El Clasico was, well, a classic. Brilliant in my opinion. I'm not quite sure how to recap the game, so here are my observations/impressions after watching the game:
1. I'm not a soccer guru by any means, but Real Madrid and Barcelona along with Chelsea have to be considered the best clubs in the world right now, at least if they are playing like they did on Sunday. If it's any other team, besides maybe Chelsea, Real Madrid wins that game on Sunday. At the same time, if it's any other opponent, Barcelona wins 4-0. I haven't watched every game this year with these two clubs, but I've watched enough to know that both teams were playing some of their best football.
2. Goal(s). If there was a downside to the game, it was that there was only one goal scored. For soccer fans, one goal is sufficient, especially in Sunday's game where the quality of play and the stakes were so high. However, a common complaint from casual and non-soccer fans is that there is a lack of scoring in soccer. Because Sunday's game had everything else: two storied teams, two rivals, Barcelona celebrating their 110 year anniversary, first place on the line, the current reigning club champion trying to repeat and the other team using all of it's massive spending power to dethrone the club, brilliant play, world class players, etc. the only thing that could have helped the game would have been a couple more goals.
With that said, the goal from "the Nose" was superb. One of those goals where you don't realize right away that it's a world class goal because the player makes it look easy. But to volley that ball into the side of the net from a cross over your head 25 yards away, is not easy. Casillas was shifting over so Ibrahimovic had only about a 3 foot window on the near post for the shot. Not every player makes that shot, few make it look so easy.
3. The Barcelona midfield. I know it's a broken record at this point to praise the Barcelona midfield, but it's just so hard not to do after watching a Barcelona game. The manner in which they control the tempo of the game and create opportunities is just amazing. Midway through the second half Barcelona lost a man because of a red card. You would have never noticed they finished the game with only 10 men, and that isn't because Real played poorly. It's because Barcelona's midfield was still able to control the ball and keep possession as if they had 11 men. If Barcelona wins La Liga again this year and wins the Champions League again and Spain goes on to win the World Cup Iniesta and Xavi will go down with Magic/Kareem, Lennon/McCartney, Mario/Luigi, and Lindsey Lohan/alcohol as one of the greatest duos of all time.
4. Real Madrid is much improved. They can't expect to have team chemistry overnight, at least not like Xavi and Iniesta seem to have- look at them frolicking together, giving piggy-back rides to each other. They're tight. But it takes time to really have a rhythm and know the other players on the field. Although they didn't win, Real can actually compete with Barcelona this year. Last year they lost 2-0 at Barcelona and then were embarrassed and lost 6-2 at home. In both games it was evident that they were playing against a team that was flat out on another level. It will still take a brilliant effort to beat Barcelona when Barcelona is playing at the top of their game, but Real could actually do it. Kaka is finally showing flashes of brilliance and showing why he is considered one of the best midfielders and set up men in the game (The first set up in the clip below is a beauty. Ronaldo can't be missing those types of chances with the paycheck he gets. Messi also uncharacteristically misses later on as well - not set up by Kaka though. Kaka's set up around the 1:30 mark in the clip below is also incredible. I still don't know how he keeps the ball). You also can't undervalue the importance and addition of Xabi Alonso and Lass Diarra. They did wonders for wreaking havoc on Barcelona's midfield. They made it very difficult to Barcelona to establish their rhythm and wouldn't let Barcelona control the ball for too long. A lot of clean, hard fouls, forcing Barcelona to make bad passes and keeping possession when they won the ball. Despite losing, Real proved that they can actually play with and even beat Barcelona, something they couldn't do last year.
5. The next Clasico. I know it's early and the next Clasico isn't until April. But at the end of the game, I couldn't help but think about how much will be on the line in April. Barcelona has yet to lose in La Liga. At most they might lose one or two between now and then. Sevilla, Valencia and Deportivo de la Coruna are playing well this year and are within striking distance of Real and Barcelona; but if Real continues to play like they did on Sunday, there is no reason to believe that they won't be in second come April. I don't see any other teams being able to overtake Real and Barcelona. During the game they mentioned that in the past ten years, Barcelona has had 1 coaching change. Real has had 9. Barcelona develops their players, Real broke two world transfer fees to buy two players this summer. I don't think anyone favors Real's business model over Barcelona's. But can Real Madrid buy a championship? Barring any sort of catastrophes or team blow ups (which is very possible with Real's history and all the egos) we should find out in April. It will all be on the line. Hasta entonces.