messi got an assist; both as vital to their clubs. Take these away though and both looked pretty anonymous, with Messi only really coming in to the game in the middle of the second half. Ronaldo looked lively early on but missed a vital chance which would have seen Real go 1-0 up. He later made up for it but from then on was frustrated throughout the game and in the second half it’s hard to remember when he had the ball. Messi, maybe (and understandably) tired from his midweek masterclass in the Champions League, missed a chance too after a dazzling dribble was ended with his shot going wide of the post. But still the Argentine remained the victor and had a bigger influence on the game; although ever so slightly.

SUAREZ V BALE

It’s perhaps useful to compare the two ex-Premier League stars to each other and what impact they had in this massive match. Suarez’s style of running in behind the defender has allowed Barca to mix up their slow tempo passing as they can be more direct and this is exactly how the winner was scored. His first game for Barcelona came against Real in the reverse fixture where he failed to make much of an impact but he once again makes the headlines with his winner and silenced any critics in doing so. It is perhaps ironic how his former side lost on the same day to Man United- a fixture which Suarez completely controlled around this time last year- whilst he won the game for his side. Bale, on the other hand, opened up to critics after a very poor performance. Although he maybe shouldn’t have had his goal ruled out, throughout the 90 minutes of football he was completely overshadowed by the sturdy Barca defence; only touching the ball a mere thirteen times in the second half.

Talks of a possible treble has appeared around the Catalan camp with them booking their place in the Champions League quarter-finals last week, which adds to their Copa Del Rey final in May. Barca face PSG next in Europe whilst Real face local rivals Atletico Madrid in a repeat of the 2014 final and will be hoping to make amends for their recent 4-0 dubbing. After the international break, Real Madrid face Granada at home where they will look to put this defeat behind them take advantage of an early kick off to close the gap again. Meanwhile, Barcelona travel to Celta Vigo where they will hope that no slip ups occur.

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