Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Supercopa, the First of the 2011-2012 Clasicos

Last Sunday evening Real Madrid drew 2-2 against FC Barcelona in the annual preseason Supercopa. A two-legged tie pitting the winners of the Spanish Liga and the winner of the Copa del Rey, this is the traditional kick-off to the season in Spain.

The game was entertaining, but it clearly showed, to me at least, two teams in different stages of their development for this season. The Madrid players seemed to be revving at near top speed, building upon a successful preseason. The Barca players, on the other hand, were clearly not running well at all, in part due to a choppy preseason.

Both teams had players out for the Copa America in Argentina this summer. Di Maria, Higuain, Messi, Alves, Mascherano, Milito, Adriano, and Alexis Sanchez all represented their country in the games, altering their training schedules for the summer and preseason. Both teams also acquired a few new players, some of whom will become first team regulars if not starters.

My impression is that this preseason Pep, has been more lax with the most senior players, allowing them more down time and not being so strict about training regimes.

For the game, Madrid started what appeared to be a first choice team. Pep, the FC Barcelona manager, however, sat Pique, Xavi, Pedro and Busquets, all reportedly suffering from minor injuries. Personally, I think they just needed more rest.

In the first half, the irregular squad for Barcelona had a hard time dealing with the speed and diligence of the Madrid attack. When Barcelona possessed the ball, Madrid pressed hard and regularly won the ball back. Barca played a large number of long balls in hopes of relieving the pressure -- a sure sign that the squad was not yet firing on all cylinders.

In the midst of this, four great goals were scored, and it is worth having a look at the highlights.

A couple of positives to note: Alexis Sanchez looks pretty good. He is a definite asset to the team.

Also, even under intense pressure, all of the Barca players kept their cool, defended well (Alves and Mascherano were great) and showed considerable skill in their one touch, twenty-yard passing moves. Once they get settled, which will take considerable time on the training pitch (this strike may be a good thing for this), they should be quite dangerous.

Tonight's game will resolve the Supercup, and it should be a sight to behold.

Come on you Barca!

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