The Fourth Clasico: A Return to Semi-Normalcy

This article was originally posted at Soccernet by Isaiah. Visit there to read more of his thoughts that aren’t posted here on BFB. Do it!

Well, it’s over. The Champions League semifinal, the four clásicos in 3 weeks, the whole thing: kaput. And I’m immensely relieved to have survived. Or at least I think I survived. I’m not all here, mentally, so maybe I didn’t. But was I ever mentally all here? Next time I write a preview while hopped up on chocolate, you should feel free to point out the extremes of my not-being-here-itude.

The match itself was, like Aitor Karanka said, almost an afterthought thanks to the first leg’s recriminations and hoohaw, but like Kevin pointed out in a tweet, if it was an afterthought, why bother showing up? And, really, Madrid didn’t show up completely, which is nice because when they did, when they attacked with some intent, like they were actually interested in doing something (anything), they looked decent enough.

The moments of magic are what I remember most, I think. There are full match narratives in all of these encounters, but yesterday was about the little flashes, about Messi being Messi in that Manny kind of way, but where he’s simply good instead of talented and petulant. And, truth be told, the best flashes were Casillas’ responses to Messi’s flashes. He failed just the once, on Pedro’s slippery run and Iniesta’s great pass (dummied, it must be said, by Messi, which froze part of the defense), which was harsh on his full match and harsh on his full series. He won them the Copa del Rey and, had his team been at all interested in attacking, might have won them the whole shebang. Instead, he’s got his one trophy, one kiss at the Cibeles, and the replays of how he tried his very best, only to be beaten by the best. No shame in that, Iker.

I mentioned petulance before and I’ll admit to some petulance at the end of the match. I wanted them to get a red, just to continue the streak, just for Mourinho’s sake, just because it would be fun. Carvalho was my pre-match pick and here nearly came through, but de Bleekere was lenient to a fault and let the Portuguese cleatster and Adebayor—the Togolese Tangler?—get away with a few bookings. Adebayor, it must be said, was looking for his, while Carvalho was just shown to be the slow kickboxing artist we all knew he was. There were no straight reds to complain about, unless you take extraordinary exception at Ade’s first tackle on Busi, which I don’t but I was fairly pissed he didn’t get some form of card for it. But that’s Busi’s reputation coming back on him. That’s the previous dives, the previous face clutches saying hello in a ref’s mind. Sure, guy got kicked, but was it really contact?

And, to make sure that no one accuses me of anything other than what they’ll accuse me of regardless: Mascherano was Divey von Divenbrau throughout. I think he was legitimately fouled a couple of times, but the one called against Xabi Alonso was a Villa-esque “leave-the-foot-behind and trip” type of crap. It wasn’t in a dangerous position and it wasn’t all that important, but it was true. When Cristiano Ronaldo fell on his foot—after his own dive—Masche went down a half second later, but that was an embellishment, not a dive. He was knocked off his stride by illegal contact and even if he wouldn’t have made it to the ball before Higuain, he would have at least challenged for it and that constitutes a foul. Go ahead and ask yourself this: had Masche not fallen down there, would any ref have called what was a legitimate foul? I doubt it. So Masche goes down and earns a freekick and keeps them off the scoreboard. Eric Wynalda should watch the game instead of making unequivocal statements about “that’s a goal.”

Lassana Diarra was also rather immense, for the second time in a row. I’m surprised because very time I see him play, I think about how not up to par he is. But he sure was yesterday and even out raced Messi for a ball at one point, (legally) shouldering the Argie to the ground in the process. But he had no real support because Albiol is defensively disciplined like a wounded panther is docile and Carvalho was forced to pick up an early card through no real fault of his own (he was left out to dry and had to chop Messi down or risk a 2 v 1 with Albiol as the 1 and Villa the other half of the 2. That would have been a goal.

All of this about their team is to say that we played just as you’d expect: controlled, calm, and simply. No over-complication, fewer needless turnovers, and tons of possession, though not as much as you’d expect (68.7% to 31.3%). Barça attacked too, of course, with 6 shots on goal to RM’s 2. And those 2 came on the same play, so they’re effectively 1 (I also count shots off the post as shots on goal). So it was just our game, played out at the almost highest level (Wembley will be that) and, oddly, it was relaxed and felt like a foregone conclusion. The type of foregone conclusion with a rock in the pit of your stomach, but one nonetheless.

The one thing we didn’t do was take full advantage when they got tired at the end of the first half. They were lagging just a bit, having put in a brutal effort, and we should have been able to pinch one, but again: Casillas. Then we left it until the last couple of minutes to use substitutes, even though Afellay might have brought some added energy to the field. Pedro did look strong throughout, though: FIFA 12 creators, you need to up his stamina!

So, then, to Wembley. To the final part of this whole story. We face Espanyol at home this Sunday (1pmEST) in a match that is anything but a foregone conclusion, but hopefully we see Abidal from the beginning and a return of actual center backs playing the center back position. Fontas, perhaps, but more likely we’ll try to put the league to bed with a full on Pique-Puyol duo protected on the sides by Abidal and Alves.

If this post doesn’t come off as happy, rest assured I am and rest assured I’m looking forward to what will in all likelihood be a rematch of the 2009 Roma final. Let’s hope it’s just as epic.

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Isaiah is a co-founder and lead writer for Barcelona Football Blog. He currently lives in the greater New York City area with his wife and daughter.

210 Comments

  1. hammeronmessi
    May 5, 2011

    Offtopic,
    someone in the phil balls latest article in soccernet accused phil ball of madrid bias.he said PB can dedicate a single article bout gutis nackheel but not a single word bout messis second goal.

    phils reply, messi scoring wonder goals isnt a news.good reply.

    if i were the accuser i surely would have asked phil then how mou ranting can be a news?the world knows he is not particularly gracious in defeat.

    i like phils writing.he is wonderful in the spanish culture and history but as a football journalist his writing is not top notch.

  2. dennise
    May 5, 2011

    Meida has lost its “teaching” and “truth searching” function. Stories – in the internet era – must be striking and published first. From Mou rant you can create stories – especially negatively emotional. From barca “no comment” it is imposssible to write something striking.

    Media, generally speaking, has degraded from “mission” to “sexy stories sell”.

    Investigative journalism is in deathbed anyway.

  3. hammeronmessi
    May 5, 2011

    That right.mou is favourite to evetybody cause he can give news,news in a striking way.

    its like king kenny said people giving money to charity is not a news but people stealing money from charity now thats a news.

  4. poipoi
    May 5, 2011

    Been out for a while, looks like I lost something. Maybe I’m misunderstanding… Kxevin took a break because of the busi incident? Lol. I quit also, I heard some player say “hijo de p***” and I have a mother that I love, you know.
    If arbeloa had said the same thing to Keita I would not care either, it is all just to get the player mad, there is no direct relationship between being called a monkey and being black…. pepe is more a monkey than marcelo no big deal. Black race paranoia. Busi a racist? Come on. If someone looks like a monkey regardless of his skin colour can’t busi insult him a little? Most players do, sure xaviniesta don’t but that is why busi is busi. From the hood, ciutat badia.

    EE did things in la copa, we had to show them we knew they did those things. So we started playing dirty…. busi is great playing dirty I love him, a strange character to come out from la masia. He called him “mono” so what? He stepped on p! badly. Momentazo!

    • May 5, 2011

      there is no direct relationship between being called a monkey and being black….

      Not true in anyway. Completely untrue.

      You may want it to be true – but that doesn’t make it so.

      That is a flat out racial slur. No question about it.

      I honestly can’t believe you even tried to make this argument. It completely lacks any historical or cultural context.

      If arbeloa had said the same thing to Keita I would not care either

      Well maybe Keita might care.

      I’m a cule and I care. Or does that not matter?

      And if Busi did call Marcelo a monkey it is an extremely serious matter. It’s disgusting.

      • soccermomof4
        May 5, 2011

        It’s wrong, it’s disgusting, it’s probably not uncommon, it’s probably not just a white on black thing, and we’re probably not gonna get anything else from the club on it because Pep already gave an answer and is prideful enough that when he gives an answer, he expects( and rightfully so) to get the respect he deserves and have his answer accepted.

        What happened to trusting Pep? What happened to having faith in our own black players. Alves and Busquets shared a huge hug after the game. Would Dani stoop so low as to hug a proven racist? Give Dani some credit at least. Look to Dani, The King, Adriano, and Keita for your answers, not the press or EE.

      • soccermomof4
        May 5, 2011

        Furthermore, this has touched Kxevin in a personal way and he deserves our support while he takes some time off.

      • soccermomof4
        May 5, 2011

        rant not directed at you, Euler, but at the whole situation

  5. dennise
    May 5, 2011

    people had very high hopes before tetraclassico. All what we got was diving, cheating, acting, crushing. Even Messi couldn’t save the series. For thouse who had emotionally invested – maybe all this was simply too much.

    Honestly – you can expect some rants and cynical remarks during classicos, but not official complaints and contracomplaints to UEFA.

  6. hammeronmessi
    May 5, 2011

    poipoi,

    u may or may not care,but some people do care,so for the sake of them please respect others reasonable choice.

    and your reasoning is simply childish.

    adios amigo

  7. poipoi
    May 5, 2011

    What is disgusting is you you jumping like that on busi. He is not a racist (at least until proved guilty) AND I CALL PEPE A MONKEY WHEN I WISH CAUSE HE IS WHITE I LOVE IT NO BLACK PARANOIA. I am no racist have friends from (I won’t say all but a lot of races (one love one race) and I make racist jokes with them as they do with me. We may be jerks but not racists.

    If you wanna sound concerned and all its fine. But it was disgusting that EE brought this up crucifying busi. Who knows what has been said and will be said in a football pitch. What happens in the pitch should stay there I believe. Between marcelo and busi. Is it better to say that I f?ck someome else’s little sister. Or when some supporters wished for mijatovic son to die. Believe me I think that was much worse. But ok, ok I get it. Adios amigo

  8. May 5, 2011

    I’m putting Busquets case aside, as I insist to stay on the fence because there is no solid material yet to take positions with or against. That doesn’t mean others cant say/do what fits them. Its just me who prefer to be generous giving the benefit of doubt over being radically unfair taking any kind of reactions, making comments, or even showing any interest in debating. This is not a diving case (speed fine), its a racism accusation (A.K.A. reputation death sentence). So it requires some responsibility, at least from my behalf, before figuring my five cents. All that, Until….

    But in response to poipoi and his counter debaters. And generally speaking here. This is another cultural thing that differs from one place to another. I agree that calling someone a monkey in some countries is not a racist abuse. In other countries it is. But even where it is not an offense, we must not neglect the context. So, Poipoi, You may call your friend a Monkey/Jerk/or even son of the /Be creative/ while having a drink together. But even in Poipoi land he cant say it to someone else on the edge of a fight. For example. The context is the key even where this is not an insult.

    But then again, Poipoi is not an international player working for a business of multinational image/obligations. A famous football player (for example) is not playing in the neighborhood where he follows his village etiquette. In his position- job- he is under the obligations of worldwide standards, international norms and global conduct that take in consediration the multicultural environment you are involved in. Fame brings more responsibilities, not just more recognition and money. And based on such global ethics this word is offensive. Its a racial comment. Period. And when you put it in a context that’s far from being friendly environment, then there is no room to defend it.

    I may call my brother monkey while joking at home, but I will not call someone so in a conference for example.

    But again, this discussion is irrelevant to Busquets case from my point of view. Because for me there is still no case. It is just a general comment on something we face often in this globally-accelerated world. We need to start thinking outside the box, and the village.

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