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article imageOp-Ed: Real Madrid vs Barcelona lives up to the hype

By Daryl Hammond     Oct 27, 2014 in Sports
When two of the world’s best two clubs meet, a good match is always to be expected. But with the summer additions of South American superstars Luis Suarez and James Rodriguez, El Clasico has hit new heights.
The match also had the privilege of being the world’s most expensive match, with the combined value of both teams exceeding €1 billion ($1.27 billion), despite the world’s most expensive player Gareth Bale ($137m) missing the match through injury.
The respective additions of James Rodriguez ($108m) and Luis Suarez ($110m) add to the expensive trio of Ronaldo, Neymar, Messi took the quality of the players involved to a new plateau.
Despite the plethora of big names, much of the pre-match hype around the match centred on one man: Luis Suarez.
The controversial yet undoubtedly talented striker hadn’t made an official appearance for Barcelona since his ban for biting Giorgio Chiellini in the World Cup; a ban which ended the day before El Clasico. Award-winning script writers would have been proud.
And he made an instant contribution to his new side, as he picked out Neymar for Barcelona’s first goal of the match. His cross-field pass found the Brazilian, who cut inside and fired low to put Barcelona 1-0 up against Real Madrid at the Bernabeu after just four minutes.
The goal was Neymar’s 11th of the season - two more than Messi. But the real competition was, and always has been between Ronaldo and the Barcelona talisman.
The seemingly age-old Messi vs Ronaldo debate reared its ugly head once again. And this time at least it is was Cristiano Ronaldo who was the winner. Although it was from the penalty spot after pique handballed in the box, the Portuguese’s goal took his tally for the season to a mind-boggling 21 goals in 14 appearances.
Messi, the man with the most goals and assists in El Clasico his had a relatively quiet game by his standards. The diminutive Argentine had one great opportunity which was stopped superbly by Iker Casillas.
The sides went in level at half time, but things quickly changed when Pepe gave Madrid the lead five minutes into the second half with a header from a corner. Karim Benzema added to his two goals against Liverpool with a third for his side as he finished off an incisive Real Madrid counterattack. Game over.
The win means the race for the La Liga title is as close as it has ever been, with the top five sides separated by a mere two points, with Barca hanging onto the top spot on goal difference.
Luis Enrique's Barcelona side had been nearly perfect in La Liga until this point, and there were a few key selection decisions which perhaps swayed the match in Real Madrid's favour. While Luis Suarez did chip in with an assist, he clearly was not match fit, which led to him being withdrawn after 70 minutes.
Moreover, his inclusion lead to a change in formation which lead to Barca being very narrow up-front. Choosing the Uruguayan over the natural width Pedro Rodriguez offers gave Marcelo and Ronaldo considerably more space on the left hand side.
The centre back pairing of Gerard Pique and Javier Mascherano, one which Enrique has not used this season, did not fare well either.
Meanwhile in the mind of Carlo Ancelotti the absence of Gareth Bale may have been somewhat helpful. While the Welshman is undoubtedly talented, the need to include him, Ronaldo and Rodriguez to keep the superstars happy usually leaves no place for Isco. With the young Spaniard on the pitch Los Blancos were a real threat going forward, but also resolute defensively thanks to his surprising work rate.
Enrique will certainly learn from his first Clasico experience, but was thoroughly outdone by his more experienced and illustrious counterpart.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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