The lesson from two Clasicos: Real Madrid are still lagging behind Barcelona

(By Paul Morrissey – Follow on Twitter here.)

They shouldn’t have.

There you were loafing your place of a Sunday night looking for something to hold off the ennui, then Boom. Classico. In August. A gift.

Four Classicos and a Golazo of last April had brought the football world to a standstill like club football had never before. There was barely time to come up for air: where last season’s series was engaging to the last, the same could be said for this Supercopa, with Sunday’s first leg possibly reaching a higher level of sustained quality than anything seen in last season’s Classicos.

The lack of hype and transfer preoccupations provided the perfect backdrop to the mini-Copa.

The looming threat of a Liga-wide strike also allowed for a Ne-yo-ean spirit: for all they knew, they might not get tomorrow; all the more reason to give it everything tonight.

Regardless, anyone expecting a casual approach to the two-legged Supercopa clearly hadn’t grasped that the very presence of Pepe immediately negates that possibility. Pepe the Libertista.

(It’s clear to me now that they are chaining him in the Bernabeu vaults in the week building up to each Classico, feeding him only fish-head tapas. Then, just as the bull is loaded with water before being unleashed into the corrida, so Pepe is laced with caffeine just before being released in time for kick-off. It’s very cruel but the effect wears off by full-time, at which point he’s recovered and deemed fit to return to society.)

It’s a state of mind that looks like it’s rubbing off on some, like contagion. Real’s usual suspects were on their game and need no coaxing, i.e. Carvalho testing Messi’s jersey for elasticity; but Xabi Alonso, an effete non-tackler in his Liverpool days, commited seven fouls in the first leg alone. Marcelo might now qualify for the Pepe Programme. It’s a base level that Real Mourinho has stooped to in a doomed pursuit of FC Barcelona.

Una telenova Classica.

There are more conflicting dyads going on than a multi-racial/sexual/gender series of Big Brother: Villa-Casillas, Villa-Ramos, Pepe-Alves, Ronaldo-Alves Ronaldo-Valdes, Alonso-Busquets, Pepe-everyone…

An engrossing watch, but the best football is still being predomintantly exhibited by one side. That’s the best side in the world that just got better.

We can discuss Mourinho’s deployment of the bloque (groups of three pressing high up the pitch), and yes, it was a close- fought thing right until the end.

But this was Real’s chance. They’d sensed Barca’s vulnerability (patchy pre-season, Copa  America fatigue, Messi far from optimally fit – is it timber or muscle? Can never tell with his gait;) and went for the jugular. And lost.

What if that was it? If Spanish football, as far as this season is concerned, has prematurely peaked?

There’s no use claiming it was just a Summer Cup when both teams took to it with such passionate rage. Real will improve, but so will Barca; as always they’ll improve commesurately.

Florentino? Yeah look I’m gonna need another odd €200million…

Mourinho is now faced with the very real prospect of losing one of his most treasured epigrams – that of his teams always being better in his second year. Based on the Supercopa, it’s difficult to make a case for any significant improvement in this Real Mourinho side. Sahin and Hamit Altintop are yet to have any involvement but of the Turkish pair, only Sahin can realistically be expected to offer something especially different to what they already possess.

Altintop once scored a great volley. I think it was against Kazhakstan. I’d imagaine Xavi and Iniesta are vaguely aware of his existence.

Coentrão. A full back on whom Mou has designs in a variety of midfield positions, none of which he’ll be capable of fulfilling. €30million Coentrão. Coentrão who when moved into midfield as a volante after the introduction of Marcelo, resembled a lost boy in a house of mirrors, running, searching, looking. But never in command. He’s a full back, a marauding lateral and no more.

We then of course had Mourinho’s antics to pore over. Cause and effect. If there was any one thing that could have tipped him over the edge into insanity it was a sickening “buyer’s remorse” incurred by watching his Coentrão gamble go up in smoke.

They’ll have us believe it sets up La Liga perfectly. That the close scoreline indicates a narrowing of the gap between the two juggernauts. But it doesn’t reflect the knowing comfort Barça played with throughout.

The Big Two just became The One.

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