There are few things as enjoyable as watching El Clasico, and we’re beating treated to the third of four in an 18-day span.
A buddy of mine argued that the Champions League semifinal would be the tiebreaker between Barcelona and Real Madrid — with Barcelona claiming La Liga and Real Madrid the Copa del Rey. So who will advance from this two-leg semifinal?
It will be interesting to see Barcelona function without Iniesta, one of the world’s best players and maybe its best passer. Barca will look to Xavi to play a bigger role, I imagine, as Mascherano and Keita filling out the midfield. Wouldn’t be shocked to see Messi floating deeper in midfield more often to get the ball.
Check out a full gallery here.
FINAL: Barcelona 2 - Real Madrid 0
Final analysis - Have to believe that Madrid came out far too conservatively. To go down a man was unfortunate and maybe questionable, but Madrid seemed content to play defensively even as the home side. In the end, Messi mad them pay as he is oft to do. Expect a much more wide-open game in the second leg as Madrid desperately looks to advance.
90’ - Barcelona Sub: Sergi Roberto on for David Villa
87’ - GOAL! Every time you watch Messi you hope to see some of his magic and he just provided it. An unbelievable run through the middle of Madrid’s defense, dribbling through four defenders, then using speed to avoid a fifth and sixth in the box in time to put a shot to the far post. Amazing! 2-0 BARCELONA
76’ - GOAL! Super Sub! Afellay provides service to Messi and the magician finishes to give Barcelona the 1-0 lead. Afellay does well to beat his defender on the right side, perfect low cross to Messi, who beats Sergio Ramos and finished. 1-0 BARCELONA
70’- Barcelona Sub: Afellay on for Pedro
68’ - David Villa with a strike that forces a save, rebound header misses just wide of far post.
64’ - Replays show Mourinho winking at the fourth official over and over repeating “Well done.” Officials respond by sending him away from technical area.
61’ - A straight red card for Pepe and Real Madrid goes a man down for the final half hour. Pepe gets the red for a studs-up challenge on Dani Alves, clearly has foot up and it was dangerous. Not sure if it’s a straight red, but undoubtedly had the studs showing.
55’ - A bit better from Madrid with Adebayor’s entrance. Ronaldo had one good chance, though his shot was blocked and eventually cleared. Messi earned a free kick but nothing came of it. Still looking for things to open up a bit more but we may not see it today.
46’ - Barcelona and Madrid got into it as they headed into the tunnels at half. Certainly no love lost in this rivalry. Pinto with a red card for his involvement.
There have been plenty of fouls already, wonder if we’ll see physicality increase even more in the second half. I feel like Real Madrid will also search of a spark offensively in these last 45 minutes.
Adebayor on at the half...
HALFTIME - Barcelona 0 - Real Madrid 0
First half commentary after the jump...
45+’ - Ronaldo with a great shot forces a diving save by Valdes. Definitely the best opportunity for Madrid thus far.
35’ - Considering they are at home, it’s surprising Madrid is playing so conservatively. As much as you can’t blame them for the defensive mindset, they are not pushing forward with numbers nearly enough in the counter attack. Barcelona gaining more confidence to push without worrying too much about the counter.
25’ - It’s clear Mourino’s message to his team was to give Barcelona as much possession as they’d like in their own half. Madrid sitting back and watching but giving no space once the ball crosses midfield. One goal could change everything completely, but right now it’s a slower-moving game with few chances being taken.
As I typed that Messi with a clever ball to Xavi, but his low shot is saved by Casillas.
17’ - Maybe the most entertaining update: Ronaldo waving his arms in frustration as Barca calmly plays the ball around him in the back. He wants support from his teammates, but Madrid has dropped back and isn’t challenging much until midfield.
10’ - Certainly less pace going forward than was seen early yesterday, when Manchester United wasted little time exerting its dominance. Barcelona is content to slowly build on the road and pick times to push. Villa with a good look just misses far post as first solid chance.
1’ - It’s underway! Let’s see if the two teams approach the first 15 minutes or so more passively, or if they go at each other from the start...
Please join me here for a running live blog as I’ll update throughout the game. Feel free to join the conversation in the comments section, of course.
Real Madrid Starting Lineup: Casillas; Arbeloa, Ramos, Albiol, Marcelo; Alonso, Pepe, Diarra; Ronaldo, Ozil, Di Maria. Subs: Adan, Kaka, Benzema, Granero, Garay, Higuain, Adebayor
Barcelona Starting Lineup: Valdes; Alves, Pique, Busquets, Puyol; Xavi, Mascherano, Keita; Pedro, Messi, Villa. Subs: Jose Pinto, Jeffren, Milito, Afellay, Fontas, Sergi Roberto, Thiago Alcantara