Welcome to my football blog. I'll be covering most of the key issues and stories which dominate top level English and European football over the coming months, and so if you love this fantastic sport as much as I do, I hope you'll appreciate reading and responding to what I've got to say.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

History beckons for Barca

The sky is the limit for this Barcelona side after last night's Madrid mauling

Greatness is a quality which is far too readily attributed these days, but last night's astonishing dismantling of  Real Madrid proves that Pep Guardiola's Barcelona are more than worthy.

Prior to Monday's match, there was speculation in many quarters - this blog included - that a Real Madrid which boasted the world's best tactician in Jose Mourinho and an in-form Cristiano Ronaldo might represent the biggest challenge to Barcelona's desire for domestic and European domination. 

As a result, it was thought, this particular El Clasico could be one of the most evenly-matched in recent memory.

How wrong we were. 

Instead of a contest for the ages, the 98,000 fans who packed out the Nou Camp witnessed a euphoric exhibition of the beautiful game as Pep Guardiola's men embarrassed their bitterest rivals and staked their claim to be considered one of the greatest club sides in history.

It is admittedly risky to bestow such lofty praise on any team on the basis of one performance - even one as majestic as this. But let's be clear: this assessment is not based on Monday night's showing alone. 

Barcelona have dominated European football for the last two years with this team, winning two La Liga titles and a Champions League. Were it not for Mourinho's 'beautiful defeat' with Inter last season, the Catalans would have been heavy favourites to defend their European title against Bayern Munich in the final.

Moreover, Pep Guardiola's side have done it all with a flair and style which has thrilled the neutral and established them as the entertainers of world football. But amid all of their victories and stunning play, it is the quality of this particular vanquished opposition which makes this performance so indicative of greatness.

Mourinho's Real came into El Clasico having swept all before them both domestically and in Europe. 

Unbeaten in all competitions, they led Barcelona by a point in La Liga and had breezed through to the knockout stages of the Champions League as group winners, with Cristiano Ronaldo enjoying the sort of form which re-ignited the 'Ronaldo or Messi?' debate.

But it was obvious from the first whistle that this expensively-assembled Madrid side had not faced anything like the blistering speed, unerring accuracy and creative movement which characterised Barca's play.

The collective genius of Xavi, Iniesta and Messi ensured that the majority of the game was played deep in the Real half, whilst the home side's suffocating high pressure made it impossible for the much-vaunted quartet of Ronaldo, Di Maria, Ozil and Benzema to have any impact.

In the second half, the visitors were reduced to chasing shadows. Mourinho, for all his tactical acumen, could do nothing to turn the tide, and Ronaldo, looking to upstage Messi in their own personal duel, could only watch on helplessly as the diminutive Argentine settled matters in his own inimitable way.

Ronaldo dejected as Messi confirms status as world's best player

Of course, the youthful nature of this Madrid side must be taken into account, coupled with the fact that Monday's clash comes very early in Mourinho's reign. 

But prior to the match, Real were rightly considered - along with Barcelona - the form team of world football, and it was eleven world-class names who were embarrassed at the Nou Camp.

Having so comprehensively dismantled their main rivals, it seems that the only team which can prevent Barcelona continuing their domination of the European game is Barcelona. 

The level of quality which Messi and co. have reached means that they are no longer simply playing for trophies - they are playing for a place in history.

We thought they were good. They're better than we thought.

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